Facebook recently announced the opening of it’s Instant Articles to all publishers, which has many content producers wondering if they should hop on board. The feature rolled out in May 2015 to a handful of major publishers and allows content creators to create fast, interactive articles within Facebook. But as I’ve started interacting with more Instant Article content I’ve found one major flaw that publishers should be aware of.
If you’re like me, you probably consume content through a number of social platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. And like me, you probably share content you enjoy across those various networks with your various audiences. You might find something on Facebook and using the sites share features, share it on Facebook as well as other networks. But with Facebook Instant Articles, the content you discover on Facebook is no longer share friendly across the web. This means the potential reach for your content across other platforms is inhibited by Facebook’s new mobile article experience.
Below is an example of an Instant Article from Vox I was recently reading. You can see that the share functionality is prominently pinned to the top of the article no matter where you’re at on the page. Additionally, a larger share button appears at the bottom of the article, but in both instances, these share features take you to the share screen within Facebook and offer no means of sharing the content on other social networks.
I tested a number of publishers who are already using Instant Articles, including MTV, The New York Times, .Mic, and Buzzfeed and in every instance, when Instant Articles was being used the content was limited to being shared, or sometimes Liked within the Facebook ecosystem. From a Facebook perspective, this makes sense. It keeps users on Facebook longer and prevents the risk of someone falling down another rabbit hole on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or the like. But as a publisher, this is likely something you are going to want to explore and test.
Since the introduction of Instant Articles, I have personally found myself sharing content from certain publishers less on other social networks due to this limitation. Historically I have shared content on at least one other social network if I enjoy it, and publishers like Vox and Buzzfeed are no longer benefiting from my sharing of their content across my social audiences. While I, as a single user may not be a huge deal, imagine the impact it has when you consider that BuzzFeed has nearly 7 billion Likes on Facebook. That’s 7 billion people who are no longer able to share content they enjoy outside of the Facebook ecosystem.
So if you’re considering getting involved with Instant Articles, I would strongly suggest testing it and seeing what kind of impact it has on your content’s reach across social channels. Instant Articles is great for the user experience and speed it brings for your Facebook audience, but it might be at the cost of losing additional visibility from a users followers on other social channels.