How Facebook’s Instant Articles will change the game. Again.

Here in Texas, they say if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute. And as you well know my friends, the same is true with the world of social media. It. Never. Stands. Still.

Enter Facebook’s Instant Articles.

At the most basic level, Instant Articles is essentially an ultra-quick-loading news article or piece of content marketing—“essentially,” because most traditional news articles don’t take less than one second to load (literally), nor do they tout the interactivity consumers expect from a mobile app.

Now the concept of Instant Articles isn’t exactly new (the first trial was launched by Facebook nearly 10 months ago). So what is new? During F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference, Instant Articles will shift from being the highly coveted secret weapon of an exclusive group of media and brands to being every industry’s “standard.”

Touted as “faster” and “more beautiful,” this feature is a true game-changer for brands and media for one reason and one reason alone: storytelling. Yes, it’s a subject that we hear about all the time, but this is a major step forward in how we will socially interact with branded content. Here are a few reasons why:

  • 1) It’s seamless. No more waiting for load times (especially on mobile). You click, you’re there. It’s truly in-the-moment and satisfies that “immediate economy” side of the social audience.
  • 2) It’s immersive. Tilting your mobile screen allows you to explore images. Voiceovers read you the content while you dive into the visual content. Dare I say it’s one-step away (or maybe one step-closer) to VR? I dare.
  • 3) It will always, always, always be on brand. Companies and media outlets can customize the graphics, fonts, layouts, etc. to make it feel like you’re on their website or reading their “old school” paper magazine. In other words, it’s unmistakably a true extension of your brand.

What’s fascinating to me is while this is a brand-new way to deliver the message, it’s also something that can make that message much more powerful. Your ROI? More engaging content + faster load times = higher click-through rate, higher engagement and, overall, a more impactful brand experience.

Should marketers fear Instant Articles?

While it’s easy to endorse the innovative merits of Facebook’s Instant Articles, there are some who have said Instant Articles may be bad for marketers: Is Facebook really putting publishers first? Why are some brands claiming to have seen reduced referral traffic to their sites from Facebook? Does optimizing for Instant Articles mean brands need to sacrifice optimizing their blog for search in order to successfully optimize it for Facebook?

I would challenge those nay-sayers to question whether referral traffic is the best way to measure content success. While traditionally published articles may drive users to your site, ask yourself: How long are they actually staying there? Are they engaging? And on the other hand, how many people click on your traditionally published article on Facebook, only to click back to their timeline when the article takes too long to render? How many views and shares might you be sacrificing by not publishing with Instant Articles?

Outside of Instant Articles’ physical look and feel, the platform’s secret sauce lies in the heart of Facebook’s user data. This data offers many intangible benefits, such as more customized “suggested articles” that populate the footer of the Instant Article, which enable publishers to capture readers’ attention while simultaneously cutting out irrelevant “noise.” This is not a question of “either-or”—instead, Instant Articles is just another, albeit more personalized, interactive way to engage your audience.

The lesson here is to use the tool, but use it wisely. It’s a tremendous way to pull people into a powerful story. And powerful stories? They get shared.

Spike Jones's picture

Spike Jones

Spredfast's VP of Strategy Spike Jones has been at the helm of strategic development—from insight to creative execution—for companies like BMW, Arby's, USAA, AT&T, and General Motors, just to name a few. Jones also serves on the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and is the co-author of the book, Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable Word of Mouth Movements.