Social media: Why brands are telling ‘Stories’

Short-lived content is the new go-to strategy for brands to engage with consumers and turn them into content creators

fear of missing out, FOMO, Facebook stories, facebook status, Facebook apps, instagram app, instagram status, instagram story, Snapchat, Facebook India

By Venkata Susmita Biswas

Disappearing content — that lasts 24 hours — on social media platforms is fast edging out the newsfeed to emerge as the sought-after marketing ploy for brands to engage with consumers.

Although creating temporary content may seem counterintuitive, brands are tapping into consumers’ fear of missing out (FOMO) to promote products and build brands. According to Facebook, one billion stories are shared every day across the Facebook family of apps.

Recently, when Instagram launched the IG Music feature for Stories, food delivery app Swiggy was among the first to sample it. Swiggy put out clips of various food items and asked users to add any track from the entire IG music collection that they thought matched the clips. Swiggy then reposted the best content by users on its Stories.

Earlier this year, Warner Bros partnered with Snapchat to create a voice-activated augmented reality filter to promote the superhero movie Shazam. Through this feature, users could see themselves transformed into the superhero on scanning the snapcode and saying, “Ok, Shazam!”

These content marketing stunts not only built engagement with the audience, but also turned the followers of Swiggy and Warner Bros into content creators.

Why Stories work
Snapchat was the first to introduce the Stories format, with Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube replicating it soon after. The ‘Story’ feature, however, truly became a hit when it allowed both front and back camera-based interactions. “The back camera allowed users to capture interesting events as they were happening. And with cutting-edge face filters, the front camera allowed them to turn mundane moments into interesting ones. This duality is key to its success across platforms and demographics,” says PG Aditya, executive creative director, Dentsu Webchutney.

The format, which has been around for five years, allows people to consume content at their own pace with just a tap — without the need to scroll, refresh or swipe.

Besides, the vertical format and multiple interactive features make Stories stand out. Siddharth Banerjee, director, global sales organisation, Facebook India, says, “Stories are full screen and attention grabbing. The content viewing also matches consumer behaviour, as most people hold their phones vertically throughout the day.”

According to Varun Duggirala, co-founder and content chief, The Glitch, brands find the format of Stories to be compelling because it lets them latch onto a current trend and quickly create something that may not even be a complete creative, but could still be culturally relevant. “Stories is one of the best formats for moment marketing,” he adds.

It’s not surprising then, that the tap economy is replacing the scroll economy. Platforms are generating innovative ad formats for tap-based interactions now, such as face filters and interactivity tools including direct messaging, polls, etc, for a more immersive experience. “Platforms like TikTok are cashing in on community challenges; and a range of augmented reality camera experiences and GIF integrations into the mobile keyboard now allow us to imagine ‘interaction’ and ‘storytelling’ as two sides of the same coin,” Aditya shares.

The limitations
Stories as a marketing platform may not be suitable for all and sundry. Social media experts say a significant brand following is crucial for Stories to create buzz. Hence, it’s common to see more ‘sponsored Stories’ at present, rather than organic brand posts. “Perfecting Instagram Stories becomes easier if the brand has had a smooth-sailing feed,” says Aditya.

Duggirala points out that the impact Stories could have on brands is limited for now because the format is tuned to elicit engagement rather than direct consumers towards making a purchase. “What Stories can achieve is brand love through moment marketing; conversion is not the primary objective or outcome of Stories,” he says.

Minimum investment and high engagement are what drive marketers to Stories. Often, the content is made on a mobile device because the tools used are native to the device and the apps. One could also create motion graphics and animation pieces that allow for experimentation. But as more brands flock to Stories, those investing more into the production, execution and delivery of content will be the ones that stand out.

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