When Snapchat first introduced Stories in 2013, the format went largely unnoticed. It was considered a millennial fad only relevant to younger, digital-savvy folk. However, Stories has since taken over social media—so much so that if you ask Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, it will soon surpass the traditional newsfeed as the primary way people share content with their network.
The format has become so popular that it has spread beyond the walls of social media. Google has launched its own version of Stories as part of its AMP initiative. Now AMP Stories allows publishers to create mobile-friendly content similar to Snapchat or Instagram Stories, and provides a seamless way for people to read and scroll through mobile content.
Given the ubiquity of this format, from Snapchat to AMP Stories, we think it’s a topic worth exploring on a deeper level. So in this post, we do a deep dive into Stories to find out how it came to be such a powerful and popular form of content consumption and how businesses can capitalize on it.
A Brief History
The Early Days
First introduced to the public in 2013, Stories was solely a feature on the Snapchat platform. The idea was to allow users to create a longer narrative of pictures strung together by adding their Snaps to a feature called their “Story.” They would be available for 24 hours for followers to watch.
In 2016—in what became a highly criticized move—Instagram launched its own Stories feature to compete with Snapchat. It was a bold move, but according to Vox, launching Stories was the best decision Instagram ever made. Since launching Stories, Instagram says over 500 million people are using it per day—surpassing Snapchat by more than double. It has fundamentally changing the way people share and consume content online.
Once Facebook-backed Instagram entered the game with its own copycat version of Stories, the expansion continued to the rest of Facebook-owned products, including WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. This fueled the format’s rapid growth even further. The blogging and publishing platform Medium launched its own take on the Stories format with “Series,” followed by Skype’s “Highlights” (which it eventually scrapped in 2018) and Google-owned YouTube’s “Reels” in late 2017.
Today, Stories is synonymous with several consumer platforms and is now a mainstay in the online ecosystem. One of the biggest reasons for its success is that it removes the pressure of perfection users feel when posting to their feeds.
Stories gives users an opportunity to move away from the need to carefully curate and edit their posts. Instead, the stripped-down format offers the ability to share what’s happening in the moment in a raw, authentic way.
How Brands Use Instagram Stories
Stories has become yet another powerful feature that businesses use to engage fans and share content. In fact, a third of the most viewed stories on Instagram are from businesses.
Brands are using Stories in a variety of ways–sharing product lines and new releases, offering a behind-the-scenes look into the day-to-day life, and even showcasing user-generated content from events and product launches. Because it’s easy to use and the content has a finite lifespan, this feature offers a unique and creative outlet for brands.
The shoe company Converse offers a great example of how Instagram Stories can be used to compliment the overall social strategy. Converse’s feed is heavily curated with colorful, professional product shots.
Meanwhile, its Instagram stories often feature user-generated content from fans and customers to further drive awareness for their products.
Another unique way brands use the Stories feature is by giving audiences a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into a product and related photo shoots. Nordstrom Rack has taken this approach, highlighting numerous articles of clothing in a quick snapshot.
Inspired by the use of Stories in social media, Google has developed its own Stories feature for AMP. AMP is predominantly a tool focused on helping websites load faster on mobile, and the introduction of the Stories functionality allows web users to easily scroll through mobile content in their feeds on Google search.
Why AMP Works for Brands
Described as “visual storytelling for the open web,” the AMP Stories feature will be similar to the Stories features most of us have experienced: a full-screen display, tap-through functionality, and options to add text or other graphics to images or videos.
However, what makes AMP Stories unique is that they appear in a dedicated block at the top of search results. The Stories can also exist for as long as the creator wants it to—in contrast to the traditional 24-hour window for other Stories. Additionally, AMP Stories can easily be linked or embedded anywhere online without the use of a specific app or platform.
AMP Stories are a way to help businesses and news outlets publish content that’s more user-friendly and easily accessible. Marketers can take advantage of this by using the feature to boost blogs, highlight trending topics, or answer popular industry questions. AMP also put together a tutorial for those of you who are ready to jump on the bandwagon here.
While the feature itself has been around for some time now, the Stories has evolved and is certainly something marketers should consider using to reach audiences with mobile-friendly content. Social media allows brands to be more engaged with their audiences, and Stories is yet another way to share, connect, and interact with fans in an authentic way to build stronger customer relationships.
To help you get started, we’ve put together steps on building your social media marketing strategy, to which you can include the Stories feature. If your strategy is already built and you’re looking to grow your social media following, check out these 9 Social Media Tips for Online Retailers.