YouTube Stories: What Are They & How to Use Them
Recently, YouTube—in a challenge to Instagram and Snapchat—threw its hat in the “Stories” ring and released its own version of the social media feature. Although it’s still in Beta, it has some new features that will make it stand apart from the Social Media platforms, all the while providing content creators the ability to engage their channel and audience without needing to post a new YouTube video.
Naturally, this can be yet another marketing tool for businesses, influencers, or content creators. So, what do you need to know? Below we’ll discuss the ins and outs so you can take advantage of this new avenue for reaching an audience.
What are YouTube Stories?
Last year, YouTube announced its own take on the Stories feature and allowed a few early adopters to give it a try. With it being launched for creators., the early adopters included these content creators:
- DR Official
- Cassandra Bankson
Originally, titled “Reels,” YouTube sought to differentiate their spin on the familiar format by adding a few key differences. The Verge writes:
YouTube is diverging from the typical Stories formula in several ways. Most notably, video from Reels won’t disappear after 24 hours or some other arbitrary amount of time. And YouTube will let users have multiple Reels — each with its own set of video uploads. That’s different from Instagram and Snapchat, where your temporary posts are part of one, centralized story.
Now that the feature is in Beta, we have more details on what to expect. Unlike Instagram and Snapchat, which have a 24-hour watch it or lose it forever feature, a YouTube Story can last up to 7 days. It remains to be seen whether this timeline extension will be positive or negative since it may remove the audiences’ drive to engage on a daily basis.
So why did they decide to do this?
It’s all about community engagement, channel promotion, and sitewide activity. According to Tech Crunch:
The idea behind YouTube Stories is to give content creators an easy way to engage with their fans and followers in between their more polished and produced video content. Today’s creators are no longer simply turning a video camera on and vlogging — they’re creating professional content that requires editing and a lot of work before publication, for the most part.
These stories pull back the curtain as it were, allowing content creators to reveal:
- What life is like on the road
- Behind-the-scenes snippets of video creation
- Collaboration teasers
- Sneak peaks
- Upcoming videos
It appears that YouTube’s goal is to get the audience to visit the site and engage with content creators at all times and not just when a new video gets posted. Although there are some YouTubers who create videos daily, if not weekly, there are others who may go months in between posting a new video. During that hiatus, their audience is likely interacting with them on other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. So, by adding this feature, YouTube seeks to cut out that middleman and keep the viewers coming back daily to their platform.
YouTube Stories 101
Before we delve further, there are some basic need-to-know features about YouTube Stories:
- Not Everyone Qualifies – In order to qualify for YouTube Stories, the content creator must have a large enough following to justify the feature. In this case, a person must have a channel with 10,000 subscribers to create a story. As of now, there is speculation, but no word on whether or not YouTube will roll out the feature to the entire user base.
- Videos Last Longer – As mentioned, YouTube Stories can last up to 7 days and are not centralized in one story; rather, they can be organized and appear in a series of stories.
- Creator Tags – Content creators can tag other creators within the story in order to cross-promote channels or plug a future collaboration.
- Stories Are Interactive – Every Story has a comments section that allows a back and forth between creators and viewers. In addition, you can comment, like, heart and even highlight commenters. Also, to prevent trolling or inappropriate comments, creators have the ability to moderate or remove comments as they see fit.
- Mobile Based – For now, this feature is intended solely for mobile. Although it may move to a desktop in the future, YouTube hasn’t announced any plans to do so as of yet.
Naturally, you may have some questions about how this works. The following are but a few of the broader questions you might have:
Where Do Stories Appear? – Per YouTube: “Stories are on mobile only and appear on the Stories tab of your channel page. They may show on the Subscriptions feed to subscribers. In addition, all viewers may see your Stories on Home and on some watch pages.”
So, when you open the YouTube app on mobile, you can click the Subscriptions icon, which will take you to a new screen that displays profile pictures. From there, you can click on the channel and watch their story. Stories that haven’t been seen will have a red circle around the edge.
