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Facebook – from social media platform to publishing platform

Marketers who keep an eye on the changes from social media have seen how Facebook, which has started under the concept of a social media platform, is evolving now into a publishing platform. Why this paradigm shift and how does this influence us as marketers and business people? Read this article to find out the reason and its implications.

Facebook and the evolution theory

Long are gone the days when Facebook was just for fun. Created in the beginning as a journal which allows us to reconnect with old and forgotten friends, to upload cute cat pictures or to let everybody know where we had fun last night, Facebook is now an informative platform – it lets us know what event we can attend this weekend, what is the last thing Trump declared or how people came out of the box. From a business perspective, Facebook has become a tool that can generate profit, therefore all-size companies must integrate it in their strategies.

Until recently, the platform was one of the best ways for directly interacting with the public and for building a two-way communication. Moreover, Facebook has started to be used as a tool for lead generation, sales and website traffic through the links shared. However, nowadays Facebook has started to look more like a publishing platform.

In May 2016, Facebook launched Instant Articles – articles that are opened directly in the mobile app without redirecting users to the website. The new option is therefore available only for mobile devices.

Why Instant Articles?

First of all, Facebook has recognized the increase in mobile devices usage for accessing the platform. Second of all, it admitted the truth behind the quote content is king. In online, the content is of great value and it has to be easily accessed – in the blink of an eye, some ambitious marketers would say.

With a high number of users that open the shared links, Facebook decided to enhance the user experience. The reason behind launching Instant Articles was to enrich that experience and make it faster, as Michael Reckhow, the Product Manager, declared. The articles were the content with the slowest loading speed – 8 seconds.

Instant Articles allow fast loading also for high-resolution images or videos, interactive maps, audio-captions or allow sharing only specific parts of an article. The multimedia content is therefore native.

The good news for advertisers – and maybe bad for users – is that ads are still included in these articles, so the revenue is not to be lost.

How to recognize Instant Articles? They are easily recognizable. They have an icon similar to that of Messenger. The icon is placed below the description of the article and above the Reactions buttons.

With critical eyes

Even though Facebook says Instant Articles were launched for the sake of users, the change was not wholeheartedly welcomed by all advertisers. We mentioned above the reason – Facebook is an important source of website traffic. Once on the website, the chances for a user to read one more article, to convert or even to buy are higher. (However, it is worth mentioning that Instant Articles include also suggested articles in the end.) So theoretically, while enriching user experience, Instant Articles can lead to a decrease in sales. Alarming, isn’t it?

Taking into consideration these issues, the following question arises – about what should a business care more: optimizing the user experience (thus focus on the client) or optimizing the profits (focus on sales)? The riddle is not easy to solve and the decision is up to each company. Every publisher probably struggled with this issue when thinking about Instant Articles.

Moreover, Instant Articles could affect SEO because of a decrease in the website traffic and social media interactions and affecting, consequently, the position in the search engine. 

A duet – the optimal solution?

We found a combined solution in Time’s Facebook Page. When it comes to articles, they use both redirect and Instant Articles. This way, they improve the user experience while not losing all the traffic from Facebook referrals.


Instant Article Article in the classical format
that opens through redirect

Many other publishers use the same duo: BuzzFeed, Harvard Business Review, The Economist, .Mic, BBC News and the list could continue.


Instant Article Article in the classical format
that opens through redirect

We can draw a conclusion – the publishers that use Instant Articles don’t use them exclusively, but combine them with the classical format that implies redirect to the website. This decision can be due to the reasons mentioned above regarding the fear of not losing website traffic and sales associated with them. Or maybe it’s just an A/B testing for figuring out the best option.

Final ideas

The decision of using Instant Articles depends on the type of content and on your objectives.

However, we consider that Instant Articles should be used when the content has short-term impact and loses its novelty in a short time or when it is a breaking news type of content. If you choose to publish these articles only on Facebook and not on the website, the bounce rate that increases as soon as the content loses its relevance could go down. 

No matter if you are interested or not in Instant Articles, in order to keep up with the latest trends, you must take into consideration the visible and continuous transition of Facebook towards a content platform. And don’t forget, of course, that content is king indeed. On the web, at least.



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