What are Facebook Instant Articles and Should My Blog Use Them?

What are Facebook Instant Articles and Should My Blog Use Them?

Facebook first released their Instant Articles feature back in 2015. The idea of Instant Articles was to meet the needs of publishers and news organizations. Instant Articles allows people to read an article within Facebook without losing the character of a content creator’s website, thereby offering the best of both worlds. 

Facebook Instant Articles didn’t take off immediately, but they are now used by many major companies. In fact, Facebook says that 37,000 pages use Instant Articles. They are nothing new but still around. In an era where we are trying to get as much juice as possible out of our organic social media, is it time to invest in Facebook Instant Articles? And perhaps just importantly, what value do they derive that we might be missing out on? Let’s find out!

What are Facebook Instant Articles and How Do They Work?

In a nutshell, Facebook instant articles are HTML documents that download especially fast on Facebook. One reason for this is that they are optimized for the Facebook environment, both on desktop and mobile versions, and feature-rich storytelling and branding capabilities. The goal of an instant article is to deliver highly readable content, thereby encouraging readers to linger and consume. In return, you get higher engagement, better bounce rates, and other improved statistics.

Here’s how they work. Creators make the Facebook instant articles, then apply the instant articles markups. Post your article on Facebook manually, as the app won’t do it for you. Then, share and promote as normal.

The concept isn’t new: In digital marketing terms, Facebook Instant Articles are very similar to Google’s AMP Project which hopes to serve a stripped-down version of your content quicker to mobile devices. this means that readers of your content will only see the content itself, not other pieces like popups, sidebars, etc.

Which type of publisher can use Instant Articles?

Strictly speaking, Instant Articles are available to anyone with a Facebook Page. However, Facebook does have its own Instant Articles policies, so there is a chance that you might not be approved. You will know when you follow Step 1 below. Briefly, you can’t make Facebook Instant Articles if your business promotes violations of the Facebook community standards.

What Website Technology Do I Need to Support Instant Articles?

Unlike many other features of the Facebook platform, this one does require some integration tools. Luckily, they aren’t usually complicated if you know what you’re doing, or if IT can set up a system. You have 3 options to get Instant Articles working:

Use a 3rd Party Plugin (for WordPress, Drupal, etc.)

The easiest solution for most businesses. So much so, in fact, that Facebook has some tools for the Instant Articles program. You can find them on the Facebook business website. 

With that said, be careful which one you choose. While Facebook and Automattic worked together to create a plugin, it has not been updated in a few years and there is talk that the current plugin might have serious performance issues. On the other hand, the original is still the official plugin if you don’t want to go with something that was developed independently.  

However, if you run into problems, the most advanced and up-to-date Facebook Instant Articles WordPress plugin is WP Native Articles which does come at a $49 a year cost but might be worth it if the free plugin doesn’t work or negatively impacts the performance of your site.

Site owners who didn’t build on WordPress can research similar plugins or additions for their CMS. Forums are often very helpful.

Further Reading: The Top 19 Facebook Tools for Marketing Your Business

Create a dedicated RSS Feed for Instant Articles

Another option for site owners to use Facebook Instant Articles is creating an RSS feed. In this case, Facebook automatically checks the feed several times a day. If you publish an article to the feed, it automatically gets turned into an Instant Article. Facebook has an article for developers on this process.

Leverage the Instant Articles API

Facebook also has an API for web developers. It allows publishers to request an Instant Article from inside their CMS. Once the article passes the approval process, it gets published on Facebook. If your marketing team also posts content, this might be a reasonable option.

How to Setup Facebook Instant Articles to Work with Your Blog in 5 Easy Steps

Now, let’s look at how to bring Facebook Instant Articles to your content marketing strategy. This process assumes that you will use the easiest method being a WordPress plugin. However, those who use the other methods will 

Step 1: Sign Up for Facebook Instant Articles

Signing up is relatively easy. The current signup process actually happens inside the Monetization tab of Facebook Creator Studio.

Assuming that there is a blue checkmark showing that you are approved for Instant Articles, after signing up here you will now see a new Instant Articles section in the Publishing Tools section of your Business Page. Signing up requires some basic information about your business and what it sells.

Step 2: Connect Your Website to Your Facebook Page

You will now grab the Page ID that appears inside the Instant Articles section of your Publishing Tools under Configuration –> Tools –> Connect Your Site. This page ID tells your CMS where to send information to Facebook. Next, go to your Instant Articles WordPress plugin and enter this Page ID to link your site to Facebook.

After you enter the Page ID, the plugin will walk you through the final steps of configuring your site for Facebook Instant Articles. Once your WordPress plugin is set up go back to the above section on Facebook and click on the button labeled Claim URL.

