Facebook Instant Articles: How to Get Them

Improve load time and user interaction with Facebook instant articles. Are they right for you?

Facebook Instant Articles are a great way to serve your content to readers without fearing they will leave your website due to load time. In fact, even more than improving load time, Instant Articles allow your readers to interact with what you’ve created for them.

Conventional Articles vs. instant articles

The focus of conventional articles is to read and observe media such as images, graphics, videos, and charts without special attention to content interaction. In a conventional Facebook article:

  1. Readers will be directed to your website with other website features, including pop-ups, opt-in forms and the menu.
  2. The article will load as normal with slight-to-long delay depending on your website.
  3. The click will count as a hit on your website, counting as a referral from Facebook.
  4. Readers will read through as normal, clicking on images to enlarge them.

By contrast, the focus of Instant Articles is to interact with content, improving the likability of their experience and potentially reinforcing absorption of the material. In Facebook’s words: “Instant Articles introduces a suite of creative tools that allow publishers to bring their stories to life in new ways, with high-resolution photos, auto-play videos, interactive maps, and audio captions.” -Facebook for Developers

Readers will be directed to the Instant Article instead of a website with potentially distracting elements, like menus, sidebars, and other features.

Additionally, hits to your Instant Articles won’t count as a hit on your website. Note that you can gauge clicks to your Instant Articles by using Google Analytics.

Facebook Instant Articles comparison
Facebook Instant Articles create a richer experience than users will receive on your website. Click To Tweet

Who already has Facebook Instant Articles?

Right now you can see Instant Articles being used by:

  • The Washington Post
  • Vox Media
  • Spiegel Online
  • Slate
  • The New York Times
  • The Huffington Post
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Mic
  • MTV
  • NBC News
  • Guardian
  • BuzzFeed
  • National Geographic
  • Daily Mail Online
  • Build
  • The Atlantic
  • BBC News
  • The Dodo

To check out the Instant Article versions of a post, you need to use the Facebook mobile app. Click on the articles with the lightning bolt in the upper right.

Facebook Instant Articles lightening bolt

How can i get instant articles?

If you have an inkling you’d like to try it out, fill out Facebook’s Instant Article form to seek out more information. They’ll send you an email that links to the developer’s information and will also invite you to the Facebook Group for Media Publishers.

Curious about what the email says? Here it is:

Facebook Instant Article email

Facebook features to look forward to

Video Auto-Play

Any video can be set to autoplay and even loop, creating an interactive and entertaining cross-media experience. Can you already think about how documentaries, biographies, and tutorials can translate to a really interesting experience for users?

Note that your videos must be embedded on your website to include autoplay. Facebook Instant Video supports video from third-party players, but these videos will not support the autoplay enhancement.

Expand and Explore

When a user taps a photo or video, it expands. To see more details beyond what is currently showing in their frame, just tilt the screen!

Note that images and video you allow the expand option should be high-resolution so they appear crisp when zoomed in.

Snap to Frame

Creating a really smooth and movie theater-like experience, images and videos can also appear full-frame, snapping to fit the dimensions of your device. Facebook says this creates "a stepped, card-by-card scrolling experience for readers," and they recommend using portrait mode to film videos meant to be shown on your Instant Articles.

Audio Captions

This is such a great one! Allow your readers to hear your voice...literally. This works really well for complex thoughts or if you're hoping to really connect with your reader.

You have the option to set your audio files to autoplay. If you do, as the user scrolls past the audio file, they will hear your snippet. No worries, the user also has control of a toggle on/off.

3D Rotating Maps

Facebook does the work for you here. All you have to do is specify a GPS point and choose your desired zoom and they'll do the rest. Users will see a 'hovering' view of the location you've chosen to bring them to.

Geotagging

What a great way to give the users the full context. You have the choice to hide a reference map behind any image. When you do this, a globe icon will appear. The users can click on the icon to see the map - click again, and they'll return to the image.

Embeds

Instant Articles can also host web-based content, ads, social, interactive graphics, and analytics so you can keep track of your visitors.

How to Prepare for Instant Articles

Facebook Instant Articles are planned to be released on April 12th. Here is everything you'll need to take to get them running for you as soon as possible.

A Facebook Page

Your page needs to be for a business or an organization -not a personal profile. If you don't already have a business page, follow Facebook's steps to set one up.

The Facebook App

The Facebook mobile app allows you to preview your instant articles on your mobile device. You likely already have this, but if not, follow the download instructions for either iPhone or Android.

An RSS Feed

If you want to automatically publish content from your website to Facebook Instant Articles, you will need to set up an RSS feed that displays the full content of your articles. Good news! If you use WordPress, you already have one set up.

If you're still wondering what an RSS feed is, read through this article to learn more about RSS feeds, and how to set one up.

The Instant Articles Plugin

To be fully ready, you'll need to optimize your website for Facebook Instant Articles by using a plugin. Soon, we'll see the release of the Instant Articles plugin for WordPress.

Another option is to use the PageFrog plugin, which is already up-and-running! PageFrog was created to enable support for Google Accelerated Mobile Pages, but it will also work with Instant Articles.

Articles to Submit to Facebook

You will need at least 50 articles to submit to Facebook for approval for conversion into Instant Articles.

A great rule-of-thumb when choosing articles to be in the Instant Article format is to choose the articles that look great on mobile. Think twice when converting an article that has wide charts or anything else readers will need a wide and detailed view of.

High-Resolution Images

For images that users can expand, you need to ensure the minimum resolution is 1024 x 1024. 2048 x 2048 or greater resolution is preferred. Videos you're hoping users can expand should be 640 x 480, minimum.

Facebook Business Manager (Optional)

Facebook Business Manager is a great tool if you need to contact support for Facebook Instant Articles.

What do you think?

Is there enough benefit to using Instant Articles to display your content, and are you willing to do the legwork it takes to get them up-and-running? Chat with me on Twitter or via email!

Thoughts or Questions?

Our blog does not accept comments, but we want to know what you think!  Tag us on Twitter to get the conversation started or contact us.