Facebook is rapidly transforming the way people consume news. According to data from Pew Research Center, half of the adults on Facebook use the site to follow news stories in real time.
However, few people know that Facebook recently released a new feature called "Instant Articles," to deliver content more reliably, especially to phones. Instant Articles, being made available to all publishers at Facebook's F8 conference today, April 12, is, the social media giant says, "a way to create fast interactive articles on Facebook."
The articles load quickly and offer features such as the ability to move photos left to right to see the full image -- plus maps that can be zoomed out to see the geographic locale where the photos were taken.
Sounds good, right? So, how can you use Instant Articles to enhance your own brand image online?
Prominent brands are already leveraging instant articles.
A number of big brands, including major publishers such as Slate, The Atlantic and the Washington Post, have already started using Instant Articles to reach consumers.
Julia Beizer, director of mobile products for the Post, told NiemanLabs that Instant Articles has significantly increased engagement on the site:
“We have done a lot of work to optimize our own properties for speed, because we know how much it affects our ability to keep readers from bailing before your content loads. That’s so important on mobile, and when we started talking to Facebook, we felt like there was clear alignment in what we were trying to do. We were both interested in speed, and we were both interested in immersive storytelling.”
What brands should know about Instant Articles
Here are a few of the reasons how Instant Articles helps publishers.
Mimic your brand template. Instant Articles publishers can use the color scheme and formatting options of their own brands, allowing them to keep their brand image consistent, from Facebook, to their websites, to other social media platforms.
Utilize richer content. Instant Articles is equipped with an array of rich content that can be incorporated into your articles, and the use of those images and videos will make your articles far more compelling.
Easily integrated into your CMS. Instant Articles is compatible with WordPress and other content management systems (CMS), meaning that you can easily share your articles from your website to your Facebook news feed. This also means that you can make changes to articles in your feed through your CMS, which saves you the time of editing content in multiple places.
Highly accurate analytics. Beizer commented that enhanced analytics features are among the core benefits of Instant Articles. Citing her team's experience, Beizer said that Instant Articles allows publishers to use comScore tracking; that, she said, has given the Washington Post a much better understanding of the traffic that its articles receive. Instant Articles traffic can be reported on a daily or hourly basis, allowing publishers to identify peak times for different types of content and to use this data to inform their future content campaign strategies.
More efficient content delivery. Instant Articles is also a great platform for quickly delivering content to users, which is necessary to reduce Facebook lead-acquisition costs. Facebook claims that the articles are displayed 10 times faster than traditional mobile browsers -- an important feature, given that mobile users are prioritizing speed more than ever.
Update articles to reflect new developments. News content changes all the time, which can make it difficult to update stories across all your social media channels. Instant Articles streamlines the process by allowing you to incorporate changes to your articles into the different feeds to which they’re syndicated.
Getting started with instant articles
Until now, Instant Articles has been available only to approved beta testers. But now that it's opening up widely, users will need to have a Facebook page and apply to be an Instant Articles member before they can start publishing. Interested? Here's what to do:
Access your instant articles tools. Prior to creating articles, you’ll need to download the Instant Articles toolkit (which you can access on business.facebook.com).
You’ll also need to claim the domain that you want to publish content on. You can claim an entire domain, which permits you to syndicate articles from any part of your site, or you can claim a single subdomain, which won’t allow you to publish from the root domain.
Create your first article. If your account has been approved, you’ll need to use HTML code to create your first article. Take the following steps to get started:
Include metadata in your article. You can copy and paste the necessary code from this page.
Create the header for your article, including its title, subtitle, author and date and time of publication.
Use HTML tags to format the body of the content.
Use the tag to embed multimedia content into your article.
Syndicate your articles to RSS feeds. After your article has been created, you'll be ready to publish it. You can automatically share it through a secure RSS feed, using the tag, though you’ll need to use a separate tag for every feed that you publish to. You can read more about the tag, its core elements and the steps needed to connect to your Facebook page in this guide.
Next, you’ll need to verify that your articles are being syndicated to your RSS feed. You can check your RSS configuration screen on your Facebook settings page, though you’ll be notified in Facebook of any errors with your RSS feed (in which case, you’ll need to reconnect your feed to your page).
Have you started using Instant Articles yet? If so, describe your experiences, as well as any tips you’ve picked up. Share your feedback by leaving a comment below: