Facebook Instant Articles: What it means for your content
Facebook launched its new Instant Articles platform last week, providing a new way for publishers to reach the potentially lucrative audience of the social network’s 1.3 billion users.
Instead of posting links to their stories on Facebook, a number of publishers (including the BBC and BuzzFeed) can now post content directly to Facebook – it’ll be hosted in the app itself, so users stay within Facebook’s ecosystem. According to Facebook, the average time it takes to load a news story from a link is eight seconds – a wait that is dramatically reduced with Instant Articles:
Compare and contrast: Facebook instant articles vs Twitter link pic.twitter.com/IlNCg68fYw
— Matt Roper (@mattjroper) May 13, 2015
Whether or not Instant Articles will be a good thing in the long term for publishers and Facebook users is still being hotly debated. The main downside seen by many is that this system ties publishers to Facebook even closer – and any arrangement can be altered by Facebook in the future to suit them.
Putting the debate aside, there’s one aspect in particular I am a big fan of: getting brands to think about alternative platforms for their content. Not everything has to be hosted on your own website – helping your audience to find your content is the important thing, not where they end up finding it. If you know that your target audience is reading, posting and sharing content on a specific social network, then you need to consider how you can reach them there – not take them away from it.
Here’s a great example of an alternative home for content: eBay has a section called “Buying Guides”, where users post (as the name suggests) guides to shopping on the site. Online news site Den Of Geek have used this to publish articles on popular topics like Star Wars toys or influential video games for eBay users – proving themselves to be a useful source of information as well as providing links to desirable products. Given that fans of Star Wars or video games are often collectors of second-hand memorabilia, it’s a sensible choice to try to reach them where they live.
From a higher education perspective, places like The Conversation are an alternative to publishing news stories on your own website. The site is an ideal way for academics to demonstrate their expertise, thus raising the profile of the university they’re associated with. And, as the name would suggest, each article generates plenty of discussion among readers. (A warning: every link on The Conversation’s homepage is interesting. Don’t get sucked in if you’ve got a busy day…)
We recently wrote about how BuzzFeed is a great alternative platform for reaching your audiences, but we’re also keeping an eye on that one as they continue to make changes for brand contributors and sponsored content.
But back to Instant Articles. When these are eventually offered as a tool for managers of Facebook pages, it’s worth remembering that the platform itself won’t instantly get you more engagement (pun absolutely intended). You still need to create the right sort of content for your audience: something that they want to comment on or share with their friends.
So I’ll be keeping a close watch on how Instant Articles works out. If you spot any great examples of alternative homes for content, or if you disagree with me about where you think we should host our content, just get in touch.