Why Facebook Instant Articles are a Gift to Marketers

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Do you catch up on industry news on the go?  Don’t you hate it when you click on a juicy headline only to encounter a slow loading or poorly formatted (for mobile) website?  If you’re like most of us, you have no patience for this and will quickly move on to the next piece of news.

Business owners, take note.  This kind of user experience is the kiss of death for your website content.  Google announced last year that mobile had overtaken desktop as the primary way people search online and if you use social media to promote your business the statistics are even worse.  Facebook’s Q4 2015 report shows that 90% of its daily active users access Facebook via mobile device.

Google has been penalizing websites in search rankings if they are not mobile friendly, but apparently that isn’t enough.  Lucky for us, the internet giants are all over this.  Last week, Facebook announced that it is inviting every publisher of content, regardless of size, to utilize its “instant articles” solution and has developed a plug-in with WordPress to facilitate adoption.

While some view this as part of Facebook’s evil plan to take over the world by keeping its users on Facebook longer, I don’t see it that way.  I think we should view “instant articles” as a gift.  By making this technology available to everyone, Facebook is creating a consistent experience for mobile users when viewing news and business content.  Our job is to acknowledge the change and adjust our strategies accordingly.

What Exactly are Instant Articles?

Instant articles incorporate a technology that is intended to improve the experience of Facebook for users who access the platform with a mobile device.  With instant articles, when a mobile user clicks a link to an article or blog post, instead of being routed to the host website they are instead presented with a fast loading, visually appealing and low-data consuming version of the article within the Facebook platform.  Below are images from Facebook’s announcement that demonstrate the difference.

Facebook with instant articles.Facebook without instant articles.

 

Facebook has been testing instant articles with major publishers since May 2015.  When it launched, one of the main concerns among publishers was the potential loss of their own advertising dollars – an issue that was put to rest when Facebook agreed to pass along 100% of the revenue gained from ads within instant articles.  Clearly, they are serious about this.  Now the technology is being offered to everyone.

My Business is Not on Facebook.  Why Does this Matter to Me?

Facebook isn’t the only company that is making strides in this direction.  LinkedIn is rumored to be working on its own solution and Google has partnered up with Twitter to offer Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).  AMP is an open-source solution which is also intended to improve the user experience when exploring content via mobile device.  The difference between AMP and instant articles is that while AMP does require adjustments from the host website, traffic continues to get routed directly to the host site.

Social media platforms compete with search engines for advertising dollars, so these companies aren’t implementing this technology simply to be nice.  They want users to have the best experience possible when using their service.  Happy users that regularly use their platforms equal more advertising dollars.  But, for businesses, this is a gift because it also means that these platforms can provide a superior user experience when people view the content we work so hard to create.

While these technologies will help to make the content we share more consumable, it doesn’t mean our websites don’t need to be mobile-friendly.  If the content we share does its job potential customers will continue to explore our websites directly.  At that point, it is up to us to ensure that our sites do not disappoint.

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Note:  Being the eternal analyst I have a tendency to get into the nerdy details, but my gift to you with this post was to stop myself and keep this brief.  If you wish to discuss this topic in more depth, please feel free to contact me directly.

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