It’s time for Tech to start telling swipe-proof stories

Lewis Webb

27 Sep 2018

There are stories – narratives with a beginning, middle and end.

And there are “Stories” – a ubiquitous social media feature that lets users post a sequence of photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours.

Snapchat was the pioneer of this concept, launching the feature in 2013, but it’s Instagram that has really taken Stories to the masses – with 400 million daily users – and profoundly changed the way in which we engage with social media. Use of stories is growing 15x faster than feeds. And Facebook estimates that the Stories format will be the primary way people share things with their friends sometime in 2019. If you think about the last time you checked in to see what your friends were up to, it was probably a Story. If you’re really honest with yourself, you’re not scrolling as much as you used to, but you are tapping and swiping a lot more.

The game has changed

In consumer marketing, thousands of brands have started using this format to engage with their audiences. From AirBnB’s Travel Tuesdays, to J. Crew’s #Meetmycrew Autumn collection launch.  But – as is often the case with social media features that have their origins in lifestyle sharing – it can be tricky for B2B organisations to get their heads around.

The fundamental truth here is this: the way in which we share and consume content in social media and – as a result – on our devices has changed. “Thumb-stopping” was a popular way of describing content that stopped people scrolling past, got their attention, and kept them interested until the end. But the language of social has evolved, the game has changed, and the aim is no longer to stop scrolling, but to avoid being swiped passed – having your content simply dismissed like a bad Tinder profile.

If you can’t beat them

There is however, one swipe that is good news for marketers: the swipe-up – whereby the user swipes from bottom to top to see more information about something presented in the Story. Used to direct viewers from Instagram to content on the publisher’s website, the swipe-up is basically a click-through – and it can be very effective. Early adopters of the platform experienced swipe-through rates of up to 25%. This is often pre-qualified traffic of users who have seen and engaged with content and are ready to take action. Delivering better conversion rates than more conventional formats, sooner or later, B2B organisations will need to realise the tremendous potential of reaching their audiences through this channel, instead of relying on news-feed based content and engagement. And with Instagram announcing the functionality of shoppable tags for Stories just a few months ago, the path to conversion is now even more direct.

Where do you start?

Lifestyle brands publish an average of 10-12 stories per month, each containing around six individual posts. To most people working in B2B communications, this instinctively feels like a lot. However, as with all social media, approaching the challenge of Stories shouldn’t be about doing things by numbers. Instead, try these simple points:

  1. Settle on the idea first, and then think about how it can be shared on Stories as well as other channels and platforms. Stories aren’t right for all content, and not all content is right for Stories.
  2. Plan your Stories content before you get into the pre-production stage of your campaign or event. This will mean that you’re not trying to crowbar ill-suited content into this unique platform. As an example – Mailchimp used Stories to tell the behind the scenes part of a recent shoot.
  3. Think about how to break your story down into 5-6 chunks of 10 seconds – storyboard the way your content fits together, making sure that each post naturally follows on from the last.
  4. Trail, test and pilot. The only way to get better at telling Stories is to try them out, keep doing them and learn from data around how well they perform. Insights about exit rates and other navigation will help you find out what your audience likes and dislikes.

If you want to find out how Harvard can help you tell swipe-proof stories, drop us a note at

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash