Defying expectations, people seem to be using Facebook’s Stories feature. And it’s not just a few; it’s more than 500 million every day.
Those recent numbers represent the first time Facebook has been able to claim that its Stories product—a model created by Snapchat and adopted with wild success by Instagram—has reached parity with the main Facebook app and Messenger, with implementation now available on both Instagram and WhatsApp.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the latest milestone earlier this week during a call with investors, following the social media giant’s first-quarter earnings report, in which Facebook—still fighting public relations fires of the past year—claimed it had set aside $3 billion to pay a hefty Federal Trade Commission fine over its ongoing issues with privacy and security.
Indeed, the future of the social media platform appears to be resting heavy on Stories’ shoulders. Regulation and antitrust investigations abound, with core advertisers looking to move their business elsewhere. Facebook’s brand reputation is living out some dark days: a recent Axios poll put the firm’s reputation at 94 out of 100, barely ahead of the U.S., Trump.org, and Philip Morris.
Heavy fines aside, Facebook continues to grow and prove itself capable of earning substantial funds for investors; Stories is quickly becoming the backbone of Facebook’s ongoing financial success and ability to stay relevant to users of all ages.
In his latest bid to restore confidence with users, Zuckerberg published a post on the platform titled “A Privacy-Minded Vision for Social Networking.” Criticized by many as a PR stunt, Zuckerberg’s claims of concern for privacy seemed a thinly veiled attempt to encourage the use of Messenger—and, by relation, Stories—in the name of “intimacy”:
“Today, we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication. There are a number of reasons for this. Many people prefer the intimacy of communicating one-on-one or with just a few friends. People are more cautious of having a permanent record of what they’ve shared. And we all expect to be able to do things like payments privately and securely.”
Still, the new user milestone announced this week seems to indicate that Zuckerberg—and Facebook—is doing something right. The success of the platform’s base-covering strategy, where the firm seems willing to insert features actively disliked by some users in a move to appeal to other demographics, seems to be working.
Therein lies the bottom line of Facebook’s popularity: despite the absence of a commitment by the platform to reduce the amount of user data shared with Facebook, or the option to allow users to control their own data, the social media platform retains its popularity with a core group of loyal fans. At least 500 million of them.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.
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