Facebook has opened up Instant Articles to publishers of all sizes. In this post, we’ll guide you through the ins and outs of Facebook’s publishing platform and how to get started.

The announcement that Instant Articles were being opened up to all publishers came in February 2016, and they were officially opened for all on April 12, at Facebook’s F8 conference.

A Facebook-native publishing platform has been rumored since the social network changed its News Feed algorithm to favor “quality content” in 2013. Since that update, Facebook has become one of the top referrers of traffic to news sites and blogs of all sizes, and in the summer of 2015, traffic analytics company Parsely revealed that Facebook had even overtaken Google as the number 1 referrer of traffic to news sites.

Before launch over 1,000 publishers were testing the platform and as its rolled out to everyone we’re excited to learn:

  • How can you get started?
  • How they work?
  • How much engagement do they receive?

In this post, I’m happy to cover the ins and outs of Facebook Instant Articles and how to set them up for your blog. Here we go!

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First off: What are Instant Articles?

Instant Articles were built to solve a particular problem—slow loading times on the mobile web.

FB-Instant

The Facebook-native publishing platform includes a whole host of interactive features that help stories come to life on mobile, including auto-play video and tap-to-zoom image galleries.

Josh Roberts, Product Manager at Facebook explained more about the format in a post on the Facebook blog:

Facebook’s goal is to connect people to the stories, posts, videos or photos that matter most to them. Opening up Instant Articles will allow any publisher to tell great stories, that load quickly, to people all over the world. With Instant Articles, they can do this while retaining control over the experience, their ads and their data.

The platform has been in testing with selected partners since May 2015, and the data so far feels encouraging:

  • Instant Articles received 20% more clicks than mobile web articles from the News Feed
  • Once someone clicks on an Instant Article, they’re 70% less likely to abandon the article before reading
  • They are shared 30% more than mobile web articles on average

ia-infographic-final_1xFacebook also discovered that people on slower connections read 20-40% more Instant Articles than mobile web articles on average.

How to create Instant Articles

Step 1: Sign up

The first thing you need to do to get up and running is sign up to join the program. You can do this at instantarticles.fb.com.

Note: To begin publishing, you must have an existing Facebook Page and have Admin or Editor role on the Page.

IA-home

Step 2: Choose your Facebook Page

After signing up you’ll be given the chance to choose which Page you’d like to activate articles for:

choose-page

Step 3: Claim your URL

Once you’ve selected your Facebook Page, you’ll be asked to provide a URL you intend to use for articles. This URL will serve as the basis for the URLs of all your posts (and, in most cases, will be your blog URL, for example, blog.bufferapp.com).

To claim your URL you need to add a meta tag to your HTML’s <head> tag and then add the URL to your settings. All the information you need to do this can be found in the Instant Articles Settings:claim-url

Step 4: Create articles

In testing, Facebook discovered that publishers want a single tool to publish articles to the web, mobile apps, or any other places readers see their content. As such, articles can be published directly from your Content Management System — there’s no need to re-create articles within Facebook.

You can sync your blog with Instant Articles via Facebook’s publishing tools, an RSS feed or by using an API. Here’s a quick rundown of the options available:

Connecting with WordPress

If you use WordPress to power your blog, Facebook has created a plugin to streamline the process of creating Instant Articles. This is likely to be the quickest and easiest way to get set up with Instant Articles.

➤ For a step-by-step guide on connecting your blog using the WordPress plugin check out this article

Publishing tools

Alongside the WordPress plugin, Facebook has teamed up with many publishing platforms to create seamless integration with Instant Articles.

Publishing Tools includes integrations with:

  • Drupal, Atavist, Medium, Perk Distributed, RebelMouse, ShareThis, Sovrn, Steller, Tempest. Find the full details here.

RSS feed

If you aren’t using WordPress or another CMS supported by Facebook Publishing Tools, you can connect your content to Facebook through an RSS feed.

An RSS feed can integrate seamlessly with Facebook with new posts being automatically syndicated as Instant Articles whenever you hit publish.

To enable publishing from an RSS feed, you must configure your content management system to generate a new RSS feed which contains the full content of each article in Instant Articles markup (you may need a developer to help with formatting the feed). 

➤ A guide to formatting RSS feeds in Instant Articles markup can be found here.

