Ben Hocking, MSc digital marketing management student
Facebook is going to be one of the main places to focus your social media marketing for the foreseeable future. But will you be marketing in the right place? For a while now, the news feed has been the place to be to engage with consumers, using display ads and chatbots. However, these methods had varying success due to them being easily overlooked and being a nuisance when posted too frequently. In response to this, 2018 saw an update to Facebook’s algorithm in order to reduce the amount of fake news and improve the reputation of the platform. As always, with the changing of Facebook algorithms comes a change in marketing culture within the platform. In an environment that has ever increasing scrutiny on user content by employers and relationships, users are experiencing a shift from news feed-based engagement to an increasing popularity of private messaging and stories.
With Facebook messenger becoming increasingly popular with 1.3 billion users a month, a huge new market is presenting itself. Thanks to copying of the original innovation by Snapchat and the subsequent success of stories on Instagram, stories (short videos and images that appear temporarily on a user’s social media) are becoming the next big thing in social media, with users clearly finding more comfort in the creating limited time content that can be forgotten about much easier than a public post on social media. Social media platforms are predominantly buying in to having stories on their platform, even with private messaging groups such as WhatsApp making the transition. Always attempting to be remain the leader of social media platforms, Facebook have clearly thrown their metaphorical hat into the ring and transitioning Facebook into a more story-oriented experience, and in typical Facebook fashion, making it bigger and better. These improvements are much needed for Facebook, as when it comes down to private messaging, it still lags behind WhatsApp by hundreds of millions of users.
One of the main changes to Stories is how the platform now uses the story cards (a collection of images taken from the stories of other users that provide a link to their complete story). Bigger cards, easier access and constant reminders: Facebook is clearly showing its cards on how it wants users to engage, and we can understand why. By using stories to market to users, pages can post as often as they like without filling up the news feed of their followers and risking being branded a as “nuisance” content. From a marketing perspective, this allows advertisers to place ads in the middle of a stream of content more seamlessly than before interruptive. Even if you scroll past the initial set of stories, there is no escaping them. After every few posts on the news feed there is another opportunity to engage with stories, this time Facebook even doubles down with the amount you can choose from on your screen.
Interestingly, Facebook is clearly playing the media platform game and winning. On mobile, stories are king, but switch to desktop like over 30% of users, and we are greeted with the same old Facebook we know and love. Other than stories being available along the right-hand side when you first open your news feed, their presence is very limited, showing that the ease of image-based content curation that mobile provides has been accounted for when transitioning, as well as accommodating desktop users in the changes. (Need to find data for older audience not engaging in stories).
So, you’re probably asking yourself why the predominance of stories is so important in shaping the future of marketing. Well, by using stories you can combine all your posts into one convenient little package to, believe it or not, tell a story about your product. Stories let your content be consistently viewed in the order you decide you want it to, allowing you to engage your audience with the correct posts without the risk of them missing the good bits. They also allow you to get the users invested in your content before presenting them with your long-form marketing through the stories themselves and the ability to swipe and tap to take them from Facebook to your website effortlessly, and the best bit- they already know they want to go there, reducing bounce rates and encouraging good quality engagement with your content. Another amazing feature of Facebook stories is the integration between the Facebook platform and the messenger app, with stories appearing seamlessly between the two platforms as is typical for Facebook messenger. This will allow advertisers to target any users from either platform with meaningful content.
The final trick up the marketer’s sleeve with Facebook stories is the ability to embed polls and links within the story itself. Want feedback on a new service? Add an emoji slider and let them show you how happy they are, the possibilities are endless. And this is only the beginning, with the increase of popularity for Facebook stores expected to overtake news feeds as the primary way to share on social media in 2019. With more than double the users of Instagram, Facebook may have been late to the party, but they are soon going to be the life of it.