In May 2015, Facebook Instant Articles opened up for all publishers around the world.
Some were very excited and jumped at the opportunity right away. Blazing fast loading time and immersive visual storytelling features seemed like a new, comprehensive way to engage more readers.
The world’s biggest news outlets dipped their toes into IA’s functionalities right away. Some of the early results were quite encouraging, including growth in reader engagement among mobile users, and particularly Millennials.
The Concept Of Facebook Instant Articles
Instant Articles are Facebook’s native publishing platform. Their concept is similar to Google AMP. Traditional articles on Facebook take longer to load on mobile, while Instant Articles are optimized for fast loading speeds. Users don’t have to leave the platform to read them.
A year later after the release, the initial excitement around Facebook Instant Articles began to slow down. Some of the earliest adopters, like The Guardian and The New York Times even turned away from them. Their concerns were less control over ads, and lack of analytics data.
New Features Turned It All Around
In 2018, Facebook introduced new features for Instant Articles. They included “circulation and navigation” that help consumers discover and engage with more content from the publisher. They gave more control over call-to-action (CTA) and ad placements.
Circulation and navigation features referred to a set of buttons within the articles that contain links to more content, or sharing options.
An opened article can contain the option to share it via Facebook Messenger.
Call-to-action units are available to set up within the platform.
You can select different pop-ups and embed them in your Instant articles. The IA builder that we’re going to describe below, is designed to make it simple to include marketing elements though a self-service management. All pop-ups work at the same speed as other IA elements and include call-to-action buttons that prompt users to take further actions.
Since 2018, Facebook hasn’t stopped for a day in an effort to make IA a great publisher tool for driving revenue.
For example, you can now monitor IA CTAs performance in your account. Insights on each unit’s performance are available along with explanation.
Page-like & Subscription Units
For publishers whose strategic priority is subscriptions, it’s crucial to drive more visitors to the website and offer subscription options throughout their journeys.
Being totally aware of this, Facebook launched a new feature in 2018 allowing to embed subscription buttons in IA.
During the testing of a new feature, it turned out that people who saw IA were 17% more likely to subscribe to publications from Facebook app rather than those from website links.
Similarly, page-like units invite readers to like your page instantly without leaving the article. The like will be attributed to the Facebook page that manages Instant Articles.
To enable recirculation within the publisher’s website, Facebook added several options to encourage visitors to delve deeper into your stories.
If a reader chooses to proceed with subscription, they can complete it within the app, dropping card details in the field.
Instant Articles Builder
It seems Facebook is working without pausing to appease publishers concerns. After launching all these advanced features, Facebook claimed they’ve seen an increase in revenue for publishers.
How Can You Benefit From Implementing Instant Articles
There are many reasons publishers should use Instant Articles. Here’s a quick run-down of some benefits:
- They load fast and provide enhanced user experience
- It provides value to your audience where they are
- They have more engagement and shares than other articles on Facebook
- Their bounce rate is 70% lower
- They are shared 30% more than other articles on mobile
- You can monetize them by placing ads or through Facebook’s Audience Network
- You can keep 100% of the revenue with the ads you display and 70% of the revenue from Facebook Audience Network
- The articles are customizable, e.g. you can add logos and change colors
- You can include a form to sign up for your email newsletter
- They have interactive features like maps, graphics, etc.
- You can include auto-playing videos, tilt-to-pan images, and more to ensure the greatest user experience
- You can embed YouTube videos, Tweets, and other media in the articles
- A free WordPress plugin is available
- You can a 20% higher CTR with links inside their content than other publishing formats on mobile
- Instant Articles integrate with majority of analytics tools, like GA
- It’s easy to do a split-test campaign with them because of their high rate of shares
- Publishers can automate publishing and save time because of the RSS feed
- Facebook has 2.8 billion monthly users, and you can expand your outreach
- Most people read articles on mobile nowadays and Facebook Instant Articles provide one of the best experiences for that
- Publishers can also target mobile users effectively because only mobile users will read Instant Articles
Drawbacks of Instant Articles
Despite being convenient and pleasant for users, Facebook Instant Articles have their downsides.
- Limited analytics functionality
Since all analytics trackers within Facebook Instant Articles are embedded via iframe tag, you won’t be able to set up behaviour analytics. Without these insights, you cannot trace readers’ behaviour, thus, your understanding of audience’s habits are not full. Tracking reader behaviour today is the most powerful way to define areas for improvement and adjust content strategy to maximize profits.
2. Identity Issues
Even though your Instant Articles may be housed in your CMS, they all are converted in one Facebook’s template. In a way, a brand may lose its identity and become more “Facebook-like.”
There is a logo bar at the top, some colourway, font choices — and that’s it. Because publishers are using the same template, all the Instant Articles kind of feel like one Facebook’s production. From marketing point of view, there is a risk to lose a certain amount of connection with readers who are used to visit your website for the “feel” and “look” of your brand.
3. Reliance on the Platform
Sound like something very unpleasant.
Being dependent is never good. If you fully commit to a single platform, you become dependent on platform’s content distribution algorithms that constantly change.
4. Ad Unit Restrictions
There are some limitations when it comes to ad formats within IA. For example, a maximum of 4 total banners per article, or no autoplay videos.
Read Also: How to Set Up Facebook Instant Articles with WordPress
Facebook Instant Articles have come a long way from when they first came out in 2015. The social media giant is committed to their success and drawing more publishers to it. That gives publishers the opportunity to use the platform for their growth.
The monetary incentive certainly helps. But Instant Articles can provide publishers with more benefits than just that. With billions of monthly active users, Facebook’s stronghold in the social media world is undeniable.
These articles are optimized to help you reach a larger audience and potentially find more loyal readers. For both novice and seasoned publishers, Facebook Instant Articles are clearly worth a try.