API

The API allows you to create, publish, update and delete Instant Articles directly from your content management system and provides an excellent alternative to connecting via RSS.

➤ A guide to using the Instant Articles API can be found here.

Step 5: Customize styling

Facebook gives you the option to customize the styling of your articles during setup; here you can upload a logo and select which fonts are used throughout your articles. Font choices are currently limited to the Helvetica Neue and Georgia font families.

styling

Step 6: Submit for review

After you’ve completed the above steps you can submit your feed to be reviewed by Facebook to verify that all articles generated from your website are properly formatted.

Facebook currently aims to review all submissions with 24-48 hours.

Useful resources:

➤ Instant Articles developer docs

Instant Articles blog

How to connect your WordPress blog with Instant Articles

5 things you need to know about Instant Articles

1. You can monetize Instant Articles

Publishers can drive revenue from their content. If you sell the ads in your content, Facebook is giving publishers 100% of the revenue and is taking 30% cut if the ads are sold through the Facebook’s Audience Network.

Facebook’s Audience Network offers publishers the opportunity to leverage the power of Facebook ads to monetize their content, and when you get started with Instant Articles you have the opportunity to opt-in to Audience Network ads:

audience-network

If you sell your own ads, you’re able to serve video ads, animated ads and banner ads within articles. More information on integrating your ads can be found in the Facebook Developer Docs.

2. Building an Instant Article doesn’t create a post from your Page

When you publish an Instant Article, it doesn’t automatically create a corresponding Facebook post from your page. What happens is that any time a reader on a mobile device is directed to the article’s URL on Facebook, the link will be displayed as an Instant Article, instead of loading up in a mobile browser.

3. Quicker loading speeds can increase readership

Load speed is incredibly important for any blog, and Instant Articles can load up to 10x faster than mobile web articles. As mentioned a little earlier, the super-fast load speed or instant articles leads to 70% less abandonment and 20% more clicks.

The average attention span is down to just eight seconds online, which means faster loading times are a huge advantage when readers are eager to access content in an instant.

4. You’re in control of which posts are published

Once you get set up with Instant Articles, you’re 100% in control of which articles you share to Facebook. This means you can republish every article from your blog, or just a select few – as more data becomes available it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on strategies here and see what performs best.

You can control which articles you publish to Facebook from your Library. To view your library, click Publishing Tools from the top of your Facebook Page and then select Instant Articles from the menu on the left of the screen.

The Instant Articles library looks like this:

instant-articles-library

From here you can edit articles and choose which of your drafts to publish.

5. You can add email sign up forms to articles

email

Email capture is a vital part of many content marketing strategies, and losing out on potential subscribers is a fear that Facebook have addressed by enabling email capture within articles.

“One of the other things we heard is that publishers want to build a more direct relationship with their readers through Instant Articles, and one way to do that is through more regular contact with those readers.” Facebook said in a statement.

Over to you

As with any publishing platform, the value of Facebook Instant Articles greatly depends on your business model and goals.

At Buffer, we’re excited to test out the platform and see whether articles can increase the reach of our content and also our conversions. Traffic from Facebook is one of our highest converting sources, and I’m curious how Instant Articles may affect conversions going forwards. We’ll be sure to keep you posted. 🙂

As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear your views on Instant Articles and whether you’ll be using them for your business or blog? 

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Written by Ash Read

Content crafter at Buffer. I’m fascinated by storytelling, entrepreneurship, and travel. When I’m not writing, you’ll usually find me on a football pitch or basketball court.

  • Tiffany Kalus

    Typo at the beginning – you’ve put 2106 instead of 2016 🙂

    • Hey Tiffany, thanks so much, that one should be updated now 🙂

      • Tiffany Kalus

        No problem at al! Great article too – I’ve been wondering when Instant Articles were coming, we’ve been waiting long enough!

    • Let’s face it, Tiffany: He’s ahead of our time.

  • Looking forward to the result of your test before I try applying this to my own blog.

  • Ashley Ruskiewicz

    This is awesome! Thanks for breaking this down. I’ve been very excited about this new feature! Trying it out now!

    • Thanks Ashley, love to hear how you get on 🙂

  • How does Instant Articles affects your stats? Do they still count as pageviews?

    • Jose Angelo Gallegos

      Same Question: We don’t want our native blog page losing SEO value because we have more visits to the FB article vs. native blog pages

      • Hey Danilo, Jose, I think Instant Articles may affect page views as the content won’t directly link to your blog post – a version of your post will be created by FB as an Instant Article. This could mean your page views may drop slightly if people click on Instant Articles rather than a link from Facbeook back to your blog. Hope that may help answer your questions? 🙂

  • Great writeup. Also important to note that you have to have 50 articles in the library before you can submit them for review, so you can’t just do a one-off test.

    • I learned this the hard way yesterday. I’m close though – will try again at the end of the month!

      • Does this mean more than 50 articles on your blog if that’s the ‘library’ you aim to use? As in the URL I’ll submit will be my blog URL.

    • It looks like Facebook just reduced the number from 50 articles to 10 articles. Just noticed it.

      • Mallik K

        I think its now reduced to 5

  • Leslie

    I’m a correct in assuming that I currently wouldn’t be able to use
    Buffer to create Instant Articles? We’re on Drupal, so I’m guessing I’d
    need to use/manage an API or RSS feed?

  • Mario
  • Duane Zu Pereira

    Really interesting but I’m a little confused. Does Instant Articles affect our website (blog) traffic? Does it still count as page view?

    • Hey Duane, that’s a brilliant question. I believe Instant Articles could affect blog traffic as I don’t believe they show up as page views (yet to see this confirmed though). Love to keep an eye on this as we trial Instant Articles at Buffer 🙂

      • Duane Zu Pereira

        Thanks a lot Ash! 🙂

        • Kelly Shannon

          Great question! I was wondering this as well. Please keep us posted, Ash!

      • Matt Lambie

        Hey Ash, are you able to provide any updates on what you found? This is a big consideration for us too.

  • Tiffany Kalus

    If we published a blog through Instant Articles and then published the same blog on our website, would that be flagged as duplicate content?

    • Hey Tiffany, I don’t think Instant Articles are picked up by Google as they’re Facebook’s own rendering of your blog post, instead of new articles. If that makes sense? Not sure I’ve done the best job explaining this here 🙂

      • Tiffany Kalus

        I know what you’re saying! I thought as much, I just wanted to check 🙂 thanks!

  • Calvert Trust Exmoor

    Hey Ash, interesting piece thanks. There’s a typo in step 3, you’ve put ” infotmation”, should be “information”.

  • Raymond Fellers

    One suggestion, a pet peeve of mine, please make links in articles so they open in a new tab or window. Clicking on a link while reading an article only to leave the page is so annoying and easily fixed.

    • Hey Raymond, thanks for sharing this. Great spot. We aim to always use links that open in a new tab, I’ll pop back through and correct any that aren’t quite doing that right now. Appreciate the heads up here. 🙂

  • Thomas

    Thanks for the article Ash! I’m just in the midst of setting up instant articles for our blog and I’m facing some difficulties. The most important one is that I’m wondering if there’s no chance to get a preview of the articles (before submitting them when you have 50 of them). Or do I miss something here? 🙂

  • Koz

    Hello,

    I’ve been through the numerous steps to connect my blog to Instant Articles (using however the official plugin for WordPress) but I’m stuck at one point : do I have to create 50 new articles ? I thought that I could submit articles via the RSS feed generated by the plugin. If this is not the case, is it possible to copy/paste articles ?

    I’ve read many articles on getting started with Instant Articles – and the doc of course – but this is really not clear.

    Thank you for your help

    • Hey there Koz, thanks for your comment. I believe FB take a selection of your 50 most recent posts via the feed created from your blog. I’m not sure there’s a way to copy and paste articles into Instant Articles, apologies I can’t give a more concrete answer here, Koz.

      • Koz

        Thank you very much for your answer. I found the problem(s) in the meantime. First of all, the wordpress plugin has just been updated. There was a bug. Second, it seems that I did not correctly claimed my url (but I am dubious).

        Finally, but this was not part of the problem, the official plugin limits the items to 10. The code has to be changed to show up more than 10 articles.

  • Asking for advice: I have a personal webpage and a blog. I think I can only claim ONE url. What would you suggest / recommend me to do?
    1) http://www.juanmariasolare.com/
    2) https://juanmariasolare.wordpress.com/

    • Hey Juan, great question! I think you’re correct in only claiming one URL, I think my best advice would be to claim the URL you use the most, for example if you tend to direct people to http://www.juanmariasolare.com/, then I’d be tempted to claim that one.

