Real Events + Facebook Events = Disorganization

Back in April, there was some discussion on the CASE Communications listserv about higher ed and Facebook Events.

On the surface, Facebook Events are fantastic because every RSVP gets blasted across newsfeeds and sharing between users is easy and natural. But if no one RSVP’s, your Facebook Event will suffer. The lack of attendees is a strong testimonial against the event – even though the users that turned you down probably didn’t mean it to be.

Why is no one “attending” your event?

If your event has always been poorly attended, adding it to Facebook won’t do you much good. If your event isn’t relevant to the Facebook audience (online, global), then you’re again out of luck. If your event isn’t the sort of thing that people plan around and share with their peers, then they aren’t likely to confirm in advance and they aren’t likely to share. All of these things add up to a dead events page with 96 “not attending” and 1 “attending” (that’s you, the event host).

If you are bound and determined to do a Facebook Event and the “not attending” count starts to climb, you can always hide the guest list – you’ll lose the positive testimonial of the “attending” users but at least the negatives will be unseen as well. It is against the community’s expectation for the guest list to be hidden, so many users will likely notice and wonder why – and some will figure out why. It’s the same deal as deleting comments – delete one and the community will think you’ve deleted ten.

In the past, when I have used a Facebook Event because of it’s sharability (it’s very easy to invite multiple friends – easier than it is to send a mass Facebook Message), and then am stuck with a list of unattendees – I have gone through and deleted them – problem solved. It doesn’t solve the problem that a large chunk of your guest list turned you down but it does make your event page a little more marketable.

Facebook Events are a great tool, but your second best chance of success depends on your target audience and if they use the technology and will be interested in your event. As in all things social, your best chance of success depends on your network. It’s fairly easy to get a birthday party event to take off by shooting it out to all your friends. With a corporate or higher education event, you’ll need a similar network to push the event out to and get the social spread started. Push to your mailing list, push to your staff, ask them all to push to their own networks, etc.

Higher ed folks, check if your homecoming has already been created – and if it hasn’t, jump on it and start one up and shoot it to all your friends who are alumni. If it’s already there, then contact the host and see if you can get host priviledges as well (to share details etc). Another nice feature of events is that hosts can blast out targeted messages to attendings, maybes, and not yet replieds – or a mass message to all three groups at once.

So, 80 people RSVP’d and only 12 showed up

In higher education, we have a lot of events that we actually need RSVP’s for. Maybe it’s a ticketed event, or maybe there is limited seating or food that has to be ordered. It’s OK for homecoming because you know to expect a massive crowd, but for things like an open house, regional alumni event or guest lecture, many schools have actual event systems that they need to funnel RSVP’s through in order to sell tickets, track who goes to what, etc.

When you add Facebook Events as a marketing tool, it can get confusing for you and your invitees as to what a Facebook RSVP actually means. For one, the whole thing is dangerously close to meaningless – RSVP’ing to a Facebook Event really isn’t a strong commitment in most cases. For another, there is no way (yet) to add a ticketing system.

One thing you could to, is post the official RSVP/event info link prominently on the event page. Use the messaging feature to remind your guest list that they also need to register outside of Facebook in order to really be “attending” – it’s also a good idea to send out a note 2 days before the event reminding people that they also need to register with your school in order to participate (again providing the link).

Hope that helps! Off to the races for the day (and by that I mean sitting right here at my desk but doing other things – and then headed into Toronto for a TFC game!)

Cheers,
M.

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