The last time the hot teen polling app TBH was No. 1 on the daily-download charts was the day after Facebook bought the company.
That was on Oct. 17. Facebook had just announced the surprise purchase of the hit app, which had seemingly come from nowhere to capitalize on the polling phenomenon. On Tuesday, the app was not even in the top 500 for daily downloads in the U.S., and was only No. 40 in the social category, according to App Annie rankings.
Polling apps, like TBH, Saraha, Polly, Friendo and After School, to name just a few, are magnets for teenagers who participate in the snap surveys about their friends. But that same teen audience that attracted Facebook to TBH could also account for the app's fast fall from the charts. When a company goes chasing for what's hot with kids, who move quickly on to the Next Big Thing, they're taking a risk.
"The nature of apps like Saraha and TBH determines that they go viral quickly, but aren't necessarily there to stay," says Ruika Lin, a mobile insights analyst at Sensor Tower, an app activity data and research firm. "Aside from the fact that it is, in general, difficult for the majority of apps to maintain top spots for an extended period of time, these apps are also popular among teenagers, younger users who are quicker to move on to the next thing after using them for some time."
Facebook declined to comment on whether there were any changes to TBH that would account for the sudden drop.
The price of the acquisition was not disclosed, either. Also, Facebook has tremendous leeway to promote properties it owns within its own family of apps, including Messenger and Instagram. And one marketing push for TBH could potentially reverse any slide in app rankings.
The social network's motivations for buying into the polling app space should be plain to see. Facebook has lost ground with the youngest generation of social media users, who have gravitated toward Snapchat, which claims to reach 9 million more 13- to 24-year-olds than Facebook.
Polling could be just the kind of compulsive activity that hooks teens. TBH creates the polls for people to share among friends, who respond anonymously. Since the app controls the polls, it ensures a more positive tone and prevents bullying.
Friendo, which is now among the more popular polling apps, is a one-to-one experience, where friends answer questions about each other like a "best friend" game.
Polly, which just launched this year, is closely integrated with Snapchat, where its polls can be spread. Instead of providing the polls, Polly lets users make their own.
Since August, 10 million polls have been created with 200 million votes cast on Polly, according to CEO Ranidu Lankage.
"Teens are always interested in what their friends and people around them think about them," Lankage says. "That's why polling is so popular. It's a low friction way to give opinions, which people love doing. So it's a new way of communicating with friends."
Polly has not cracked the top 100 in U.S. apps, but Lankage says the rankings don't tell the whole story. Polly also has a mobile website where visitors can participate in the polls, so that accessibility without having to download the app helps growth, Lankage says.
Facebook clearly doesn't need the ad money and it's not sweating user growth, at more than 2 billion now, but it does need the window into teens' digital lives.
"Facebook wants to appeal to different demographics," says Larry Magid, CEO of ConnectSafely.org, an organization that advocates for children's issues online. "Facebook.com is not as popular as it once was, but they have Instagram and now TBH, so there's a broader strategy to attract young people."