When Facebook introduced their new Instant Articles feature, it was sold as a response to poor mobile loading times.
And yes, slow page load is a problem – for content producers as well as Facebook.
We know, for example, that for every extra second a page takes to load, you lose half of your viewers.
And for Facebook, this means a poor User Experience – damaging to their platform.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Put simply, Facebook don’t want you to leave their platform to view content on a different site.Facebook don't want you to leave their platform to view content on a different site. Click To Tweet
They want as much content consumed natively as possible.
This happened with photos. Then it happened with videos. And 360 content.
And now they’re coming for your blog.
So what are Instant Articles?
In short, they’re massively stripped back versions of your web pages, viewed within Facebook – rather than viewed directly on your site.
Think: header image, author, title, date, and text – with a few images and video scattered throughout.
No fancy sharing buttons.
No parallax effect background images.
Just pure content.
Here’s what a page looks like.
And do you know what? They do load bloody fast.
Are they for mobile viewers only?
At the moment, yes.
If you’re using a desktop browser, then you still get the plain old links out to other sites – though it’s not difficult to imagine that they’ll be opened up to desktop users at some point too.
However, the majority of users now access Facebook from a mobile device (as of August 2016, out of Facebook’s 1 BILLION monthly active users, 58% access from a mobile device) – so it makes sense to start here.
How do I get them?
There are a few ways, depending on how your website and content is built – Facebook’s own guide is pretty comprehensive.
Be warned though, you will need to get your hands dirty with some HTML5 – so if the thought of tinkering around with some coding brings you out in a cold sweat, you might want to get someone to give you a hand.
After you’ve set up your site to deliver content to the IA platform, (and you’ve played around with the code to make sure it conforms to Facebook’s guidelines), then you submit your articles for review.
This normally takes a couple of days – but once it’s done, you can start publishing your content as Instant Articles.
To share an Instant Article, just post the link to your content as you would normally. If there’s an IA version in your library, and if the user is viewing it from a mobile device, then the Instant Article version will be delivered to them automatically.
What are the benefits of using Instant Articles?
OK, there are a few:
1. Faster load times
They’re quick. I mean, REALLY quick. And everyone loves it when pages and posts open quickly. Ain’t nobody got time for crap page speeds.
2. Fewer bounced viewers
Faster loading means fewer back-outs.
That means more viewers for your content.
Which is always lovely.
3. Priority in the Facebook algorithm
This is the biggie for us – Facebook are always pushing their latest features harder in their algorithm.
It’s why Facebook Live videos are all over your newsfeed at the moment – it’s a relatively new feature, so it’s being pushed hard.
And if you’re sharing content on Facebook, you want them to help out by pushing it hard.
So, get your content produced in Instant Article format, and enjoy all that lovely enhanced reach.
Mmmmm. Lovely reach.
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Also published on Medium.
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