Updated: Jul 6, 2021
What Are They?
The Stories format was originally a Snapchat creation. When it debuted in 2013, it was a brand new mode of communication that felt like a direct line into the cerebral cortexes of tech-addled teens. Thanks to its creative tools, which enabled a jittery, raw, video-centric brand of storytelling, it seemed to capture the ADD inherent in the social media age. Then--in perhaps tech’s most notable moment of chutzpa--it was appropriated by Instagram, and immediately came to occupy the best real estate on that platform, right at the top of the screen (that move worked: Instagram’s Stories product now has 500 million daily users). Soon after, Facebook launched Stories on Facebook proper and WhatsApp launched Status, its own version of Stories. WeChat, a social media platform mainly used in China, also launched a version late last year called Time Capsule.
While just about every social platform seems to have its own iteration of Stories today, it’s safe to say that the Stories format has become a bona fide storytelling vernacular that goes way beyond social. In 2018, Netflix launched Mobile Previews in its app, which are essentially show trailers in Stories format. Users can share their favorite movies from the app to Stories, customizing them with custom graphics and polls. A clever episode of the Comedy Central show Broad City, was shot in Stories format, and documents a day-long walking adventure protagonists Abbi and Ilana take from the top of Manhattan to the bottom (the episode, appropriately called “Stories”, was shot entirely on an iPhone X).
Best in Class
Many of the most creative examples of the format make use of the existing product, sometimes incorporating design-minded templates from other apps like Unfold. Taken together, these prove that, while Stories is often understood as a raw, off-the-cuff product, the format actually enables in-depth, thoughtful storytelling.
What's Next What makes a concept work well in Stories? Contrary to what you may have heard, there are no real rules, so long as you conceptualize it from the start with Stories in mind. That means marrying Stories’ creative tools with your creative ideas in fresh ways, so that the idea feels like it was born to live on Stories, and maybe even couldn't exist elsewhere.
How to Begin
There are a handful of useful, in-depth guides available online, but the best method of learning is through trial and error. Pay attention to whose stories you most engage with and try to recreate specific techniques in your own voice and aesthetic. The best test of how well your stories are performing is to see how many viewers are completing the story from the first slide to your last over the 24 hour lifespan.