Facebook StoriesIt seems like all the major social platforms are working day and night to copy each other’s features. Lately, it seems they all have their sights set on the newly-public Snapchat, who launched their stories feature ages ago. Instagram soon followed,  and this week the mighty Facebook is launching a story feature.

Stories are not a new concept – users can now post images, videos, and more to a “story” as opposed to their news feed. These are intended to be ephemeral, lasting a few hours or a day, and then the disappear. Users can send these to all their friends, or like Snapchat and Instagram, direct them a specific user.

Facebook will allow drawing, stickers, and more to be added to photos. Facebook’s spin on the story will include a feature they are calling “masks,” which is a lift of Snapchat’s filters feature. Snapchat’s filters are fun but they have some pretty serious science behind them. Here are a few examples of masks Facebook will ship:

Facebook Masks

As you can see, they will be heavily advertiser focused. In the example above, you can see an Aliens move tie-in, Minions, and Guardians of the Galaxy. These IPs all have new movies coming out this summer. After all, Facebook is an advertising company, first and foremost.

Here’s what I thought when I saw this news this morning. If every platform and tool has an ephemeral stories feature, then none of them do. My time is limited, and now I have to think about what platform I should or need to post my stories on. None of them? All of them? Where do I reach the most amount of people?

For example, for some reason, I have a huge following on Snapchat. Literally tens of thousands. I post stories there and they do well with many views. Now, with Facebook launching stories, will that audience erode? Do I have to post the same content on Facebook where I reach less people, or do I focus my limited energies on the platforms where I already have brand value?

And that’s me as an individual. This is going to add a whole new layer of complexity for brands, institutions, and companies. They will need to decide where it makes sense for them to spend their time and resources to reach their key audiences as well. The Verge says this:

Where to post your daily story now becomes a daily concern for a certain subset of youngish, social media-savvy people. Facebook says stories belong everywhere that people are talking online, but what if the format is a fad? And what if forcing it on users across its entire family of app leads to a general fatigue with the idea? The company says each of its apps has a distinctive audience, and I believe it. But there’s also plenty of overlap. There’s a risk here that Facebook’s mania for stories will be interpreted as overkill by its users, and the feature will ultimately fade into the background. (This happened with live video!)

This stories war has the potential to also create confusion among users. If Facebook puts a large amount of attention and advertising around the Stories feature, will that slowly decrease the amount of news feed posts people and brands are doing? Will brands want to spend money to promote their posts to news feeds if the traffic isn’t there to see it?

Personally, I’m all for stories if it stops people posting freebooted videos and “inspirational” quotes on their news feeds.

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Like many of my fellow web colleagues, I’ve struggled to wrap my brain around how Snapchat works. It’s definitely geared towards a younger demographic with its “swipe this way, swipe that way” user interface.

I’ve got the basics down: I’ve added some friends, I’ve sent some snaps, tried some filters, and even a few face swaps with my kids, often to scary result.

The one area of Snapchat I find the most interesting is the “story” feature. The ability to quickly and easily share updates in that platform is very easy and feels much more interactive than Twitter or Instagram updates, especially since it doesn’t use a timeline-based approach. I can quickly go through all the updates of 1 person, which is nice. This sort of approach hopefully means Snapchat doesn’t see the type of user pushback when timeline changes are made.

I’ve added a few celebrities to see what kind of content famous folks and brands were putting out there. The quality varies pretty widely, though some are doing it better than others. The Cleveland Indians do some pretty neat behind the scenes stuff on Snapchat. I’ve never seen Whitney Cummings do comedy, but after hearing her great interview on the Tim Ferriss Podcast, I added her and it’s been pretty interesting to see how she uses the platform.

snapcodeRecently, something strange has been happening. A ton of people I don’t know started adding me. I don’t know them, and they don’t show up as friends in my friends area. Best I can surmise, is when I wrote a post about creating Snapchat geofilters last year, I included a picture of my snapcode, which you can see to the right. Not that many people read my blog, so they all can’t be coming from that. It’s strange.

As a test, I made my “story” public as a test for all those people who added me so they can see some of my snaps that I share on my story. It’s been pretty eye-opening.

 

Here’s some basic stats that Snapchat gives you:

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Yes. This past weekend, a picture I posted of the chicken noodle soup I made was viewed 8,400 times in 12 hours. That’s incredible reach and engagement – way more than I get from Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. I’m enjoying my newfound, invisible audience of people I don’t know. I’ve started taking photos more and sharing them, and watching the thousands of views add up. It’s kind of addicting.

If Snapchat is serious about wanting brands to get onboard, they need to offer more robust analytics to not only brands, but all users. There wasn’t an area I could find that I could easily see all the people who have added me. I can see the most recent, but no count of all of them. That would be useful information to do some measurement against, especially since they give you some performance metrics on your post.

Want to see more pictures of my soup, or the delicious roast potatoes I made the other day? Add me. Everyone else is.