The story format is a dominant force in social media because stories-style content facilitates user interaction, which drives engagement. The proof is in the numbers with close to a billion Snapchat, Instagram (and IGTV), WhatsApp (Status), Facebook and Messenger, and Google AMP Stories accounts create and watch Stories. According to a new INMA report, Stories Format: News Media’s Next Social Opportunity, the format proposes a shift in journalism and a new venture for news publishers.
Stories are a mobile-centric social media storytelling format. It’s about using multi-media (video, audio, text, photos, emojis, etc.) across multiple social platforms to tell your tale. Stories also differ from newsfeeds in that they:
- stay posted for at least 24 hours.
- project the personality of the reporter
- serve as an overlay and not dependent on newsfeed algorithms
- can offer interactivity
- receive top placement on every social media app
News organizations can use the Stories format as an way to connect with a younger, mobile centric audience. In particular, the news media should look to Stories users as a special force to channel real-time, fresh content around breaking stories. In this experience, the user also controls the pace and the order in which they consume the Stories content. News publishers can experiment with Stories and participate in the lean-forward Stories experience.
The Story Principles
The INMA report identifies eight key principles (creates the Snapchat anagram) for the news media to use to create effective Stories:
Suspense and Engagement – build intrigue about your story. Think about developing Stories with multiple uploads throughout the day to build suspense and keep your audience engaged.
Native and Niche – create exclusive content for Stories, nothing repurposed.
Artistic flair – exhibit artistic expression in your Stories.
Personality – ensure your Story captures the reporters personability.
Consistency – make sure your story is update and consistent with what’s happening in the world. Stories live for at least an hour.
Hype – build excitement for your story. Use your Stories as teasers for longer pieces.
Arrange and Prepare – think about storyboarding your Stories to help tell the linear narrative.
Thumb – include interactivity and use the thumb for clicking and scrolling. Polls, voting, quizzes and others are great ways to interact with users.
Who’s Telling Stories?
BBC News, NBC, CNN, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Financial Times are all employing Stories as part of their news storytelling repertoire. Examples include NBC’s Snapchat news show “StayTuned” has 4 million subscribers. BBC News runs a Friday quiz on Instagram Stories, which questions the audience on recent news facts.
Stories offer a huge opportunity for audience growth and a clear path to user engagement. More features will be introduced, and new experiences will evolve (think Augmented Reality). Monetization must now be a focus and there is a need for a new type native ad experience.