According to social media analytics firm, PageLever, and as reported by Mashable, Facebook tab engagement is down 53% since the launch of the new Facebook TimeLine.

Back on March 14, I wrote the article, The Future State of The Static Welcome Page. In it I made a prediction we’d see 50% less users land on Welcome Pages.

The purpose of the article today will be to shed more light on this topic and give you specific ideas on what role Facebook tabs can play in the future of your Facebook marketing strategy.

First, let’s understand the 53% drop in Facebook tab engagement better.

The Mashable article points to three reasons that ascertain the cause for the Tab drop:

1) According to a Facebook employee, Brands can now “Pin” posts that may make Timeline content more influential. Sure, but I doubt that caused much of the 53% drop. I don’t think we can pump that much ‘air’ into the new Pinning feature (although useful).

To understand what pinning is, see example of Libro Financial Group pinning a post below:

2) According to PageLever Founder, Jeff Widman, Facebook tabs are less visible (I disagree with this assertion. With bigger boxes that are more centered with pictures, I’d presume they are more visible). See Siskinds LLP’s Facebook tabs below to understand the new tab layout:

Facebook-page-Siskinds

3) Last, according to Widman, brands can’t use the tab as a default page (where visitors who aren’t fans are first taken when they land on the page). I’d agree fully with Jeff’s last assertion as the most influential of the three.

Where the article falls short is it leaves the reader with a doomsdays experience around Facebook Tabs.

This couldn’t be further from the truth and I’m worried that if brands only read the Mashable article, they will be missing out on a bigger opportunity to use Facebook Tabs to drive measurable economic value for their brands.

To understand how this can be so, let’s start with a quick history lesson and then work into what you can be doing right now.

The Past

You may recall (or had one), brands used to be able to create Welcome Pages that were set to default as the first page a Facebook user would land on when visiting the brand’s Facebook page.

Quick Welcome Pages 101: The purpose of a Welcome Page was one thing – To cause users to become fans.

You’d do this through the following creative/copy:

  1. Good design,
  2. Create an arrow pointing up to the Like button,
  3. Tell users “Why” they should join (key benefits),
  4. And if you’re really committed to increasing your fan acquisition %, you’d offer them something after they’ve “Liked” (called “fan gating”). This could be such things as a free e-book, small gift card at your company, or contest/promotion to participate in.

See YoYo’s Yogurt Cafe for an example of an older Welcome page creative: Facebook-Welcome-Page-YoYo's-Yogurt-London-Ontario

Now it’s not entirely accurate to state you can’t have Welcome pages anymore.

You still can. You just can’t set them as a default landing page. But they do have their own individual URLs (although longer and cumbersome) so you could still run ads or email marketing to drive people to the page. Furthermore, developers can still do any customization work to the tabs (fan gating, e-book offering, run contests, etc.).

See Richard Ivey School of Business’ Facebook Page to see an example of the longer URL’s that Facebook provides Tabs as a default: Facebook-Page-Ivey-School-of-Business

With all that said, maybe a more prudent social media research question to ask is:

Is there a 53% drop in brands creating Facebook Welcome Pages?

In my experience working with brands who invest in social media marketing regularly, very few brands are building standard Welcome Pages anymore.

The Future of Facebook Tabs

Ok – now that we know Welcome Pages don’t drive the same utility they once did, I want to help you think more critically about what role Facebook Tabs (including apps) can play in the future of your Facebook marketing strategy.

I think there’s an incredible role they play – and an incredible opportunity that most brands are missing right now, and may just not understand.

I think the future of good Facebook tabs is technology and apps that do the following (all three at once, ideally):

The Future of Facebook Tabs #1: Acquire Fans’ Information

Why have just a fan when you can have a fan + email address?

Your Timeline can’t do this.

Here’s how to use a Facebook Tab to do this: Install a Facebook Tab that collects user information in exchange for giving away something of value.

