Behind Facebook's Video First Growth Strategy

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The Secret Behind Facebook Stories’ Growth Strategy & Snapchat’s Demise

In roughly one year (2016 to 2017), Stories content grew 15x faster than news feed content. Stories (currently available on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Messenger) is a new type of social media and short-form photo and video content easily digestible and captured from one’s mobile phone.

Snapchat pioneered Stories in 2013 and it helped Snapchat grow incredibly fast during this period until 2016 when Facebook-owned Instagram rolled out its own version. Facebook launched Stories first on Instagram in 2016 – next came Stories for Messenger followed by Facebook’s own version of Stories and finally WhatsApp (dubbed “Status”) in 2017 (all of which are Facebook-owned social media properties)

To continue fueling its user growth (now upwards of two billion monthly active users) and attracting mobile-first younger demographics, Facebook in recent years has staked its growth strategy on a “video-first future” tied strongly to in-app camera use and activity à la Stories. See how Facebook leveraged Stories and a global user base to shut out competition (i.e. Snapchat), adapt to a changing social and digital landscape, and grow to new heights.

Facebook’s Stories Development, History & Detriment To Snapchat

In the latter half of 2016, Facebook launched Instagram Stories, a direct clone and competitor to Snapchat Stories. In less than a year, Instagram Stories’ boasted a comparable user base to Snapchat and effectively slowed Snapchat’s growth by over 80% contributing to its decline. Now, Instagram Stories has 300 million daily active users (about twice as many as Snapchat Stories’ users).


From the onset, audiences and influencers alike preferred Instagram Stories over Snapchat Stories for a variety of reasons. Mediakix conducted two studies — one six months after the launch of Instagram Stories and another a year after launch to discern influencer and audience user habits with Instagram Stories vs. Snapchat Stories. In both instances, influencers heavily favored using Instagram Stories with top influencers posting twice as much to Instagram Stories. This was a significant finding as influencers and audiences alike rapidly migrated from Snapchat to Instagram.

Snapchat is credited with the invention of the Stories’ format, however, it was Facebook’s adaptation of Snapchat’s format that drove mass adoption of it through their owned properties. After the quick success of Instagram Stories, Facebook debuted the popular style of content to both WhatsApp and Messenger. Snapchat had previously focused their growth almost entirely to a U.S.-based audience while Facebook leveraged its international WhatsApp (1.5 billion monthly active users; over 300 million daily active users) and Messenger (over 1.3 billion monthly active users; 70 million daily active users) audiences for global consumption and adoption of Stories.   

Related Post: The 10 WhatsApp Statistics That Prove It’s A Global Powerhouse

Why Audiences Love Stories-style And Influencer Content

According to TechCrunch, we’re on “the cusp of a visual communication era.” Prior to the popularization of Stories, news feed sharing (sharing links, text-based updates, or even photo highlights from one’s life) was the dominant form of content. Newsfeed sharing is now quickly giving way to Stories sharing — quick, off-the-cuff, in-the-moment, unpolished photo and video updates.

Stories are tremendously popular among young social media users. Of Instagram’s more than 500 million DAUs, 300 million watch Stories daily. 60% of Instagram’s user base is 30-years-old or younger, indicating its Stories users likely are as well. Perhaps stemming from a combination of voyeurism and ease of capture, Stories hits on a number of growing trends:

  • Quick-from ephemeral content – in contrast to uploading a 30-minute YouTube video or deciding on a “permanent” and perfectly edited/captured Instagram photo or video, Stories allows users (both everyday and influencers) the freedom to post quick, raw snippets of everyday life. Stories content does not carry the stigma and pressure of being “perfect” — perfectly timed, perfectly edited, perfectly shot — and as such, users are now favoring Stories as the preferred medium to share digital and social media content. And it’s ephemeral — save for certain archival functions, Stories disappear from one’s feed in a day. In contrast with a video (i.e. YouTube’s format), Stories require no editing (users often add text, emoticons, drawings and filters available in the app).
  • Behind-the-scenes – prior to the launch of Instagram Stories, Snapchat focused on the privacy of stories and sharing with a selective audience of your friends. Snapchat’s search functionality for users on Snapchat was notoriously bad and Snapchat’s interface and discoverability of new users was often called esoteric. It was largely the only place where audiences (typically closer family and friends) could get a glimpse of your non-public, day-to-day life. Facebook changed all of that when it rolled out Stories to Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and its own app. Now, global audiences can catch a glimpse of anyone’s life due to the discoverability and search factor of these Facebook apps (vs. the “closed” inherent nature of Snapchat). Facebook capitalized on society’s voyeuristic tendencies and made Stories the go-to destination for everyday behind-the-scenes content.  
  • Ease of use – advancements in smartphone and mobile technology have given many more people the ability to capture and upload quality photo and video content to social media. As part of its growth strategy, Facebook is enabling billions of users the functionality to be their own content creator simply from an in-app camera with built-in features and tools.    

Future Growth Opportunities & Roadblocks To Facebook Stories

What does the future of Stories hold for digital and social media content and will Facebook successfully capitalize on it to continue to fuel its growth?

Prior to implementing Stories, Facebook faced declining photo/content sharing and had largely become a place to review memes and sift through news links. With the implementation and focus of Stories and user-generated videos as a central sharing feature, Facebook was able to revitalize growth and engagement to a 14-year-old social media platform.

Advertising revenue is at the core of Facebook’s operations. First comes user adoption/growth, then comes the ability to successfully draw ad dollars from those users. While Instagram and WhatsApp have enjoyed massive success with Stories, Facebook’s own app is just beginning to jump on the Facebook Stories bandwagon.

To successfully grow both its Stories use (and subsequently its total user base) and ad revenue, Facebook will need to find the right combination of Stories ad type (what types of ads perform well on Stories) and frequency (how often a user is served ads while viewing Stories).  

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