Facebook Stories: doomed to fail?

Facebook has silently begun testing an option that allows users to cross-post their Instagram Stories to Facebook.

However, the fact that this social media feature has been launched without fanfare speaks volumes about the health of Facebook Stories.

First launched in Ireland in January, Facebook Stories were rolled out in full in March for UK app users. More recently the social media platform revealed it is testing a desktop version.

Facebook has yet to release any statistics on the number of daily active users for Stories. This suggests they’ve received a less-than-enthusiastic response from fans.

By stark contrast, Instagram Stories have caught on like wildfire since launching in August 2016. Alongside introducing a host of new features, including Selfie Stickers, Story Search by location or hashtag and Stories for desktop. Instagram Stories has amassed an impressive 250 million daily active users in its first year.

To put this into perspective, Snapchat Stories, arguably the original inspiration for Instagram and Facebook’s clone services, attract just 166 million daily active users. This is despite having a first-mover advantage over Instagram.

In fact, Instagram Stories have even boosted the popularity of the app as a whole, with users under 25 now spending 32 minutes on Instagram per day and those over 25 now browsing for 24 minutes per day.

So why hasn’t Facebook been able to replicate the success of its little brother?

First off, since Instagram has always been primarily a photo-sharing app, the jump from images with text captions to text-light Stories has not been a big one. For Facebook, text-based statuses and media with text commentary have always played a much bigger role, which could be why traditional users aren’t warming to Stories.

Demographic factors could also be behind the sluggish shift towards Stories on Facebook. The platform has much higher penetration rates among older age groups than Instagram, and these groups tend to be slower to adopt new channels or mobile-first features on social media.

Likewise, since the younger, more tech-savvy group are more likely to be also using Instagram and Snapchat. Facebook’s late entry into the Stories game may mean it has missed the boat entirely. Younger users have already flocked to Instagram Stories, along with all their friends and favourite influencers. So there’s little reason for them to shift to Facebook where their Stories feed looks woefully empty.

Finally, there’s one more subtle difference between Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories: access for brands. While most people wouldn’t like to admit that brands influence their behaviour on social media, this may be a more prominent factor than you might expect.

Brands are often amongst the first users to eagerly test new features, and for consumers this can make all the difference between an empty feed and a whole host of fresh, quality content to explore. Since this drives people to check the app more frequently, individuals are also more likely to share Stories themselves, knowing that their posts won’t go unseen.

For Instagram and Facebook Stories, this factor has been particularly divisive. Research suggests half of all businesses on Instagram shared a Story in July. However, brands aren’t able to access the Stories feature on Facebook and the lack of activity on the platform speaks for itself.

So why didn’t Facebook extend the Stories functionality to brands?

The most likely answer is an intention to monetise the feature in the future by offering a paid social version once the general public becomes more familiar with using Facebook Stories.

Since this first step has failed to happen though, this decision is starting to look like a major miss-step for the social media giant.



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