TikTok has had a brilliant run since March 2020, topping the charts in growth numbers for various metrics. This growth has been fuelled by unique content and a model that has made stars out of everyday creators.

TikTok’s latest experiment is with stories, a feature with a very storied history (see what we did there?)

Snapchat’s 2013 version of stories was the beginning; other social media platforms followed suit eventually. Instagram stories were a big hit and made this format quite popular. It’s TikTok’s turn to experiment now. 

TikTok’s version of stories has a dedicated camera and flow to it, distinct from the main feed. It allows users to upload short content that disappears after 24 hours. Stories can be accessed from a collapsible panel on the left of the screen. Users can create their stories and access stories from other users from this panel. 

The stories format has seen a mixed response on various platforms. Twitter’s experiment with stories, called Fleets, lasted just eight months, as users did not take to the format. Instagram, however, was a different story. Facebook also has stories, but they have not been as successful as the Instagram version. 

Why is TikTok experimenting with stories? How could this play out? This experiment certainly has more context and can help us understand what this means for brands and influencers.


Why Does TikTok Need Stories?

TikTok is 2020’s most downloaded app. It has been on a massive growth trajectory for a few years now, primarily due to its intense focus on content. TikTok has a unique format, and more importantly, a unique tone—a heady mix of humor, music, and weirdness.

TikTok has been trying to expand its monetization capabilities. It launched Spark Ads earlier this year, which allowed brands to promote content relevant to their messaging. Stories have certain implications in this area too. Let’s look at some main reasons why TikTok is coming up with stories. 

New Content Format

TikTok has been adding users at a massive scale, but the main feed content is not often enough to keep them engaged for more extended periods of time. It has already given creators the new option of an expanded 3-minute video format; stories would be additional.

TikTok needs new formats to keep users engaged and also to increase the daily usage of the app. If you think about it, we spend some time every day looking through our Instagram stories, usually multiple times in a day. Stories are a new format and a highly engaging one.

Looking at how social media platforms are evolving, there seems to be a push towards a larger variety of content across the board. While TikTok is adapting stories, short video formats are everywhere. YouTube launched Shorts this year, and Facebook announced its $1 Billion investment in reels

Most of these moves are a strategy to keep users on the platform more and reduce their incentive to other platforms for different formats. An Instagram user who is comfortable with the app would rather watch reels than go to TikTok for short videos if the content on both is equally good. 

Enabling Community Creation

Stories are great at generating more day-to-day interaction on platforms. Instagram allows users to do AMAs, quick fun polls, make announcements, share content, and much more on its stories, which keeps them engaged. 

While short video content on the main feed would be a major attraction, stories give creators a more regular format that can be used to engage their followers every day. They also allow users to create content in much less time.

TikTok’s version of stories show creators the number of views and an option to follow the people who viewed the story in one click. 

Enabling creators to sustain and develop highly engaged communities is the cornerstone of influencer marketing, a format that many brands and content creators rely on. This move certainly helps influencers engage and build better relationships, which works to improve the platform. 

Monetization Through Ads

TikTok’s feed does not feature ads. There are brand promotions, of course, but they are always more native in nature. TikTok has always advised brands to create TikToks and not ads, in line with their philosophy of relying on the unique tone of the content. 

Pre-roll or mid-roll ads are out of the question in short format content. This feed format leaves TikTok without a lot of assets for ad placements. Stories can be a perfect option. Instagram Stories have been featuring ads for a while now, and they have seen a great deal of engagement.

This additional monetization opportunity is another reason behind this experiment. It allows TikTok to directly feature ads without disrupting the flow of the platform, giving them a boost in ad revenue with a more direct approach.


How Does This Impact Brands & Influencers?

Most of these elements are directly beneficial to brands and influencers. Here are some specifics of how we think it’ll work.

For Brands

TikTok has been a tricky platform for brands. The style of content that is on TikTok does fit within the comfort levels of several brands. Stories can be an alternate way in, along with spark ads, influencer content, and longer videos that are now permitted. 

These formats allow brands to explore the platform while using content formats that they are already familiar with, albeit customized to TikTok. A TikTok of a serious interview may not work, but you can engage with the audience more regularly through this quicker content format.

Stories are also likely to be places where brand ads can be placed, giving brands a more direct ad route. These ads are highly engaging if it is contextual and engaging.

For Influencers

TikTok Stories would be quite appealing to influencers. TikToks are not too easy to create, with creators usually making two or more videos in one go and then posting them sequentially. Posting content every day is a challenge, but it is needed to keep their followers engaged. 

Stories can solve this problem. The interactivity allows creators to engage daily and be more present and active on the platform in general. Stories can also be used to promote their TikTok videos, tag other users, and encourage brand promotion opportunities. 

The 24-hour time limit also allows influencers to be more contextual and talk about specific things in a day that may not be relevant the next day. The other aspect is that stories can host content that is not elaborate enough to be a whole video but still interesting for the community. 


Final Thoughts

TikTok’s experiment with stories is perhaps an indication of the direction it wants to take. It is on the path to join Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and YouTube in an elite group of platforms with more than 1 billion users soon. While the surge is a good thing, previous experiences from the world of social media and business show us that resting on your laurels is the most definite way to fail.

Stories as a format are quite interesting. They give creators a quick content alternative, a place where day-to-day interactions happen with their followers. This format has been successful across various platforms too. TikTok’s adoption of stories comes as no surprise and is a move towards greater variety and engagement. 

The success of TikTok Stories will depend on its execution and how accessible it is. Twitter’s experiment with Fleets did not go well, and there are lessons to be learned there. The format has to make it easy for users to express themselves creatively, give them the tools they need, and, most importantly, help them engage regularly. If these parameters are fulfilled, it’s possible that TikTok Stories could very well be a popular format in the future.

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