Facebook Stories Now Has 150 Million Daily Users, So Here Come the Ads

Testing kicked off with a few brands in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil

Facebook's own Oculus is one of the first brands testing ads in Facebook Stories. Facebook

More than 150 million people are now viewing Facebook Stories every day, so now is a fine time for the social network to begin the process of monetizing them.

Pointing out that Instagram Stories had roughly the same daily user total when testing of ads began in January 2017, Facebook revealed today that it is now testing ads in Facebook Stories in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil.

Chief product officer Chris Cox, who is now heading up the company’s Family of Apps group, said at the F8 annual developer conference earlier this month that Facebook expects Stories to overtake sharing on News Feed sometime next year.

And CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during the company’s first-quarter-2018 earnings call, “One of the interesting opportunities and challenges over the coming years will be making sure that ads are as good in Stories as they are in feeds. If we don’t do this well, then as more sharing shifts to Stories, that could hurt our business. But there’s upside real upside here, too, if we do a good job. We’re leading the way here with Instagram, and the results so far are promising, both on product quality and business performance.”

Eytan Oren, CEO of full-service agency Block Party, said his agency tracked 100 brands for two weeks in March and found that 79 of them were using Instagram Stories, while just seven were using Facebook’s version, but he added that a look at those same 100 brands today revealed that seven had posted Facebook Stories in the past 24 hours alone.

The ads being tested in Facebook Stories are similar to those that are found in its Instagram counterpart, with a full-screen format that sets them apart from News Feed ads.

Facebook said the test is kicking off with “a small number of businesses,” with plans to expand it to more advertisers in more countries “in the coming months,” adding that it is taking steps to enable brands to extend existing Instagram Stories ads or News Feed campaigns to Facebook Stories via placement optimization and by supporting both video and static creative, as well as square and landscape aspect ratios.

The social network also plans to provide more metrics for brands posting organic Facebook Stories.

Periscope vice president of media Jen Brady believes that as the test expands, brands will pursue the opportunity to leverage their visual creative assets in a format that embraces them. But she cautioned that despite Facebook going all-in on mobile, the full-screen experience of Stories does not translate well to desktop, where there is still “a high predominance” of usage.

She added, “Knowing how people are using Instagram and Stories and how brands are leveraging that, it’s something we’ll absolutely leverage for our clients.”

“I think it’s going to be a very slow march to victory for Facebook Stories,” Oren said. “At the beginning, it was so much of a ghost town that it was hard for people to take it seriously. If you asked me a year ago, I would have been extremely skeptical and told you that I thought Facebook Stories was never going to happen as something people were into. I’ve gradually become a believer that Facebook Stories are something people will use.”

As for what the social network can do to further the process, Oren believes that adding Stories content to the News Feed would be a more natural way of getting people to engage with that content, and he would like to see Facebook introduce more augmented reality elements into its Stories.

“More and more people are using Facebook Stories to connect with friends and businesses, and we’re going to start testing ads in Stories to help people discover products and services they might be interested in,” said Facebook product manager Zoheb Hajiyani. “Ads in Stories have added a lot of value for businesses on Instagram, and we believe we can do the same on Facebook. Ensuring that this is a good experience for people using the product will be our top priority.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.