Facebook is the latest platform to address the mobile user experience with its Instant Articles product. As with the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project by Google, the aim is to speed up the experience for audiences who consume content on their mobile devices.
Available to all from 12th April
Facebook’s mission is give publishers a “new way to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook”. Up until now Instant Articles have been available in a limited beta trial for a few big name publishing brands but Facebook are set to make Instant Articles available for everyone on 12th April at the annual F8 Conference.
Interactive, engaging and 10 times faster
The concept behind Instant Articles is solid – brands can use the same technology as Facebook to display photos and videos and make their content load up to 10 times faster than the standard mobile web experience.
Instant Articles also offers various user features like zoomable high resolution photos, which you can tilt and zoom to explore in more detail. Auto-playing video also lets your articles “come alive” as the user scrolls.
Easy to integrate
My first reaction was, “sounds great, but I bet the technical requirements will scupper most who want to get started”. It turns out I was wrong – Facebook’s Instant Articles take in standard HTML through an RSS feed and make your web content available in the Instant Articles control centre for publishing.
And Facebook are also allowing things like third-party analytics tracking and advertising too, so publishers can still monetise their news content with advertising.
The content marketing bar just got raised
Because the features and functionality of Instant Articles are available for every publishing brand, it means the bar for what constitutes “engaging content” just got raised for everyone.
I firmly believe that when you distribute content on social, you step into a whole new level of competition. Not only are you competing with the brands in your vertical, you are competing with everyone who is publishing content. That includes brands, publishers, celebrities, news outlets and even friends and family.
And if that new competitive set are publishing articles that load instantly and include glossy interactive images and auto-playing video content, you need to as well to compete for your slice of the attention.
For most marketers this will mean a shift in content strategy: budget needs to move away from creating huge volumes of low quality content to fewer pieces of higher quality content.
A square peg in a round hole is still wrong, no matter how cool the peg is
While Facebook’s Instant Articles looks set to be a great product and brands will have to up their content game, is it right for every marketer?
There are some brands which may find that Instant Articles turn out to be a (really cool) square peg in a round hole. For example, high-end B2B technology vendors with an objective of driving new business enquiries will generate the most return by having a solid LinkedIn and Stack Overflow strategy. Publishing content to Facebook through Instant Articles will likely only reach an internal or recruitment audience and therefore be unlikely to generate new business.
Your audience should determine where you publish
My advice to any marketer considering Facebook’s Instant Articles (or any new channel for that matter) is always to start with the audience. Who are you trying to reach and what are you trying to convince them to do?
- If you’re looking to find active job seekers and convince them to apply for your office junior vacancy, you should probably start with Indeed or one of the many job boards out there.
- If you’re trying to find impulsive leisure travellers and convince them to book one of your vacant rooms, you might want to start with affiliate networks like Secret Escapes or one of the many “last minute” booking deals sites.
- If you want to find people on the move, filling their downtime with light reading and convincing them to read your article so you earn some advertising revenue, Facebook’s Instant Articles could be a great option to explore.
What do you think? Are you going to be investing in Facebook’s Instant Articles? Or are your efforts best spent exploring other channels? Let us know @rocketmill.