You may have noticed some changes to your news feed when you are on Facebook.
Instead of a photo attached to a headline for a news article, you may have started seeing the full article appear in your feed, just as you would if you were looking at the news site itself.
You may have looked for information on the site about this change, or even scoured your own business page for information on how to do it yourself, but have come up short.
That’s because this feature, known as an instant article, was only available to a select few publishers when it was rolled out nine months ago. But as of April 12, there will be Facebook instant articles for all.
What are Facebook Instant Articles?
As their name suggests, Facebook instant articles show up on the site instantly.
Users do not have to click a link and go to another site to read an article. They don’t actually have to do anything to see the article — it appears in full in their news feed.
Publishers can format these articles to include many (if not all) of the same features that they include on their own sites. Previously, the only things that publishers could show users were the headline and a featured photograph. They had only an instant to capture users’ attention with those elements, which made it harder to generate views.
Benefits of Instant Articles
There are many benefits of Facebook instant articles for all types of publishers, no matter the genre and no matter the size.
Most importantly, instant articles help to capture more views. We all know how difficult it is to compete for users’ attention in an age in which everyone is constantly on the go and they have an overload of information. Instant articles put that information in front of users without them having to do anything.
In the past, users might have seen the photograph on a link and maybe stop to read the headline. Now, any of the story elements can grab their attention, causing them to slow down and read a little more.
Users are likely to read more of your content in an instant article, if not the whole article. Just to be sure you know what kind of impact you are getting, Facebook offers analytics that show the scroll depth of the article, letting you know how much users are actually reading.
Instant articles also solve the problem of loading times. If your site is overloaded with traffic or experiencing other issues, the story won’t load as quickly and your visitors are likely to leave and not come back.
Instant articles do not take time to load. You won’t lose readers to any technical issues. Plus, if more readers are accessing your content on Facebook, you can take some of the burden off your website.
Publishers aren’t the only ones who benefit from instant articles — Facebook has a lot to gain, as well.
Facebook understands that it has to keep adapting to maintain the user experience on the site and keep people happy. Otherwise, it could quickly go the way of MySpace or one of the hundreds of other social networking sites that have come and gone.
Instant articles help to preserve the user experience by providing added value. Users can get more information without having to leave the site, saving them time and hassle.
Facebook also knows that instant articles will keep people on the site for longer. Even if the average time a user is on the site only goes up by a minute or so, that can have huge implications for Facebook’s revenue stream. It will be able to sell more advertising for those articles.
To get the most from Facebook instant articles, you will need to pay close attention to your analytics and do a lot of A/B testing.
You may find that tactics you used for traditional sharing do not generate the same response with instant articles. Specifically, traditional sharing focused on just getting users to click and often did not follow up with quality content. Instant articles present the content itself, so it must be top-notch.
Monitor your analytics to find out what articles are performing best and note any patterns, such as the types of topics, length of the articles, writing strategies, or interactive elements. Write more articles that change only one of those elements to focus in on what practices are working best.
Include links to other content in your instant articles, as well as a call to action. That will encourage users to visit your site or follow you to encourage an ongoing relationship.
Facebook instant articles offer some exciting possibilities. Start publishing when they roll out in April, and use these tips for best practices.