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WTF Are TikTok Stories

June 24, 2022

In late 2021, TikTok started experimenting with TikTok Stories, a feature that essentially directly copied Instagram's own "Stories" posts. Now, it appears TikTok Stories are green-lit and available to a wide range of users. 

But, uh, why? 

Well, let's look at how TikTok Stories work and if there's any obvious benefit to utilizing them as a content creator. 

Why Do TikTok Stories Exist?

The simple answer is that TikTok wants you to use the platform even more than you already do. TikTok's entire value is based on how many eyes are scrolling and how accurately it can put advertisers in front of relevant eyes. 

With TikTok Stories, the app hopes to incentivize more casual users to get involved. There's less pressure when it comes to stories because they disappear after 24 hours and you don't really need to spend a ton of time crafting a "viral" hit — because there's no virality when it disappears. 

It also seeks to address some concerns users had before, which is that followers on TikTok aren't really as valuable because it's all about landing content on the "For You Page." With TikTok Stories, you might be able to stay more in front of people who follow you, since they aren't part of TikTok's typical algorithm.

The Irony Of TikTok Stories

It's ironic that TikTok is now copying Instagram's most-used feature (outside of hash tags, which Instagram copied from Twitter). Especially because Instagram created "Stories" by copying Snapchat, and also created Reels to compete with TikTok. And TikTok is really just an iteration of Vine...

You get it. Nobody is wholly original. Everybody is copying each other. And they're all just after eyeballs.  

But the ultimate irony is that TikTok grew to its mammoth size on the back of the concept that "anybody could go viral." And often times for very silly, creative, earnest, or (let's be honest) erotic content. Now, popular creators are worried that the only way to get seen on TikTok — even after building a following — is to go viral. 

Meanwhile, Instagram built its empire on the influencer ideology, allowing people to present the best (often misleading) snapshots of their life. You were sure to get in front of your friends, but there was little to no "virality" and Instagram kind of became ground zero for the mental health conversation around how social media exacerbates negativity and esteem issues. 

So Instagram is trying to build more virality via Reels and TikTok is trying to make collecting followers more "valuable" via TikTok Stories (and its new "following" feed feature). 

How Should I Use TikTok Stories As A Creator?

If you already have a decent following on TikTok, utilizing stories in a very, very low-effort manner can feasibly help you stay top-of-mind for some followers. Usage stats on the feature are still hard to come by. And who knows, it could be like Twitter, which briefly had its own "stories" feature called "Fleets" (as in "fleeting") that it pretty much axed faster than it implemented. 

So we'd recommend you not spend too much time or effort creating these little moments that disappear in 24 hours anyway. You've already got a lot on your plate. And if you're still only in the few hundred or few thousand followers range, focusing on creating compelling TikToks that have the potential to land in front of more people (and last forever) is a better use of your time.

But if you've already built a bit of a following and have a good posting routine, using TikTok Stories to just post simple, dumb, or time-sensitive clips about your day is a good place to start. It might even be worth posting some of your more popular TikToks from back in the day to your stories for new followers to potentially see. It's early and the strategies are likely to change quickly as we learn more about how much people actually care about TikTok Stories.

But it should certainly be used to supplement content, not replace it. At this point, it's reasonable to assume that any strategies you were using with Instagram Stories or Snapchat could be replicated within TikTok to a degree. 

What About Ads? 

Instagram Stories ads are some of the most effective for driving users to your music and content. Will TikTok be the same?

It's a little too early to know just yet, but our money is on TikTok allowing users to place advertisements within TikTok Stories once the feature really has its legs and users have adopted it. Right now, the most effective TikTok ads are usually ones that feel like content native to the platform. In other words, they don't "feel like ads."

But if we'll soon be able to place ads in stories feeds, that means we'll have more opportunities to test tried-and-true ad creatives that worked on Instagram in the past. Why does this matter? Because advertising is all about testing and right now TikTok is still more affordable when it comes to getting in front of U.S.-based users for whom music is a vital part of their day. 

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