In 2013 Snapchat created the very much loved and cherished story format and laid the foundations of a new era in the way we share content. However, we can certainly argue that before Instagram stole the story format “with pride” from Snapchat in 2016, not a large proportion of the world’s community was really aware of it, other than the loyal users of Snapchat, in other words, the GenZs. Even when Instagram first announced this new feature to become part of its user experience, I am quite sure that most of its users have questioned why Instagram would make such a drastic change in its user interface. Instagram was a place to share pretty pictures, filtered with beautiful lenses.
Why would anyone bother to share anything from stories? The beautiful pictures that were uploaded required effort and time; from shooting to preparation for posting. Brands were working on the aesthetics of what they would share meticulously, so as not to be criticized. Whereas the story format by nature was instant, imperfect, a glimpse of that spontaneous moment in one’s life. The vertical format was completely opposed to the square perspective of Instagram posts. So how would that fit into the value proposition of the platform? These critiques could have gone to eternity. The consumer brands, many of whom would pride themselves with being the “first” in any kind of medium also didn’t really see the immeasurable trend that was coming at the beginning and continued their lives with regular posts, contents, etc on their pages.
However, something unexpected and amazing happened. As if it has been the long lost part of our daily lives, people started to embrace the format at an incredible speed. The metrics such as time spent on the platform, the number of stories being served started to skyrocket on Instagram. The level of adoption was so massive that scientific studies started to be made on the reason why Instagram stories were so addictive. As per reference to one done by Harvard University, it’s been found that sharing stories was actually triggering the rewarding mechanisms of the brain, therefore making it such a joyful experience.
Another thing that made stories more captivating was the realness and spontaneity of them. Stories became an indispensable format for the broadcasting of special events such as marathons, sports competitions, riots, etc, making all of them a “shared experience” across the community. (A great yet saddening example for that would be the current globally shared experience that we have; the pandemic. With COVID-19 socially isolating everyone at their homes, people have embraced the format to lighten the burden of the ambiguity and the severity of the situation on their hearts.)
Then followed the brands of course. The concept “storytelling” itself was on the agenda of brands since the beginning of the digital era. As Edelman pointed on his article at HBR titled “Branding in the Digital Era”, with the digital evolution, the way brands should interact with their customers have changed drastically and the marketing strategy should no longer be a funnel but a continuous loop of communication, consideration, reiteration, until the point where the consumer becomes the brand’s ambassadors.
To be able to do that, brands need to tell their story as genuine and authentic as possible. What can be a better medium than the stories itself to do that? I, myself, can recall from my former days in Unilever as a brand marketeer the very first Story Ad that we have posted on Instagram! Of course, the features that followed the mere first version of the story format made it even juicier for the brands. The ability to conduct polls, live broadcasts, custom branded filters, the ability to get reactions from their very own consumers resulted in media budgets being allocated more and more to stories.
Such a success story, of course, brought new platforms to introduce story formats. Whatsapp followed in 2017, together with Medium Series, Facebook Stories, Skype Highlights, and Youtube Reals. A lot of mobile websites or large app companies also embraced the format to convey their content. All of a sudden, none of us could even remember a time without stories in our lives.
Final Thoughts on Stories in the Modern Era
Today, 7 years after Snapchat’s discovery of the format and 4 years after Instagram capitalized on it, nearly 1.7 billion people across the world use Story format to share content. Brands share around 2.5 stories on a daily basis to communicate with their users and get the swipe up rates around 15-25%. The Millenials and GenZs, who are the majority of the shopping decision makers of the day do not make that decision without checking stories.
Considering that neither the users nor the brands can run out of “stories to tell”, this format will certainly continue to be “the” format to share anything and everything…
https://www.business2community.com/instagram/5-scientific-reasons-why-instagram-stories-are-so-engaging-02116732. No direct reference was made to this article, however, the themes and ideologies expressed in this article have helped to form the foundation of this blog.