Ahh, Facebook, we meet again. Although its increase has slowed recently over the years, under most metrics, it remains the most popular social media site in the world. In the United States, while multi-platform use is prevalent, Facebook has held its position as the most popular site among both teens and adults in 2015 and is still holding its position well into 2016.
Facebook events are what all sorts of Facebook users use to digitally promote events, spread event info, interact with guests, boost excitement/create buzz, increase turnout, and depending on the nature of the event, drive sales and generate revenue.
(More from our Blog: Launching a Facebook Page: Top 5 Marketing Practices)
While making a Facebook event may seem straight forward to new and old users, there are a lot of dos and don’ts that should NOT be overlooked. Planning, launching, and managing your Facebook event appropriately will ensure that your Facebook event reaches its full value and attracts the attention it needs—from both desktop and mobile Facebook users.
Covering the basics to the more advanced, I’ve broken down this whole process into four categories: Content, Promotion, Timing, and Management.
Want to create and market the best Facebook event of 2016?
Of course you do! Let’s take a look.
[Last Updated 09.27.2016]
Content is king, dare I repeat it. You can’t have a good Facebook event without good content so this category requires the most attention. When optimizing the content of your Facebook event, you’ll want to make sure that it has all the necessary information that you want to communicate to your audience such as what to bring (e.g. money/ticket, ID, apparel), what to expect (e.g. thorough schedule, hint at surprise, who will be there), and all the other logistical bits such as location and date/time.
Here are the content properties you don’t want to miss:
• Private vs. Public: When first creating your event, you will be faced with the decision of making your event either private or public. If you know who precisely you want to invite to your event or it is an exclusive event, a private event may be of higher interest to you. Note that if you select private, you also have the option of allowing guests to invite other guests at their own leisure—take this into consideration if you feel that this liberal control could be problematic (e.g. too many or unwanted guests showing up).
If you are trying to maximize the turnout, or just simply aren’t worried about who may stumble across your event online (your event can show up on users' News Feeds or Ticker Feeds, see image below), then a public event may be a better suit.
By making an event public, anyone invited can invite guests or share the event with others. All the content of the event can be viewed even without RSVPing by pressing the “Going/Interested/Not Interested” buttons while a private event’s entire content can’t be viewed unless you are invited. When an event is public, any Facebook user can choose to attend as long as they can somehow obtain the URL for the event or discover it through Facebook.
Make sure to know from the start if you want your event to be public or private because your decision’s effect is permanent; you can’t switch between public and private once you’ve already created your event.
• Title Name: The title you choose for your event is very important. It is the phrase that will show up in people’s notifications, on people’s News Feeds, on people's Ticker Feeds, and it’ll be what users type in the search or address bar when looking up your event. You want to encapsulate the event in a concise, attractive, and memorable way. Get creative!
• Description: This is the core of your Facebook event’s content and a huge opportunity for building value. You want to use this space to describe your event in a way that incentivizes your target users to perform an action, namely hitting the “Going” button and actually attending the event. Other actions could include sharing the event, posting to the event wall, answering a poll you designed on the event wall, or following an external link (typing in a website URL automatically produces a hyperlink) to your website to explore, sign-up, or place a purchase.
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There are so many ways to approach filling the description space, depending on your type of event. If you are promoting something celebratory such as a party, dinner, or night outing, you’ll want to spur the ecstatic enthusiasm that you are looking for using fun, uplifting language. If you are promoting a conference, meeting, or organized gathering, you’ll want to communicate the best reason(s) to attend in a unified fashion that aligns with the event’s goals.
Examine the value points of your event and list them out. Curtail it so that it isn’t excessive or domineering. Eloquently communicate these value points with the voice you want to use, whether it be your personal voice, your PR voice, the company/brand’s voice, or something different altogether—just be sure to keep the target audience in mind. If there are key phrases having to do with the host/hosting company/brand, insert them where it works and adds value.
Use @mentions and #hashtags to educate your audience on relevant info, where needed.
• Where: If the location is disclosed, as it normally is, then include the address and if applicable, the venue/building/site name. If you suspect the physical event location could be difficult to spot, you can include a description on how to find it in the where box or if it would be too lengthy, just type in in the description box.
Typing in an address displays a HERE maps link to guests on desktop/laptop computers (smartphones get an Apple Maps and/or Google Maps option) for easy access to directions and even allows the event, provided its public, to be automatically recommended to friends nearby the event location. For a Page-hosted event, the Fans of the Page may receive a notification upon the nearby event's launch.
