“We expect Stories are on track to overtake posts in Feed as the most common way that people share across all social apps.”
This quote, to the surprise of many, came from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the company’s Q4 earnings call in February. Essentially, this is something of a concession that a competitor – Snap Inc. – came up with a better idea, that they caught onto the next phase of social before Facebook did.
It’s not like Zuckerberg to credit competitors in this way. Known for his fiercely competitive approach (Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says that Facebook was out to ‘crush’ Snapchat after he rejected the company’s takeover offer), the statement underlines why The Social Network has been so keen to push its Stories tools, especially following the success of Instagram Stories, which now has more than 300 million daily active users.
But despite the success of Instagram Stories, their other Stories clones haven’t really… well as noted recently by a Social Media Today reader:
But...no one uses Facebook stories...? pic.twitter.com/3iFjdDMBbJ— Kirsten Agnello-Dean (@Kirsten_AD) March 31, 2018
This is true – from various accounts, Facebook Stories remains a barren wasteland for most, with those faded, ghostly profile images of your friends staring back, representing stories that’ll never be told.
Even the integration of Messenger Day (which had 70 million daily users in its own right) with Facebook Stories doesn’t seem to have livened it up a lot. Of course, only Facebook has the official usage data – which they, thus far haven’t released – but despite Zuck’s enthusiasm, it does seem like there’s not a heap of interest in Facebook Stories more broadly.
At least, not yet.
In their latest effort to push Stories, TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook will roll out three new Facebook Stories tests to prompt more usage.
The three new ideas being tested with some users are:
- When you go to create a new Facebook status on mobile, the app will now switch to an open camera window, with an additional quick link to your most recent images. This will only be tested with a small group of users at this stage, but the idea is that by showing you the Stories-style presentation screen, more users will try it out.
- When you use the Facebook Camera, Stories will now be selected as the default sharing option. Facebook’s been trying various ways to prompt Stories use in this way – at present, when you go to share a photo update, Facebook gives you a prominent option to share to your Story also.
- And in the last test, Facebook’s trying out a new Stories presentation format, with larger tiles as backgrounds, giving you a view as to what the Story is about (similar to Stories previews which appear mid-stream on Instagram)
As noted, these tests will be limited in scope – the first is only appearing to a small group, the second among users in the Dominican Republic, and the third, again, with a small percentage of users.
Facebook will obviously use the feedback from those initial tests to decide on further action – but one thing is very clear: Facebook is certainly not giving up on Stories on their main platform.
There are probably a couple of angles on this – first off, Snapchat remains hugely popular among younger users, and among younger users is where future trends tend to grow. We’ve seen this with every social trend, Facebook itself included, so it makes sense for Facebook to monitor usage patterns among younger audiences and model future projects on those habits.
But then again, Snapchat’s data shows that Stories aren’t the most popular option on that app, with personal Snaps being shared at a much higher rate. In this respect, you’d also assume Facebook is tapping into data on Instagram Stories usage, and seeing those adoption rates rise amongst younger audiences.
It may be that Facebook - now the older platform - is just a bit slower on the uptake, but over time adoption of Facebook Stories will grow. Facebook’s just looking to prod that on with these new tests.
The other consideration here is that Stories may feel more personal, and less like you’re sharing your intimate data for Facebook to mine. It’s much harder for Facebook to interpret your videos and images than it is your written text messages – maybe, by pushing Stories, Facebook’s looking to use the option as an alternate avenue to maintain user trust in response to recent concerns.
But the main logic would appear to be the bridge between where we are now and the future. Facebook is investing big in virtual reality, which they see as the future of social interaction, and it does stand to reason that users will eventually gravitate towards the most immersive option to share their updates.
We’ve seen this progression all through the evolution of social – we started out with message boards and basic text, then upgraded to still images, and now video is the dominant sharing option. VR would be the next step, and Stories, with their more immersive, immediate, mobile-focused format, may be the bridge between the two. Add in Facebook’s evolving AR tools and that link gets even clearer.
By raising awareness of Stories, and the way the option can make best use of the various camera effects, Facebook can better showcase their advancing efforts on this front, which will help demonstrate the opportunity of virtual overlays and effects.
Maybe Facebook Stories will take off, maybe not, but there’s pretty clear logic why Facebook might want to push it. And if, as Zuck has said, they truly do see Stories as the future of social sharing, that will give them even more impetus – and you can bet that they have some sort of data-based insight into why they believe that’s the case.
And with that consideration, maybe it’s also worth your brand investing in learning more about the format. No one uses Facebook Stories, sure, it’s not a big deal among your audience. But it might become one, and that shift could be coming soon.