Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat: Whats the "Story?"
It’s called, “Stories” and it’s much bigger than you think because it's laying the foundation for something really really cool. It’s a more authentic way to share your experiences and capture the moment than anything else on social media right now. What was once invented by Snapchat has been copied by Facebook and multiple other companies -- but why is that?
Let me explain what a ‘Story’ is and why Facebook and Instagram have shamelessly copied it onto their own platforms.
“One out of five people who use Snapchat picked the app as the top social platform for protecting user data and privacy.”-Business Insider
Like most social media companies, Snapchat started as something completely different than what it is today. Social media is designed to play into our own emotions and biological needs. When people saw a platform for disappearing messages, they immediately found a safe place to send and receive provocative content. In a world where everything is recorded in some form or another, it was embraced with open arms and Snapchat’s user base grew rapidly. On Facebook, where most of our families exist and interact with us, there was a massive need for a more private social media network away from prying eyes, where people could be themselves. Even the illusion of privacy goes a long way in a world where our privacy is at risk or completely non-existent.
Facebook, the biggest social network in the world, started as a platform to rate classmates at Harvard. It’s now morphed into a platform that connects the world but also collects all of our data and sells it to corporations for a hefty profit. There is a lot of psychology behind social media and by providing data to Facebook, it gives them insight on how to advertise to us. They play directly into the fear of missing out or the need to be seen. We want everyone to know we are doing well so a lot of people post their life’s “highlight reel” even if it isn’t 100% accurate! Gathering “Likes” feeds our ego as well. Even if they aren’t from people you actually “Like,” it still makes people feel good. Also, opening an app on your phone and seeing notifications boosts your endorphins and has proven to be addictive. Growth hacking, of which Facebook is an expert at implementing, is a way to send notifications to your phone to get you to interact with their platform. These notifications are what draw us back into these social media apps over and over again. If you're a business or a brand, the timely nature of these notifications can make all the difference in the world.
“Brands have an opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level, more authentic level on platforms where users feel their information and privacy is well protected.”-Business Insider
Now, I am not here to bash social media. Too much of one thing isn’t good for anyone but social media is a new way to connect and communicate with the world. How am I so informed on social media? Because I use it on a daily basis myself both for personal pleasure and also as a tool for business. I think social media is and can be used for good. Are you interested in impacting the world? You can raise awareness for a cause on social media that would have otherwise gone ignored. If you’re a business that doesn’t have a big budget for advertising, social media gives you direct access to your potential clients and helps you influence buying decisions. Social media allows us to be more connected with the world around us. Instead of getting fed our news, we can go out of our way to find it ourselves and see world events happening in real time. Social media is also a way to build and join communities of things you truly care about. And yes, it’s also a form of entertainment while also keeping you in contact with your friends and family.
So, what does this have to do with the “Stories” platform and why are companies like Facebook going all in on it?
As Facebook grew up, it became unattractive for teens to post out of fear their job or family would see it. Posting on Facebook wasn’t spontaneous -- in fact, it was the exact opposite. It was canned or staged. Why does the teen demographic matter when they don’t have much money to spend? Because they are the demographic who is most likely to try out, adopt and implement new technology. They also will -- believe it or not (sorry mom) -- eventually grow up, build their careers and spend money on brands they’ve truly care about from a younger age (brand loyalty). Brands scramble to get in front of this demographic as much as possible and spend billions of dollars doing so. Among this group are multiple billionaires and potentially the next trillionaire, depending on how they harness machine learning and artificial intelligence. This generation of kids grew up with some of the most advanced technology. On the flipside, the millennial generation (of which I am a part), grew up into this technology. It was quite a shock going from playing with care bears and star wars action figures to listening to Nirvana and Sound Garden while suddenly being exposed to the iPhone.
“A sense of privacy can drive users to interact more authentically with a platform.”-Business Insider
Enter Snapchat, which was a new technology at the time, where messaging is more spontaneous and in the moment than ever before. Capturing a moment is much more authentic than thinking through and writing out a response to a troll in the Facebook comments section. Better yet it disappears so you don’t have to worry about going back and having to delete it. Everyone has a story but not everyone wants to write a novel or enjoys typing out a response. Believe it or not, the average reading level of American adults is about 7th to 8th grade! How many of you enjoyed reading or writing in 7th or 8th grade? Not many if I remember correctly. I enjoyed reading but hated math. Some people dislike both. Luckily for you, you don’t have to read (above an 8th-grade level), write (unless you want to) or solve algebra on any stories platform. Instead, with stories, you can focus on being creative which is a lot more fun for most people.
On snapchat, you can record your life, be spontaneous and tell your story one video and image at a time! People don’t have to think about grammar or spelling errors. They can just react and express themselves in the moment. They can capture the moment, store it for later viewing and/or share it with the world.
"If I had to understand everything about connecting people before I began, I never would have started Facebook," -Mark Zuckerberg
As Snapchat began to gain momentum, Mark Zuckerberg tried to buy it for $3 Billion but the offer was rejected. Since then, he has declared all out war on Snapchat by blatantly copying it’s features onto their own platform. Facebook has even gone so far to call their own platform “stories” just like Snapchat. Historically, Zuckerberg has responded VERY aggressively to competition and has a fantastic track record of success doing this. As of right now, Instagram Stories has 250 million users while Snapchat last recorded 161 million! Zuckerberg and Facebook are the darlings of Wall Street “bros” everywhere as the stock continues to dominate the market.
