Despite a growing user base and significant backing from Facebook, the Stories ad format has yet to be wholeheartedly embraced by the digital marketing community. Facebook has even taken to advertising Stories placements across the web to drum up interest.
Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram have been leading the charge on this new type of ad format. While Facebook Stories remain a fairly new advertising proposition and Snapchat struggles to win over advertisers around the world, Instagram Stories are currently the go-to for many companies, even if they haven’t been universally adopted.
Despite widespread hesitation to adopt this format, some retailers are keen to jump on the opportunity. We recently ran a large, full-funnel campaign for one of our clients across the different Stories platforms. This allowed us to test the benefits of each one, to find out how you can maximise performance with Stories ads.
Snapchat: the Originator
The originator of Stories, Snapchat, is the first to come to mind when thinking about this particular format. However, having previously been plagued with conversion tracking issues, many advertisers have lost faith in the platform as a home for paid social. While projected to earn £104.8M this year, the channel has only generated £68.4M – a solid 34.7% below target.
With that being said, there has been a big push to improve the advertising offering over the past few months, making us think the time was ripe for a retest.
The biggest selling point for Snapchat is its price, coming in 4 times lower than our Instagram activity. This meant that our budgets went even further, allowing us to reach even more of Snapchat’s highly sought after youth audience.
Ultimately, we do have concerns about the quality of traffic, having seen a higher bounce rate than Facebook or Instagram. While it’s great to reach a wide audience, it’s even more important to have high-quality traffic.
Instagram: the Innovator
Instagram is the most widely used way to advertise with Stories content, and its innovative formats pave the way for the industry.
We were able to test new features for our campaign including, the Stories carousel and Facebook’s video editor; which allows you to create videos from existing images. At the time of writing, these opportunities were not available on any other platform.
Despite forecasting strong performance, we saw the weakest engagement from the Instagram campaigns. The higher cost of media, likely caused by increased competition, and lower CTR resulted in the highest cost per conversion across all of our tests. However, this could be the result of doing the majority of our testing within this platform.
With this in mind, Instagram remains the easiest to use with the most opportunity to test new features and ideas. Most recently, a Shopping feature has been released for organic Stories, which means if it’s successful it’s likely to become available as a paid format.
Facebook: the Newbie
Facebook Stories are the new kids on the block, only recently launching as a paid advertising format. Sadly, this becomes fairly apparent when you come to build a campaign. The innovation present on Instagram hasn’t crossed streams onto Facebook just yet, and so we were limited to single images. Also, at the moment you can’t just target Facebook Stories, you have to include Instagram as well. This means that you don’t have anywhere near as much control over your budget – we only saw 11% of our budget going into our Facebook Stories ad placement, despite having a 34% lower cost per visit. This is likely due to a lack of inventory available on this platform.
Facebook certainly has promise with a cheaper price and similar CTR to Instagram. Unfortunately, the current reduced inventory does hinder performance, and a lack of budget control will certainly put some off. This is one for the early adopters to play around with before the inevitable rise in CPMs as more businesses get on board.
NMPi: the Decider
Each of the different platforms inevitably has their strengths and so if you aren’t currently making use of them, you definitely should be. However, it is important that advertisers treat Stories, as well a mobile in general, with the respect they deserve. Content specifically designed for Stories will achieve greater performance, and the more holistic the viewing experience for the user, the more engagement you will see.
Your mobile site is just as important as the content you produce; the battle isn’t won once you’ve made the user swipe up. If your mobile site is a chore to navigate with a long load time the users will click off.
However, as is to be expected with such new platforms they don’t come without their problems. You cannot run Facebook Stories ads without also running ads on Instagram Stories, which makes it difficult to recommend the platform on its own. While Snapchat drives high volumes of traffic, there was a high bounce rate to match and so wasn’t the best option for our ads.
On the other hand, while we saw our weakest engagement on Instagram, it’s still our platform of choice. It is the most sophisticated option, which continues to roll out new features to further differentiate its offering, and we believe that the low engagement rate was mostly down to our high level of experimentation throughout this campaign. Further, the traffic we attracted on Instagram was of a higher quality than from Snapchat. So, if you’re trying to decide which of the three to trial first, make it Instagram.
With that said, keep your eyes on this space. It seems inevitable that they will continue to grow and expand their solutions, not to mention improve any current shortcomings.