In the case that you don’t want the address disclosed because the public event could bring in unwanted guests, you can always tell people in the where box or description box to email/text/directly contact you for the address. This can serve as a more secure option of identifying prospective guests while protecting the address.
• When: This is pretty straight forward. Just select the day(s) and time of the event. You also have the option of adding an ending time in addition to a starting time. Be sure to account for late guests!
• Hosts: When you create an event, you automatically become the only host. You can add other co-hosts by clicking the edit button once you’ve already created your event and then typing in their names in the "Co-hosts" box. Multiple hosts can benefit the event if users’ seeing particular hosts names would positively influence their decision making (e.g. Matt hit “Going” because he recognized one of the hosts as a friend/associate). Having multiple hosts can help with better managing the Facebook event up until the actual event date, which I’ll talk about in the Management section.
Facebook also has a checkbox labeled "All posts must be approved by an admin." Check this if you feel that a given user's post could pose any sort of negative impact and must first be approved by a host/co-host.
• For Page-hosted Events: If you launch an event with a Page as the host, you get some unique additional content and setting options. When creating a public event as a user that owns one or more Pages, Facebook will display a dropdown box that will give you the option of picking the Page you wish to host the event under. (Note: A Page's event will always be public, never private).
This is where it gets tricky. To invite another Page as a co-host, you need to have first launched the event as a Page, not a regular user profile. You'll already see a "Co-hosts" box when you are creating the event—you can enter in other Pages or friends into this space. Note that you must also be an existing admin of any Page you invite to become a co-host. If you're not the admin of a particular Page that want to assign as a co-host, you'll need to add the Page owner first and then ask the Page owner to add his/her Page as a co-host.
Here are the 3 content properties exclusive to Page-hosted events:
1) Ticket URL: Enter the webpage URL here if you are selling tickets online for the event. If not applicable, leave blank.
2) Category: Simply select from Facebook's pre-selected options for your event category. This will help Facebook recommend your event to potential guests and allow users to filter event results when searching.
3) Tags: Select up to three tags for your event to help people find it and spread word. Type in your tags and Facebook will give you options to choose from.
• Event Wall Posts: (see Management section)
• Cover Photo: The cover photo is the primary source of hedonic value for your event. It is where you get the chance to positively convey your event through imagery. It is what users will look at before even reading the description box if the cover photo can accurately capture their attention.
Again, be creative. Take a panoramic photo from the event’s physical site if it looks good. Create something artistic and eye-catching in Photoshop or Canva. Use a customer/user’s art with his/her permission. If it’s an annual event, perhaps use a high quality picture from last year. Are people attending to celebrate a particular person or a couple? Get a nice picture of them in the cover photo!
Keep in mind that the ideal Facebook cover photo dimensions is 1920 pixels wide, 1080 pixels tall (16:9 ratio). If your image is larger than that, Facebook will let you drag a box over which portion you wish to use. Users can also click on the cover photo to view the full image and like/react/make comments.
Check your cover photo display on both desktop and mobile to verify that it is appearing as you'd like. As I will discuss more in the Promotion section ahead, the cover photo reveals itself to users in various places—such as in the notifications section on mobile devices (see below) or within News Feed aggregations.
Alright so you have your event all set up, now it’s time to invite people! There are a lot of ways to give your event attention. The most obvious is directly inviting users from your friend list. You can also share the link to the event inside and outside of Facebook. If you are looking to make use of your ad budget, Facebook has paid advertising to promote your event. You can also download and post up/distribute a QR code in locations for smartphone users to find your event. On top of that, there is Facebook's live video streaming feature.
This promotional mix can be a bit more complex than you may initially think, however:
• Inviting Guests: When you invite guests, you want to invite only people who you could reasonably estimate that there would be a good chance of them attending the event. Although this seems obvious, you don’t want to excessively invite guests for a few reasons.
Firstly, inviting too many uninterested people at once potentially risks your event for being marked as spam. Secondly, Facebook restricts the amount of invites you can send out based on a number of factors, including whether the invited guests have responded to your invites. Thirdly, sending out invites to uninterested friends too often may serve as enough of a nuisance that they habitually ignore the notifications for your event invites—when these same friends are invited to a future of event of yours that they actually would express interest in, they may end up ignoring it out of habit.
While you can certainly cherry-pick your guest invites by scrolling down your entire friends list, Facebook also organizes the guest invite process for you into multiple categories that might be able to help you out further. These categories include Facebook groups you are a part of, past events you have hosted or attended, and friend lists. Note that this feature is only available on desktop, not the mobile app.
• Guest Attendance Self-Marketing: If your event is public, a user’s decision to hit the "Going" button (or even the "Interested" button) acts inadvertently as an excellent promotional tactic because it can pop up on the user’s friends’ News Feeds and Ticker Feeds. Henceforth, that is why you'll want your invitees to hit that button without much hesitation. The same goes for private events, except that only the friends who were also invited to the event will see this on their Feeds.
As you can see below, a Facebook event's cover photo takes up considerable space on the News Feed for both desktop and mobile Facebook users, making the cover photo a huge marketing element for grabbing attention and improving CTR.
• Sharing the Event: Sharing the event can be done through several mediums just by copying and pasting the URL to the event into whichever form you want. Whether it’s via email, text, instant message, a webpage, or other social media sites, sharing the URL with prospective users is made easy, so long as the event is public (if private, they must first be invited via Facebook to follow the URL).
In terms of Facebook, you can share your event, again provided its public, on your own Profile/Page wall as a Facebook post. Additionally, you can tag the event as the location on a picture/album shortly before, during, or after the event. You can also post to other Pages (if allowed), Groups (again, if allowed), and send direct messages to people for a more personalized invitation. Just be sure to evaluate your respective audiences before sharing your URL as such.
If you want to shorten the length of the event URL (perhaps for a 140-character Tweet), you can use Hootsuite's ow.ly for free to do exactly that. There are some other URL shortener options to pick from too.
• Promoting via Facebook Advertising: By clicking the “…” button at the top right of the event screen and then clicking “Promote Event,” Facebook will start to walk you through a process of promoting your event (requires you to have a Facebook Page), at varying costs. You can choose your ad budget and target your audience based on a variety of market segmentation criteria including location, age, gender, language, interests, behaviors, connections, and more demographics. Facebook has a help page that addresses common questions related to Facebook’s paid advertising for events.
• Using the QR Code: By clicking the “…” button again and then clicking “Get QR Code,” you can download and print out the QR code. This code can be scanned by smartphones with the right software which will take them to the Facebook event’s URL. Posting up the QR code in physical locations requires an analysis of the walking traffic in said location as being part of your target audience. If you are ever distributing merchandise, promotional materials, or other items of value, having the visible QR code on the packaging can be another option to consider.
• Streaming Live Video: Last but certainly not least is Facebook's live video stream feature! As an event host on your smartphone, click the text field to post onto the event's wall. Click the icon with the person silhouette and then click "Continue." Type in a solid description for your live video and then click "Go Live" to start streaming.
When executed right, this is an excellent promo tactic because guests invited to the event will receive a notification that reads: "[host] is live now in [event]." Users watching the feed will be able to make visible comments or likes/reactions during the live stream. Once you end the feed, the video is automatically processed and uploaded (long streams can take a while) to the event's wall as a recorded video, where users can react or view/make comments. If the event is private, only the invited users will have permission to view the live feed or recorded video.
Be sure to make the live video engaging and directly related to the event. For instance, you could live stream "behind-the-scenes" event preparation a few days and/or hours before the event to create buzz. You could live stream during the event to show absent users what they've missed, prompting them to come to your next event. You could also livestream after the event to recap, hold a Q&A, make post-event remarks, or anything that adds value to the event and its host(s).
Oh and did I mention...any invited guest can live video stream for your event, even non-hosts. Encourage/instruct qualified guests to live stream in a way that builds up the event.
Know this too: A non-host Facebook Page that shares your public event's live video will instantly notify its followers. Provided that the Page's followers match your target audience and the user/Page filming is a reliable source for clean-quality live streaming, encouraging live video shares can benefit your event and/or your long-term event marketing strategy. The notification upon sharing (see below) will incentivize Page followers to tune in, or watch the recorded version later.
Timing is essential. Your Facebook event should be completely filled with its content, launched, promoted, and the invites sent out early and as quickly as possible. A common mistake is launching and promoting the Facebook event too close to the actual event date—a given user may not check his/her Facebook account for a whole week, which is something to consider with timing your Facebook event’s launch. Depending on the scale of the event, launching and promoting the event a week ahead may be good enough, or a month or more may even be better.
When in doubt, the earlier, the better.
As for the actual time for your event's launch, I'd recommend posting at a high-traffic Facebook time, accounting for your target audience's respective time zone(s). Refer to our previous article about the best times to post on social media.