So, whatever he is doing is working but with how massive this market is, it doesn’t matter. There is room for multiple companies to make an impact and as a business, you want more choices beyond just Facebook and Google. Even Microsoft, a company notorious for blatantly copying features, joined in on the fun of stories. Just recently, Skype also copied some of Snapchat’s core features but I still haven’t answered your question about the big deal with the “Stories” platform. Why is everyone so excited about something that started as a concept to send provocative text messages and videos?
"Ideas don't come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started."-Mark Zuckerberg
Technology shifts so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up with all the subtle changes. We aren’t too far away from living out some of our favorite sci-fi books or movies. In fact, sci-fi is notorious for predicting the future, whether they mean to do so or not. Video games and sci-fi novels alike had predicted one current technology trend that has big businesses chomping at the bit. As more and more people stop watching TV, companies are scrambling to influence our buying decisions in newer, more creative ways. On these “Stories” platforms, companies like Facebook, Snapchat, and Microsoft have an opportunity to once again collect our data and use it to influence buying decisions.
The reason why the stories platform is so valuable is the authenticity of the interactions. People are more likely to act on advice to make a purchase from their friends instead of brands. While on Facebook, people will doctor their interactions or curate for fear of how it will be viewed by casual acquaintances. On what is perceived as a private messaging platform among friends, it attracts spontaneity. You don’t have to worry about your post being there forever either. It goes away and isn’t indexed somewhere by Google for someone to see years down the road.
So, as you interact with a “Stories” platform -- whether it’s on Instagram or Snapchat -- you get a glimpse into someone else’s life. Concurrently, there is a gold-rush opportunity among companies for the next big technology as a way to monetize this. The next big technology trend that companies are scrambling to influence us with is virtual reality / augmented reality.
While virtual reality (VR) is still several years away from being massively commercialized, augmented reality has already arrived. If you were obsessed with Pokemon GO last year, it was probably your first true interaction with augmented reality. Augmented reality allows you to overlay Pokemon on the street when they aren’t really there. For businesses, the possibilities are endless for advertisement and it explains why the “Stories” platform is so valuable. In the next 5-years, Smartphones will start to die out and smart glasses will take center stage. We will be able to overlay the digital world onto the streets from our smart glasses.
The most simple example of this is navigation. Imagine wearing smart glasses to navigate with bright green arrows showing you whether to turn left or right. Imagine pulling up to a place you’ve never been to and the location is brighter so you can find it easier. In a sense, it’s like you’re living in an open world game on either Playstation, XBOX or Nintendo. Often times, games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Grand Theft Auto are so massive, they have to leave little clues as to where to go depending on what mission you’re on. The world we live in is massive and there is so much to explore. Smart Glasses with augmented reality can help bring out your inner Indiana Jones.
Pokemon GO was a lot of fun but it would be even more fun if we didn’t have to strain our necks looking for imaginary monsters. Another scenario is with dating. What if you could augment Tinder through your smart glasses? Imagine walking down the street and you spot a little Tinder heart over someone and have the option to swipe right or swipe left with your voice in real time. If you both swipe right, you could walk right up to one another and grab coffee or lunch instead of having to wait days or even weeks to hear back. While mindless entertainment and dating seem trivial, augmented reality could eventually go further. Smart glasses could eventually allow doctors to scan patients upon getting checked in to get them on the right track to proper diagnoses.
Augmented reality is the future of retail shopping. Every day, Amazon keeps getting bigger by making it easier to shop online. The less time we need for shopping, the more time we have to do things that are more meaningful, like building relationships. One of the biggest selling points of augmented reality is making it easier to shop. Let’s say you’re moving to Austin, Texas and fly there to look at a new house. You use your new smart glasses to navigate to your new neighborhood, meeting the realtor there to check it out. When you walk in, the house is empty and looks great but what would it look like with new furniture? If you’re a builder surveying the land, you could simply augment your new development right where you want it to be. It would minimize mistakes during the actual build as your whole team could see it right where it stands.
With your new smart glasses, you could augment Ikea furniture where you want it before you buy it! Once you find the right bed frame, couch, coffee table or whatever else, you could then purchase and schedule delivery for when you move there. Shoes, clothes, lighting fixtures and whatever else you could see all of it right then and there.
The “Stories” platform plays right into the augmented reality boom. It’s more accessible for people and businesses to go augmented reality over virtual reality. While “Stories” is an excellent way to influence buying decisions and interact with the world in a more authentic way, it’s also another way for Facebook, Snapchat and Microsoft to collect data on us. As we interact with stories and provide a lense into our lifestyle, we are laying the groundwork for how to market to us through augmented reality. The internet is a fair exchange of information. While we have given up some of our privacy we have also become more efficient, connected and laser focused. Information travels faster than ever before which allows us to learn and apply new concepts in real time.
In about 10 years, when you look at your kid's Smart Glasses as you still carry around your old brick of a smartphone, you’ll remember that it all started on a simple platform called “Stories.”