When it launched, it only took Instagram Stories six months to amass more than 150 million daily active users.

As of June 2017 (less than a year since its launch), that number hit 250 million.

Snapchat has approximately 160 million daily active users.

Suffice to say, social media Stories are popular with users and continue to gain traction with brands.

That said, this week’s question is a tough one.

It doesn’t just ask if social media Stories work.

We know they have a place.

Just like billboards, radio and TV “work,” social media Stories have a place.

But when it comes to PR, developing content for brands online, and the PESO model, are social media Stories an effective part of the media mix?

So, here it is. This week’s Big Question is:

What are the pros vs. cons of social media Stories?

Do you use them, and what’s the biggest value, if any, in a PR context?

Finding the ROI

Like any PR tactic, tracking is pivotal to understanding how and why it is working, and, of course, for measuring success.

From Sam Olmstead:

Social media Stories absolutely work to improve PR.

However, Stories, and social media as a whole, is only one aspect of PR.

When talking about the relationship between social media and PR, there are some importantquestions to ask:

1. Who is posting about the company?
2. Does the social media post or poster reflect the company’s mission, values, and messaging?
3. Can I track the data behind the social media post?

If Kim Kardashian, with her 101 million Instagram followers, posts a story about your company, you’ll get a much larger response than if the average Joe does.

But, in this example, does she represent your company and brand?

Mismatched messaging does poorly regardless of who delivers it.

If your company is directly posting Stories, this increases the amount of direct communication you have with your customers.

However, if you can’t track that data, or allow others to find you, it’s not very useful.

In this instance, Instagram Stories take the edge over Snapchat Stories.

In Instagram, companies can put a hashtag on the stories which can be read and followed.

Finding the ROI of Stories is all about tracking the data.

In Snapchat, companies can make custom geo-filters and track who has used those filters.

Instagram doesn’t yet have this capability.

However, Instagram allows companies to use hashtags and link to a more robust profile with website information (Instagram homepage).

The benefit of Stories is that it’s just one more way to communicate with customers.

Companies should use stories as long as they understand how to track the results.

Similarly, Anthony Baldini also speaks to ROI:

The return-on-investment of using Stories is that profiles can build loyalty through content without flooding a feed.

Because users must select to view a Story, as opposed to being forced to see the content when scrolling the main feed, users are arguably more receptive to the messages conveyed through Story clips.

Unlike Snapchat or Facebook, which only show how many people viewed your content, Instagram “Stories” also reveals which users saw each story, thus highlighting a list of active followers for you to engage with.

It’s All About Authenticity

Is a picture really worth a thousand words? Or whatever your PR budget is?

According to Maree Jones, yes:

Stories have the potential to provide more transparency and authenticity into whatever is new or noteworthy about a business or organization.

These qualities are incredibly desirable in PR and marketing campaigns now because that’s what consumers care about.

Looking at it through a due diligence or analytical lens, being able to see exactly what users viewed your organization’s story is valuable info to have on hand.

Chloe Mitchell agrees, noting that authenticity helps build a more personal relationship with audiences:

Stories offer a more personal and interactive connection with followers, which increases audience engagement, trust, and loyalty.

And because Stories are only available for a limited amount of time, they capture viewers’ full attention.

With the ability to include clickable URLS and @mentions, Stories are an incredible tool for PR efforts and should definitely be integrated into social media strategy for businesses.

We find that from a PR and ROI perspective, Stories are most effective when shared in conjunction with sponsored social media posts, and specifically in regards to giveaway and contest concepts.

This is achieved by announcing a giveaway or contest in a social media post and then using Stories to engage followers and drive awareness and engagement to the branded giveaway or contest.

If it Works…

Kirsten La Greca unequivocally states that Stories work, while acknowledging the return isn’t always measurable.

For one, you have the full attention of your viewer if they watch your story.

These days with all the algorithm changes, just because you post on FB or Insta, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a follower actually sees it.

However, if someone viewed a story, their eyeballs were most likely on the screen because they had to actively play the story.

This is something that’s REALLY important to consider, as attention is the commodity these days (something I’ve learned from Gary Vaynerchuk).

