If you’ve updated your Facebook app this week, you may have noticed that they introduced a new feature (that probably feels old if you also use Snapchat or Instagram). Facebook stories was initially released a few months ago in limited test markets and this week it entered a much larger beta phase. If you’re not familiar with Snapchat or Instagram stories, this new feature allows users to post filtered pictures and short videos that will be available for 24-hours before disappearing into the internet ether.
So far, the reception hasn’t been all that warm; but that’s par for the course when it comes to Facebook changes (remember the ‘timeline’ debacle?). The feature is a shameless rip-off of Snapchat, and I’m not convinced that it is the right direction for Facebook – but I’m withholding judgement until we can see it fully adopted and in action.
For many people, the old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ applies well to Facebook. So why are they experimenting with new features? The simple answer: Facebook has a problem. Over the last two years, the amount of original user generated content has been in decline as users have opted to share links over post personal pictures. Facebook is built around user generated content (there’s plenty of news aggregators out there), so they have a huge interest in encouraging users to continue creating and sharing unique content.
Facebook is calling this problem a ‘content collapse.’ And as marketers, we all know the vital importance of having fresh content. The problem of content collapse is exacerbated by an increase in ad space and sponsored posts. As more people are using Facebook to share news and push their own businesses, Facebook losses a lot of its personal charm and begins to feel more like a giant marketing and advertising center- that’s bad for business.
And so we get Facebook Stories. It is a push to get more user generated content on Facebook and avoid ad overload. Could Facebook have been more creative that a complete copy of the 6-year old Snapchat? Probably, but Snapchat is popular for a reason (as evidenced by the rapid popularity of the similar Instagram stories), and Facebook wants on the bandwagon. The big question is: will the 1.7 billion mobile users agree?
Beyond helped to solve the content collapse problem, Facebook stories also help to increase the amount of video content on the site. You might be sick of hearing it (I know I’m sick of saying it), but video content is the future. Facebook’s David Marcus recently stated that the camera is the new keyboard – meaning that when people want to communicate they take a video before writing a post. Facebook Stories continues that shift away from text and toward a more visual (if that’s possible) internet culture.
Facebook Stories for Businesses
As of right now, Stories are only available to private users. But since we are still in a beta-phase, no one knows how long that will last. If Instagram is any indication, then it won’t take long for Facebook to open up stories to business pages as well. So what does that mean for social media marketers?
Facebook has a problem with advertising overload – but they also love to make money. So I can’t imagine Stories sticking around as a purely personal feature. Stories take a featured place at the top of your timeline – so the real estate is valuable, and how long before Facebook begins to auction off that valuable land? If you’re already producing Instagram stories, then you are basically ready to migrate that content to Facebook. But if you’re not using Instagram as a social media platform, it is worth exploring Facebook Stories as it only a matter of time before it opens up as another marketing channel.
Will it Last?
It is my belief that Facebook stories will open up to businesses soon, but before we invest significant time and resources into developing a Stories strategy it is important to ask if Stories are here to stay. I’m not convinced it will; I might be in the minority here, but hear me out. I have two reasons that I think will cause the death of Facebook Stories:
- The content on Facebook is user generated – that is obvious. But it means is that when the makeup of posts changes, it is because that is what people want. The Facebook experience is shaped by the users, and if they want a place to share and discuss links – then let them do it. Many users are now on multiple social media platforms and already have an outlet for what Stories provides. The Facebook team can (and should) make design and UX tweaks, but I’m not sure it is wise for them to attempt to influence content in such a heavy-handed way.
- Kids are finicky. Snapchat came out six years ago – and exploded in popularity, but how long will that last? Their recent IPO has already cast some doubt on the long-term viability of the platform. Crazy filters and augmented reality selfies are all the rage, but what’s next? I’m probably too old to guess the next big craze, but I think Facebook might be three years too late to the Snapchat party.
What Should We Do?
So what should social media marketers do? Of course, if it’s available – we should probably be using it. Ignoring a new social media feature is a great way get left behind – so I’m certainly not advocating that. But I also wouldn’t dump all my eggs into the Facebook Stories basket. Here’s my bottom line advice:
- If you’re already using Instagram stories, then absolutely jump on Facebook Stories. It’s an easy transition and the groundwork is already in place.
- If you’re not using Instagram stories – experiment with Facebook Stories. Spend some time seeing if it works for your brand, but not at the expense of your existing social media strategy.
- If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and already stretched thin on social media, don’t lose any sleep over Facebook stories. Maybe it takes off and you can’t ignore it, or maybe it dies in six months and you saved some time. But either way you haven’t sunk your business over the flavor-of-the-month.
Fusion Group USA offers full service social media marketing services. So if you’re sick of spending your valuable time trying to keep up with the social media landscape, give the professionals a call and we can take it from there.