Is There A Swipe Up Feature? – No, unfortunately there is no swipe up feature at this time. Hopefully this will be implemented as the feature matures.
Is It Live Videos Only? – No, you can choose between recording a live video and uploading a video or image from your camera roll. Yes, you read that right, images can be uploaded too!
How Do You Create YouTube Stories? – Stories are not produced in the YouTube Creator Studio, as are normal videos. Instead, you have to go to the YouTube Play App. Then, take the following steps:
- Open your YouTube App
- Tap on the camera plus icon in the upper-right part of the navigation
- Tap the Story icon (round circle with a plus sign)
- From here, you’ve four options
- Add saved photo
- Add saved video (15 seconds in length)
- Take photo
- Record video (15 seconds in length)
- Once selected, you can edit videos and photos by adding:
- Video links
- Once satisfied, click save and then post to send the story to your page.
How Do You See Performance Metrics? – Although stories disappear after one week, creators have the ability to go into YouTube Studio and see comments and metric analysis for up to a month. That said, metrics can be split into two categories:
- Individual story – To see this, open the story and look at the bottom of the player. There you will see the number of views, comments, and likes.
- Total story – To see the total engagement metrics, go to the Stories tab on the YouTube channel page.
Why Does This New Feature Matter for Companies and Content Creators?
This new mobile feature provides marketers, businesses, influencers, and content creators yet another avenue for user interaction. And, as we’ve already witnessed, the Story feature has been a smashing hit for both Insta and Snap. According to Mynd:
Since the summer of 2016, a total of 400 million people worldwide use the Instagram Story function on a daily basis… The use of stories has increased by as much as 842% since spring 2016 with no end to this growth in sight. Stories have become increasingly functional and are now more and more integrated with advertising. One-third of the most-viewed Instagram Stories come from brands and companies.
Read about these 5 brands that are leveraging Instagram story ads to see how this feature has proven to be successful in marketing.
Knowing this, you might wonder about the specific benefits of this new format? They include:
- Brand Awareness And Affinity – Per Videonitch, there are more than a billion mobile views per day. This is a massive audience of people who are regularly on mobile and primed for brand engagement. You can tap into this massive pool of people to spread your brand’s message in yet another way.
- Community Engagement – In all likelihood, you are not adding videos to YouTube on a daily basis. This means that your audience is going elsewhere in-between posts. The story feature allows you to keep a dialogue going between you and your community, even when you don’t have a long-form video to post.
- Exclusivity – If you’ve invested the time and effort to build up a YouTube presence consisting of more than 10,000 followers, you have exclusive access to features that your competitors might not have. This puts you in a prime seat to reach viewers and forge more personal connections.
- Drive Sales or Make Announcements – Do you have a big announcement coming up? A cool new partnership? An upcoming sale? This gives you one more place to let the world know what you’ve got cooking.
- Metrics – This feature has a fair amount of metrics—views, comments, and likes—therefore it can serve as another place to test out ideas, brand voices, etc. and gage how successfully it’s received.
Get Going with Your YouTube Stories
This exciting new feature provides your brand with a unique opportunity to engage in an exciting new way. So, whether it’s for your own channel, or you’ve partnered with an influencer, it’s essential that you take advantage of this tool to build your YouTube audience and spread your message!
Welch, C. The Verge. Stories are Coming to YouTube Next. (2017). https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/29/16716354/youtube-stories-reels-feature-announced
Perez, S. Tech Crunch. YouTube rolls out Stories to creators with over 10K subscribers. (2018). https://techcrunch.com/2018/11/29/youtube-rolls-out-stories-to-creators-with-over-10k-subscribers/
YouTube Help. YouTube Stories for Creators. https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/7568166?hl=en
Schweizer, V. Mynd. YouTube Stories: How Companies Can Benefit From the New Feature. (2019). https://blog.mynd.com/en/youtube-stories-for-companies