And now, they’ve made it possible to swipe up on stories, so you can push viewers to a landing page, site, campaign etc etc… so that can be measured accurately, as you can see the number of viewers of each piece of your story.

And of course they work in PR strategies!

You can offshoot so much content using stories to match up to the PR campaign, behind the scenes, red carpet, making of, sneak peak, exclusive Q&A.

The possibilities are endless.

Not All (Social Media) Stories End Happily Ever After

Rachel Ryan feels social media Stories are not a great tactic in terms of PR strategy:

Although Stories are popular and growing in usage, it is very much still used in a social sense for keeping up with your friends and valued for having that personal aspect.

There isn’t much value coming from a brand’s story, however this can be different for Influencers.

Users are more likely to watch an influencer’s story that they follow on Instagram than a big brand’s story.

This comes down to the audience on these platforms (millennials).

This demo is smart and recognize when they are being advertised to, so stories don’t add much value since viewing the story is voluntary and it disappears after 24 hours.

One way stories can be used effectively is through Influencers.

For example, the influencer could be doing a giveaway or offering a discount code that can only be found in their story.

But of course, they should mention in a post or tweet to check out their story for the discount code or special offer.

Another way that stories can be used effectively is on a local level.

This audience does place value on local businesses and shopping local, so small businesses can use stories effectively by showing any specials for that day or projects they are working on around town or new product arrivals… as long as it’s authentic and personified and still maintains that local feel.

Alyssa Baker feels Instagram Stories can work in a PR context, but isn’t so sure about Snapchat:

I was never sold on Snapchat as a PR tool because it was virtually impossible to track conversions or capture placements, but with the launch of Instagram Stories, everything changed.

As the founder of a digital agency who works with a majority of top Instagram influencers, stories provide a way to share content that’s actually FUN!

Snapchat is too raw and Instagram has become too planned and perfect – Instagram stories provide the perfect mix that can actually connect to the consumer and encourage them to click.

I love to mix up story content with boomerangs, still photo, video and more.

Pro tip: Think about your content and make sure it’s what your audience really craves.

Stories are a place to showcase your creativity, so be authentic and entertaining.

I also love IG stories because you can get a better idea of how many people are actually seeing your content and *not* engaging.

The Latest Social Frontier

Creating relatable content to help humanize your brand is the bread and butter of public relations which makes “stories” a tool PR professionals can learn to leverage.

While the new feature offers many opportunities for brands to explore, it also comes with setbacks.

For starters, stories work perfectly in supporting PR strategies because it gives organizations the opportunity to interact with its audience by sharing real-time moments that promote engagement.

More than 20 percent of Stories result in a direct message from viewers.

Also, it’s worth noting that over 70 percent of Instagram users follow a business account, so companies should consider using stories to support their overall strategy because stories have the ability to build relationships, therefore, making it the biggest value.

Stories also offer the opportunity for business to show a different and genuine approach.

We’re used to seeing carefully curated content from businesses on social media, but stories disrupt this.

Brands don’t have to spend a lot of resources when creating stories because they can be spontaneous.

Each platform offers different lenses and filters, allowing businesses to create custom streams to support their products or infinitives.

A drawback to measuring success with stories is that it requires more work to compute analytics.

Unlike hashtags which can be easily tracked, assessing success and ROI necessitates more attention.

Analytics for stories can be evaluated in many different ways.

ROI can be determined by the number of unique hits, screenshots, completion and dropout rates, and direct messages.

Remember, determining success is dependent on the content that is shared.

Stories provide insights into who your audience is and if they are actually engaging with your message.

Stories is the latest social frontier.

With time this new tool will develop and grow to allow more unique ways to engage with the audience.

It’s All About Laura Petrolino…

Paula Kiger has the final word(s) on the matter:

I’ve done Snapchat stories, looked at others’ IG stories, and maybe looked at one FB story.

Brands can use them, especially Snapchat for a younger demographic.

I still find them clutter (except on Snap).

I always watch Laura Petrolino’s IG stories though, because as we all know it’s all about her (when it isn’t all about me). LOL.

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