If you are the owner of an active Facebook Page and are hosting your event under the Page's name, you can precisely check what times the majority of your Fans are online for a recent 1-week period. While signed in as the Page owner, visit your Page, click "Inisghts" at the top and then click "Posts" underneath it. This should bring you to the "When Your Fans Are Online" tab by default. This data is helpful if your Page's Fans fit the target audience demographic for your event. See image below for a screenshot of this display in Facebook Insights.
A technique to better the event's attendance rate is to instruct a trusty, large group of your guests/friends to hit "Going" upon the launch of the event. People are often more willing to attend an event if they see a significant number has already committed to attending.
The final step, management, is a step that goes from the launch of your event, to the actual event date, to even after the event is over. Managing a Facebook event usually consists up supplying people with informative updates concerning the event as it approaches, asking/answering questions, and further incentivizing people to commit to whichever desired action applicable, again namely, attending the event.
Here are a few key points to be aware of:
• Edit Button: People make mistakes. If you spot an error that you missed in your content, or there has been a change in any event details after the Facebook event has already been launched, click the edit button at the top-right and make the appropriate modifications. If the update if big enough, such as a change in venue or timing, making a noticeable post on the event wall would be highly recommended. You can also delete your event at any point by clicking "Delete Event" near the bottom.
Updating important information such as the event title, location, time, or even the cover photo will also give attendees a notification, as seen below—this can help you provide attendees with a morale boost via occasional creative updates.
The edit button also allots you the option of adding additional co-hosts, which is helpful in managing an event if multiple hosts can pool together their resources such as promotional tactics, individualized friend invites, and the reputational effect on the event. Not to mention, having multiple hosts can help with promptly interacting with users when the other co-host(s) is absent online.
• Publishing Posts: With most events, making event wall posts as the host benefits the event. Publishing posts on the event can entail updating guests on new/changed info, spurring enthusiasm/excitement, asking/answering questions, or just doing anything that coincides with the nature of the event's works.
For example, if the event is for an annual event in a public park, you could post a fun, inspiring picture of last year's event, post a picture of the preparation for food that will be served, inform people about a speaker/performer/guest at the event, create a poll specifying a specific type of accommodation they'd want, or describe/photograph/film any value driver of the event.
Embedding a promotional video can go a long way. If you're posting a promo video onto the event wall, you can upload directly via Facebook or paste in a link to an external site, such as YouTube. Unless you are seriously trying to promote your YouTube channel or Vimeo profile, the best option would be to upload directly via Facebook. A native Facebook video post takes up considerably more visual space on the wall feed, always goes full screen when clicked, and is void of YouTube advertisments.
• Interacting with Users: Provided you didn't restrict guests from making posts on the event, liking or commenting on guests' posts in a purposeful, tasteful way is always something to consider.
Being consistently interactive with users indicates that the host(s) are putting in the extra effort which reflects positively onto the event's coordination and quality. Making well-designed posts a few days, the day before, and the day of the event can help serve as an engaging and motivational reminder to guests. A good host should also make a post-event remark as a wall post on the event such as a thanks to the guests for coming or exclaiming the successful/positive outcome of the event. This may help increase attendance for your future events and make guests feel all the more welcomed/remembered/cared for.
• Other Considerations: Inviting more users as you discover more prospects and removing invites for people who can't go/aren't prospects will help better maintain your guest invite list. You also have the option of making the guest list invisible to guests; this may be useful if guests' names are supposed to be non-disclosed to other guests or if you believe that certain users' names or lack of may discourage other users' attendance significantly.
For private events, Facebook now lets you message your event guest list by giving you the option of sending a message as individual direct messages or as a group message. This feature makes it easier to remind guests about the event approaching, notify them of event updates, ask important questions, send out thank yous, etc. The private DM option is great for establishing a more private communication line between hosts and individual guests while the group message option is great for encouraging group discussion.
Finally, if your guests need to take further action (email, phone, online form sign-up, etc.) to make a personal reservation for the event, make sure it is clearly stated and noticeable on the event. You wouldn't want to mislead people into thinking that the Facebook event is the official way to book a reservation. Use a clear CTA.
And there you have it. Follow this tutorial's four categorical steps of content, promotion, timing, and management and also be sure to measure your actions & results – as it may help you better position and market your future Facebook events.
Facebook Event Example
Here's an example screenshot of a completed Facebook event of a university's cultural exposition event after it was over:
Facebook also has an "Event Playbook" PDF guide for more info regarding Facebook event optimization!
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