How Stories on Social Media Reached 1,7 Billion Users in 2020

Sabine Boghossian

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Graph of the growth in Stories usage

7 years of stories on social media

That’s right. Stories hit 1,7 billion daily active users by the end of 2019.

Instagram Stories bubbles

Users from around the world have embraced the highly visual format. It provides bite-sized content to snack on anywhere and at any time. Accessible at a simple tap, Stories let you define the pace at which you want to consume any kind of content.

But how did our behavior shift from large landscape desktop screens to pocket-sized devices? And when did we start moving from rectangle to rectangle to evolve throughout narratives on Mobile?

This is how it all started...

Snapchat

They probably didn’t know that they were launching a game-changer with Snapchat Stories in 2013.

Their intention was initially to extend the shelf life of the content on their platform and get more engagement. Creating some kind of ‘long-form’ and ‘long-life’ content. From a Snapchat lexicon, that is.

Put in perspective: Snapchat stories are compilations of snaps spread over a series of tappable screens that last for 24 hours and read like a story. Growing explosively to a billion stories viewed every single day by June 2014.

And they pretty much had the market to themselves for 2 years or so.

In 2015 Snapchat launched their ‘Discovery’ feature. This allowed users to connect with stories that their favorite brands, artists and influencers — including Snapchat’s own editorial board — were publishing on a daily basis.

It was introduced on the company’s own blog as “full-screen photos and videos, awesome long form layouts, and gorgeous advertising”. An “always-on” channel that is constantly updated by brand media partners like Vice, National Geographic and Yahoo News.

It also allowed to bring in the advertisement dollars.

Facebook

They took notice in 2016.

And Facebook didn’t really exhaust their creative resources when launching Instagram Stories in August 2016. Disappearing after 24 hours, they are a near perfect copy of Snapchat stories. Instagram users went on record to say “well, what’s the point of using Snapchat now?”.

Unfortunately, Facebook removed their launch video so here is a review video when Instagram Stories first launched.

Instagram users were also enticed to ‘share all the moments in their day’ in a story. And these stories were given full priority by placing them on top of the feed. 5th Avenue in terms of screen real estate!

Users loved it. 5 months from launch, Instagram reported that they had reached 150 million daily active users. In 4 months, Instagram stories had about the same number of daily active users than the entire Snapchat platform.

A few months later, Instagram launched their ‘Explore’ feature. Another carbon copy from Snapchat’s ‘Discover’. Like ‘Discover’, ‘Explore’ connects Instagram users to partner produced content. And starts to generate advertisement revenue from stories.

Again no creativity awards here for Instagram, but as a second mover they strike with mortal efficiency.

The result: by the end of 2016, Snapchat’s quarterly growth had dropped by 82%.

What do you do when your opponent is swaying? You just hit them harder.

This must have been what Facebook was thinking when it expanded the story format to its entire product line. Facebook Messenger DayFacebook Stories and WhatsApp Status all released their own story formats in less than 30 days from late February 2017. Facebook Messenger Day was later merged into Facebook stories.

By May 2018 Facebook stories hit 150 million daily active users and started running ads. It took them 15 months, 10 months longer than it took Instagram to reach this milestone.

In 2019, while Snapchat's total number of daily active users amounts to 190 millions, Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp have 500 millions each!

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TikTok

The hegemony of short-form vertical videos on social media platforms has been confirmed with TikTok. Launched in 2016, the app has been growing steadily ever since in both Asia and US markets.

In November of 2018, TikTok reported that the number was 680 million monthly active users. We estimate that it’s increased to 800 million in 2020.

With teens locked indoors for weeks during the pandemic, they turned to TikTok for entertainment making it the most downloaded app in the world — installed 315 million times in the first quarter, and more than 2 billion cumulative downloads to this day.

Presenting as an alternative version of online sharing, its simple, goofy, irreverent and it's growing really fast. Brands are starting to take notice and competitors to take action. Facebook launched Lasso in 2018 only to take it down 2 years later. Facebook is now placing all its bets on the same horse: Reels.

LinkedIn

Yes, LinkedIn is also following in the footsteps of Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook! While the feature is still being tested internally, LinkedIn will be bringing a professional twist to the Story format we've already encountered on all the other platforms.

From brand announcements, product news, corporate Q&A or professional tips, the Story format will encourage interactivity and bring into its platform a fun and engaging feature with lighter snackable content.

As Snapchat’s daily active users continue to decrease, Facebook is close to becoming the monopoly player Story-wise. And as we watch how the Reels VS Tik Tok battle might unravel, there's one thing we are certain of: The vertical and immersive formats such as Stories have made themselves a comfortable place across all platforms in mobile users' daily lives, and they're not going anywhere!

Can the other tech giants sit on their hands? Read about how Google, Twitter, Medium, Netflix and Airbnb are using the story format.

Be part of the growth! Produce Web Stories.

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