Here are three main types of items you can give-away:

a) One big prize -This is typically a Sweepstakes Contest. See Barking Frog’s current one below:

Facebook-Sweepstakes-Barking-Frog

b) Premium Content -This is content that leverages your knowledge/expertise and adds value to your fans. See tbk Creative’s e-book giveaway:

Social-Media-Guide-tbk-Creative Side Note: To download this e-book for free, go here.

c) Many small giveaways -This is when you giveaway a small prize (ie. $5 or $10 gift cards) for each fan who provides you their info. See how Crystal Clear Bags’ does it here:

Crystal-Clear-Bags-Strathroy-Ontario

Executing a Facebook tab that gives away any of the above can do some of the following:

a) Give you new fans (when they click “Like” to use the Tab) and at a higher rate than without a Facebook Tab,

b) Give you new leads (when they provide you their info),

c) Give you new customers (when they use their gift cards),

The Future of Facebook Tabs #2: Facebook Tabs That Cause Your Page To Be Shared

Your Timeline or Facebook apps can do this.

If you want to use a Facebook Tab, you need to find a Facebook app that can act as a content that gives away incentives based on social sharing. tbk Creative built a Facebook app called Contest King™ that facilitates this task. See Contest King™ in action with Western Fair’s video contest for their upcoming talent search show, Rise 2 Fame:

Social-Media-Contest-Western-Fair-Contest-King

If you want to use your Timeline to produce content that gets shared, you need to create content that’s unborified. See Goodlife’s new series of unborified images that they output that’s picking up good, viral sharing amongst their community:

unborified-content-Goodlife-Fitness-London-Ontario

The Future of Facebook Tabs #3: Facebook Tabs That Cause Your Fans To Come Back

I’d say brands causing fans to come back is one of the most misunderstood and least thought about areas of Facebook marketing.

The key to causing fans to come back to your Facebook page is this:

Reward them for coming back.

Your Facebook Timeline can’t do this (it’s against Facebook’s Page Guidelines).

tbk Creative has invested considerable resources since 2010 building apps that do this well. We call these types of apps: Social Marketing Games™.

A good example of how this can happen is an app we built called Trivia King™.

It’s a Facebook tab that lets the brand ask its community a trivia question each Monday. Fans who answer the question correctly are put into a draw for a prize on Friday (ie. a $50 gift card). Fans that answer incorrectly, can refer friends to the page for more guesses. All the while, the brand collects emails on almost every fan that uses the app (97% capture rate).

You can see the app in live mode being used by Brescia University College below.

Trivia-King-Brescia-University-College

Most remarkably, in a beta testing scenario of Trivia King™ (12 prizes given away over 12 days), it had 73% of fans return to the page more than once to play and the app was successful at capturing 97% of the users’ email addresses.

Trivia King™ is a good example of a Facebook Tab that collects fan data, encourages fans to come back, educates the community on the brands’ promises or products/services, and mobilizes fans to share the app with their friends.

Facebook Timeline can’t facilitate all 4 of these items at once (and can’t cause the two former items at all).

To Summarize

I hope this article explains better why Facebook Tab engagement has dropped since the inception of Timeline, and in a paradoxical way how there’s a better opportunity than ever to increase the success of your Facebook marketing with the use of Facebook Tabs.

I think as next steps, it’s prudent for you to look at your brand and offerings and ask yourself to what degree does your brand want to invest to gain more fans, leads, and engagement.

Once you prioritize these strategic goals, you can then plan, invest, and take action accordingly.

If you have any questions, or contributions, post them below and we’ll happily engage.

Andrew Schiestel is a Sr. Partner & Chief of WOW! Projects at tbk Creative, a national award winning, web design & social media marketing agency based in London, Ontario. The company’s social media work has been featured in media publications coast to coast including CBC, CTV, Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Huffington Post, London Free Press, Yahoo! News, Metro, the Canadian Press, and more. The company instigates and accelerates consumer action around their clients, digitally.