Marketing in 10 Seconds: A Digital Marketer's Intro to Social Media Stories


Social media has always been about telling stories. People around the world use social tools to share moments of their lives with their friends, and brands use them to share their best content with their followers. It’s really no wonder that the “story” concept created by Snapchat has captured the attention of the population and inspired copycat products from competitors.

Snapchat successfully pioneered the first “story” feature in 2013. The concept is simple: a user takes a picture or video (sometimes edited, emoji-d, and filtered) and then posts it as their “story” where it lives for 24 hours before disappearing forever. Anyone following the user on Snapchat can see the story, and the user can also see who has viewed it. A story only lasts for 10 seconds max, regardless of whether it is a photo or video. If you load more than one snap to your story within a 24 hour period, then your viewers will see your snaps chronologically, allowing you to form a narrative with your post.

According its own proprietary data, Snapchat boasts 150 million average daily users, with “Snapchatters watching over 10 billion videos per day”. And if your brand’s target audience is the millennial generation, you’ll want to jump on board quickly because on any given day, Snapchat reaches 41% of all 18 to 34 year olds in the United States.

Instagram is the competitor on the other side of the proverbial story ring. Instagram launched its own “Stories” feature in August 2016, and in practice it works almost identically to Snapchat’s OG idea. According to Tech Crunch, Instagram quickly reached 150 million average daily story users within 25 weeks of introducing the new feature, which very quickly put it on the same level as Snapchat.

There has been some buzz within the digital marketing community that some influencers and brands are choosing to stick to their well-established fanbase on Instagram in lieu of trying out Snapchat, but it has yet to be determined which platform will win in the end, or if there is space for both apps in the ephemeral storytelling market.

It will be interesting to watch each app as the feature race continues. For example, while Snapchat allows users to follow along with live events, it does not allow the non-brand user to post a live video. However similar to Facebook Live, Instagram encourages everyone (brands and common folk alike) to post live video feeds to their stories. And while it does encourage filtering, drawings, and stickers, Instagram has not released any type of facial recognition “lens” feature like the clever ones Snapchat boasts.


Here’s a side-by-side comparison of a story on Instagram vs a story on Snapchat. Both are from the same socially savvy brand, Too Faced Cosmetics, and were captured within a few hours of each other.


Snapchat Story


Instagram Story


It is worth mentioning that Instagram is not the only cook in parent-company Facebook’s storytelling kitchen. Facebook recently tested a new beta in Poland and then in Australia called Messenger Day. The feature is a mirror image of an Instagram or Snapchat story, and it has yet to be announced if Facebook has plans to roll it out to more users in other parts of the world.


The Facebook franchise also has a Whatsapp story feature up its sleeve. This rendition is called “Whatsapp Status” and functions much like the other story features we’ve discussed. The feature was first spotted in beta in November 2016, but it has yet to be released widely.



1. Know which platform is best for you - It’s clear that there is money to be made in story advertising, but it can be difficult to commit to a platform. If you’re unsure which medium is right for your brand, try posting identical posts on both Instagram and Snapchat, and then comparing engagement levels in BudURL.

While it may be tempting to review the engagement and simply invest in the medium reporting the most click traffic, this is not always be your most profitable option. Take your strategy a step further and track your audience straight to the shopping cart with BudURL’s conversion tracking tool. You can use the same BudURL link you included in your post to track how many audience members from each medium actually clicked your link, and then completed a desired action (such as purchasing an item or registering for your event). This will help you see which audience will give you the most return on investment in the end.

2. Engage, engage, engage - When creating story content, keep in mind that story audiences love to interact. Adweek reports that only 11% of brands posting stories on Snapchat ask their audience to engage with them. 

Encourage the audience to snap you back, send you a chat, swipe up to view more or even direct viewers to a landing page of your choice where they can take further actions.

Some brands have also hosted successful interactive contests and giveaways on Snapchat and Instagram stories. For example, the social media team at UT Austin held a giveaway during final exams in which they encouraged their Snapchat viewers to send them selfies of their study groups to win a free gift bag and visit from the University’s president. Clever story campaigns like UT Austin’s also require no financial investment since they are communicating with an existing audience, not paying for a promoted ad spot.

3. Create a narrative - Unless your brand is paying for an ad spot that allows you to post a video story longer than 10 seconds (i.e. think about movie trailer adverts you’ve seen on Snapchat), your audience won’t expect you to cram your entire message into just one post on your story. In fact, the addictive quality of tapping to see what comes next can work to your advantage. Many brands, such as Too Faced in the example above, post multiple photos intentionally so that their audience must click through to see the entire narrative.


We'd love to hear your thoughts on the evolving landscape of social media stories! Shoot us a comment below. And while you're at it - follow BudURL on Snapchat!

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