Traditional media is rapidly losing its influence. The method of broadcasting one message out across a small number of channels and repeatedly shouting it at your consumers is over, no one’s listening anymore.
The power, as they say, is with the people. Social platforms that encourage connectivity and creativity are converting everyday consumers into modern-day publishers with an authoritative voice and influence.
Influence is the key to commerce, meaning that if any brand is looking to increase awareness and exposure, social media can no longer be viewed as optional. It’s a must have. With this being the case, the game is now run by the social media “influencer”. If mass media is about shouting, influencers are about conversations. Influencers will have built up a trusted following, based on something or someone that they feel passionately about. Their credibility is usually massive, this is the key. They are the go-to voice of reason.
So, what does the future hold for Social Media?
Our story (get it?) begins with posting. Considered, carefully crafted and sophisticated photographic posts completely consumed our Instagram and Facebook feeds from the off. And we as consumers reacted positively to them, but then, it became a little structured and rigid. And then, there was Snapchat.
Stories were revolutionary, nothing had to be perfect, they could be messy, silly and careless. We ate it up, because there was no posing, getting that perfect angle and the general monotony of getting a decent selfie. It was real life. We weren’t being sold to, we were being given a backstage pass into all the weird and wonderful things that humans get up to in their own time. Then all of a sudden, brands, influencers, and celebrities were allowing us to see things we weren’t meant to see, be it a designer mucking around with their designs, or a celebrity hyping themselves up before stepping on stage.
Stories combine urgency & entertainment
Most brands and industry influencers are getting stories spot on. The key is creating urgency, and combining it with things that are actually entertaining – “you have to watch it, play it or buy it now, or else you miss out”.
Influencers and their stories
The “Stories” format is not only beneficial for consumers and brands, as influencers too, are receptive and engaging with them.
After the sweat and toil of building a credible fan base, influencers will under no circumstances throw it all away by polluting their feed with a lot of sponsored posts. But stories are different – they happen, then they’re gone forever. They can be done on the influencer’s terms, and are all viewed in the same light by consumers, sponsored or not.
For example, New York-based fitness and lifestyle influencers Elizabeth and Dale ran a protein powder tasting on Instagram Stories. Rather than showing us a perfect product placement and an exaggerated caption describing the impeccable nutritional benefits of the product, Elizabeth had a taste and called out how one of them tasted ‘Chalky, but it’s kinda nice. You can feel it working’.
In the traditional media world, a brand would pay through the nose to bury this statement, but now it’s there for us to see, and it’s powerful. We know we’re getting the truth. That goes a long way.
Story Shopping Is Here
So, stories are here to stay. Consumers like them, brands like them, and it just so happens influencers have welcomed them with open arms, alongside regular posts. So now what?
Instagram has now made it possible for verified (blue tick) accounts to include a ‘Swipe Up To Link’ option in Stories, enabling influencers (for example, Kylie Jenner with her beauty range) to direct viewers to related product pages directly from a story.
This feature has expanded to more users, though, – it’s not available to all as yet (reportedly it’s now available to non-verified users with more than 10k followers), but it is becoming more and more accessible for us common folk.
Basically, it’s a game changer. Now we can see just how powerful influencers really are, with 1 in 3 Americans claiming to have purchased something through sponsored content. Effectively this means influencers are shopping outlets, and with custom links, they now have a huge incentive to drive conversions in an honest manner.
So what happens next?
More and more Instagram accounts are being and will be granted access to the ‘Swipe Up to Link’ option in Stories, changing commerce as we know it.
There’s a lot of change flying around, but the bottom line is this: Stories are a more real, raw and powerful form of social media, in comparison with a regular image post. And now that we can shop within stories, this feature will spread like wildfire.
Starting is always the hardest part, but as these trends are here to stay, there’s every reason to get on, while the going is good.