The Storyless Story: Why the Frames of Social Stories Aren’t the Only Disappearing Element

Social Stories

Not every story begins with “once upon a time,” or ends with a “happily ever after,” however it would be quite a challenging feat to find someone who doesn’t recognize these two phrases. In fact, these two iconic taglines aren’t necessary to bookend any story at all. Yet, social stories do require the two respective elements they represent: a beginning and an end. They need the memorable, emotional progression that bridges these two marks together.

While any amateur storyteller could have told you that, today’s marketers are failing to apply these fundamental components to the social media mania.

Social Stores Castle

Photo Credit: Cockburn Libraries via Compfight cc

Snapchat brought the concept of the disappearing stories into the mainstream. Users can post a progression of images or videos as a social story for all of their followers to see, but each addition is only viewable for a 24 hour time frame. Recently, Instagram followed suit. Twitter has also announced an extension of its “Moments” feature to the general public. An ephemeral lifeline of visual content is clearly the fashion, but brands can’t seem to wear it right.

Individual users can get away with posting whatever they want. It’s common to view a story that comprises of a food glamour shot, a short video clip of a friend, and a static photo of the sunset. I plead the fifth.

The problem is that brands are presenting a similar disjunction of updates without any beginning, middle, or end; the value, if it exists, is often lost in translation. Do you shudder when you see a brand cross-post to Facebook & Twitter without adjusting their content for each platform? Me too. The story-less story is another unpardonable marketing offense.

Transform Your Updates Into a Story

I’ll keep this short and sweet because you’d need a lifeboat to save yourself from drowning in the vast sea of search results you get from Googling “storytelling.” (This is my favorite one.)

Follow the story time checklist:

Create a beginning and an end.

You don’t need to establish an epic historical background for your story to build from, but give your viewers an introduction. What is your story about? What will they be watching or learning? The same goes for endings. Your viewer should be able to confidently conclude that your story has come to an end.

Provide Value

You don’t need to provide instructions for a twelve step DIY project to your viewers, but please give them some small token of value. Ask yourself what the value of each story is, and make sure one exists before posting. This will often be an educational element. Explaining the origin of your product materials, or showing the craft processes involved in production, give your audience a sense of the value and quality you provide.

Show, don’t tell.

This is a classic rule in writing. Let’s use a local restaurant as an example. The chosen story illustrates how to make a pasta dish with summer vegetables from your restaurant’s very own rooftop garden. You could tell your viewers that the vegetables come from the restaurant’s roof, and that’s still valuable. However, I think you’ll agree that it would be more memorable to show a video clip of those very vegetables being picked from the garden itself. Maximize the story’s emotional elements.

Social Stories Audience

Give your audience a story to follow–not a series to tap through.
Photo Credit: Strelka Institute photo via Compfight cc

Quality over quantity, always.

You don’t have to post an Instagram story every day. It’s a smart idea from keeping your polished, comprehensive stories from running into one another; honor each story’s beautiful 24 hour life. Posting valuable, quality social stories will earn your stories attention, and will keep users coming back to watch ‘em. Sheer quantity won’t.

Here’s the bottom line: Post when you have a story. Don’t make a social story out of posts.

Where Should Your Brand Post Social Stories?

If your brand is playing in, or wants to join, the story game, it’s important to post on the appropriate platform. Let’s take a look at each relevant platform below:

Instagram

Individual users have opened their arms wide to brands on Instagram. It’s a great way to stay up to date on local restaurant specials, stay on top of new product releases, and find inspiration. Since many individual users already follow a bunch of brands, they will automatically see if a followed brand posts a story at the top of their post feed. Instagram stories are new, and like many changes, difficult for users to adjust to. However, your brand has a chance to win them over. Instagram’s available analytics, or lack thereof, make it difficult to justify a large time investment into crafting brand Instagram stories. However, the potential for story impressions is highest on Instagram, and therefore it’s your best-bet platform.

Snapchat

It took a long time for a significant volume of brands to establish a presence on Snapchat. It’s still unclear whether this presence will continue to grow because there isn’t a business case for Snapchat, or at least yet. For this reason, not many individuals follow or interact with brands on the platform. Of course there are exceptions, and some brands have found great use for Snapchat–like extending customer service through the Chat feature. If you’re already creating story content for Instagram, recycle and repurpose your content, and the time resources used, by posting them on Snapchat.

Twitter

So far, Twitter Moments have been exclusively in the hands of Twitter’s own curation team and a selected group of publishes. Pay close attention to how brands, influencers, and partners utilize Moments when they gain access to the feature. Your brand won’t be able to post Moments yet, and it’s too soon to tell if you should when you can.

Social Stories Content

Photo Credit: Tambriell via Compfight cc

*Cue your brand’s happily ever after*

 Natalie Cullings
 Marketing Analyst

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Posted on October 27, 2016 in Brand, Social Media, Writing

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