Facebook Stories Are Simply Evil [Allegedly].

It is not uncommon for large tech companies to 'borrow' or buy their way into new capabilities - and social media networks are no different.

stories-iphoneThis week, Facebook announced a Stories feature that includes a visual collection of photos or videos atop the News Feed. The Stories are shown for 24 hours and won't appear on the person's Timeline or News Feed unless they post them there. Sound familiar? According to Facebook, "The Instagram community has shown us that it can be fun to share things that disappear..."

It is this statement that should worry your startup -- you know the company with innovative ideas and an emerging audience of people who buy into those ideas -- because if this was the playground, we'd all point and chant that Facebook's pants are on fire.

See, Facebook reportedly tried to buy Snapchat for $3 billion in cash several years ago. It clearly understood the startup's potential in that people may want a way to quickly share a photo or video to select people without it going on their 'permanent record' and it likely recognized that its diminishing teen audience was flocking there (on their mobile devices), growing weary of posting to where their grandparents now socialize. And, in case you missed the memo, Facebook bought Instagram around the same time for $1 billion. Snapchat is the one that got away, so Facebook took the liberty of borrowing a few things.

bunnyMarried to Instagram, Facebook introduced a Stories feature on Instagram last year - and you guessed it, it was a copycat version of what made Snapchat so popular, its Stories feature. You know what else makes Snapchat Stories so popular? Its filters that put doggy ears on babies, allow users to swap faces with a friend and turn one into a dancing bunny (a topic this author has researched thoroughly). 

Wouldn't you know, Facebook announced its own camera for app users "packed with dozens of effects like masks, frames and interactive filters that you can apply to your photos and videos. Reactive effects let you interact with dynamic objects - like falling snow - and style effects apply an artistic filter to your video in real time, letting you turn your everyday selfie into a Picasso-style work of art."

Get out. At least other software companies make it less obvious when they 'borrow' ideas from startups. With an unthinkable amount of lawyers at its disposable, we're not questioning the legality of what Facebook is doing. If you can though, should you?

It is unlikely the average audience member will give more than a passing thought to Facebook trying to resemble Snapchat or previously, Facebook resembling Foursquare, Yelp or Craigslist. Similar to Instagram Stories, it is unlikely that avid Snapchat users will leave the network to start posting ephemeral messages to Facebook because users themselves have found a way to filter who sees what (without the help of privacy controls) by posting to different networks, with different pre-selected friends or family. When those they don't want to see their content get added to a network (like older generations), they simply leave for the next one.

It doesn't, however, make what Facebook is doing less evil from an ideas 'sharing' perspective. Startups in Silicon Valley often find themselves out of business when larger companies do what they are trying to do, better, by incorporating the functionality into larger software suites.

Similarly, everyone carries on. The same will be true of Facebook Stories and filters, but it still needs to be stated. 

As for what to do from here, marketers have a very effective channel at their disposal. We've reported before on how well influencer marketing and employee advocacy programs work for social because people would rather hear from people like them rather than brands directly. Empowering employees to post to Stories from events, their desk, the break room or wherever their workday takes them can expose their followers to what it is their employer does, for better recruiting and sales.

As for influencer marketing, Instagram Stories has a plethora of new tools at influencers' disposal, like the ability to add links so that followers can shop a look. It is likely only a matter of time before that functionality is added to Facebook Stories since Facebook has long tried to make social commerce work on the network.

It's unverified whether Pages can currently use Facebook Stories. As an admin for Website Magazine's Page, it does not appear to be the case...yet. It seems that the way for brands to work with Stories currently is to sponsor a filter (available for select partners at the moment), in the same way Snapchat Stories does. When (if they aren't already) opened to Pages, Facebook Stories may give brands a temporary boost in organic reach when combined with regular posts (similar to Instagram). Since we can imagine that Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories will have many of the same qualities, we recommend following this point-of-view article with a more tip-based piece, " The 4 I's of Instagram Stories."