Facebook Instant Articles for Nonprofits: The Pros and Cons

Social Media

If there’s anything you can count on, it’s Facebook adding (or changing) features. What’s new now? Facebook instant articles.
Instant articles have been around for a while, but previously the feature was only available to a handful of publishers. Now, Facebook is allowing any publisher to share content using Facebook Instant Articles. And yes, “any publisher” could mean your nonprofit, if you want it to.

What are Facebook Instant Articles?

Instant Articles live on Facebook’s mobile platform with the goal of lowering the load time of content. Because publishers can upload their content directly to Instant Articles, which lives on Facebook, there’s no slow loading of a web page when users leave the app to read content. Facebook Instant Articles load up to 10x faster than an off-app article, so people are more likely to read it, instead of abandoning a slow-loading mobile web page. This also keeps people in the Facebook ecosystem longer, rather than sending them away to other web pages, which makes Facebook (and its advertisers) happy.
When publishers “build” an instant article, they must build it using a URL that simultaneously exists on their website. The article isn’t built into a single Facebook post but, instead, it simply ensures that when that URL is shared and clicked on Facebook’s mobile app, users see the Instant Article that corresponds with the URL rather than the web page.
Facebook Instant Articles are also pretty customizable, so publishers have a chance to make their content look good with photos and auto-play videos. Facebook will also let you feature ads on your articles, if you’re into that sorta thing.
Pros and cons of using Facebook's Instant Articles feature:  Click To Tweet

3 Downsides of Facebook Instant Articles:

Nothing’s perfect, so there are are a few disadvantages to using Facebook’s Instant Articles:

1. Instant Articles might hurt your website traffic.
Because the users that are reading your content are no longer reading it on your website, they’re less likely to click around to other pages and less likely to convert. That being said, you won’t be giving up any important data by using these. Facebook allows you to hook up your third-party analytics tools (Google Analytics, for example) to Instant Articles so you can still track what’s going on with your content.
2. You have to be approved to publish.
There’s a one-time approval process that can be difficult if your nonprofit doesn’t already have an archive of content handy, so keep that in mind while you consider giving them a shot.
3. They’re not so easy to set up.
Because Instant Articles are HTML5 documents, there’s some technical knowledge required to get them set up.

So, should your nonprofit use Instant Articles?

It depends on your goals and capacity. If you have great content and you only care about informing your audience, Facebook Instant Articles could be a great way to do that. But if you’re using content to bring users to your website in hopes they’ll convert, this might not be the best tool for you. Also, consider the skills of your staff and whether you have a robust enough archive of content for the review process.
And if you’re thinking that Instant Articles aren’t right for your organization, you don’t have to worry about Edgerank for now. Facebook has stated that their algorithm won’t favor Instant Articles over traditionally shared content. But if the Instant Articles format attracts users the way Facebook thinks it will, this hierarchy of content may occur organically.
If you do decide to try Instant Articles, make sure you add Google Analytics to keep all of your tracking under one content roof. Measure the success of the article against a control article based on total sessions and conversions to goals on your site.
Facebook Instant Articles get more eyes on your content, but they might hurt your website traffic:  Click To Tweet
Decided to give Facebook Instant Articles a try or have any questions or comments? Tweet at us!

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