Facebook Stories could be a serious opportunity for brands. Don’t laugh; marketers aren’t.
Facebook’s copy of Instagram’s clone of Snapchat’s popular feature has failed to take off among regular users. Now the social network is opening up Stories to Pages in hopes that someone — anyone — uses its version of the ephemeral photo-and-video format. And brands actually might. At least at first. If only out of curiosity.
“We are seeing it as a test. It’s proven itself to not be an inherent behavior for regular people on the platform, so we don’t want to go all-in and commit to a Facebook Stories strategy in the way we have for Instagram. However if only two other people [are posting Stories] in the feed, that presents the potential to drive an outsized impact if you’re doing cross-posting of a Story,” said Mike Dossett, associate director of digital strategy at RPA.
Brands are likely to try out Stories because there’s little reason not to. “There’s no cost,” said MEC’s head of content Noah Mallin. Instead of brands crafting Facebook-specific Stories, they can repurpose the ones they post to Instagram, as the NBA has been doing.
This cross-posting strategy enables brands to see if people on Facebook, who may not be interested in producing their own Stories, are interested in checking out others’. If they aren’t, that’s fine. If they are, then brands will consider whether to produce custom Stories for Facebook and seek information indicating how Facebook’s Stories audience may differ from Instagram’s and Snapchat’s.
But first, brands need to see if there’s an audience for their Stories on Facebook. And before that, brands need to be able to actually post Stories to Facebook. While Facebook has begun to roll out Stories to Pages, it is doing so slowly.
“The rollout of this product has not been as widespread as some other major updates have. Some of our biggest clients who have multiple millions of followers on Facebook still don’t have access,” said Dossett.
Justin Marshall, executive VP of emerging media at Possible, also said that none of his clients at the WPP-owned agency have access to Stories yet. “We haven’t been pushing it either. We have some clients who, if we would have asked to be on the whitelist, we probably would have gotten on there. But we haven’t really broached that topic yet,” he said.
The potential upside
The muted interest among brands would amplify if people turn out to be interested in Stories from Pages. Not only would Facebook’s audience offer more viewers for the Stories brands are already distributing on Instagram, but it would also present an opportunity for marketers to recoup the organic reach they’ve lost in Facebook’s News Feed — at least for a time. Because the Stories feed sits at the top of the main screen of Facebook’s mobile app, brands Stories will be the first thing people see when they open Facebook.
Facebook’s Stories could also provide a chance for brands to showcase any Camera Effects and Frames that they have created for the platform. While those Snapchat-esque augmentations received a lot of attention when they were announced in April, like Stories they have yet to gain much traction on the social network. Also like Stories, that limited adoption corresponds with limited availability. Facebook has not widely opened up its Camera Effects Platform for many brands to produce their own augmented-reality filters, and the usage of its Snapchat Lens-like Camera Effects appears primarily suited to Story posts.
But if Stories is able to attract an audience on Facebook and Facebook opens up its Camera Effects Platform to more brands, “I guarantee you there are going to be a half-dozen, if not more, of our clients who say they need to be thinking about that,” said Marshall.
The inevitable downside
Of course any ramp-up in brand interest would likely seesaw into a dialing back of opportunity. After all, brands aren’t the only Page owners now able to post Stories on Facebook. So are publishers and celebrities. As many people as may be willing to watch the NBA’s Facebook Story, more may tune into Bleacher Report’s or LeBron James’s. And if that turns out to be true, then the algorithm sorting Facebook’s Stories feed would likely push back brands’ Stories, or Facebook may start asking marketers to pay for a better placement, as it has with its traditional News Feed.
“Brands have learned quickly that if Facebook sees a way to monetize a part of its sites, it will do so quickly. So the window for [Stories to be an organic opportunity for brands] is probably a narrow one. That window will close,” said Mallin. But first it needs to open.