What Marketers Think About Running Ads in Facebook Stories

Over 300 million people are using the feature daily


The number of people using Facebook Stories on a daily basis has doubled since May, and their experiences are about to change drastically. The social network announced this morning that Facebook Stories ads are now available to all advertisers globally.

Facebook said in May that Stories had 150 million daily users, and it began a test with select advertisers in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil.

That user total now tops 300 million, and the monetization machine is humming—all brands worldwide can now add Facebook Stories ads to campaigns that already include news feed ads and Instagram Stories ads.

Joshua Lowcock, global brand safety officer at IPG Mediabrands’ UM marketing and media agency network, said he would recommend Facebook Stories ads to clients, believing the full-screen, vertical content they contain is the best way to connect and engage via mobile devices. But, he cautioned that Facebook and other platforms must “put the appropriate controls in place so that the Stories format doesn’t get tarnished due to inappropriate content or behavior by some users.”

Facebook Stories ads offer the same targeting, measurement and optimization capabilities as other ad products on the Facebook platform as well as the same objectives available via Instagram Stories ads: reach, brand awareness, video views, app installs, conversion, traffic and lead generation.

James Douglas, senior vice president, executive director and head of media at global agency Reprise Digital, said that while the consistency among Facebook’s various platforms is great for broad-based advertisers, he feared that some of the elements that make Stories compelling—the immediacy and authentic nature he finds important from an advertising standpoint—may be compromised.

Instagram opened up Stories ads to all businesses in March 2017, and it announced on Aug. 2, the feature’s second birthday, that Instagram Stories had more than 400 million daily users, and about one-third of the most-viewed Stories came from the 25 million-plus businesses using the feature.

Corporate sibling WhatsApp revealed in August that it would begin showing ads within its WhatsApp Status, its equivalent of Stories, next year, adding that 450 million people were using the feature on a daily basis, even more than Instagram.

Facebook cited a survey by Ipsos in which 62 percent of respondents became interested in brands or products after discovering them via Stories, more than half are making more purchases online due to Stories, 38 percent discussed products or services they found in Stories with other people and 34 percent went to stores to look for those products or services.

Alison Hoffman, chief marketing officer of Starz, one of the brands involved in the Facebook Stories ad test, said the cable network was seeing video completion rates roughly double those of Facebook’s news feed.

However, Douglas reported the opposite, saying that while Stories are a great vehicle for driving traffic from social to brands’ sites, they don’t work well for video views due to the impatience of users.

Hoffman said Starz’s use of Facebook Stories has run the gamut from highly produced, trailer-type videos to casual creative displaying the personality of its shows’ talent and production, adding that the networks’ goals include “fueling the fandom” for shows and influencing existing fans to check out new series.

Starz Facebook Stories ad

World Surf League chief community officer Tim Greenberg encouraged the league’s roughly 2,500 athletes to share content via Stories, saying a surfer waxing his or her board on a beach in Tahiti may be mundane for him or her but exciting to someone in Kansas.

World Surf League Facebook Stories ad

The vertical format of Facebook Stories, which is crucial in leveraging its full-screen experience, does present some challenges for brands.

Brittany Johnson and Court Williams of Facebook Creative Shop pointed out that Facebook made it easier for brands to reuse creative by adding a background to fill the space when the horizontal format is used, for example, or including the ad text beneath the video or photo.

Greenberg said the WSL is teaching its camera people to shoot in vertical, while Hoffman cautioned that TV shows are shot in landscape mode, so her team must be mindful of what disappears from the field of vision when converting that video to vertical.

Liz Keneski, head of research on Facebook Stories, said the total number of Stories posts on the social network is now roughly three-quarters the total number of news feed posts, but the company would not share specific figures.

She also previewed features that are being tested for Stories on the consumer side.

Next week, Facebook will begin testing formats that enable people to add music to their Stories from entities the social network has reached music licensing agreements with.

Facebook will also begin testing interactive stickers for Stories that are based on its Reactions.

Finally, the social network will test Stories created specifically for events, groups and birthdays.

Keneski said that in the case of an event like a concert, people may soon be able to go to Facebook Stories for that specific event and see how other people are viewing the show via their Facebook Live contributions.

Overall, Douglas sees the move toward Stories as “a very, very interesting shift from an advertiser perspective that people should be focused on,” adding that he was not surprised by Facebook’s announcement due to the strong engagement with the format on Instagram and Snapchat.

Allstate Facebook Stories ad

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