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.

The new Facebook Emoticons: Thumbs up for Facebook advertising?

Facebook logo thumbs up like transparent SVG
Last wednesday Facebook rolled out it’s new emoticons. A reaction to the complaint that there was no ‘dislike’ button, these new emoticons have been tested in Ireland and Spain since October. Now they’ve been released globally.

In addition to the usual’Like’ response you can now use ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘sad’, ‘wow’, and ‘angry’ tags. To access these new emoticons just hold down the ‘Like’ button on your mobile device or hover above the ‘Like’ button on a desktop computer and the new emoticons will appear. Then you just tap one of the buttons to add the selected icon to the post.

Generally these new options are seen as a good thing. However there is some potential for confusion. During testing there was a ‘yay’ button, but that was dropped as it emerged people didn’t really understand what it represented. Sooner or later some disaster or tragic event will occur and people will want to express how they feel. The ‘sad’ emoticon would seem the obvious response, but it’s expected the ‘love’ emoticon will also see excessive use in this circumstance and will hopefully be an expression of sympathy for the victims and relatives, rather than a ‘I love it’ reaction.

However the new icons don’t only represent an opportunity to better express ourselves. There’s also the use of the emoticons to gather data about how we react to posts. Advertisers will be able to use this data to improve targeting and deliver more effective advertising campaigns.

This data is not available now. Facebook have not revealed when they will make it accessible. Currently every emoticon that is used to respond to an advert will be counted as a ‘Like’. This seems a strange decision as it means for now Facebook will be assuming that you want to see more of the same type of content, even if you’ve used the ‘angry’ icon. Facebook have said they will decide later how the new reactions will affect a person’s newsfeed.

Advertisers were hoping they would be able to take advantage of the new emoticons sooner. For example, you can imagine how useful it would be to have a more accurate way of measuring responses to political advertisements in an American Presidential election year. Each campaign could more easily target people who didn’t like seeing posts from or about a political opponent.

The new icons would also help tweak an advertising campaign. Advertisers could check that an intentionally humorous ad was getting mainly ‘haha’ reactions, or that an ad they assumed would be favourably received was not getting too many ‘angry’ responses. It could also influence ad placement, with advertisers monitoring the icons placed on posts near their sponsored post and moving it away from posts getting’angry’ or ‘sad’ reactions and placing them nearer ones with more positive reactions. This would bring a new dimension to split testing.

Facebook receives over 96% of its total revenue from advertising. Presumably the more information an advertiser has about how we use these new reactions buttons, the better targeted we will be. This means an ad campaign can be made more effective, and that means advertisers will spend more money with FaceBook. I really can’t see this information being kept from advertisers for too long.

New Year, New Terms (Part 1)

Fsacebook for Business NewsAs the New Year approaches it is traditionally a time of looking for new opportunities, new directions to take or of reinforcing our plans for the path we are already on. However, sometimes opportunities for some mean challenges for others.

From January there are going to be two new, major challenges for people working in internet marketing. Today I’m going to address the challenge you’ll face if you plan to promote your business on Facebook.

Facebook have already released a statement regarding promotional content. Essentially they surveyed some Facebook users and produced the conclusion that people don’t like promotional content appearing in their news feeds. As a result Facebook have said that from January they will change their algorithm so that less promotional content will appear and that “Pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time.”

This step should not really come as a surprise. Facebook is now a public company with shareholders who expect a return. As with Google it seems the opportunity to promote most effectively is moving from free to paid advertising.

So with organic reach about to fall, how should we react?

We cannot change the decisions Facebook makes, in fact from their point of view the proposed changes seem to make good business sense. We just have to decide whether to stay with this platform or look elsewhere, and that should be dictated by the results we get in 2015.

There’s also a lesson to be learned here. Don’t organise your business so that you are reliant on other platforms. Facebook, Twitter and every other social media platform can change their terms and conditions in a moment and there’s nothing we can do about it. Instead of getting frustrated that the days of widespread, free promotion may be over, work on building your own digital assets. Instead of having a business reliant on someone else’s business, use the most appropriate platforms to drive readers to your own blog, websites, and email lists.

You can also regard this change as an opportunity to focus on the quality of the content you are posting online. Make it part of your customer acquisition funnel and good enough to invest money in promoting. Get people from the social media platform, whether it is Facebook, Twitter or any other, and get those readers onto your email list. You’ll have more control over how you communicate with them.

