"Stories" has become a bit of an industry buzzword. With the rise of Instagram and Snapchat Stories, the hype is well deserved. More than any other content type, Stories deliver on the promise of the internet, piercing through the clutter of lists and superficial headlines without the time consuming search to discover.
Further, Stories facilitate access to even more content from a source or category of interest. As the Story format continues to become more popular, it begs the question: what exactly drives the popularity of Stories, and more importantly, how can today's brands use Stories to build their own brands?
The Rise of Stories
Companies like Instagram and Snapchat have used their versions of Stories to drive the creation and sharing of authentic curated content amongst users -- all in a consumable format. According to research conducted by Block Party, over 970 million accounts post Stories daily on Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger: an 842 percent lift from 2016.
Earlier this year, Instagram even gave brands the ability to run ads and gain real business insights from Stories, a move that shows the powerful role that Stories play not just for consumers, but also in helping create a new revenue model for businesses. As more consumers become digitally connected and more content becomes available, these consumers want access to the content that aligns most with their deepest interests -- not just headlines.
Today, stories can mean magazine articles, opinion pieces, editorials, podcasts and more. What's most interesting about this shift is how prominent brands are beginning to monetize from their stories through subscriptions: Apple News recently acquired Texture to monetize from its subscription-style magazine service, and news outlets like Axios and The New York Times sell subscriptions to their readers.
Why the Stories Are Key to Building Your Brand
It seems like every platform has their own version of stories, but ultimately, what the format comes down to is this: users and readers want consumable packets of information with enough depth to be meaningful -- but not overwhelming. Stories, by definition, need depth so they can be used to guide readers deeper into content they're interested in, like mile-markers on a highway.
The manifestation of the rising popularity of stories can be compared to the manifestation of specialty content that has changed the nature of commerce. The reason why businesses like Etsy succeed, even in the age of Amazon, is because they carry specialty items and content that cater to people's passions and interests -- and they can return for more. This shift is taking place most prominently in the digital world as stories display the natural evolution of how to share and consume content that people care about.
One image or blog post is no longer enough to build your brand and tell the story that connects a product to consumers. You need substance and depth: do your research, write everything that you want to say, and enrich your content with images and multimedia. Then, turn that content into multiple shareable Stories that resonate with your audience. From there, Stories allow you to:
Creating great content requires doing research ahead of time: see what other platforms and creators are regularly posting about similar kinds of topics, then tag them and use relevant hashtags when you share your stories. If you want stories that are well-shared, you need to create enough scale and connective tissue across platforms.
Optimize lifetime value.
Most stories have a longer shelf life than just in the moment they're posted -- it's why Instagram and Snapchat introduced features that allow you to archive, save and share stories beyond their initial 24 hour lifetime. Leverage the long shelf life of your stories and share them in different ways and multiple places, from social media platforms to Reddit to YouTube and more.
Get better press coverage.
Creating and sharing your own Stories are a great way to get more -- and higher quality -- press coverage. To get noticed in the press, brands traditionally turn to press briefs, which are often short and lack enough depth to be meaningful. Instead, by sharing content-rich Stories, you can connect with journalists in a much more impactful way.
Consumers want depth, but they also want it easily and efficiently. The Stories format is the best way to deliver this level of meaning and authenticity because it gives brands the space to share details about products that matter to their audiences and enables them to create content once and share it across multiple platforms.