At its F8 annual developer conference earlier this month, Facebook indicated that the Stories-style format is more popular than News Feed, with 450 million people on WhatsApp and with 300 million on Instagram using the feature to view organic user- and brand-generated content every day.
Facebook is investing heavily in Stories content solutions, even launching third-party integrations so that users can share to Stories directly from other applications like GoPro, SoundCloud and Spotify.
The net? Expect this already popular feature to become even more popular.
What’s shocking is that marketers have been slower to tap into Stories for advertising. The versatility of the Stories format gives brands the opportunity to run nearly any kind of campaign—including brand awareness, traffic for clicks, app installs, lead generation and more. However, adoption of Stories advertising is still very low.
At Smartly.io, we checked to see what percentage of Stories spend made up total Instagram spend on our platform and found that it accounted for just 16.34 percent last month.
However, there is a real value-add for brands in this format. Brands just need to understand easy and effective ways to use Stories that will yield the most success. And with Stories nowhere near as saturated as News Feed or other digital channels, where everyone is already advertising, now is the time to get started.
Navigating away from stills
For Stories content, short-form video is the best bet for marketers. Video drives nine times the amount of post-click website visits than static imagery in ads. It’s easier to achieve than many marketers realize, and brands playing in the Stories space are finding huge success here.
What’s key in understanding how to approach video advertising on Stories is that anything has the potential to be made into video today, and any ad has potential to be interactive.
Stories advertising content should be short-form (under 15 seconds), and the “video” can consist of the most basic elements. It could be as simple as a two-second boomerang of someone using the product, a quick behind-the-scenes panorama at a product shoot or a slideshow of product reviews by influencers who have tested out the product—anything goes with this format.
When nearly all of the content already on Stories is far from TV-like production quality, brand advertising doesn’t need to be, either.
What’s more? Facebook’s F8 announcement that brands can connect to GoPro and other third-party apps opens the door for more ways to incorporate a “video” or moving elements into advertising—a brand’s own native content or user-generated content to show products in action.
Tapping into your customers’ content
Consumers’ Stories are not TV-quality, and your ads don’t have to be, either. Brands can (and should) test ads that mimic what their audiences post to make the look and feel of the advertising fit in seamlessly with the user-generated content already being viewed regularly.
As mentioned, incorporating actual user-generated content into advertising is a good route to take with ads—after all, Generation Z and millennials have been known to appreciate being part of a brand’s voice.
Another way to really give ads that “organic” feel is to use Instagram design elements like text overlays, stickers and GIFs. Some of these provide an interactive quality to the ads. At F8, Facebook announced Camera effects for augmented reality on Instagram—another way for brands to capitalize on that idea of “interactivity” in advertising. Using these effects the way that consumers use them can only help brands stand out from the crowded landscape.
Moving beyond the feed
Brands that think they are OK just staying within the boundaries of the Instagram feed (or any platform feed, for that matter) need to rethink that approach.
Consumers like ease of use in everything—especially when it comes to content—and with Stories front and center and having auto-playing capabilities, consumers are being conditioned to check there first. Scrolling through the feed requires effort, whereas watching Stories does not—simple as that. Brands need to be where it’s easiest for consumers to find them.
Advertisers must constantly find new pockets outside of the saturated digital ecosystem to connect with their consumers, and right now, Stories is the answer.
Christine Göös is head of content at Facebook and Instagram advertising platform Smartly.io.