What Does Facebook Mean By “Instant Articles” Anyway?

Facebook Instant ArticlesFor the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about Facebook’s new Instant Articles feature and some of it can get pretty confusing. So, here is a very brief break down of what this new change means.

THE PROBLEM:

How many times have you clicked on an article on Facebook (via your mobile device) only to endure a load time so long that you either open the article in a browser (thereby leaving FB) or you just decide you really didn’t need to see “what happened when…” and closed the article altogether?

THE SOLUTION:

Well, as many times as it happens to you, it happens to millions of others. So, Facebook decided to host content for some of their top-buying media outlets (The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC News and BuzzFeed.) This means they are pre-loading articles as you scroll your News Feed. Because the article has already been loaded in the background, pictures pop up instantly when you tap the link, and embedded videos start playing the moment you scroll down to them.

This means that you can read entire articles without leaving the Facebook app.

ADDITIONAL FEATURES:

The service also has some cool features such as video covers for articles (autoplaying videos on the News Feed), tilting your phone to pan a picture, a beautiful layout, and publishers’ logo showing up at the top of each article with a Follow button.

But these articles need to be published separately, which adds a little work on the publishers’ end – such as coming up with a video cover. Also, at the moment only a select few publishers can create Facebook Instant Articles. These publishers can choose which of their posts are best published as Instant Articles, so don’t expect all of their posts to load instantly. This means – if Instant Articles becomes popular – a small publisher could find it harder to be noticed than ever.

WHY IT MATTERS TO MARKETERS:

For years now, we’ve all been talking about how brands have to think and act like publishers if they want to capture and hold the attention of their target customer.

Thanks to Instant Articles, posting timely, relevant content is easier than ever- or at least it will be once Facebook opens this up to all brands, not just their top spenders. No more planning push campaigns months in-advance. Instead, you can publish real-time content in the moment and know it will be seen.

But perhaps most importantly, Instant Articles gives media outlets nearly complete control over the ad revenue generated through its hosted content. There’s some flexibility. Publishers have the option to fill their inventory themselves — keeping 100 percent of the resulting revenue — or they may have Facebook fill the inventory for them in exchange for a 30 percent cut.

MY ADVICE

Pay close attention to how these select publishers are using Instant Articles as a guideline for your own campaigns.

Define your brand’s narrative – and don’t forget about affinity brands, topics and opportunities. Definitely have your own specific brand voice, but remember that your target customer has many interests and therefore you have many avenues to get their attention.

Most people today get their news from social media and most of their newsfeeds are tailored to their most recent clicks. So, the more relevant topics you can cover, the more likely you are to connect.

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