If the road to customer engagement and experience is paved through storytelling, then social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat are vehicles that can drive those stories.
But while Stories are popular with B2C brands, media companies, and influencers, we don't see B2B brands taking advantage - and that presents an opportunity.
Social stories explained
Stories on social networks like h, Facebook, and Snap are a feature that consists of a series of photos or videos along with filters, text, and things that you put together to tell a story. Most are available only for 24 hours. The content isn't shared in the user's profile grid or feed, and depending on the social network, there are no commenting or liking capabilities.
Stories started with Snapchat in 2013, were added by Instagram in 2016, Facebook in 2017 and later by YouTube in 2018 (initially called Reels). With YouTube, Stories is still a relatively new feature, still in Beta and only available to eligible channels with over ten thousand subscribers. YouTube Stories are also available for seven days and do allow commenting.
There is no Story feature on LinkedIn or Twitter, but that doesn't mean some similar type of feature isn't in the roadmap. For example, LinkedIn is currently beta testing LinkedIn Live, a live streaming service where LinkedIn members or organizations can share video in real-time; a feature you could compare with Instagram Live (which is a form of Stories).
Popular with famous people, the media and B2C brands like retail and sports, Stories are a way to engage with followers in a more intimate way than posting to the profile feed. In the research report Journalism, Media and Technology Trends in 2019 , it's stated that Stories are used daily by:
- 150 million on Facebook
- 190 million on Snap
- 300 million on Instagram
It's easy to see the benefits of Stories for media sites and B2C brands. New York Time, CNN, Washington Post, Women's Health Magazine, and many other media brands have been creating Stories for a while. NASA did one recently on their Instagram feed that showed Interns talking about what they worked on that was very interesting:
But what about B2B brands? Marketers say storytelling is the best way to reach prospects and retain customers, so wouldn't it make sense to leverage the Stories feature to do tell these stories?
Creating B2B stories on social networks
In 2018, Instagram had reached 1 billion active users ; YouTube viewers were are 192 million in the US alone, and as of second quarter of 2019, Facebook has 243 million monthly active users in the United States and Canada. Let's think about the possibilities for B2B brands.
For business people, the lines between work and play are often blurred when it comes to social networks. Yes, most of the people and brands followed on Instagram are about family and friends, food, and celebrities and causes you believe in. But there are only so many photoshopped pictures you can look at of the Kardasians or healthy (and not so healthy) recipes you can bookmark. Show people some interesting content related to work, and there's a high chance you'll get their attention. For example, a client of mine gets very high CTRs for an ebook they advertise on Facebook. It's an ebook about a business challenge, there's nothing personal in it, but it's targeted to people who would be interested in it. To achieve that targeting, people must be looking for this type of content of Facebook.
If creating stories on social networks has the potential for B2B brands to reach their target audience, then what kinds of stories make sense? There are many options including sharing company events, asking questions or sharing answers to commonly asked questions, live streaming conferences, short interviews, product launches, webinar or podcast invites, product how-to's and the list goes on. You are only limited by your imagination.
On LinkedIn Live, Sangram Vajre does a weekly Q&A live stream called Office Hours that answers people's questions on account-based marketing. Think of the potential of doing something similar with Instagram. Considering LinkedIn Live is restricted to only a few right now, and Instagram is open to everyone, you have the opportunity to get in early and build your audience first.
Hubspot is an example of a B2B brand who has done exactly this:
Hubspot creates Stories for its products, for marketers, sales, growth, and more. Other B2B brands I found on Instagram include Buffer, MailChimp, ServiceNow, WeWork, and others. ServiceNow did an interesting Story on the future of work that includes stats, short video clips, and was both fun and insightful:
It's important to create Stories that offer useful information, but it's also important that the creative looks good and sometimes that can be hard to do. I found a good guide on Creating Instagram Stories by Canva worth checking out and a list of other apps that would be helpful from Later, an Instagram marketing platform.
Of course, Instagram is only one social network where you can create Stories. YouTube has a lot of potential, considering the high demand for video content. And there is another option for creating Stories that doesn't limit you to a social network - AMP Stories.
AMP is a web component framework built by Google for the open web. You use it to build websites, but they also have AMP Stories that lets you build the same kind of stories you can Instagram or Facebook. Here's one from Wired. You can share or embed an AMP Story on any site or app. AMP Stories are currently used by a number of media companies, but the potential for other companies is equally promising. I'll talk more about AMP at a later date.
What's driving your stories?
If a B2B brand wants to meet its customers where they spend their time, then social networks are top of the list. Stories are a way to engage with those customers instead of simply posting pictures or short text-based posts. Stories should tell some kind of story (hence the word "stories"), and they should look good - a brand should spend time on production to make a story worth watching and interacting with.
Right now, it seems like Instagram is a good place to start. There are no limitations on who can create Instagram Stories like there are on other social networks, but don't rule YouTube or Facebook out, if you know your customers are spending time there.