February 20, 2018
Let’s talk about Mark Zuckerberg. No, not because he called us “dumb f—s” for trusting him, and no, not because he just testified before Congress. You know what? I don’t really want to talk about Mark Zuckerberg. I just want to talk about what he said during a recent earnings call: “We expect stories are on track to overtake posts and feeds as the most common way that people share across all social apps.”
It’s no secret stories have been on fire since Instagram
copied Snapchat debuted the feature in August of 2016, and with 300 million daily active users, it’s no surprise Zuck expects them to take over in the not-so-distant future. Let’s take a look at why stories have taken off — and why I think they’re here to stay.
Social media has always been a highlight reel. We’re programmed to show our best sides, our best selves and our best damn lives — with content that’s been cut, cropped and edited with an endless array of filters. Let’s be honest: Most of our traditional posts are designed to make us look good. But research says the more we do it, the worse we feel. Stories (and snaps) brought us back to real life. Suddenly it was cool to share less-curated content. Our pictures didn’t have to look perfect anymore because, hey, we can choose who sees them and they’ll be gone in 24 hours anyway. We still tend to share highlights, but now we have an outlet to share more of the real stuff (and post it without a filter, too).
Remember what social media was like before algorithms? When every platform just showed us stuff in real time — and only from people we chose to follow or be friends with? There’s a reason the big three were built on chronological order: It’s the best way to tell a story. Now, between irrelevant brand posts and stuff that happened hours or even days ago, our feeds are a mess. Stories show us what’s happening as it actually happens. Sure, there’s still an algorithm (Instagram orders stories by engagement data), but you better believe they unfold in chronological order. This points back to being real, too. We want to see what our friends are up to now, not what they had for lunch last weekend.
Facebook has been preaching “meaningful interactions” since it started prioritizing friends and family, and for good reason. We like social media because it connects us with the people we care about — friends, family or otherwise — and our ability to choose who we talk to is at the heart of the story model. Of course we can still have meaningful interactions with brands, but it’s all about relevant, valuable, relatable content. Speaking of brands, I haven’t felt overwhelmed by ads, but a relatively slow adoption rate is becoming a missed opportunity. Stories are a chance to reach people with content that doesn’t take as much effort to make — and the best part is you can start experimenting for free.
The big question now is how users will respond once brands start to catch up. If they do it with content that’s right for the platform – and if Zuck is as smart as he thinks he is – stories are here to stay.