How LinkedIn's Stories feature can help B2B brands to humanise

LinkedIn is now testing the Stories feature in a professional context. LinkedIn is already rolling it out internally and hopes to test it with members in the coming months. In a LinkedIn post, senior director of product management Pete Davies said the team began asking themselves last year what Stories might look like in a professional context. First seen on Snapchat and later adopted by Instagram and Facebook, and just yesterday being tested by Twitter in Brazil as part of its "Fleets" feature, Davies said Stories spread for a good reason:

They offer a lightweight, fun way to share an update without it having to be perfect or attached to your profile forever.

According to him, the Stories format is great for sharing key moments from professional events, and the full-screen narrative style enables users to easily share tips and tricks that help employees work smarter. "The way Stories opens up new messaging threads making it easier for someone to say 'and by the way...I noticed you know Linda, could you introduce me?'" Davies explained.  He added that there is an entire generation growing up with Stories, meaning they are more comfortable starting conversations with a full-screen ephemeral format than posting updates. Davies added that they also prefer sharing content that lives as a moment in time rather than as an item in a feed.

"I'm excited to see how Stories will bring creativity and authenticity to the ways that members share more of their work life, so that they can build and nurture the relationships necessary to become more productive and successful," he added.

While LinkedIn might be slightly late to the game, industry players in general applaud the move, calling it an opportunity for brands to humanise themselves and be authentic. Steven Ghoos, managing director, Lion & Lion Singapore and Hong Kong told Marketing that this new feature offers brands opportunities to be closer to their audience because consumers are curious to learn how a company works. Behind the scenes activities such as manufacturing processes, and how employees work together are some aspects that interest consumers, Ghoos explained. 

"The format is especially popular with the younger generation, who appreciate authentic storytelling from brands. Interesting content will drive usage, showcasing real-life stories and behind the scenes updates on companies are relevant for the audiences that like the brands they are following," he added. 

Nonetheless, Ghoos said a line should be drawn as to what is considered stories and pure advertising, adding that LinkedIn should be transparent towards users. He also warned that companies should be "very careful" about posting company updates, thus reducing the risk of bad quality content that can adversely impact the brand's image. "One way to curtail overload is to put a restriction on the volume of stories to be posted daily," Ghoos added.

For B2B brands in particular, LinkedIn Stories might be good news. While Instagram and Facebook make sense for B2C brands, they are less so for B2B brands. With features such as Stories, Antoine Bouchacourt, VP Asia, Shootsta said LinkedIn is offering B2B brands the opportunity to build their brand image in the environment where their customers, partners and future employees are. He said:

This is also an opportunity for senior leadership, internal communications and corporate affairs to share information in a more authentic and less scripted way.

Bouchacourt added that this will also shape the way internal employees will expect to receive information from their organisation. Agreeing with Bouchacourt is Artefact Singapore's director of media Stanislas Albin, who said this is an opportunity for B2B players and those in the travel space to reach professionals for their MICE offers. He explained that as long as the content remains professional and is in "a discreet place" where users are clearly allowed to choose to launch the stories, it is unlikely there will be any limitations for the feature. Albin said:

Brands will need to focus on smart content and avoid pushy call-to-action messages.

He added that brands and professionals sharing content on Stories need to find the right tone to offer their audiences with valuable business tips.

A rise in video consumption

LinkedIn's move into Stories, said Bouchacourt, emphasises the fact that video is becoming the preferred way to communicate thoughts and ideas. This is in line with LinkedIn's strategy to become more of a social network of professionals or a content marketing platform rather than just a platform where people share their resumes, he added. "People want to learn from their network and share ideas, and this format will make it easier for people to do just that," he said.

Unlike Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, LinkedIn is seen as a professional platform for individuals to form new business connections and grow their network. The types of content commonly seen are business advice, interesting takeaways from conferences, as well as professionals' thoughts on issues. That said, Bouchacourt is of the view that adoption of LinkedIn Stories will come naturally as individuals try it out and gradually learn what messages are best shared in this format.

"As with other social platforms, there is a place for every type of videos from raw, unedited, authentic, snappy stories to more professional and formal thought leadership videos," he explained. 

When it comes to balancing between quality and professional content versus introducing new features, Bouchacourt said this is going to be user regulated. It is up to each individual to be smart in the way they use the various features LinkedIn offers in building their brand and influence amongst their professional network.

Meanwhile, with LinkedIn already offering quality professional content, this is a chance for it to be slightly more playful and show its fun side, ADA's head of marketing Stephanie Caunter said. 

Quoting a white paper by Cisco, Caunter said in 2020, there will be close to a million minutes of video crossing the internet per second. Seeing as LinkedIn has always attracted users of a certain demographic, she said it is now merely casting the net out further using a form of communication that speaks to digital natives.

"Considering video consumption is still on the rise, LinkedIn Stories may just be that feature that bridges the professional communication gap, but in way that is easier to consume," she said. Caunter added that this is also a great chance for LinkedIn influencers to gain a wide range of audience, and for those who are typically shy, but not shy to speak, to express themselves.

Also weighing in on the matter was Reprise Digital Malaysia's client service director Kim Chew, who said as long as new features continue to complement and enhance the user experience, especially in areas of connecting with industry peers and seeking out knowledge, they could work. She added that LinkedIn users generally have a specific purpose when they access LinkedIn, as compared to their mindset when engaging on Facebook or Instagram. Hence, it will be interesting to see if this behavioural pattern will change when Stories is introduced.

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LinkedIn Stories VS Instagram

While some might see LinkedIn Stories as a good way to help B2B brands, boost following on the platform, and communicate creatively, Razy Shah, chief customer officer and head of marketing at 2Stallions said the feature will not be as well received as Instagram Stories as it does not suit the target audience and type of content consumption.

Unlike Instagram, Shah explained that LinkedIn is not a platform seeking to address consumers' need for instant gratification. In fact, LinkedIn is a platform that someone spends a considerable amount of time on. As such, while LinkedIn Stories might not necessarily reduce the professionalism of the platform, it might not succeed as well as Instagram Stories. According to him, Instagram Stories worked well because users on that platform have a shorter attention span as compared to those on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hence, short-form content that allows for instant gratification fits well with Instagram.

"It is always important to consider your target audience and consumption pattern before rolling out a new feature. While one feature may work amazingly on one platform, it might not work on the other," Shah said, adding:

For something like this to work, LinkedIn needs a feature like IGTV that allows longer form of content.

Currently, LinkedIn users share videos that are approximately two to three minutes long. This, however, is not possible on other platforms such as Instagram. Shah explained that LinkedIn users will respond well to longer forms of content because that is what they are looking for.

"They are looking for educational content and looking for industry-relevant information which usually takes more time to read and understand. They won’t mind spending a longer time reading through content shared by their networks if they deem it useful and relevant for them," he added.