Facebook Instant Articles (FBIA) aims to be the fastest way to view content online (in Facebook). Launched in April, 2016, it’s set to revolutionize the way we access content on mobile. So far, the results have been positive and I can only see Facebook investing more effort into this new content platform in the coming years.
Speed is of crucial importance to readers today because no one wants to spend 10 seconds waiting for an article to load. If an article takes too long to load, chances are it will most likely be abandoned, especially on social media platforms (where load speed is more important than elsewhere on the web).
Facebook Instant Articles is the answer to this inconvenience associated with reading articles on mobile. On average, it takes five to seven seconds to load an article after clicking a link, but with Instant Articles, articles load instantly in less than a second.
Here are some interesting stats that Hootsuite published outlining why Instant Articles is something a content producer needs to worry about today:
- Articles published and shared as instant articles receive 30% more shares than traditional mobile web articles.
- FBIA receive 20% more clicks in the news feed than mobile web articles.
- Readers clicking on instant articles are 70% less likely to abandon the article before reading compared to mobile web articles.
To get started, you simply have to publish an instant article and share its link anywhere on Facebook. You’ll gain increased visibility and conversions as more users read and share your articles due to their ‘instant’ nature.
Reasons behind This Change
Let me start by underlining the fact that big brands value speed because they know it makes their users happy. Therefore, Google values speed and therefore rewards fast-loading websites with higher rankings. Facebook has made a similar move to satisfy their users.
Facebook knows how irritating it can be to click on an article and wait for it to load before reading it. This is even worse when you’re a mobile user.
Now, with the introduction of Instant Articles, you can start reading articles you click on in less than a second.
It’s not just about speed, though. Instant Articles don’t refer users to other websites. It’s all within Facebook. The articles are published on Facebook, hosted by Facebook, and delivered instantly by Facebook.
This means that mobile users will stay longer on Facebook and engage in more Facebook activities. This “walled garden” of content is a huge win for Facebook, but it’s also a huge win for you too when you consider the advantages of using Instant Articles.
Disadvantages of Facebook Instant Articles for Web Publishers
Web publishers like you and I are going to benefit immensely from Instant Articles due to increased article engagement, but there is definitely a downside.
Remember, Facebook is out to boost their profits and please their shareholders, just like you, so their bottom-line is considered before a new feature is rolled out.
With that said, what you have to do is compare the benefits and downsides and decide whether it’s worth it or not. I frankly think it is.
So, what are the potential downsides?
One of the downsides is already listed among the reasons for introducing Instant Articles. The new platform keeps users within Facebook, in their walled garden.
Users will no longer be redirected to another (your) website to read articles they are interested in. Almost every article they read will be available to them on Facebook, and instantly too.
What does this mean for you?
Less visits to your site, which has several other implications:
- Less traffic to other pages of your site
- Less affiliate and ad revenue from other pages of your site
- Less readers learning about your brand
It’s necessary to mention that despite these downsides, it’s important to know that Facebook lets you monetize your instant articles and you’re allowed to pocket all the revenue if the ads are sold by you or 70% if they’re sold through the Facebook Audience Network.
You can also add email opt-in forms, videos, images, and more. Every aspect of your article can be customized!
Another downside is the mobile-only implementation. In my opinion, this is more of a downside than the aforementioned downside. Facebook Instant Articles is not available on the desktop version of Facebook, so only mobile users will benefit from it.
However, Facebook’s mobile traffic is growing at a very fast pace and has already surpassed desktop traffic. Given that 90% of Facebook active users access it via mobile devices, is the mobile-only downside still much of a downside?
So, both downsides aren’t really downsides anymore when other factors are considered. I’d like to add that Instant Articles is much more useful for relatively shorter articles. If you’re publishing gigantic 5,000 word articles, your results will be less impressive.
To make the most of the platform, focus on publishing and sharing short, easy to read, articles that go straight to the point. Mobile friendly means it needs to cater to short attention spans, which means both load times AND read times.
If possible, make your articles viral in nature. Viral articles perform the best on social media platforms compared to other types of articles.
How You Can Take Advantage of Instant Articles
To start using Instant Articles, visit the sign up page at Facebook and provide the required information. You need to have a Facebook page and a blog to complete the sign up process, so be sure to have these ready before signing up.
Other requirements are:
- An active RSS feed that displays the full content of posts
- A minimum of 50 articles to submit for review/approval
The next step is claiming your blog’s URL. This is achieved by adding a Meta tag to your blog’s HTML <head> tag. After doing that, you are ready to claim the URL and proceed with integration.
Facebook partnered with WordPress and created a plugin to make integration very easy for WordPress users.
If you don’t use WordPress, you’ll find other publishing platforms and content management systems Facebook has partnered with to ease integration on this page along with links to ‘getting started’ pages for each partner.
If your CMS isn’t currently supported by Facebook, you still have other options: RSS feed and API integration. Those are obviously more complicated options and you may need to hire someone with the technical know-how required if any part of the process proves too daunting.
WordPress is by far the easiest CMS to integrate with. You just need to complete 3 steps:
Step 1: Make sure your WordPress reading settings look like this:
Step 2: Install the plugin.
Step 3: A new RSS feed will be generated for your site. Submit the feed’s URL to Facebook through the settings page and wait for approval (can take up to 48 hours).
Once integration is complete, you can start managing your articles right from the backend of your WordPress dashboard or any CMS you use. You can create, publish, and delete articles without logging into your Facebook account.
Easiest Way to Get Started
The steps required to start leveraging Facebook’s Instant Articles aren’t complicated, but they can be more difficult than they appear to be from my description above. WordPress is the easiest CMS to use it with, but don’t expect the process to be easy if you’re just using Instant Articles for the first time.
I’m sure you’d be glad if you could find a way to use Instant Articles without fiddling with your blog’s HTML, shelling out cash on developer fees, or publishing 50 articles and then waiting for approval.
There is a product known as Bolt Publisher that is worth looking at.
About Bolt Publisher
Bolt Publisher removes all the guesswork and difficulties from Instant Articles and reduces the setup time from hours/days to just minutes. Here’s what changes by leveraging this product:
- You won’t need to touch your blog’s html ever
- No need to hire a developer
- No need to submit 50 articles and hope you get approved
Aside from those, Bolt Publisher has a built-in visual editor that seamlessly adds elements such as opt-in forms, videos, images, maps, and more to your articles. You can also manage your articles and do everything you want within its intuitive dashboard.
I suggest you check out Bolt Publisher to see if you agree it’s a good fit for getting you up and running instantly with FBIA.
Also, watch this video to see a full demo of the product in action.
At first glance, many feel Instant Articles as a mere gimmick, but it has proven to be much more than that. I’m an incredulous skeptic with new features and it just didn’t make any sense to me until I saw the stats. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until I implemented it on one of my blogs that I started to believe in it.
Instant Articles is seeing wider adoption and with more tools being developed to streamline the process for new users, this upward trend can only be expected to continue in the future.
If you’re undecided as to whether to take advantage of Instant Articles, I’d say take my advice and go for it. The stats don’t lie!