If content is king, then the social media “story” is the new queen of digital marketing. Every major social platform has now launched its own take on this engaging video format—first Snapchat, then Instagram, Facebook, and most recently YouTube.
Stories, the interactive and engaging videos at the top of social feeds, are a much more visual way of sharing content because users can easily add filters and effects, and combine images and videos into one consolidated story. The content typically disappears after 24 hours.
With more than 400 million active users every day, these social stories are eclipsing other forms of content and are quickly becoming the status quo of sharing. In fact, during a 2018 earnings call, Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox said, “... The Stories format is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends” in 2019.
Already, stories have reportedly increased the time users spend on Instagram. And these highly engaged audiences are open to discovering new brands and products. One in three people surveyed said they have become more interested in a product or service after seeing it on stories. On Instagram, one-third of the most viewed stories are from businesses.
Marketers must adapt their strategies, tapping into the power of these easily digestible videos to deliver content and connect with consumers through fresh, immersive experiences. Here are some tips to help your brand realize the full potential of social media stories.
Partner With Micro-Influencers
Billions of people now carry an HD camera on their smartphones in their pockets at all times. This has opened the door for everyday people to speak about their favorite brands and products at any time and any place, in a more authentic way. These everyday people, or micro-influencers, are leading a revolution in advertising. Micro-influencers aren’t defined by their follower counts as much as they are by engagement with their content.
In fact, a recent survey by digital agency Deep Focus found that more than 63% of Gen Z consumers prefer to see real people rather than celebrities in ads. So while there’s a place for scripted, high-production content from brands, on social consumers like to see content that looks and feels like it was created by one of their friends.
As more brands look to join the next frontier of storytelling, micro-influencers are the answer to scaling the production of relevant stories content. By reusing micro-influencer content, brands are able to create content quickly, cost-effectively, and in a way that’s optimized for social. The key is to establish a true synergy between your brand and the type of content a creator is already sharing on their stories to maintain authenticity.
Lead With Video
When advertising with a visual medium like social stories, which is specifically designed for quick and easy browsing, marketers don’t need to create a polished, expensive video. Since stories are inherently ephemeral, brands should focus less on perfection and more on the unfiltered and raw.
Here are three effective video formats to leverage when collaborating with micro-influencers:
1. How-tos: As consumers become more comfortable making purchasing decisions online, micro-influencers are emerging as their go-to source for recommendations, information, and inspiration. Through interactive tutorials and how-tos, micro-influencers have a unique, powerful ability to educate and inspire.
2. Testimonials: The most successful micro-influencers have built their success by establishing legitimate clout in the area they’re influential in, whether it’s fashion, beauty, or sports. At a time when consumers want to know that companies are actually about what they say they’re about, this trust plays a key role for brands looking to establish and maintain credibility. Ultimately, transparency is the unchanging foundation for brand loyalty, and testimonials from customers are one of the most effective ways to authentically legitimize both your brand and product claims.
3. Unboxings: Collaborating with micro-influencers means brands can benefit from the influence of advocates in a whole new way. Sending your products to consumers and encouraging them to create social stories around the unboxing is perfect for boosting brand awareness.
Without a doubt, people are spending more and more time on mobile. Nearly half of U.S. adults say they check their phones a whopping 80 times a day. Considering that the majority of a brand’s stories will be delivered on mobile screens, marketers need to optimize their content to work in this space. Here are some creative best practices to consider when building for mobile:
1. Capture attention: People have developed trigger-like reflexes to skipping through stories that don’t capture their attention from the first few seconds. Given today’s short attention spans, it’s increasingly important to creatively and organically express your brand ideas early to keep thumbs from swiping to the next story.
2. Build for vertical ratios: Stories should be optimized for a vertical, full-screen view because, simply put, that’s how people use their phones. And people are more willing to capture and consume content when they don’t have to rotate their phones. If your brand is not already harnessing the entire mobile screen to enhance your storytelling, now is the time to start.
3. Don’t rely solely on sound: Sound can be an effective tool to add relevancy to stories. And while it’s important to use music and other effects to engage your audience, you don’t want to rely on audio to communicate your core message, since a majority of stories are viewed with the sound turned off. Instead, you should use other creative features, such as text overlays and stickers.
Stories are a unique combination of personalization, immediacy, and technology. They are both the now and the next in the evolution of storytelling. Through experimentation, marketers will collectively navigate this uncharted territory to define what resonates best.
In the meantime, brands should not be afraid to rewrite the rulebook and embrace a test-and-learn mindset. Because brands that are inclusive, thoughtful, and swift with their approach to stories have a good chance of capturing the hearts, minds, and wallets of modern consumers.