Facebook tabs are almost always a #fail

July 17, 2012


In most cased, funding a Facebook tab is like flushing your money down the toilet…except not as fun, or hard, to watch (Image credit: Current.com).


Facebook tabs are a waste of money. 99 times out of 100. And this isn’t new news. It’s been the case for a while. But now there’s even more evidence that shows why tabs don’t make sense for brands trying to reach their customers on Facebook.

Last week, CNN reported that according to PageLever, a firm specializing in Facebook analytics, user engagement with tabs on Facebook Pages is down a staggering 53% since Timeline launched. Why such a significant decrease? Well, here are a few reasons:

1. Timeline is now the default for all Facebook brand pages. A company can’t build a custom tab and set it as the brand’s default Facebook homepage anymore.

2. Tabs are super-hard to find in Timeline. Even if you were looking for one, it won’t jump out at you.

3. Companies don’t put enough promotion muscle behind the Facebook tabs they create. They build them, activate them and pray for visitors.

4. Agencies are looking to make a sale. To build a tab you need a developer who knows FBML and some fancy creative work. They aren’t cheap and usually look pretty cool when completed. So agencies want to sell them in to clients because they yield a higher pricetag than just managing a Facebook presence.

5. Facebook users don’t go to brand pages! Sponsored story ads make it easier than ever before to like a brand without ever visiting its actual Facebook page. And if you don’t go to the page, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever see the tab.

The interesting part about the reasons above is that only numbers one and two are Timeline-specific. The other three have been true on Facebook long before Timeline ever came around. Now I’ll never say never, because doing so will get you in trouble. But 999 times out of 1,000, there is going to be a better way to spend your $10K, $25K, $50K, $100K  — or whatever budget you’re working with — than to build a Facebook tab.

But if your brand does decide to build a tab, or if you have one or more already, don’t forget that you have to promote them just like you have to promote a website or any other online content.

This isn’t Iowa and you aren’t Kevin Costner.

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JayBaer 273 pts

True, tabs aren't getting the attention they used to, but you do not need FBML to build them. In fact, Facebook stops supporting FBML as of July 31. In fact, you can make a Facebook tab for free, or nearly free, by iframe-ing in a regular webpage. Woobox or something like that will suffice quite nicely, in most cases. So really, the cost shouldn't be an issue. 

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JGoldsborough 247 pts moderator

 JayBaer Thanks for the info, Jay. Good to know. I hadn't heard of Woobox and will definitely check it out. That said. I still see a lot of agency and corporate folks pushing tabs as solutions, and they aren't pushing the free/low-cost options you're talking about.


Besides the cost, I think if a brand does due diligence, they'll find 99 times out of 100 that there is a more effective solution to achieve their objectives than a Facebook tab. People get caught up in the pretty designs and don't realize the solution they just paid for is pretty ineffective. I've seen it happen a lot.


As you note in your post I linked to here and use as a reference frequently, tabs were ineffective even before Timeline because almost no one came upon them organically. It didn't matter that tabs could be set as defaults for brand pages because people started using links in sponsored stories and other FB ads to like brands without ever going to their pages. I'd argue there is almost always a better way to spend a company's time and money.

cbaccus 9 pts

It's very simple.  Facebook fan pages are not like websites which is how many people have treated them in the past; assuming people visit a page and just navigate like they're on your website.  When you expect that tabs have always failed and not just since Timeline.  


Tabs do work as a way to drive people from an ad unit to an experience that is better understood than taking someone to your fan page wall.  They also work well when you are promoting some experience from your page's published content, since status updates are extremely limited in their functionality.


Both examples require a plan to drive fans or others to the tab. It does not happen organically. Regarding the big plunge in tab usage since Timeline, welcome tabs massively increased organic views of tabs. When Facebook changed that guess what? Organic views tanked. Leaving everyone with the responsibility of having to drive traffic to their tabs through media or a content promotion strategy.


Hope you are doing well Justin and thanks for getting my blood pumping early in the morning. :)


JGoldsborough 247 pts moderator

 cbaccus I think you said it well here: "It does not happen organically." I would guess 1 percent of Facebook tabs are built and deployed with the proper promotion plan behind them and after analysis has been done and the tab wins out as the best, most cost effective way to meet the business objective.


I just know what concepting and building a well-designed tab can cost. And I have seen them pushed as solutions when simple listening and engagement via social media or other paid/earned/owned tactics would have done the job much better. Cheers, Chris. Hope you are doing well in your new city and job!

Conversation from Twitter


@cbaccus agree 100 percent. Lots of folks who complain they dont work is because they do nothing to drive people there.


@JeffRagovin Hey Jeff! You would know better than most. The 50%+ plunge makes a great headline :)


@cbaccus people get very conditioned that they will get automatic engagement


@cbaccus Spot on, my man. A bunch of us were just having this discussion yesterday in the @GolinHarris Chicago office.


@bsniz So much for my unique perspective. ;)


@cbaccus #aligned perspective ;-)


@cbaccus nice comment. agree 100%. have to have a marketing plan in place for tabs to work.


@colinize That's why you get paid the big bucks