      Love to hear how you get on with Instant Articles.

      • Hi there Ash,
        in the meanwhile I discovered that I can claim more than one URL. After claiming the first one, a second window appears offering you to claim a second (maybe a third one? I didn’t check.)
        Nevertheless, the whole process of creating articls is SO complicated and the help files orard one to the other one, that I gave up. I will wait some weeks or months until Facebook gathers more experience in the subject and develops a practical GUI or a “one in all” place to do things.

  • Peggy Murrah

    Hi – excellent article. Thank you. I’m curious, though…. my husband is a marriage and family therapist, focusing on couples where one of the parties has had an affair, and they want to work things out.

    Facebook has decided we are selling sex toys and shut down our ad account. (seriously!)

    I’m a little concerned about trying to set up these instant articles. We have over 2000 articles/blog posts and this would be a great thing for us – but do you think fb would shut us down again?

  • Matt

    Can you clarify who the articles would get distributed to?

  • Casey

    When I try to claim my URL I get this error: The fb:pages tag on the url doesn’t contain this page’s id. The url has fb:pages tag but they don’t have this page’s id. Please work with your developers / webmaster to add this tag to your website.

    Am I supposed to place this meta tag: in the head of my web page’s HTML before I can calm my URL? Or in the head of my Instant Article’s HTML
    ?

    • Serena@Thrift Diving

      I am getting this error message, too. I have tried to add the code they provide to the head of my blog via the Header and Footer plugin, but it doesn’t work. 🙁 There’s absolutely no info on how to set this up properly. Grrrrr……

    • Jon Seidl

      I’m getting the same error! CAN ANYONE HELP?

    • Add the meta-tag to your homepage and claim the domain, should work fine that way 🙂

  • Can you claim multiple URL’s we have a blog page, and different links with multiple articles? We are looking to use Instant Articles but with claiming the URL’s we are not sure if we are limited to just one URL or multiple?

  • Nitesh Manav

    Hey, thank you very much for this useful article. Now some questions 🙂 By reading this article, it appeared that there is no need to add RSS Feed if I am already using Facebook’s official WordPress Plugin ( I have some WordPress based sites ) but the post link that you have suggested to read for setting up this plugin says that after installing, activating and configuring this plugin, we need to go to the Facebook page settings- and add RSS feed at appropriate place. This is really confusing. Please me it clear.

    Second question: If I add RSS feed the do I have to configure feeds to “FULL TEXT” Option or “SUMMARY” option under WordPress Dashboard’s reading setting ?

    Thank you.

  • Jon Seidl

    So I’m having trouble with the step. No matter where I seem to put it, I keep getting this error:

    “The fb:pages tag on the url doesn’t contain this page’s id. The url has fb:pages tag but they don’t have this page’s id. Please work with your developers / webmaster to add this tag to your website.”

    Any help?

    • Jon Seidl

      Well, all the sudden it started working. Whew.

  • Etienne

    Hey guys, quick question :

    I don’t have any blog, I write articles using the old articles app on facebook and post them directly on my page. Can I use Instant Articles to optimize them? Or, does it work only to optimize a content from your website?

  • How to setup email sign up forms to instant articles?

  • Birthday Wisher

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    http://www.mycovers.net/

  • USGwynethCheril

    Useful blog post , BTW , others want a CA SC-7010 , my wife came across a template document here http://goo.gl/Pq9ReH

  • Greatarticle! Makes what can seem like the un-achievable into easy-to-follow
    steps for those who aren’t so confident in this area. We’re starting to
    see some great Facebook pages out there!

    facebook application development

  • Aaron Cox

    Fantastic article Ash! Found the new way to write and share articles easily! Was reading an article on the same yesterday https://sameerbansalwrites.quora.com/How-to-Publish-your-First-Post-on-Facebook-Instant-Articles these new ideas of getting interacted with your audiences are truly fab!, Ash keep posting articles like one!

  • Hey cool article, but where is : 5. You can add email sign up forms to articles ? still not available as of today right?

  • Great Article.

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  • Om Rai

    how can add email sign up forms to articles?

  • Srinivas Yadav

    Did Instant articles support a video sharing website as well? our website https://www.afnity.com built only for video sharing.