Facebook has been a giant in the world of content distribution for a few years now. Every hour 3 million links are shared on Facebook and because of this marketers and content creators are finding it incredibly difficult to get their content noticed. “Average” content isn’t likely to find the same number of people it did 2 or 3 years ago.
Thankfully, Facebook is working to help us to create quality content and they’re doing this by introducing Instant Articles.
What are Instant Articles?
Do you remember Facebook Notes? It was Facebook’s attempt at entering the world of blogging. “Notes lets you write full-length posts with formatting, tagging and pictures. Use Notes to publish content that is too long to post to your Wall or that requires formatting.” – www.smallbusiness.chron.com
Although Notes are no longer commonly used (are they used at all now?), Facebook has come back with something much more incredible. Instant Articles. In a video posted by Facebook on their Instant Articles Facebook page, Creative Director from NBCnews.com, Shezad Morani, describes them as “a living page. This is a living, breathing article that is beyond just words.”
Instant Articles’ aim is to help quality content get the attention it deserves. It does this by doing these three things.
1) Moving images
I know what you’re thinking, and no, I don’t simply mean videos.
Instant Articles have a short video that instantly plays when scrolling through the news feed. What makes it different to a normal video? The whole thing is a link. That’s right. Click anywhere on the video at any time and you’ll go straight to the article. This is how they’re grabbing consumer’s attention.
2) What’s the fastest way to get from A to B?
If you said move B closer to A, then you’d be right and that’s exactly what Facebook have done. An Instant Article is built into Facebook, so there’s no leaving the site, thus reducing the time taken to load.
I’ve just clicked on the first link on my news feed; a link to a Metro.co.uk article. It took 5 seconds on 4G to show the article and 10 seconds before all of the content was available. When I click an Instant Article, before I’ve even had chance to take a breath, it’s fully loaded.
I imagine the drop off rate from clicking on a link to reading an article will plummet with connection speeds like this.
3) More interaction
Working like a featured image, the video shared on Facebook (the one designed to grab your attention) continues to play at the top of the page, giving the reader some consistency. They then have the option to click on the video to open it and play with sound. A landscape video will show full screen on your smartphone and you can tilt your phone from side to side to display the edges of the video.
With a variety of other interactive features including images, image galleries and videos (including embedded Facebook content) there is plenty to keep the consumer engaged. There is also the option to play audio clips over still images or image galleries to create interactive images without resorting to video.
Instant Articles over blogs?
You’re probably thinking the same as me. Why would a blogger, news outlet or business choose to keep their content on Facebook when they’re goal is to create traffic to their site?
This one is a tough question that I think there will be a lot of debate over.
For some organisations, getting people to read their content is their goal. There are a bunch of ‘other posts by the same author’ links at the bottom of each Instant Article, but the links I’ve tried to click have just given me a blank screen, so I wonder if this is a work in progress. I’ve also noticed some ‘sponsored’ content, so it looks like Facebook will be inserting some of their adverts within each article, perhaps monetising them for content creators in a similar way to Google.
How can I try it out?
The short answer is… You can’t. Not quite yet.
Facebook is trialling Instant Articles with nine publishing partners and hasn’t released any indication of when it will be more widely available. You can contact Facebook to request more information about becoming an Instant Article publisher here. I’ve sent a request for information and received an email advising me to join a the Facebook Group for news, media and publishing to hear updates.I’d recommend heading across to the Instant Articles Facebook page to check them out for yourself. At present they only work on the latest version of Facebook on iPhones, but I’m sure they’ll be working on an Android version soon.
What are your thoughts on Instant Articles? Could they be the big shake up that content creators need? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Written by Alan Milner