The fact is Facebook ads can drive some of the most targeted promotions online. It is still an opportunity worth considering. As with any other opportunity in your business, try to make the most of it, monitor your ROI, and cut your losses if it doesn’t work for you.

Next week I’ll be looking at the Tax changes ahead if you sell digital products to anyone in Europe.

A month for anniversaries

This month two major online elements that have drawn people onto the internet are celebrating anniversaries.

One is blogging, which is 20 years old. It is estimated there are over 152 million blogs online, with two new ones created every second. The blog has enabled people and businesses to showcase their expertise and opinions, as well as connect and take part in conversations that result from blog posts.

The other is element is Facebook, which is 10 years old this month. In that time they claim there has been over 201 billion friend connections, nearly 8 trillion messages sent and that there are over 25 million small business Pages. Apparently Mark Zuckerberg had to be persuaded to add photo sharing to the site. Now there are over two and a half million images uploaded every 20 minutes. Two years ago Facebook even paid a billion dollars for the photo-sharing app Instagram.

The rise of Facebook has been much more high profile. With a film to highlight its inception, legal issues amongst its founders, a less than impressive start in financial markets (it lost half its value in weeks) and frequent criticism over its approach to privacy.

But what will happen to these two established online elements over the next decade or two?

Some believe that the growth of social media platforms will mean the decline of the blog. On the other hand a recent Princeton University study said Facebook is on the decline and it expects 80% of Facebook users to abandon the social network within the next three years.

Personally I’m happy to keep my blog as the central hub for my online presence, linking in other sites as I grow them. The advantages include having much more control of the pages and content.

A blog usually has (hopefully) more considered and structured content. This should encourage more considered interactions with my audience when it comes to comments, criticisms and points of view. A blog rarely consists of short snippets posted whenever something arises, with the occassional temptation to share a little too much information.

So who knows what lies ahead? Change is a fundamental part of the internet where even the most dominant sites can be swept aside. Just ask Bebo and LiveJournal.

In Marketing, Specific is Terrific

Recently I’ve received a number of emails promoting software designed to make posting to Pinterest easier.

Using social media can be effective and since it is usually free it can be incredibly tempting. But I’ve never found it as easy as some sales pages would have you believe. If you get it wrong you can discover vast amounts of your time have disappeared into Facebook, Twitter and the others.

So before you start Tweeting, blog posting, uploading videos to YouTube and placing pictures on Pinterest give it some thought.

The first thing to realise is that each social media site has it’s own preferred audience. While many people will visit a number of sites there is usually one that is prefered by certain demographics. If you want to avoid wasting the effort you put into social media marketing you need to pick the specific sites that cater best for your specific market.

Like any form of marketing you have to communicate with your target audience in a way they will appreciate and understand.

It’s also a good time to remember how the 80/20 rule works in business and marketing. You’ll probably be getting 80% of your results from just 20% of the social media sites, so it doesn’t make sense to immediately jump in to as many as you can.

Identify the two sites that are most likely to be visited by your potential customers. As so many people are using Facebook that’s likely to be one of them. The other could be LinkedIn if you are looking for business and professional contacts, Pinterest if you want to reach women (though it is shedding its ‘women only’ reputation), Tumblr if you want to interact with Generation Y, etc.

For a more specific breakdown of the demographics that use specific social media sites take a look at this article.

Free Incentive – Are You Offering One?

I signed up to a webinar earlier this week. Nothing unusual in that, I probably attend quite a few each month. But I was struck this time by the use of free incentives to encourage me to spread the word and get more traffic to the webinar sign-up page.

Attracting people to a site using the lure of a free incentive is a pretty standard method. Spread the word, via social sites for example, and the right offer can produce a boost of visitors.

Free incentive possibilities include free reports or ebooks, articles, software, audios, videos, access to part of a membership site or the whole of a site for a limited time.

This week the deal was that I tweet to my followers in exchange for some ebooks, but it could have been any incentive from the above list.

So, are you offering a free incentive? Have you thought about combining it with the power of Twitter or Facebook? It pays to be aware of what others are doing on the internet. I haven’t listened to a word of the webinar replay yet, but it’s reminded me of some valuable lessons already.