Simple Guide to Facebook Instant Articles (FBIA)

 

As the familiar saying goes, content is king. That may be true, but I challenge you to face the reality that if your content isn’t delivered quickly, then it’s nothing – no matter how great it is.

This is true primarily because mobile has become the preferred device for consuming content. Companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook continually consider how best to reach the public and make people’s customer experience, or CX, the best it can possibly be. Successful CX means not only serving the right content, but also making sure it’s served at the right time, which means as quickly as possible before audiences lose interest.

Facebook created Facebook Instant Articles, or FBIA, to help pre-load content and increase site speed. The company announced on Aug. 1 this year it would lower the ranking of a web page appearing in the News Feed if Facebook’s technology detects it will load slowly. This update is great news for the public and publishers who have fast-loading websites, but for those who have poor site performance – look out!

 

What is Facebook Instant Articles?

FBIA is a tool that publishers can use to upload their articles directly into Facebook to allow community/Facebook page managers to easily select, schedule and post content already within the Facebook world. Every article published as an Instant Article must be published on a news publisher’s website as well. Developer tools are available to take content published elsewhere and send it to Facebook via API.

Page owners have control, however, as the tool doesn’t automatically make the uploaded content live. And because the content can be found in Facebook’s world in this way, content loads within seconds for users who click on it. FBIA works with all sorts of non-ecommerce-related content formats, including multimedia inclusions.

Instant Articles are available for Facebook users with iPhones and Android devices that are running the following Facebook app versions:

  • iPhone Facebook for iPhone Version 30.0 and iOS 7.0 or above
  • Android Facebook for Android Version 57 and Android Jelly Bean or above

How do Facebook Instant Articles work?

When an article is published from FBIA, it’s an HTML5 document already optimized for fast mobile performance, rich storytelling capabilities, branded design and customized visual display. From there, designers and developers are able to apply styling to the content and interactive pieces using a standardized markup language similar to XML.

To help publishers achieve their goals – and users stay in the Facebook app as long as possible – Facebook updated the layout earlier this year to display more ads. Additional features include event-driven elements like call-to-action units in the articles that make it possible to promote email signups or request Page Likes, push free trials and app downloads for publishers, and more. These features not only help publishers, they also help Facebook make money because the company gets paid when users view ads.

Using Instant Articles lets people read publishers’ content within the Facebook app, so Facebook users no longer visit publishers’ websites directly. However, you can use your existing web-based analytics and attribution systems to track article traffic from the usual third-party providers like Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics. Facebook also provides good analytics by published article for all Instant Articles to see metrics for reach (impressions) and engagement (time spent, scroll depth, clicks).

 

Facebook’s desire for content to be published on its platform first

Leveraging Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, Google has been able to create a measure to allow content to load faster by bundling their code. If a site is AMP-certified, it now has an advantage in the search results – and it’s only a matter of time before Google announces this measure has become an official part of the algorithm. Apple has done something similar with its Apple News Format, or ANF, to optimize content for iOS. These platforms tend to get the attention for content publishers, and Facebook is trying to change publishers’ level of platform priority.

In May of this year, Facebook began rolling out support for both AMP and ANF as a part of its open Instant Articles software development kit. Facebook hopes this software will encourage publishers to first publish content to Facebook, and then offer a design-once-publish-anywhere experience. Many believe that while Facebook is trying to help publishers, the company is also trying to push back hard against bigger publishing houses that have been against FBIA, including Forbes, Hearst and The New York Times.

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A whole industry of SEO bloggers is keeping track of search results and social news feed fluctuations to try to notify the public of these changes when they roll out. When the big guys such as Facebook and Google update their algorithms and the way content is served on newsfeeds and search results pages, all companies need to take note – especially when it’s announced publically as Facebook did in August.

If you aren’t already pushing your content to be included as an Instant Article on Facebook, now’s the time to start. Don’t wait; make sure your content is delivered quickly to audiences and the customer experience is strong.

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