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January 11, 2019

What Facebook "Stories" are, and how to use them


You may have noticed something new, and to many people, annoying, on Facebook lately called "stories". And if you're puzzled about them, I have to admit that I was, too. And it's actually a technique that came over from their sister social media, Instagram.

Stories can be just like any other post, a photo, or a video, and the only difference is that they disappear after 24 hours. And this may not seem important, but it creates something that the web has been lacking since its invention - timeliness. You may not have ever noticed it, but it's actually kind of creepy to see stuff posted, and stay there as if it were frozen in time.

Most people who use Facebook imagine that when they say something like "today I'll be going downtown", that people will only see it that day. Not true. Posts linger, and often reappear days, weeks, even months later, when someone makes a comment. So the invitation that you might send as a post to go "hiking with the group tomorrow" can often be confusing, even if you put a date on it. People tend to not look at that kind of stuff, they just notice that your group is going hiking tomorrow, and respond that they'll be there - even if the hike happened last week.

A story, however, that tells people that the big group hike is tomorrow will disappear, as it's designed to, so it won't keep on floating around forever. This is a much more human way of interacting, instead of writing "tomorrow (Tuesday, the fourth of March) we will be doing a group hike. If you've spent much time on the web, you know that you really have to do that, and in spite of your care, people will miss the information, and assume that tomorrow is the day after they see a post (which could be weeks after the event).

Of course stories perform another function, which is to simply keep you, or your business, in front of your followers. If you have a business on Instagram, it's wise to keep the stories coming, as they go away after 24 hours. I've known some businesses that post several stories in a 24-hour period, which is annoying, but once a day just keeps them in the minds of their followers.

As you may have guessed by now, Facebook stories aren't really about posting random photos. It's about connection, and communication. Like the Live Feeds, it gives a real sense that there's a real person with real stuff happening, not just randomly-posted photos that may have been posted today, or weeks ago.

If you haven't posted a story on Facebook, I recommend that you do. My favorite thing to do is to do a video of my dog, which only lasts a few seconds. It's nothing really important, but that's what social media is supposed to do.

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