Stories. The main format for media consumption?

carlo de marchis
Jul 16 · 10 min read

TL;DR; Answer: Nah, it may be video but still, Stories…

I confess.
I have an obsession with storytelling.
I have an even deeper obsession with the visual story format.
I mean, Snap, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest… anybody now.

Why?

The beauty of Stories is their storytelling effectiveness (when done well). I can grasp the essence of a Formula 1 GP in 10 secs, and decide if I want to dive in more or fluidly go somewhere else, and that’s because of their combined visual and information simplicity.

“Users love Stories because they’re optimized for mobile devices — vertical, interactive, and full screen. Their ephemeral nature also contributes to a sense of authenticity: Stories are often more spontaneous and less manicured than permanent posts since users know that Stories only last for a day, then disappear if a user doesn’t consciously save them.”

Some examples in sports

Stories were originally introduced by Snapchat in 2013, but the format wasn’t part of the main experience until Instagram launched its own version of Stories in August 2016.
In the two months, Instagram Stories had already added 100 million daily active users (DAU).
Just eight months after launching, DAU of Instagram Stories surpassed Snapchat’s total DAU base and has since reached 500 million DAU,
which is now 50% of Instagram’s 1 billion monthly users.
Following Instagram’s success, Stories features have emerged on most other platforms, like WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, Google search results, and lately LinkedIn.

In our little sports ecosystem, we introduced two products to enable sports media company and rights-holders to benefit from the stories format on own & operated platforms (O&O). The latest version in full exposure for FIFA World Cup in 2018 and FIFA Women’s World Cup this last month.
The result has been overwhelming in terms of engagement and bounce rate as compared to traditional articles.

Why using a typical social content format on O&O?
How many times have you seen the same “story” being created effectively and visually engaging on Instagram stories and the same “story” being poorly executed on the website?
Do you know what the weird thing is here?
You fully control your website experience (content and UX) you only control the content on social, so how come execution is then smarter on social?

Also, people are used to social content formats and a way to make them engage on O&O goes also through porting that to those platforms.

We just launched a new version that beyond other features is now allowing for the creation of both mobile-friendly vertical stories and desktop-style landscape full-screen stories.

Stories Trends

Stories may soon be the main format for social media consumption, providing publishers with a massive and vital opportunity to reach consumers. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims the format will supplant News Feed use as soon as mid-2019.

The vast majority of Stories usage happens on Facebook-owned properties, followed by Snapchat.
Combined, Stories features on Facebook-owned platforms command a whopping 1.5 billion daily active users (DAU), (some may be double-counted).
Snapchat’s audience is much smaller, at 190 million DAU as of Q1 2019.
The viral acceptance of Stories, their accelerating usage, and their highly engaging nature make it ideal for brands to reach consumers, especially to reach younger demographics in a native format.

Understanding how different audience segments prefer certain platforms on others is key to prioritize your social media efforts.

vb

Millennials prefer Instagram for consuming Stories.
“Millennial users in the US are more likely to watch Stories on Instagram (60%) than Snapchat (53%) and Facebook (48%), according to video creation platform VidMob’s State of Social Video report. Although the gap between millennials’ platform preference for Stories consumption is relatively slim at 7 percentage points and 12 percentage points, respectively, we note that Instagram’s larger and more diverse user base makes it an ideal platform for brands looking to target millennials on a global scale.”

Gen Z — comprised mainly of teens — favors Snapchat for watching Stories. “US teens are heavy viewers of Stories, and 72% of Snapchat’s Gen Z audience consume content via Stories, compared with 70% of Instagram’s and 34% of Facebook’s. And according to Piper Jaffray’s latest semiannual “Taking Stock With Teens Survey,” Snapchat is the favorite social platform for 41% of US teens as of Spring 2019. But Snapchat is falling behind, as 46% of teens picked it in Fall 2018 and 45% did so in the spring. And Instagram is quickly closing the gap: 35% of teens picked the platform as their favorite in the first half of 2019, up 9 percentage points from 26% in Spring 2018.”

Creating content for stories is not just adapting news or normal social formats to it. You need to understand their specific mechanics, starting from their ephemeral nature and interactive opportunities.
Understanding how stories are measured for engagement is also different from standard formats.

Best Practices

As a tool for others entering this space, I thought of creating a shortlist of best practices, a good starting point to make great use of stories.

First: Spend some solid time using stories from great publishers in your space, in sport, follow leagues, teams, players, media, influencers. What you learn as a user will be of great use when you start creating content. Familiarize with all interactive features, and try to understand their best use for your case.

Storylines
Because people will access your story feed from the last one they saw onwards, you need to consider timing and storylines structure. What are you covering? What do you need your fans to engage with? Is it something happening live? Are you announcing something? Are you creating anticipation? Are you looking back?

Vertical Video
Shoot vertical content that’s uncluttered.
“Consumers love Stories because their vertical nature is optimized for mobile video consumption. And limiting the amount of content on the screen will ensure that users aren’t overwhelmed by an overly busy video. Vertical content is essential for Stories consumption — just 6% of consumers actually turn their phone sideways to watch a video, per Breadnbeyond.
However, vertical content captures a narrower field of content versus horizontal content, limiting the amount of content that can fit on the screen. As a result, brands should shoot photos and videos that are visually simple so that users aren’t overwhelmed by overly busy images.”
Make your point in a simple way, add one stat at a time, simple ranking, comparison that are easy to grasp, consider the information already implicit in the image or video.

