A Marketer's Take on the Death of Facebook Tabs

by Esteban Contreras on Jul 12, 2012
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Facebook PagesOriginal thoughts published on Facebook, edited and appended by author and Social Fresh

Ryan Holmes published a great article on CNN Money yesterday morning on the disappearance of Facebook tabs as an industry.

In the article he speaks to Facebook’s “permanent beta” approach and how this has impacted the service, both for end users and the companies that are leveraging Facebook as a platform. More specifically, Ryan explains how Facebook’s Timeline roll out affected pages that are highly dependent on Facebook tabs, and the products centered on tab-building.

Ryan references stats from Pagelever that show a 53% drop in Facebook tab traffic since the Timeline rollout.

And he concludes that brands should focus on engagement and that Timeline is ultimately good for both pages and Facebook users because of this. Fewer interactions on marketing heavy tabs equals more engagement on real content.

I completely agree with the conclusion

At Samsung, we’ve always focused on our fans (customers and potential customers). Engagement and lightweight interactions with real people can have a valuable impact over time.

While Facebook, like all companies, has its own agenda (more engagement = more time on Facebook), I believe that Facebook is also doing its best to build a robust platform that brands can use to build trust, not just quick hits.

A Facebook experience with meaning

Tabs and applications still have a role, perhaps a very important one, but Facebook has basically forced brands and page owners to create *meaningful* experiences, not just fan-gated pages with minimal value.

In social media, value has to go both ways and in many cases, Facebook tabs used to provide more value to the brands than to the Facebook user.

If I could add one thing to Ryan’s article it would probably be that I believe the beginning of the end of the tab-as-the-center-of-a-brand-page “era” (if we want to call it an era) actually started when Facebook first announced that FBML (the original Facebook tab markup language) would no longer be supported.

Today, FBML apps no longer work. That means that anyone that can create a web page can also create a Facebook tab through an iframe: No special coding needed, no fancy or expensive modules to worry about.

Relationships take time

Bottom line: Brands should focus on the entire Facebook experience, realizing that their fans are real people with real lives, and that it takes time to create and enhance any kind of relationship between a company and its customers.

When you think about fans as people you start asking the truly important questions:

  • Why would anyone care about our content and experiences?
  • Why would anyone share our content and experiences?
  • What can we do to enhance our fans’ experience with the brand in both the short-term and long-term?

Brands should really think about these questions not only when building Facebook “experiences,” but also when creating any form of digital content.

Post Author

Hi, I'm Esteban, the Social Media Marketing Manager for Samsung USA. I'm passionate about the convergence of tech, marketing, and social media. I blog about these topics at socialnerdia.com. Learn more about me at estebancontreras.com....

  • nickcicero

    Do you think enough brands are driving people to the apps/tabs in their messaging? 

  • As a marketer that was at first baffled by the disappearance of Facebook tabs (although we’re pretty used to change by now), I’m sure that the change will bring about some good things. It forces brands to focus on having real conversations with their fans, on listening and delivering what fans want in a meaningful way. It puts the attention back on the one-on-one conversations that (should) happen every day on a company’s Facebook page. This article is a great reminder of that!

  • Brands that want to drive people to tabs can do so quite well through a good mix of FB posts, FB ads and incoming links elsewhere. Most brands are probably doing what they can to direct people to these “experiences,” but I’m sure plenty of tabs are forgotten and ignored. I’m sure many of them are just unnecessary iframes. In my opinion, all brands should ensure they’re highlighting their two most important tabs on Timeline. By important I mean this: Relevant and valuable for both the brand and FB users.

  • I’d say that custom tabs are falling not just because of the default view going away or timeline phasing in. Consider how ads are taking an increasingly prominent (some would say intrusive) place in the user experience. For brands that have open graph apps, I’d say the experience is opposite– they are INCREASING their traffic.

    Simple landing page tabs just aren’t going to cut it, in the same way that people would put up their print ads on their websites 15 years ago. Need real engagement, folks!

  • Great article – I think the design of the apps/tabs on Timeline is poor. The postage-stamp images, drop down arrows, etc. are not designs that encourage people to visit those custom pages.  I’ve been disappointed with the design of Timeline in general.  I like the cover images, but the apps, about, and split-screen is absolutely horrible eye-straining design. Along with edgerank it’s no wonder visits to Pages are down.  And repeat visits to Pages are non-existent.

  • Enagement on the wall – er, Timeline – is obviously #1. The problem is, Facebook forces brands to be dependent on tabs (or apps) because that is the only place where you can hold contests, giveaways, collect email addresses, etc. And then, Facebook doesn’t show them on the mobile version. 


  • Good point. The absence of FB mobile tabs has been an issue for way too long. I don’t understand why it’s taking so long…

  • Good point about Open Graph apps. Clearly FB is prioritizing.