Snapchat today is rolling out custom stories, a new form form of story designed to make sharing around big events easier. When the feature is enabled for your account, you’ll be able to create global and geofenced stories with the friends of your choosing. It’s a natural evolution of Snap’s geofenced stickers business, which let you create custom stickers for weddings, birthdays, and other events. And as competition with Instagram intensifies, it introduces a new sharing mechanic that could help rope in new users.
To create a custom story, you tap the new “Create Story” icon in the top-right corner of the Stories screen. Give your story a name, and then invite the friends you want to participate — no matter where in the world they live. You can also invite all nearby Snapchat users to participate; Snapchat will create a 1-block geofence around your current location; those stories can only be seen and contributed to by your friends and, if you like, friends of friends.
After you’ve created your custom story, you’ll see an option to submit stories to it underneath “My Story.” Custom stories appear on the stories page for as long as they are live, and will disappear after no one contributes for 24 hours or the creator deletes the story. You can contribute to as many custom stories as you like, but you can only create three custom stories at a given time.
It’s easy to imagine how custom stories would be popular at prom, graduation, weddings, birthday parties, and other events popular with Snapchat’s youthful audience. (It can also be used to capture a bunch of models riding their horses around the floor of the Grand Canyon, as in the promotional video Snap made for this launch.)
Strategically, the most important thing about custom stories is that they invite your friends to share. After Snap’s brutal first earnings report this month, the company faces pressure to grow its user base and the time they spend using Snapchat. Custom stories could draw friends together for big events, inviting lapsed users to start posting again and spurring holdouts to sign up for an account. We shouldn’t expect it alone to reverse Snap’s fortune — particularly given that Instagram can and likely will copy it — but it’s a savvy move in the right direction.