Seven Stories
“Post no more than seven Stories within each 24-hour period.
Completion rates are incredibly high for Stories campaigns, with the average coming in above 50% even for campaigns with 20 to 25 Stories. However, the highest completion rates are for campaigns that include between one and seven Stories, according to Buffer. Beyond seven Stories, completion rates dip below 70%, suggesting that users are keener for digestible Stories.”
Ok, that may be problematic for us in live sports, we may want more than that as we assume fans will be checking in during the event. But still, imagine those just coming after the fact and having to go through 25 Stories of content that was mostly relevant at the time it was published. Not ideal. You need to balance.
Does this mean Stories are not great for live coverage?
Is Twitter better? Possibly.
At least Stories are revelating and not spoiling.
The debate is open.

When to Publish
Publish Stories outside of normal working hours.
“Although it may be more convenient for marketing and content teams to push out Stories during the day, most users are watching Stories in the evening. Conviva found that the highest average completion rates for Stories came between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST), with completion rates consistently above 70%. That makes sense as a large swath of Stories users are at school or work during the day, and are more engaged on social at home in the evenings. Posting Stories in the evening increases the likelihood that a user engages with their content, so they should refrain from posting content too early in the day.”
Again in live sport that can be a problem, you want to publish real-time, ok but when you don’t need to, that’s a good rule.

Interactive Features
Insert interactive social features into Stories to boost engagement. Interactive features including polls, sophisticated stickers, augmented reality (AR) effects, and game features allow viewers to truly engage with the content, which could help provide valuable insights.
There are great examples and features are added constantly so you may need to learn from the greats and ride the wave to stay relevant.”
In sports, these features can really add a lot of natural engagement, voting, polling etc…
The analytics side of this part is also quite intriguing and needs care and attention to be reconciled with everything else that you are doing in social and digital. Not that the platforms are doing their very best to help us here, as always you don't own a lot with them, their priority is their platform, not your content. Maybe unfair in some cases, but mostly true.

Profile Pages Highlights
Utilize profile pages to extend the shelf life of Stories content.
“Although the ephemeral nature of Stories is a major contributor to a valuable sense of authenticity in advertising, brands should also utilize their profile pages to display Stories content that can last more than 24 hours. Instagram is the best place to do this because profiles boast Highlights, a marquee of Stories which sits atop the grid of permanent posts. Users can choose to save Stories before they expire to Highlights, and there’s no limit to how long Stories can stay there nor how many can be pinned. Snapchat and Facebook, meanwhile, don’t have a feature to preserve and showcase Stories content.”
In sports, this can be used extensively to keep alive key moments, announcements and promotions.

Challenges

As the social media landscape shifts from feed-first to Stories-first consumption and sharing, there are a few hurdles the industry will need to clear so brands can take full advantage of the format. Stories are a completely new animal for brands, so most are still playing catch-up to consumer adoption. And social platforms themselves need to work harder to convince marketers to invest more in the format.

Brands need to adapt to the ephemeral nature of Stories. The fact that Stories last just 24 hours is one of the format’s biggest challenges for brands.
The number of resources that go into preparing content that lasts for one day and, as a result, has a limited reach window could deter many brands. For example, non-Stories posts on Instagram see three times greater reach, on average, than Stories. But the nature of Stories should also be seen as a benefit for brands looking to engage customers: Stories are action driven, meaning viewers choose to open and view Stories. And because the Stories take up the entire screen, all attention is focused on the content. There are some tools that can smooth this adjustment: Late last year, Facebook expanded automatic placements, which converts feed ads into a format that works for Stories and delivers ads wherever they’ll get the best results. The ability to repurpose pre-existing content could encourage small- and medium-sized businesses to invest more in the format by cutting down on the resources required to create content.
Brands need to post consistently to Stories. Because Stories are often spur-of-the-moment, available for only 24 hours, and consumed by users on a daily basis, it necessitates that brands post fresh Stories content frequently to stay in front of users. However, this doesn’t mean brands need to regularly post professional and polished Stories — simple Stories posts work well too, or better in some cases. For instance, the Guardian found that its less labor-intensive posts, such as quick explainer videos or static images of simple graphics, have performed better than its professionally produced Stories.
Social platforms need to offer brands measurement and verification tools. Stories are effective at driving specific user action because they create a sense of urgency in which users feel they must immediately engage or miss out. As a result, tools that can measure and verify actions taken by users due to Stories campaigns will help marketers refine their Stories strategies. Tools of this nature are currently pretty limited, but Instagram is looking to change that. In November, the company rolled out Instagram Analytics in beta, allowing businesses to monitor the lifetime value of customers, track how people interact with content over time, and create audience segments to see which posts generate the most value.

Conclusion

Stories are growing in popularity, and their highly engaging nature highlights the massive and vital opportunity for brands to reach consumers.
Facebook’s platforms dominate Stories usage. Combined, there are 1.5 billion Stories DAU (though some may be double-counted) on the format across Facebook’s family of apps.
Instagram leads in Stories engagement, and millennials prefer Instagram over Snapchat and Facebook for consuming Stories. But Snapchat is still the favorite social platform among US teens, so brands should incorporate it into Stories marketing plans.
Best practices for creating Stories content across platforms are starting to emerge as brands and publishers continue to experiment with the format.

In sports, Stories are a natural storytelling format, incredibly effective, with some concerns for live real-time and a lot to explore and innovate.

Main sources for this article come from a BI Insider report (with quotes where needed).

carlo de marchis

Written by

@CDM / Chief Product & Marketing Officer @deltatre

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