What are Stories and How do I use them?

What are Stories and How do I use them?

Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram all use ‘Stories’ in some form or another, but should we use them, and if so, how do we use them for a business?

Stories started on Snapchat all the way back in 2013 as a showcase of photos and videos for you to share with all of your friends.  The channel also offers Custom Stories, which allow groups to create Stories together.  It took the other channels three years to copy the move with Instagram (which is Facebook owned) starting stories in 2016, and Facebook following suit in 2017.  WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook) even has a similar feature with its statuses.  However, despite its cross-channel roll out, by 2018 the value of Facebook Stories was still being debated, still considered by many to be a passing fad.  At the start of 2020, Facebook had 1.5 billion daily active Stories users!  So it’s a safe bet to say that Stories aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

A story in social media terms, is “a collection of images and short videos, with optional overlays and effects, that a user can add to over time, but which disappears after 24 hours. Users view a Story in sequence, either waiting out a programmed delay between images or manually advancing to the next.” Ian Bogost 

Even the author himself admits that this is a bit of a clinical description of Stories – what they really offer is a less polished, less scripted format, providing a refreshing alternative to the over-produced feed that good content is drowned in.  Produced in ‘portrait’ orientation (9:16 rather than YouTube style videos with a 16:9 ratio) stories are designed to be created on a smartphone and viewed on one, not using any other technology.  Stories are truly smartphone content and they should be considered as just another media format – like a PDF, an image, a video etc. – and one that brands can utilise to their advantage.  Instagram stories have evolved even further into Instagram TV (IGTV), a separate app designed for longer length video content.

How to use Facebook and Instagram Stories for your brand

Stories may be more spontaneous than the other aspects of your social media feeds, but that does not mean that brands get away without planning for them.  Stories are about sharing real-time content on a consistent basis, and many brands and companies are just not set up for that, so get your plan together before you start.  Use the story format to make your brand relatable, and help to create trust among your customers and potential customers.  Here are a few quick hints and tips to get you started:

  1. Help customers find you by using hashtags relating to their interests.
  2. For local businesses, consider geotagging to help people locate you.
  3. Interact with your customers using polls on your stories.
  4. Consider hosting takeovers of your stories by influencers related to your brand.
  5. Remember to add links on your stories so you can send people to your website.
  6. Add your best Instagram Stories to your highlight reel on your profile.
  7. Create exciting, time sensitive content like competitions and discount codes.
  8. Tailor your content depending on which platform you are using (Facebook/Instagram)
  9. Give previews of new products, and services, make announcements, celebrate milestones and give staff shout outs.
  10. Capture photos and clips from events you attend.

And as always, please track your results so you know what works, and what doesn’t…

If you are struggling with stories, or any other social media format, get in touch for some jargon free help.


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