Could Facebook Instant Articles neuter your content marketing?

Using a mobile phoneFacebook Instant Articles (FBIA) is a new mobile format developed by Facebook and made available to everyone last week. It allows your readers on Facebook to access your content instantly without leaving Facebook, using the Facebook mobile app.

It’s quicker and more mobile friendly than linking to a website and Facebook believe if readers can access your content faster they’ll be more likely to consume it rather than leave because of slow load times.

Together with the latest Google algorithm update in May, it could be seen as another indication of how important mobile access to the internet has become, but as I’ll address later, it could also lead to a change in how and where content marketing works.

Is Facebook Instant Articles for You?

Some large publishers are already publishing Facebook Instant Articles, including Buzzfeed, The New York Times, National Geographic, the Guardian, and NBC News. Use the Facebook app for iPhone or Android to take a look at what they are publishing. Get an idea of the type of material they are using with FBIA and whether your content will work in the same format. If your content is best accessed via a desktop monitor then FBIA may not be for you.

What You Need for Facebook Instant Articles

If you decide you could use Facebook Instant Articles there are some things you should have in place first.

  1. A Facebook Page
  2. The Facebook Pages app to preview your instant articles on your smartphone.
  3. If you want to automate the publishing of your content to FBIA you’ll need an RSS feed that displays the full content of your articles.
  4. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site you can use an official plugin or the PageFrog plugin to publish your content directly from WordPress to Facebook Instant Articles.
  5. You’ll need 10 articles to submit to Facebook for approval before publication can begin.

If you don’t have 10 articles resist the temptation to quickly put some together. If you’re going to use Facebook to spread your content you’ll want it to be good quality material.

You can sign up here and there is a step by step guide by Social Media Examiner.

How FBIA could neuter your content marketing

The basic idea of inbound content marketing is that it gets the attention of your prospects, and draws readers to your website or squeeze page. As a massive source of traffic Facebook has played an important role in this process for many online.

However Instant Articles cuts this flow of traffic and keeps it on Facebook. There are no links to websites, sales pages or squeeze pages.

This is a coming trend. Google and Twitter have recently launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and LinkedIn is also working on a version of mobile friendly content that will keep readers on their site.

It seems that the big platforms are going to become dead ends. Our ability to convert readers to customers using content is going to be reduced.

At the moment I think it’s too soon to see what we can do about this. There may be an opportunity within the process that hasn’t yet revealed itself, or perhaps someone will come up with or further develop a platform that will be more content marketing friendly.

As always the internet keeps us on our toes.

Content marketing – Questions you should ask before creating anything

Some advice I was given just before one of my first exhibition meetings was to pretend I was wearing a T-shirt that did not say ‘what can I sell to you?’ but ‘how can I help you?’

Content marketing is a means of communicating with your customers and prospects without attempting to sell to them. It is based on the belief that if you continually help your customers and potential prospects with useful, valuable information, they will begin to trust you and see you as an expert in your niche and ultimately reward you with their attention, loyalty and business.

Advertising and other sales materials are often examples of what is known as interruption marketing. It interrupts what your prospect is already doing. This may be reading a paper, scanning a website page, or watching TV. Content marketing is different. Get the quality right and your consumers will look forward to receiving your content and once they receive it they should enjoy reading it or at least gain benefit from it.

Don’t be creating content just because someone told you your blog needed a new post every couple of days, or to release a new video every week. Before you start creating content ask yourself the following questions.

1) Will the content help support your reason for being in business? For example, if your business is based on a specific way of building websites does your content help promote the use of websites built this way? If you want to help people build a profitable online presence, will your content help them on their journey to that target?

2) Will it be useful to your target audience? What will your audience be able to do once they have consumed your content? There are many different ways content can be useful. It can help educate your customers and prospects on how to address their greatest challenges, or deliver thought-provoking insights, or even help them keep the sort of positive mindset that will enable them to persist and overcome their challenges. Whatever your content is addressing check that your target audience will find it useful.

3) Does your content have a goal? It may be to help establish your authority, raise brand awareness, build an email list, convert browsers to buyers, or retain customers you already have. You know you should check the spelling and grammar used in your content, but how often do you check that it is supporting your goals?

Take the time to get clear answers to these questions and you can produce good quality, helpful, planned content that can gain the attention of your audience and help you achieve specific business goals.

