In April of this year, Facebook Instant Articles was opened to all publishers, all over the world. In their official media post, product manager Josh Roberts states that their decision to open Instant Articles to the public is to create a seamless storytelling experience on mobile, especially for people with poor connectivity.
The good news is that publishers will still retain full control over their ads and data. Making an Instant Article is NOT going to automatically create a corresponding post. However, publishers can be confident that their readers will have a more enjoyable time reading because content loads faster and includes more interactive features.
Recently though, Facebook has made other changes (like limiting content from publishers and introducing IA into Messenger) that could change content marketing on the platform forever. What does it mean for publishers? Is the popular social media website still worth investing on?
Who Should Use Facebook Instant Articles?
The first question come April is: exactly WHO can use Facebook Instant Articles?
According to Contently, any publisher can join – but the update was mainly designed for news publishers. That means brands and solo bloggers can create Instant Articles, but Facebook encourages them to explore other options for content that might better suit their needs.
If you own a business running solely on Facebook Pages, then publishing content through this feature will save you time and money. There’s no need to direct audiences to your free blogging website (which might run delays and make them click away) or host content on a separate platform. Second, you can keep 100 percent of the revenue if you decide to sell and serve your own ads.
Social media marketers, whose target audiences are on the social media giant, will love how their stories receive more traffic and engagement.
The Washington Post, one of the pioneer publishers on IA, reported how easy it is to market content on mobile thanks to this platform. As a matter of fact in October 2015, they gained a 59 percent increase in visitor traffic – their highest since 2014. These results come from a combination of strategies, but IA has helped them get an edge over other publishers in terms of new traffic and returning readers.
For content marketers looking to put a different spin to modern storytelling, Facebook Instant Articles is the perfect platform. The mix of built-in maps, auto-play videos, and stunning high-resolution images that loads fast on mobile is tough to beat. Imagine a simple news article that now has the power to show people exactly where the event is happening.
Picture audiences as they use their phones to scan an HD image in its entirety. Instant Articles will make even the simplest of stories come to life, and it’s something that today’s storytellers shouldn’t miss. But what if you already have a dedicated blog for all your content? You can still use IA to syndicate posts and help them gain more exposure.
More Articles, More Problems?
Since the introduction of Facebook Instant Articles, publishers have been in the race to see which could get the most out of this new feature. However, the social media giant has made changes – again. This time, it seeks to boost personal posts (i.e. family and friends content) over content. They recently made IA compatible with their Messenger feature, which is great if you want to PM a controversial article to a friend.
Still, Facebook Instant Articles is up against a couple of concerns, such as:
1. A Matter of Speed
You’ve probably noticed the changes as you scrolled through your Facebook feed these past days. Instead of content from top publishers, you will see personal posts from loved ones first. This makes it harder for content creators and marketers to gain organic attention despite the uniqueness of IA.
It now comes down to a matter of speed – for engagement. This is especially true for those creating news and time-sensitive content. By encouraging fans to SHARE posts (not just react to it), publishers can still boost content and generate buzz.
2. A Matter of Trust
Think about it: what link are you most likely to click, a story shared by your Facebook friend OR an article published by a prominent brand? If anybody can publish anything (as is the case today), WHO can you trust to deliver accurate news and facts? Will you have time to read both sources of information?
3. A Matter of Choice
One of the biggest issues on IA is revenue. Although the social media giant allows publishers to keep 100 percent of profit if they choose to sell and serve their own ads, there are still tight restrictions. Interactive or rich media ads for example, are not allowed. If your business thrives on affiliates, IA may not be worth the trouble for you.
What you can do instead, is to syndicate articles with a link back to your website. This gives you better control over your profits, while at the same time, taking advantage of Facebook’s cool new feature. There’s still a question of how users will find your content though. So assertively marketing it to your followers is always a good idea.
Facebook Instant Articles: the Verdict
So, should you invest in the social media giant despite the obvious hurdles?
It really depends on your objectives. If you’re a major publisher and getting organic traffic is important for you, consider putting that money elsewhere. Use the platform instead for for creating meaningful connections. For brands and businesses, Facebook ads could help boost your content for relevant keywords and locations.
As content discovery becomes more important, Facebook’s intent to make a user stay longer on their platform is more than obvious. You can’t deny how beautiful and interactive Instant Articles are. Even if you have slow connection (as is the case in several countries), it won’t matter because content still loads fast and they respond delightfully under your fingertips.
A common gripe among users is that Facebook Instant Articles doesn’t give them an option to share on whichever platform they want (outside of Facebook). It also doesn’t allow for a Save Later option. However, improvements for IA are still ongoing, so perhaps better features will be introduced in the future.
With these in mind, would you still join Facebook Instant Articles?