In the world of mobile reading, Facebook makes a game-changing move with the unveiling of Instant Articles, a software which allows users to quickly load publisher content without leaving Facebook or waiting for sluggish web pages to load. While just a handful of publishers are currently using the program, Instant Articles opens its doors April 12 to content creators of all sizes that own a Facebook Page. The long-awaited move has businesses teetering between excitement and anxiety. However, this creates a unique opportunity for businesses to reach Facebook's network of 1.4 billion mobile users. Facebook initially launched the program last year with a select group of publishers, including The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, as its first test subjects. The question business owners are asking: Is it worth the effort to join come April? This is what small and medium size businesses need to know about Instant Articles to help solve that issue:
Facebook’s algorithm will likely prioritize Instant Articles over external links in the news feed. The social media giant wants users to stay on its site instead of turning to another source for information because when users click away, they might not return. Facebook is attempting to give users the experience they want in a single platform without having to go elsewhere. The hassle of extra clicks and long load times are avoided with Instant Articles.
With the introduction of Facebook's mobile program, businesses will have a higher likelihood of their content being discovered organically by new users. Additionally, this increases the chances that users will click to view a brand's website after reading its content on Instant Articles. This is a winning situation for businesses who have seen organic reach of posts from their Facebook Page decline rapidly. According to 2014 research by Edgerank Checker, organic reach dropped significantly between February 2012 and March 2014 from 16% to 6.5%.
Businesses will have the ability to run their own ads alongside their content on Instant Articles but will be limited in the number of ads they can show which is four in total per article, and a maximum of 2 small banner ads. Also, publishers can only include one house ad per article and ads cannot be placed “above the fold” on the first view of the article.
Keep in mind Facebook has a review process before businesses can start publishing their content on Instant Articles. The preparation that is needed depends on the platform a business uses for its website. If it is anything other than Wordpress then technical expertise will be needed to properly format articles according to Facebook guidelines. A minimum of 50 articles must be submitted to Facebook for approval into its Instant Articles program.
Since WordPress powers more than 25% of sites on the web, Facebook has partnered with Automatic, the parent company of Wordpress.com, Wordpres.org and Wordpress.com VIP, to offer a free plug-in that handles the process of generating and publishing Instant Articles from WordPress.
While there are plenty of benefits and few downsides to joining Facebook Instant Articles, it is critical to understand the process and the opportunity the program presents. Businesses will have the ability to provide immersive long-form content that works seamlessly within people’s newsfeeds. This is a powerful mobile technology. Therefore, businesses do not want to be left behind come April 12.