With the removal of Facebook’s default landing tab feature in March, most page tab applications have seen a significant drop in users, and many people in the industry predict the end for what had been a big business.
But now, two of the biggest tab app developers are experiencing a resurgence while others watch their monthly active users flatline well below their pre-Timeline peaks.
Customizable page applications from Woobox and Thunderpenny have re-entered our AppData gainers charts after weeks of being among the biggest losers in terms of daily and monthly active users on the Facebook platform. Woobox is even seeing numbers similar to what it had in January before the launch of Timeline for pages, which is when admins lost the ability to set a default landing tab for new visitors to their page.
A recent Mashable article suggested that visits to custom tabs were down about 50 percent, which Woobox founder and CEO George DeCarlo confirms was the case for his own apps. However, the data in the Mashable article only looks at January through mid-April. An analysis using our own AppData tracking service shows that for many tabs, monthly and daily active users continued to fall sharply during April and May, but that trend hasn’t held through June and July. In most cases, traffic has leveled off, looking something like this:
For Woobox and Thunderpenny, the No. 3 and No. 5 developers on Facebook, the numbers are swinging back up.
There are a few things going on here. Page owners who thought tab apps were eliminated completely with Timeline have realized this isn’t the case and begun adding apps to their pages again. Users are becoming accustomed to the new layout and learning where to find additional content through apps. Page owners are adapting and employing better strategies to support the tab apps they implement. And clever developers are taking steps to help page owners understand best practices for apps on Timeline. Pages and developers that haven’t changed their approach have seen their numbers bottom out, as in the first graph above.
The key difference since Timeline is that now page owners have to actively promote their tab applications, whereas previously the app was the first thing new visitors saw when they came to the page. Woobox’s DeCarlo says he immediately recognized this and when Timeline launched, Woobox added a feature to give page owners a short shareable URL with a customizable image, headline and summary that would appear when the link was posted to Facebook.
Thunderpenny, another page app developer that is seeing an increase in users, has a new Tips & Tricks section that explains what page owners should do now that the default landing tab option is gone. For example, the developer recommends changing the links on a company’s website to lead to a specific tab rather than the main page. It also recommends giving the app prime placement among other tabs and using the new “pin post” option to prominently feature a status update that links to the tab.
In reviewing other custom page tab apps, such as those from Wildfire and FanRx, we did not find comparable resources to help page owners maximize engagement with tabs.
The trend we had seen pre-Timeline was that marketers were investing too much in the development of tabs, but not enough in promotion and re-engagement through News Feed. Now that Facebook has made it more difficult for pages to claim success by launching a tab alone, marketers may be more strategic about the type of experiences they create in tabs and how they bring users to them.
DeCarlo also notes that just because page apps are receiving less traffic, doesn’t mean they are less effective tools for marketers. He says Woobox drives more than 2 million Likes per day to pages using its custom fan-gated HTML tabs. Other page owners might have their own goals, such as getting email subscribers, website visitors or coupon redemptions.
It’s unclear whether Woobox and Thunderpenny’s growth trends will continue. Users increasingly access Facebook on mobile devices, where tab applications aren’t always accessible. Advertisers are also moving toward Sponsored Stories and Page Post Ads, which cannot lead to custom tabs. However, if more developers and page owners adapt to Timeline and take advantage of new options like Facebook Open Graph, we could see other tab apps rise from the lows they’ve recently reached.