Twitter Arrives Late to the Stories Craze—But Aims to Make a Dent with Fleets

In a “crowded” space, marketers see promise if the format is more purposeful

Twitter Fleets enter the crowded Stories format. NurPhoto/Getty Images
Headshot of Scott Nover

Twitter’s latest innovation is more imitation. Twitter Fleets, vertical content that disappears after 24 hours, is a so-late-it’s-funny take on Snapchat Stories, a format so widely copied that it dominates most of the social media landscape. Even so, buyers see promise as long as Twitter makes the format useful instead of just a simple imitation.

Twitter will wait and see how users “adopt and embrace” Fleets before monetizing it. Entrepreneurial brands like Arby’s and Jeep have already played organically with the format made famous by every other platform. 

“The rise of the Story truly is the biggest paradigm shift in social media functionality to occur since the rollout of the ‘timeline,’” said Emmy Clarke, associate media director, paid social at agency Good Apple. 

While Clarke said the Story space is “crowded,” she thinks that it could work for Twitter if the company “keeps the offering purposeful and useful as opposed to hopping on the bandwagon.”

One can find Stories formats on Instagram. They’ve also popped up on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google News and even the ESPN and Yahoo Sports mobile apps. The format has been a success with audiences, particularly on Instagram—with more than 4 in 10 U.S. users watching Stories in March, according to eMarketer. Its advertising use is on the rise, too. In 2019, the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that 51% of marketers were using story advertising, up from 42% the year before.

Nonetheless, Story formats make up a smaller segment of brands’ social media marketing spend. According to eMarketer, 31% of Instagram ad budgets go to Stories, the rest to the newsfeed.

While monetizing Fleets is still down the road, buyers are optimistic, believing that the format brings “scale and efficiency” to media buys, according to Melanie Rhoads, group director for strategic accounts at Nexstar Digital. She added that the one-day format is a “natural fit” to Twitter since “endemic Twitter behavior is around real-time moments.” 

Despite the success of Instagram Stories, Facebook’s own adoption of the format was “slow out the gate and growth is still at a crawl,” Clarke said. But, the company has made some improvements, like defaulting Instagram Stories on users’ Facebook accounts. Clarke expects Twitter’s rollout to emulate Facebook’ slow growth “just based on Twitter’s sheer scale and active user base.”

Part of Twitter’s rationale for adding Fleets was a claim that tweeting often feels too permanent and intimidating. That stokes some concerns in buyers who question whether the medium is safe for brands.  

“It is interesting that Twitter is giving users an outlet to say something they might not be bold enough to tweet that would permanently remain in their feed,” Brian Kieser, media director at the Minneapolis-based agency Periscope said. “It doesn’t make it feel like a place brands would feel confident having their message from an advertising perspective.”

“Story ad buys on Instagram have been quite successful for our clients’ brands for a while now because of user behavior on the platform,” said Bridget Jewell, creative director at Periscope. “If user behavior were to shift on Twitter and Fleets catches on, we would definitely consider ads for clients where Twitter is part of the strategy.” 

@ScottNover Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.