Are "stories" really the future of social media?

by Jason Keath on Jun 13, 2019

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Snapchat launched to the world in 2011 as a weird sexting chat app.

Remember that?

Then in 2013, Snapchat gifted the world with stories and changed social media forever.

Last quarter Zuckerberg and company reported that Facebook “stories” had 500 million DAU (daily active users).

That’s a really big number.

It also means Facebook’s main app is probably already the biggest story platform, measured by DAU.

Source: Techcrunch + Facebook

The number ties them with the other two leading story platforms, which Facebook happens to own (Instagram and WhatsApp).

So why is Facebook #1 already if they are reportedly tied with their other owned platforms?

I’m looking at trajectory when I say this. Facebook only had 300 million DAUs about 6 months ago. They’re DAU growth rate is pretty massive.

How has Facebook created massive story numbers out of nowhere? Easy, they are forcing you to use stories.

They are using pure pixel power to “help” users to get comfortable with stories. Whether we like it or not.

The Facebook Story Push

Here’s a glimpse of what you have probably seen at the top of your Facebook app over the past year or so.

Walk with me for a moment.

Early 2017

This is what your Facebook app use to look like before stories. You have search, then a prompt to post your status, then content in that rare but dying animal known as the feed.

Pre-Facebook Stories

March 2017

In March 2017, Facebook saw the SnapChat writing on the wall. Stories were doing magical things at Instagram and really ramping up over at WhatsApp. So they took about 13% of your home screen and gave it to stories.

March 2017

2018

As time went on and Facebook realized how important stories could be with their “new ad money” and “high engagement” things started to get serious. Stories (almost) double in size to roughly 20% of your screen and got super elegant with rounded corners.

2018

2019

Somewhat recently Facebook was all like “hey you, 70% of people using the app that are ignoring our cool stories! Try to ignore this!”

That’s what I’m guessing at least. Here’s what most users see today (June, 2019).

Early 2019

And none of this even includes what the new Messenger app looks like. It’s pushing stories even harder.

Watching social networks change this drastically is kind of amazing to witness. Stories are a huge shift away from scrolling through “the feed” that most of us associate with social networks.

  • Stories are less social and yet somehow more engaging.
  • Stories stick around for less time and take more effort to create.
  • Stories take up more of your screen and less of your time.

It’s fascinating.

Is The Future of Social Really Stories?

Solid question reader.

Here is what I know.

Vertical video is not going anywhere.

We spend way too much time on our phones and a lot of that time is increasingly ending in purchasing items from companies trying to sell us things.

Vertical video in general is just too engaging to go away. Stories are the defacto way we engage with vertical video right now. That is, until TikTok overtakes SnapChat and Facebook freaks out again.

Will it last? Will we get too stressed out and stop creating stories? Will we all move to some sort of 360 mixed reality OASIS?

The numbers tell us that the story format is a very important part of social media time spent and your business should have a plan for it.

Story vs. Feed Content

The question is, how much of our social media time is spent in stories vs. old school social media content, AKA the feed.

One key benchmark study I love from RivalIQ shows us that the feed is still getting 300% to 400% of the reach that stories get (for pages).

That’s great news for the feed. It’s still a significant engagement channel.

Yet, stories consistently show a higher conversion and click through rate based on all the reports and analytics I’ve seen.

The painful new reality for businesses is that social media is continuing to fragment. More social networks. More content formats.

One simple way to think about it is this:

  1. The feed is better for reach, and awareness. Brand, if you will.
  2. Stories are better for engagement and clicks and conversion.

Both are important and valuable. And your mileage will vary.

Stories are here to stay for a little while (probably forever).

If you’re not creating story content AND feed content, you’re missing a piece of the pie. At a minimum you should be looking at the story content of your competitors and testing something in story formats.

If you’re serious about creating conversion from social, you need to be experimenting with story ads.

This is not a test. Stories are here to stay.

Post Author

CEO and founder of Social Fresh, the social media education company. Jason is a social media consultant, a social media speaker and industry analyst. He consults with corporations and agencies on social media strategy, building community, and influencer...