Disappearing content… what’s the (LinkedIn) story?

Just when you thought you’d nailed it, up pops a new feature on LinkedIn, Stories…(we won’t mention Twitter Fleets just yet)

But what’s all the fuss about? Should you use it? Or will it be forgotten this time next year? It’s very early days, but we’ve been sussing out initial reactions to the social platform’s new disappearing content functionality to see how things might play out for Stories.

Why has LinkedIn launched Stories?

Stories are big news. They have proved hugely popular on b2c platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. The latter is still catching up with the likes of Instagram, however, with 1.59 billion daily users, a whopping 300 million Facebook users are actively engaging with Stories every day.

The potential is clearly huge – but will it work on a b2b platform like LinkedIn?

Perhaps given the events of 2020 the way we’re interacting and using LinkedIn is changing. Everyone has been impacted professionally and personally by the pandemic. Have people let their guard down and shown a more personal, ‘human side’ on a traditionally b2b platform as a result?

Maybe LinkedIn users are ready for Stories…

On top of this blurring of the lines between our professional and personal lives, we’re not all working together in the same place. Nor are we attending our favourite networking groups or meeting up with people for a coffee – taking away the opportunity for a bit of banter and the chance to enjoy the lighter side of being in business.

What’s really interesting here, is that LinkedIn Stories had been in the making for well over a year before the platform first mentioned it just a few months ago. In the days before the pandemic, where no one had even heard of the coronavirus and face to face interaction was alive and well.

In his blog in February, LinkedIn’s then Head of Consumer products Pete Davies, introduced Stories as a new ‘Conversational Format’ for the platform, saying that:

“Stories first appeared on Snapchat, with other platforms like Instagram and Facebook adopting them soon after. They spread for a good reason: they offer a lightweight, fun way to share an update without it having to be perfect or attached to your profile forever.  

“Does that exist in the business world? I’d hope that most of my interactions in the break room or passing people in the hall are similarly ephemeral and light. The same holds true for cubicle and coffee shop banter around the world: sometimes we want a way to just make a connection, have a laugh with our colleagues and move on”. 

So rather than being designed to replace the existing video function in the platform’s newsfeed, LinkedIn is clearly trying to recreate those ‘water cooler moments’ virtually with Stories.

With most of us currently missing this type of valuable human interaction, you’d think this would be a firm stake in the ground for Stories to do well. Despite this, initial reactions to its launch have been very mixed!

What do people think about Stories?

There’s been quite a lot of strong opinion about Stories from users on LinkedIn and other online sources so far.

In the spirit of this discussion, we asked our Station Rd. online community what they thought about the new LinkedIn Stories function and if they’d be using it. Forty-Four per cent (44%) gave it a clear thumbs down and said they wouldn’t be using it, 17% wanted to have a go but 39% were still undecided.

A few polls by other agencies and industry pros we’ve spotted seemed to get similar results. We know, they’re not always 100% reliable, but they can sometimes be a good indicator of general responses. But like all new features, we think the high percentage of people who say they won’t use it might change their minds as it gathers momentum, it’ll be interesting to see how the land lies in six months’ time.

We’re trying to keep an open mind for now and listen to the discussions taking place for insight.  One interesting area being debated is the place of Stories and that of newsfeed videos.

“Why are people more confident and willing to post a video of themself in the stories vs the feed? I am fascinated to see so many people post videos on stories that I’ve never seen before. My hope is that it will be a stepping-stone and we will see more people making video content and publishing it in the feed’ (Steve Richards, LIn post)

We wonder if the word ‘Story’ makes people feel more comfortable with posting a quick bit of personal footage to LinkedIn like they do on Instagram. The word ‘video’ perhaps conjures up a more professional, corporate affair that needs to be highly polished – putting people off.

Others are questioning whether Stories informal style 20 second video format is even appropriate for a traditionally b2b platform like LinkedIn.

“I think a lot of people are unhappy to see Stories on LinkedIn because they associate the format with being more personal, private and therefore they see it as being out of place being on a professional platform like LinkedIn. I think that’s a narrow way to think’

So, should we all be broadening our horizons and giving Stories a go?

Despite the mixed reception so far, it’s important to remember that LinkedIn has launched stories for a reason, and when a platform launches a new feature, they reward those who use it. So simply turning your back on Stories if you don’t like the look of it might backfire, especially if early adopters are rewarded by the algorithm.

However, do not forget. Whatever the platform – be it b2b or b2c, online, offline or anything in-between, content MUST be interesting, relevant and engaging or your audience won’t embrace it.

Essentially, do not use LinkedIn Stories (or any Stories for that matter) for the sake of using them. Use stories on your platform of choice because it is the right way to reach the right audience at the right time. And because you’ve thought about what you’re actually posting and using it ‘to’ say!

As Entrepreneur magazine puts it:

“The new (Stories) feature offers an authentic way for brands to share the news and moments of their day-to-day operations.”

The key word here of course being authentic. The same as the crux of any other successful b2b marketing campaign also applies – it is not about producing a 20 second plug for your product or service and putting it on Stories. Trying to ‘sell’ or being too direct in your approach will simply turn people off, not engage them.

Instead, why not start a conversation about a pertinent issue in your industry, share a few insider tips using your expertise others might find valuable, or simply share an update about a team get together to show a more human side.

A little bit of relevancy also goes a long way – give your opinion on the big news story of the day for your sector, do a quick update on the online networking event you just attended and tag the people you met.

If you’re part of a company where there are planned communications activities taking place, think about how you could test LinkedIn Stories as part of a current campaign.

The key is to dip your toe in the water, embrace Stories as another way to engage with people and see what happens. If you find you like it and it works, great, if it doesn’t then nothing ventured nothing gained as they say!

However, as the ‘story’ unfolds (sorry not sorry) it’ll be interesting to see what lies ahead and revisit these initial predictions in a few months’ time particular as Twitter has now also joined the ‘story’ party with the launch of its Fleets functionality this November. Disappearing content really is everywhere…

But in the meantime, what do you think about Stories? Will you be using them? Let us know and we may even add your comments to this blog