Stories: The New Battleground For Event Engagement

Stories are becoming increasingly popular amongst social media users as a quick and easy way to share important moments as they happen. Where events are concerned, stories are the perfect tool for creating FOMO (fear of missing out). How can eventprofs make the most of stories and encourage attendees to share the load?

Little did Snapchat’s founders, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy know, when they created Snapchat in 2012, they created more than a photo app. Snapchat changed the way people interact and share photos and videos with their friends and subsequently changed the way people interact with online content. In 2017 everyone else caught on and now the story reigns supreme across many of the major social media platforms.

Stories: The New Battleground For Event Engagement

What’s The Story With Stories?

Stories allow the user to capture brief moments by way of photos or short videos and easily share those experiences with other social media users. The photos and videos are stitched together by the platform to create a chronologically ordered narrative. After 24 hours, the story then disappears, never to be seen again, adding to the sense of urgency.

While social media platforms and websites come and go, this particular feature seems to have transcended platform and is becoming a communication standard. With Snapchat’s user stories becoming so popular, it didn’t take long for Facebook to cotton on, rolling out its own version of stories across all corners of its empire. Even Google has woken up and implemented a stories feature on YouTube.

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Why Stories Are Important To Eventprofs

Firstly, many attendees are already sharing their event experiences using stories. Offering social media users a quick and easy way to share moments in real time has made the format ideal for capturing event experiences as they happen.

It’s that immediacy that leads us to the second reason. From the point of view of the reader/viewer, stories represent what is happening right now. From that standpoint, seeing that a friend is having a great time doing something awesome, somewhere awesome and with awesome people, creates instant FOMO. Stories allow your attendees to give friends and followers just enough of a taste of your event to make them want more.

Great Experiences Make Great Stories

The rise of this new social media standard gives rise to many opportunities for events to get their message out to a broader audience and create FOMO. However, as with many forms of social media, your attendees are the ones in control of most of what is shared. You can, of course, post stories from event social media channels but the real power is in what the attendees share themselves.

So, if you can’t tell your attendees what to share, what can you do? For eventprofs, your role is one of enabler and facilitator. Your job is to encourage your attendees to share. This can be done by creating branded photo opportunity areas around the event. These can come in the form of simple branded picture frames or even dressing up props relating to the event theme. Red carpet receptions like those seen at awards ceremonies can be a great hit on social media and come with plenty of story opportunities.

Getting attendees involved in fun activities around the event space can also be a great enabler for social media stories. These can be particularly shareable if there’s an opportunity for attendees to make a fool of themselves. Make sure your activity areas are branded in such a way that social media shares get the right message out.

Side shows and performers can provide a great source of entertainment for attendees of any event and can also be a great source of content for social media. Try to hire unique performers and side shows. If your attendees have never seen anything like it, they’re much more likely to share it with their friends.

Having a social wall at your event is great for promoting a culture of sharing at your events. Currently, stories aren’t published in a format that lends itself to social walls but we expect to see it in the near future.

Snapchat Stories

Snapchat came to the scene first by giving its users the ability to save ephemeral photos and videos from their mobile device camera to a feed called Stories. This feed is viewable by the followers of the poster. As the photos and videos disappear after 24 hours, so does the story.

Recently, Snapchat also added a feature allowing groups of up to 16 friends to create stories together.

Instagram Stories

Instagram was the first platform to copy Snapchat’s stories with its own imaginatively titled product, Stories. Similar to Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories allows users to post short videos and photos from their mobile phone camera to a feed which is viewable by followers of the poster at the top of the timeline in the Instagram app.

Alongside posting real time content to the ephemeral story, Instagram users can also post photos and videos stored on their devices allowing content created or edited with different apps.

Instagram Stories also allow the use of hashtag stickers. These stickers allow your attendees to put clickable hashtags, such as your main event hashtag into story posts. Instagram is currently also testing the ability to include links in stories. Currently, the feature is only available to verified users.

Update: Just as we went to press, Instagram announced two new features for Stories. The first, Stories Highlights, allows the user to take stories they’ve posted to Instagram and feature them on a separate tab of their profile giving them a life that lives beyond the moment itself. The second update is called Stories Archive which automatically archives your stories once they disappear from the feed. These stories can then be revisited and added to the Stories Highlights tab or can be used again in a new story.

Facebook Stories

At first, Facebook adopted social media stories in a similar way to its sibling site, Instagram. Via the Facebook mobile app, users can post videos and photos to a story stream which appears at the top of the newsfeed for other users of the Facebook mobile app.

Facebook has since taken the feature up a few notches by allowing Facebook pages to post stories to their followers and introducing collaborative stories for group pages and events. The new collaborative stories allow any member of a group or subscriber to an event join in and post content to the group or event.

Facebook Messenger Day

Facebook also took stories to its messenger product. Initially, the feature was called Messenger Day and was isolated to the Messenger platform alone, allowing stories to be recorded with Messenger and viewed by Messenger contacts only.

More recently, Facebook phased out Messenger Day in favor of integrating Facebook Stories. This meant stories recorded using the Messenger platform would be viewable on the main Facebook platform.

WhatsApp Status

What’s good for Instagram is good For WhatsApp. Facebook also integrated a stories feature into its private messaging platform, WhatsApp. The new stories-like feature initially replaced the text-based status updates but due to outcry from users, WhatsApp users can now choose to have a text-based status and a story if they wish.

YouTube Reels

Even Google wants a piece of the story action and is rolling out a new feature called Reels. Unlike the other platforms’ adoptions of stories, YouTube’s Reels won’t expire and instead of appearing at the top of a feed, they will live on a separate tab on a creator’s profile. For now, it’s more like a set of playlists for short videos than an exact feature copy.

Which Stories Platform Should Events Use?

Usually, a cookie-cutter answer similar to “use what your audience is using” is the right answer to this question and as far as getting your message out on your own channels, it is that simple. However, Facebook makes a very strong case and is clearly the frontrunner of the pack. Integrating Stories into Facebook Events and Pages has made it easy for events to get their own message out whilst also providing a branded space (the Facebook Events page) for event attendees to collaborate on event focused stories.

In Conclusion

Social media stories look like they’re going to be around for a while regardless of what happens to be the most used social media site of the day. With publishing power in the hands of the user, it’s more important than ever to create a great event experience with lots of shareable moments.

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Julius Solaris
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