Ryan Holmes in Fortune – Facebook Tabs are Dead, Long Live the Timeline

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A column by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes was featured on the Fortune Magazine website yesterday.  Holmes weighs in on the new Timeline rolled out on Facebook Pages, which drastically affects tabs and the social marketing companies that customize them.

You can check out the story, and what it means for the billion-dollar Page building industry, here.

Tabs Are Dying

On March 30, Facebook officially put an end to the old Pages format, which let brands designate a static landing page – a default “tab” that all users saw when they first reached the Page.  Other tabs could be used for photos, videos or any other custom content.

The new Timeline layout has done away with the default landing page and de-emphasized tabs altogether.  The first thing users see now is a brand photo and a chronology of the brand’s most recent posts and comments.

The result: Tabs are dying.  According to PageLever, there has been a dramatic 53 percent reduction in user engagement with tabs.  “Most users will never see a tab again,” notes PageLever founder Jeff Widman.

Why does this all matter?  First of all, several major companies (Vitrue, Buddy Media, Context Optional) built their business model partly around customizing the look and feel of those tabs for brands – in essence, making virtual neon signs to lure in consumers.  Over the last year, these companies were bought up for more than $1 billion by giants like Oracle and Salesforce.  Suddenly, their services are considerably less useful.

But there’s a big silver lining:  Timeline is great for ordinary business owners and the brands themselves.  Instead of blowing marketing budgets on third-party apps to design glitzy tabs, brands can opt to allocate resources to what matters, notes Mashable’s Lauren Indvik – coming up with good social content, i.e. posts and tweets that keep users engaged.

It’s this constant exchange of posts and comments and videos and photos and promos that’s at the heart of social media.  And great content is also the key to the real prize: showing up on users’ own Facebook walls.

Think about it. How many people actually visit brand Pages on Facebook?  For a brand to be seen, it has to find its way onto users’ personal news feeds.  This is where real sharing and viral effects kick in.  And a brand will never be able to make this jump if it doesn’t post interesting and timely content, which users Like and comment on.

Adapting Apps

So what’s the big takeaway here?  Apps that focus on the mechanics of Page building (Vitrue, Buddy Media, Context Optional and Involver) are significantly less useful.  On the other hand, apps that get the right social media content to the right people at the right time are more critical than ever.  This is where HootSuite comes in.  With features to set optimal posting times, sophisticated listening tools to track mentions and robust collaboration features, HootSuite streamlines the process of getting great content onto Facebook Pages and the rest of the social web.

In other words: Tabs are dead; long live the Timeline.

For the full story, check out Holmes’ article on the Fortune website.