In April 2016, Facebook made its Instant Articles functionality available for all publishers. The social networking giant had been trialling the concept with a handful of big publishers for a number of months prior, and those tests proved successful enough to warrant a wider rollout. So now that it’s here, how does Facebook Instant Articles work, what does it actually do and is it worthwhile for brands and eCommerce sites to get involved?
How Do Facebook Instant Articles Work?
As we know from our articles about Moment Marketing, speed is of the essence on mobile. Consumers want what they’re looking for right now, without delay, and any lag in the load speed of a website is likely to cause drop-off. Indeed, Google found that 70% of those who switch sites do so because they’re finding it loads too slowly. This means that speed isn’t just a user experience issue; it directly affects user desire to stay on the site, travel through your funnel and actually buy your products. We covered this in our article about why site speed matters for eCommerce websites.
Facebook discovered that Google’s findings were true when it looked at how people discover and engage with content through its app. When users are taken off the app and to the publisher’s site to view a shared piece of content, Facebook discovered that there appeared to be a drop-off as the transition from app to web can be slow. Out of this problem, Facebook Instant Articles was born. Now, instead of taking users off the app to read an article, Instant Articles instead loads them within the app.
So, for example, if you see a Guardian article posted by a friend on Facebook and that article uses the Instant Articles functionality, you won’t be taken to The Guardian’s website when you click it. Instead, it’ll load within the Facebook app and you’ll be able to load it and close it down quickly and easily. Good for you, but also good for The Guardian, who’ll enjoy greater engagement and awareness.
What benefits does Facebook Instant Articles have?
As the functionality is still in its infancy, stats are difficult to come by, but thanks to the trial period Facebook does have some. The company has said that articles published through Facebook Instant Articles receive around 20% more clicks and 30% more shares. Also, according to Facebook, users are 70% less likely to abandon the article due to slow load speeds.
These are undoubtedly impressive stats, but as mentioned, they’re from a very small pool of data. As Facebook Instant Articles becomes more prevalent, it’s easy to imagine that these statistics will change drastically. It’s also possible that publishers will find themselves turned off by the prospect of users not visiting their website. Clicks are important. The more clicks a publisher has the more advertising money they can command. While publishers can generate revenue through Facebook Instant Articles, the functionality puts a lot (perhaps too much) of the power in the social site’s hands.
What does Facebook Instant Articles mean for brands?
This could also pose a problem for brands. If your brand has a strong content marketing strategy behind it, you may be tempted to take advantage of Facebook Instant Articles. After all, if it generates more awareness and greater engagement, it has potential to add gravity to the content you’re producing and is therefore worth considering. Isn’t it?
Well, it depends what you’re looking for. For many brands, the end goal of a content strategy is to drive people to the website and ultimately take visitors through a funnel and make a sale, sign-up, or other website-specific goal. If the article is contained within Facebook – in other words, if awareness (no matter how high that awareness is) isn’t translating in a click through to the site – what’s the point in the content? It’s a blunt question, but an important one – and one brands need to ask themselves.
If your brand engages in a significant content marketing strategy, Facebook Instant Articles is at least worth considering. If you do consider it though, you need to understand how it fits into your overall strategy and whether it feeds into your key goals. If it doesn’t, there are other options available if you’re looking to add some speed to your content strategy, including Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages. This will be covered by us in a forthcoming blog post.
Have you used Facebook instant articles? Let us know what you think of this feature in the comments below or via social media. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog