Facebook Instant Articles: The Pros and Cons

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By Honey Comer

Earlier this month, Facebook launched Instant Articles: a feature that allows mobile users to experience content without ever leaving the social network. Since then, publishers, marketers and social media experts have been quick to debate the merits of the service. Some have even gone as far as warning that the product will give complete control of an audience to Facebook, making the original publisher less relevant

Whatever your stance, the reality is that the format is most likely here to stay. The most nimble and innovative marketers will now begin to shift focus toward how they can make this opportunity work for their brands. 

Below is a boiled-down version of the pros and cons to help you find the path to Instant Article success: 

PROS: 

User Experience: From a user perspective, the first round of Instant Articles provide a rich and exciting experience. Content loads at lightning speed and gives a more seamless feel overall. The layout also encourages sharing, increasing the odds that your message will spread.

Interactivity: Articles in this format can be much more dynamic than a traditional off-platform post. Readers have the opportunity to interact with content in a way that allows for intuitive exploration of a story. Publishers can also embed things like video and maps to enhance the experience.

Owned Ads and Analytics: At this time, Facebook’s big selling point is that publishers will retain rights to advertising revenue while using the feature. They will also be able to track performance using their own third-party analytics. Many skeptics question whether this is a bait-and-switch tactic by Facebook to entice more publishers, but for the moment it’s a positive for the service. 

CONS: 

Loss of Referrals: With content living directly on the Facebook platform, there is a chance that publishers will lose some of the SEO benefits that are driving traffic to a website. It's also less likely that a single article will lead readers to discover more content from the same publisher.  

Limited Audience: For the time being, Instant Articles are only visible to users accessing the network via the latest iteration of the Facebook iOS app. Most anticipate that an Android version is just around the corner and are on the lookout for that update. 

No Special Treatment: Early adoption won’t be enough to make this product work for a brand, since Facebook has no immediate plans to give Instant Articles preference in the Newsfeed. As always, great content will ultimately be the key to building relevancy, expanding your audience and driving affinity. 

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