Smartphone screen with Facebook and Phone app icons in detailVARIOUS

The future of Facebook usage is all about stories.

While the stories element of Facebook is characterized as “emerging” even though it launched in early 2017, and is arguably identical to that of Instagram stories, it now counts 300 million daily users, up from 150 million about five months ago. For comparison’s sake, Instagram stories, launched in August 2016 followed by live stories later that year, has about 400 million daily users.

The rate of Facebook Stories’ growth is considered by the company to be roughly the same as Instagram Stories and while executives declined to break down exact numbers during a press event to mark the launch of global advertising for brands and marketers in Facebook Stories, they were adamant that usage of stories on both platforms is increasing.

“The stories format is growing tremendously,” Liz Keneski, manager of user experience research at Facebook, said. “We project that it will be more than feed posts in coming years, which is huge. Think about how that will affect your Facebook experience. So, this is why we’re so committed to stories across all of our apps — it’s prominently displayed across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.”

While the advancements in Facebook Stories and its operations are similar to those of Instagram, no one from that platform was on hand at the event. Of course, cofounders and lead executives Kevin Systrom and Justin Krieger just resigned from Instagram, and reports of Facebook’s meddling in their operations becoming too much to bear are starting to flood in. Asked whether the chief executive officer and chief technology officer roles left open by Systrom and Krieger, respectively, are set to be filled, an Instagram spokeswoman declined comment.     

As for why people seem to be leaning toward use of Stories, Keneski said internal research has found that people like “the pull model” — in layman’s terms, only seeing what they choose to see within the Stories platform. Feeds on Facebook and Instagram offer up an assortment of content that users have little to no real control over.

Stories on Facebook also launch private conversations in Messenger and can now work on a group level, allowing for Facebook to experiment with interest in “cocreation.”

Keneski said the idea of leveraging or sparking groups of people to “come together around a topic and collectively building something” has been tricky. “No one has cracked the nut on this — we’re feeling very well positioned, as Facebook, to continue to explore co-creation more in the future.”

But this is Facebook, so advancing a product like Stories is of course about business opportunity. Stats from internal research were flashed during the presentation, like “62 percent of people said they became more interested in a brand after seeing it in a story” and “over 50 percent said they’re making more online purchases as a result of seeing stories.”

Maria Smith, director of app monetization for Facebook, said the company is “investing a ton” into Stories. She admitted that for Facebook, “it’s actually very similar to Instagram Stories” and noted that all of the user-targeting capabilities are now available to advertisers with Facebook Stories. Smith also attempted to show that cannibalization between the two formats is nonexistent.

She used a campaign by Kentucky Fried Chicken in the U.K. as an example, saying the company used only Instagram Stories for a campaign, then combined it with a rollout on Facebook Stories, which resulted in increased awareness and engagement. Although this is to be expected, since wider placement generally means more people see an ad, it seems the objective was to show a campaign using two stories platforms is better than one.

Smith added that story ads are being rolled out in Messenger in the coming weeks and next year on WhatsApp, meaning soon, advertisers can get placements across the whole of Facebook.

Mark D’Arcy, Facebook’s chief creative officer and vice president of global business marketing, chimed in toward the end to the presentation to say that brands are starting to catch up to consumers’ use of stories and the “disruption” to typical marketing efforts it’s created.

“Any time there’s something newish like stories, yeah, it’s a lot of fun,” D’Arcy said, “but it’s a business-driver, a huge business-driver.”

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