Step 3: Brand Your Facebook Instant Articles

You will next need to ensure the look and feel of your blog content in Facebook Instant Articles look good, which you configure here: Configuration –> Tools –> Styles. Make sure that your selections are consistent with company branding and overall brand voice. Don’t forget to use preview tools as available to make sure that everything is the way you want it.

Step 4: Submit 10 Articles

Once branding is done, Facebook wants to see 10 sample articles for review. This is the final step of the approval process, so you must have at least 10 published blog posts on your site to get approved. Otherwise, ensure that your site has 10 or more articles to work with. Also, be sure to pick the best articles if you have a choice since you don’t want Facebook to deny your application.

Step 5: Set Up Monetization (if applicable)

This also happens inside the same Monetization tab inside your Creator Studio. Simply select the Facebook Instant Articles option, and you’re ready to go. Facebook lets you keep all the money from selling ads. After all, it’s your content, not theirs.

Once you’ve completed the above steps Facebook should get back to you in a few days with your approval status. After being approved any posts you share to your Facebook page will now automatically use the Instant Article version if it is available.

The $1,000,000 Question: Are Facebook Instant Articles Worth It?

This depends on your business, but if you are a publisher and you want to build more eyeballs for your content, Facebook Instant Articles is worth consideration. You can use certain content for a lead magnet through Instant Articles, or leverage them to increase subscriber numbers.

However, Facebook Instant Articles aren’t for everyone. For example, visual artists and some other creatives probably don’t want to use them. For others that want to generate business on your website, those other features such as popups and other lead generation features are the ROI of attracting traffic to your site, which is why I and most other businesses have not adopted Instant Articles.

However, in 2022, with it being so difficult to generate organic brand awareness from Facebook, maybe it’s time to at least experiment for 90 days and tests the waters…if you embark on this experiment, know that you can easily turn off Facebook Instant Articles. But before that, here are the potential benefits from using Facebook Instant Articles:

1. Your content will undoubtedly load faster on mobile devices, providing a better user experience for mobile Facebook users

At the end of the day, this is the whole purpose of Facebook Instant Articles! In fact, Facebook says Instant Articles load over 4.9x faster than mobile web, meaning lower bounce rates and deeper engagement.

2. You might get more clicks on your content in the newsfeed and therefore more eyeballs on your content

Buffer did a study a while back that measured the effectiveness of Facebook Instant Articles. They found that, when compared with mobile web articles users found in their Feed, Instant Articles got 20% more clicks.

More recently, a Facebook survey found that users open 52% more articles on the Instant Articles format, as opposed to mobile web links. This is an eye-popping number, especially if your revenue is highly dependent on individual site visits. Plus, the articles look nicer than typical mobile web.  

Further Reading: Top 4 Facebook Marketing Problems and How to Solve Them

3. More people will read more of your content

Just like people view more social media posts from creators they find relevant (OK, and close friends), putting your content’s best face forward can lead to longer reading time. In fact, Buffer found that people who read Instant Articles are 70% less likely to leave before they finish reading. Even in a marketing modality that has high ROI, it’s easy to see Instant Articles becoming one of the more effective social media marketing methods.

Further Reading: Here’s What Your Facebook Posts for Increased Engagement Should Look Like Today

4. You might get more shares on Facebook for your content

One thing’s for sure: Facebook Instant Articles look great. And because they can be read inside Facebook rather than a browser, they’re easy to read. Maybe that’s one reason why studies suggest these articles are 30% more likely to be shared than other mobile web articles. In turn, these shares help distribute your content organically, so you don’t have to pay for it.

Further Reading: 10 Tips to Get More Shares on Facebook

5. You can monetize Instant Articles

According to Facebook, content creators can keep 100% of the revenue generated by display ads and 70% of the revenue from Facebook Audience Network traffic they generate. Not only is this a huge percentage of the revenue, but it can add up quickly. Especially for bloggers, this is a potentially lucrative opportunity.

Is It Time to Experiment with Facebook Instant Articles?

Experimentation is an integral part of digital marketing. If your Facebook marketing efforts are stalling, it might be the time for a 90-day Facebook Instant Articles experiment. Depending on your overall strategy, you might set it up without much monetization. This way, you could concentrate on how much extra traffic your Instant Articles have generated. Then, add full monetization to create a new revenue stream. At the end of the day, this technique takes relatively little effort.

Further Reading: How to Promote Your Facebook Content Using 7 Powerful Tactics

Hero photo by Muhammad Asyfaul on Unsplash

What value can Facebook Instant Articles bring us that we might actually be missing out on? Let's find out!
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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