Facebook’s new publishing platform, Facebook Instant Articles, just opened up to all publishers, and we’re on the fence about it.
As Facebook describes it, Instant Articles brings value to publishers by allowing them to deliver a fast and immersive reading experience to those on Facebook.
Essentially, Instant Articles allows publishers to share a link to the original article on their business page. When users of the Facebook mobile app click on the link, they are taken to the Instant Article version of the content. When desktop users click on the link, they are taken to the original article on the publisher’s website.
Rather than loading an article using a web browser, which takes over seconds on average, Instant Articles load using the same fast tools Facebook uses to load photos and videos in the Facebook app, allowing articles to load 10 times faster than standard articles. Publishers can serve their own ads and keep that revenue, track readership in real-time and customize the look and feel of articles to match their brand.
How to Publish Instant Articles
After you sign up for Instant Articles and submit your sample articles, you can begin publishing. Sounds simple, right? That’s what we thought, until we began the process.
Step 1: Signing Up
To set up an account, you have to visit facebook.com/instant_articles/signup. From here, you select which page you would like to sign up for Instant Articles (one at a time, if you have more than one page) and agree to the terms. Then, you can:
- Add Your Team:Give your design and development team a role on this page so they can access these tools.
- Get the Pages Manager App: Many pages will already have this.
- Claim your URL:Authorize your site by claiming a URL. Because this entails changing features in the back-end of your website, we recommend letting your web development team do it for you, that way you don’t accidentally alter the look or functionality of your website! Your developers will have to add the following meta tag to your website’s <head> tag in the HTML and then specify the URL here.
<meta property=“fb:pages” content=“135208108111” />
- Create Style Templates:Customize the look and feel of your articles with the Style Editor.
- Create Articles:Format articles and send them via RSS or API.
Step 2: Submit 10 Articles for Review
The Instant Articles team will review a sample batch of your Instant Articles before you can begin to publish. Learn more about the article review process.
- Create 10 Articles: You must create at least 10 articles before submitting for review.
- Submit for Review: Facebook will review your articles and provide feedback within 3-5 business days.
- Resubmit, If Needed: Resolve any feedback on design or policy violations.
Step 3: Begin Publishing!
Once your Instant Articles feed has been approved, you’ll be ready to go. When your feed is approved, your team can decide when to begin publishing Instant Articles.
Remember that publishing an Instant Article does not create a corresponding Facebook post containing the article in your Page timeline or in News Feed. This is true whether you publish Instant Articles manually or through the API or an RSS feed.
What We’re Excited About
Without a doubt, Instant Articles will improve functionality and experience for mobile users. In terms of performance, even if your website is mobile-friendly, fully responsive, and has great load times, Instant Articles will still win.
While it looks like Instant Articles requires some coding to format, we’re excited to hear that Facebook is working with WordPress to develop an official plugin that WordPress users can use to get their sites Instant Article ready. Yippee!
Our biggest concern regarding Instant Articles is that users will be seeing less actual traffic to their site (since instead of clicking a link to read the article on your website, users will read it directly from Facebook) —but is it worth the trade-off for the potential to reach more readers and get more shares?
Also, we have thought about timeline ranking, in which Facebook has been known to favor native content, such as videos. While they currently are not planning on favoring Instant Articles in the newsfeed, if this newer layout leads to increased time spent reading the articles and more interaction, then yes, an Instant Article could essentially be favored in the timeline.
It’s also possible that someday soon, publishers will have to pay for the opportunity to publish their content via instant articles—or at the very least, there will be a paid option with more features. If and when that happens, it could create a serious rift in the potential organic reach of social content.
Ultimately, even if you used the platform, it would still be in your best interest to publish those articles on-site as well, for SEO purposes. Either way, instant articles primarily serve as a new channel for visibility and traffic and they’ll be important in preserving and building new customer relationships.