Although “traditional” formats on social media have seen declining rates of User Generated Content (UGC), the Story format has taken off. This is presenting fantastic new opportunities for brands prepared to invest and take the risk.
Story: an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.
Stories eat the post timeline
The sharing of UGC on social channel timelines has been steadily dropping, for example, Facebook has reported dropping rates of shared UGC for the last 3 years.
On the other hand, Stories, as innovated by Snapchat, have seen astronomical rates of “near real-time” sharing of relevant “human” content which provides a treasure trove of UGC sharing potential.
Stories hold the key to reviving the sharing of UGC. On Instagram alone, more than 400 million people use Stories each day as of June 2018. And since rolling out Instagram Stories in August 2016, Facebook has launched variations of Stories across its various platforms with Messenger Day, WhatsApp Status and Facebook Stories.
User-generated content acts as a powerful form of social proof – providing your audience with genuine content from real people. Stories amplify this social proof because of their more spontaneous and “human” connection.
Why have Stories taken off?
Knowing why Stories have taken off in such a big way is important. It’s important because brands need to be using Stories and UGC in a way which is congruent with those forces. So what are the drivers behind the success of stories:
- They are timely (“near real-time” meaning often about something happening on the day e.g. an event);
- They are ephemeral – disappearing after one day, including all associated comments. This often leads to people being more prepared to share more personal content than that which remains on their timeline;
- They are mobile-native – meaning vertical, camera ready, and in their simplest form, can be produced much faster than composing a post;
- They are a thread which can be added to and built up over a period e.g. a sequence documenting an event and people. Imagine, if you were documenting runners crossing the line in a marathon – Stories are the perfect format. With the rise of Snapchat, we’ve become accustomed to sharing multiple and frequent updates throughout the day – a way of communicating that just doesn’t fit with a traditional, web-based vertical feed.
All these factors have created a perfect storm for the format. And in fact, the underlying momentum runs deeper. As Accenture said recently in its “19 Digital Marketing Trends for 2019 and Beyond” – “everyone loves a good story“.
Everybody loves a good story. It’s an intuitive truth, but one that is supported by the depth of history as well. Since time immemorial, we’ve used stories to evoke powerful emotions, build human connections and create a sense of community… Consumers are receptive to convincing storytelling. In fact, 92 percent of them want brands to make their ads feel more like stories. 68 percent prefer content that is informative and educational, while 17 percent prefer entertaining stories above all others. But regardless of your angle, the impact will be dramatic: stories are up to 22 times more memorable than the bare facts.
Repurposing User Generated Content
The key lessons from using Stories to generate UCG can be derived from two brands who are very successfully using the medium, – Square, and Nike. Both of these companies use marketing strategies which are strongly focused on the company’s purpose. Having a clear purpose is the foundation for being able to then formulate effective tactics for Stories and using UGC.
- Square takes community content curation to a new level, building relationships directly with their merchants and encouraging them to share their stories with Square — in their own words — so that Square can share them with other businesses. They also curate their merchant customers to take over Stories on the Square account and talk directly to the Square user-base. That’s risky but has paid off handsomely because it promotes the authenticity of the brand. Read the full story of Square’s success here (Buffer blog)
- Nike has also been super successful leveraging the power of Stories. It’s no coincidence that Nike and Square both have a very strong sense of purpose, as this is fundamental to their success. Nike describes the Stories feature as “central to all of our social content strategy and planning”. For Stories, Nike handed the camera over to its brand ambassadors to let them film themselves and tell the audience how the shoes felt. That’s risky, but Nike wanted to ease up on some of their brand governance and allow for more access for athletes that are “real and authentic in their voices”. Subsequent to their early more guarded trials of Stories, Nike has had phenomenal success in generating engagement with the medium. Read the full story of Nike’s success here (Mobile Marketer).
User-generated content is a low-effort way to create Instagram Stories content, and Instagram has simplified your ability to share user content. If someone with a public account tags your brand in a story, you can add that story to your own story. Instagram also recently released a feature that lets you share posts from Instagram to your story as long as the post isn’t from a private account (with appropriate permission of course).
Alert! Read this “When Hashtags Aren’t Enough: Adding @Mentions to Your UGC Strategy“.
Overcoming the risks
There are risks for marketers in fully embracing Stories:
- Firstly there is the risk that greater co-creation of content with your community could go “off brand”, and take significant effort to manage. Successful brands have solved this by being purposeful and strategic in their approach, by having clear guidelines and open collaboration, and by embracing trust.
- Secondly, marketers face doubts about the effort needed to produce content which disappears in a day. The effort taken in just gaining permission for the use of UGC might be enough to stop the social team in their tracks – so there needs to be a streamlined process. That said, the successful brands have found the payback far exceeds the effort as compared to “traditional” content curation and placement.
- Thirdly, the vertical format is still confronting to some marketers. You don’t often see pro video producers set up with a vertical format, and the opportunity to use horizontal across multiple channels means greater efficiencies. But here’s the reality, 90% of mobile time is spent in portrait mode, with 72% of millennials never turning their phones, even to view horizontal content. That said, learning to film vertically — what goes in the frame, where key reveals go, how to use design treatments and native tools on the platform — is a continuous learning process. There’s not much to say about this except “get used to it”. We’ve passed the point of no return on vertical video.
Stories are only going to get bigger. Therefore developing a strategy of engaging with your community and leveraging UGC will become a more important part of your content plan. Although ephemeral, Stories are proving to be one of the most engaging new formats and one which offers brands of all sizes to rebuild their human connections. Perhaps even more importantly, Stories allow small brands to build massive engaged audiences e.g. Allure.
The keys to success are in being able to convey your brand purpose, motivating your community to generate aligned UGC, having a strategic approach and open collaboration.
For monitoring the success of your Instagram Stories read this post “How To Get Analytics Insights You Need to Improve Instagram Stories Engagement“.
See this video to set up Instagram Story analytics in Sprinklr: Sprinklr Training – Reporting on Instagram Stories and Instagram Engagement Features
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