Providing The Content Your Audience Needs

Backlit keyboardYour audience will always want content. As technology and the internet evolves the needs and expectations of your audience will evolve too. If you want to remain relevant and be sucessful you are going to have to evolve with them. Below are some points to check that your content is what your audience needs.

Your content is targeted

It’s really basic, but it should never be forgotten. Creating content that is of no interest to your audience is a waste of time and effort. Make it focused on the needs of your audience and you’ll get more views and more engagement.

Your content is useful

Aiming your content at the right areas of interest is not enough. What you produce has to be useful to your audience. It has to be pitched at the right level. If your readers are mostly beginners in your field you’ll be wasting their time showing them how to complete an advanced level task they are not yet ready for.

Your content grabs attention

The changing capability of the internet is affecting content online. Gone are the days when text was enough and you just had to have a good headline to make a written piece attract atention. Today it’s also about images. Ideally every blog post should have at least one image. Several positioned throughout a written piece to break up the text would be better. Embedded video or short audio is another option or your content could be entirely video based.

Your content is multimedia

Ideally you should not just be producing written content. Bog posts, articles, short reports and ebooks are still important, but your content should also be available as video, audio, infographic and other image based content. Repurposing your content into as many forms as your audience pays attention to can help establish yourself as an expert.

Your content is mobile

More people are consuming online content via mobile devices than ever before. If your content is not displayed in a mobile friendly way it will probably fail to reach an appreciable section of your potential audience. Creating a separate mobile website and a regular desktop site, then having to handle separate content and sites for each type of device is a waste of time and money. Having responsive websites will make your content consumable on all types of devices with a minimum of effort.

As a content creator you need to understand what your audience is consuming and expecting from you. Regularly use an analytics program to keep track of the content your audience likes best and the devices they are using to consume it. You should also poll your audience and ask them directly what content they want and which formats they prefer it in. Knowing these factors will help you stay useful, relevant, and available to your audience.

Content Marketing – Have You Found Your Voice?

One of the most successful ways of promoting what you do is creating or curating content and then posting it where your audience will find it. This will probably include at least one of your own online sites and some social sharing platforms. Wherever you are posting your content it’s important to present a consistent and coherent point of view that your customers and prospects can recognise as your own.

What is your message?

The first step to working out what your approach and tone should be is to define what you want to say to your audience. What do you believe is important, and how do you want to express this? One of the ways to stand out from your competition is to decide how you’ll express your values. Do you want your audience to regard you as a knowledgeable teacher, a reliable reporter, a companion to share their journey with, or do you want to use another approach? How do you want your audience to think of you as they consume your content?

Focus on your audience

Every piece of content you create should be focused on your audience and how you can help them. This means getting to know your audience, their situations, challenges, fears, needs and wants. Knowing your audience is another piece of working out how best to communicate with them.

What are you offering?

Being clear about the value you are offering can also help you decide your approach. Take a look at the products and services you offer and try to identify the core value that covers all of them. Perhaps it’s a means of creating or saving money, a healthier lifestyle, or how to free up more time. Looking at how you solve your audiences problems and issues can also point to the best way to present your message.

Be true to yourself

Working through the above factors should suggest how best to approach your audience. However the worst thing you can do is to decide to be something you’re not. If you feel your audience would respond best to an authoritative teacher, but you don’t have the knowledge or experience to fulfil that role it’s better to consider either a slightly different role, or to target a slightly different audience. If you cannot fulfil the role of an experienced teacher perhaps you could identify such people within your niche and act as a reporter, conveying what they teach and do. This could be a useful position, particularly in a niche where accessing such teachers is prohibitively expensive.

How can you tell them?

You should also be able to decide whether your audience responds better to a more casual or formal approach. You should also have an idea of the type of language and niche specific words or phrases that you can use.

Have guidelines

Having reached your decisions it is advisable to write them down. This is particularly useful if you are outsourcing any content creation, but it will also help keep your own output consistent.

Deciding on a consistent and coherent point of view and the tone and voice with which you are going to express it will make content creation easier and keep your message consistent across all your marketing channels. Perhaps more importantly it will mean you would have thought about what you stand for, who you audience is, and how best to speak to them. This can only increase your chances of success.