First introduced on our blog in 2015 as a new approach to brand communications, Storyshowing has seen another shift over the past year. Social networks are embracing brand stories by offering companies more intimate and real-time ways of sharing them. Let’s take a look at these changes:

Where It All Began: Storyshowing 1.0

Storytelling is essential for effective communications, and two years ago brands found that it was no longer enough to simply tell their story. They had to show it. Why? Attention spans shortened as people became inundated with information. In addition to that, social networks began updating their algorithms to push brand content down in news feeds. As a result, brands began leveraging visuals to bolster the impact of their message, from videos to branded graphics to infographics. Don’t get me wrong. Visuals have been around for a long time in communications – from printed pamphlets to picture uploads on social channels – but they were not as strategically integrated into marketing and communications. They were a “nice to have” as opposed to today’s “must-have.” Without visuals, engagement falls by the wayside. Without engagement, a brand’s story doesn’t get the reach it needs in order to survive in today’s crowded market. It recently became apparent, however, that the approach brands took to visual content marketing needed to change in order to satisfy the masses who require more, now and in the fastest way possible.

The New Wave of Storyshowing

Since 2014, brands have embraced storyshowing by rolling out more visual content marketing campaigns. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 55 percent of content creators planned to prioritize creating visual content in 2016. Seeing a need, social networks made changes to better enable storyshowing for brands. These changes suit both brand and user by providing quick ways to share visual content and even quicker ways of digesting said content.

We’ll start with Snapchat. Launched in late 2013, Snapchat’s Stories feature started a snowball effect among other social networks. While Snaps, the network’s self-destructing photo feature, grew initial interest, Stories put Snapchat on the map for both users and brands. Why? Because, just as the name promises, this new feature enabled people to tell a story. Users could view and share a series of Snaps, shown in chronological order and accessible for 24 hours. In June 2014, Snap Inc. reported that one billion Stories were viewed per day, and in April 2016, Snap Inc. confirmed that user Stories fueled 10 billion daily video views. It was huge.

When other social networks saw those numbers, they began to act, working to create similar features that culminated in a number of announcements this year. Instagram introduced Stories – their own version of Snapchat’s Stories. It, too, allowed users to upload a series of photos and videos that tell a story and air for 24 hours. Original. I know, but just as effective. Twitter opened up its Moments feature so all users could share photos, videos and tweets that come together to tell a story. Facebook introduced Facebook Live, YouTube introduced Live Streaming and Twitter let you broadcast live via Periscope. These effectively killed off Google’s Hangouts on Air, which was before its time yet not strong enough to withstand the test of time.

While live streaming tools take a different approach to storyshowing, all of these new features cater to that short attention span I mentioned earlier. They are quick, real-time, here-in-a-minute and gone-in-a-flash glimpses into the life and times of “insert brand here.” Over time, these glimpses build upon a brand’s overall story, creating a connection among key audiences.

So how can your brand get in on the action?

Hello, Instantaneous Need

As the King says in “Alice in Wonderland,” – “Begin at the beginning.” You must first understand where storyshowing is headed, which, if I’ve done my job correctly, you know by now. From there, you need to review your options when it comes to leveraging the right social network to reach your audience. Once your channels are identified, it’s time to put together a visual content marketing strategy and corresponding tactics. Ask yourself: What do we want out of this? What message are we trying to convey? How does that message tie that to our brand’s story? How can we visually represent that via images and live video streaming? Get creative, but never forget your audience and their interests. Remember, you only have a second to grab their attention so make it count, make it quick and make it impactful.

This article first appeared in the November 2016 issue of O’Dwyer’s.