It’s still too soon to tell whether or not Facebook Instant Articles will be a hit with publishers. But since the content-focused play launched earlier this month, we’ve sure seen a lot of questions flying around.

Will publishers lose control of their content? Will users love the faster, mobile content experience Facebook claims Instant Articles will deliver? What does it mean for marketers and advertisers?

CMSWire had a chat with Jordan Slabaugh, Vice President at Wayin  — a social intelligence and visualization company — to get her take on the recent launch, as well as provide some tips on how to best use social platforms to achieve your core goals.

Instant What?

May-Jordan-SlabaughIn case you missed it, Facebook Instant Articles is a way for publishers to create quick-loading, interactive content like articles and videos to be consumed via Facebook’s mobile app – content that Facebook claims loads “as much as 10 times faster than the standard mobile web.”

The initiative launched with big name media players like National Geographic, Buzzfeed, The New York Times and NBC News, among others. And while publishers seem generally positive about the move as a way to further distribute their content and generate advertising dollars (they can keep 100 percent of ad revenue if selling ads themselves, or 70 percent if Facebook sells), not everyone is cheering.

Losing Content Ownership?

A recent article on Hubspot spelled out reasons why Facebook Instant Articles may not be the best choice for publishers, or marketers.

“With Facebook Instant Articles, sharing and linking is contained within Facebook itself,” wrote the author. “Publishers and marketers could run the risk of getting fewer inbound links back to their own websites, which ultimately means they could be trading additional Facebook traffic for less search traffic.”

While the author’s point centers around losing control when dealing with Facebook, Slabaugh has a different view.

“I have heard and read the idea of media companies and brands losing ownership of their content — or losing identity due to Facebook Instant Articles,” said Slabaugh.

“The truth is yes, while some of that content, if created directly on Facebook, is not owned, they’re already facing a challenge with ownership — news is shared, it evolves. Once it hits the public channel, public opinion can come in and create subsequent stories not intended anyway.”

Slabaugh adds that although lack of ownership has been “highly hyped,” she doesn’t see that as a challenge as much as being agile in real time, or sharing experiences and serving your audience in a better way.

“From examples I’ve seen, the branding of site and publisher comes through clearly,” she said. “When you open up and consume the article, there is clear branding and identifiable ownership of publisher.”

The “Social for Social” Mindset

Whether or not you consider your brand a publisher, Slabaugh advises brands to use alternative channels to get out of the “social for social sake” mindset and begin thinking of social as part of their overall distribution plan.

“Publishers want to drive people to their core hub, but there are many other external distribution and channel opportunities to promote further reach and bring people back into the news consumption experience,” she said.

“Instant Articles gives another vehicle to quickly distribute news and content in a way that keeps them evolving in the way that the market is.”

She added that when weighing integrated opportunities, publishers and brands should look at their core goals and intents, whether they include creating stellar content that drives distribution, increasing awareness, or driving people to their site to convert.

Questions brands and publishers should ask, according to Slabaugh, include:

  • What do I need to know to help me do this better?
  • Which stories do my audience care about?
  • How can I use these platforms to understand different angles to cover?
  • Where are my audiences most active, and where do they consume content?

Getting Smarter to Do the Right Thing

According to Slabaugh, publishers have access to more data and intelligence than ever before, and because of this they need to understand how to best use it.

“Intelligence without the ability to ask how to take action is a challenge because if you have that knowledge and you can’t act on it, it’s almost ignorance unto itself,” she said. “There’s a lot of activity just for the sake of activity.

“In the world of integrated marketing, including social, it’s leveraging, ‘How do I get smarter to get to the right thing?’ Data, intelligence and context is a way to get them there.”

She added that as social is dynamic and constantly changing, it’s important to be purpose-driven, and not place all of your focus on the engagement.

“It’s not just about engaging on social, but how does that build into larger goals?” she said. “It takes data and understanding, and that never stops.”

The Integrated Experience

Slabaugh reiterated that creating an ecosystem in which social is integrated seamlessly with other marketing efforts is essential to breaking down silos and helping businesses achieve their goals.

And her last word about Facebook Instant Articles?

“Companies and publishers know their audiences are already consuming content in Facebook. They should fish where the fish are.”

Title image by Arielle Christine Smith.

Title image by Arielle Christine Smith.