Blog : Facebook

Facebook Events: A Double-Edged Sword

The promise of Facebook is simple – find the people you know. For marketers, its equally simple – find the people you want to know. With now more than 200 million members, each one offering multiple demographic data points, capable of being segmented and targeted with laser precision; Facebook would appear to have all of the pieces in place to live up to that promise.

Facebook is a billboard, not a cash register

At the risk of being blasphemous, there is more to the world than Facebook. For the majority of businesses, the ultimate conversion event rarely takes place on Facebook. Like all social media platforms, it is best used as a touch point along the way to the sale.

However, the marketing ecosystem that has been established (probably equally as a result of corporate intention and user behaviour), is designed to function best when completed within Facebook, with less opportunity to convert in the real world.

An example: Facebook Events

In many industries, especially higher education where I spend a lot of my focus, informational meetings are a major part of the marketing funnel. These could be in-person sessions, webinars, or conference calls; any event that requires a collection of people together in the same place at the same time.

Finding relevant and interested individuals to attend your meeting is always a challenge. The demographic targeting inherent in the Facebook architecture is very well suited for this purpose. Users that match your demographic targeting will be presented with an ad unit, allowing your prospects to easily confirm their interest in your event.

As Facebook will tell you, these event ads have a much higher engagement rate than a standard ad that simply clicks out to your standard web site or landing page.

Beyond engagement… what about conversion?

Users have indicated their interest in your event by clicking “RSVP” or “Maybe”. What happens next? Your job as a marketer isn’t to get Facebook RSVPs… you are paid to get butts in seats. Whether its online or in person, how do you ensure that your newfound engaged prospects actually show up?

If you’re accustomed to working within a sales function. your mind at this point shifts to taking these individuals who have expressed an interest and getting them further into your sales funnel; transforming their initial interest into a relationship with your company. Unfortunately, it is at this place where the experience for marketers begins to fall apart.

Understanding the limitations

At first glance, you might think that your next step is easy. Deliver a reminder to each of these people; send them a message, introduce yourself, offer to answer any further questions they might have. That would be great… with one problem. You can’t.

Notice what’s missing in this image? “Send a message to all attendees”. Because your event page was created by a “page” (aka: a corporate account creating a marketing event), rather than a “profile” (a person creating their birthday party), the ability to bulk message all individuals is not available.

Time to get more creative.

Understanding the user experience

When you presented your ad to your interested users, the fancy “event ad unit” gave them the ability to RSVP directly on the ad without interrupting their Facebook experience. They saw, they clicked, they kept on going. The reality is that the majority of these individuals did so without ever reading your event page. Your event was added to their Facebook calendar, and they didn’t give you a second thought.

Time to get more strategic.

The alchemy of turning RSVPs into conversions

Combining the knowledge of how Facebook limits your ability to communicate with users and the behaviour of the users interacting with your ads, the strategy behind creating and marketing events pages is different than you may have once thought.

Here are some steps to achieving more success:

  • Make sure your ad sells: With the event ad unit, a large percentage of your targeted users will make their choice about whether or not to attend without clicking through to read your event page. Make good use of your headline, ad copy and image in order to entice the click of RSVP or Maybe.
  • Consider your timing: Understanding that many users are interacting with your ad, adding your even to a calendar and then forgetting about it, experiment with the timing of your ad campaigns to find the optimal time to find enough interested individuals but also ensure that your event is still on top of mind when the reminder message appears in their Facebook calendar.
  • Instructions rather than Description: On your event page, Facebook provides you with an area in which you can describe your event. Understanding that many users may be seeing this page for the first time on the day before the event, after having RSVP’d through the ad unit, consider using the description field to be more implicit with event day instructions. Minimize marketing copy here and make your desires clear. Want me to pre-register online? Need me to call a number? Make that very clear using this space.
  • Hack the image: In the top right corner of your event page, you are given an area to upload a photo. Rather than simply using your company’s logo or a stock image, leverage this real prime real estate to communicate what you want the users to do. Yes, it sounds like editing your Myspace profile, but by adding text instructions on your usual corporate image can present the users with a clear call to action that will encourage them to take the next action that you want.
  • Get a fan club: Remember how you weren’t able to send a message to all event attendees? Facebook does allow you to send a message to all fans of your page. Leverage this power by encouraging your attendees to become fans of your page. Add a Facebook fan box to your site, and use your other marketing channels (web, email, PPC) to build your fan base.
  • Fans first, events second Consider using the “Become a Fan” ad unit as a preliminary ad campaign, and follow up by posting an event. You now have the added benefit of an open channel to message your fans, encourage them to attend, and most importantly move them through the sales funnel.
  • Measure and find your ROI: What is the value of an individual attending your event? You can calculate this by determining your average lifetime customer value and dividing that by the number of attendees at your event. Use web analytics where possible and ask your attendees in person where they heard about the event. How does Facebook compare to your other marketing channels?
  • Modify your process: How can you change the way you do business to accommodate the realities of social networks? Does your attendance increase by using an online event rather than an in-person event? Can you modify your registration process so that a Facebook RSVP is all that is required? Can you mobilize your sales team to answer questions on social networks rather than relying on phone or email?

Hopefully, as marketers get more experience utilizing these new technologies, the conversations between vendor and client will result in a more robust set of communication tools and marketing options. The perfect solution would allow for a balance between more open and flexible communication from the corporate side and protection of user privacy and peace of mind.

Do you do marketing using events on social networks? What tips and tricks have you developed in order to overcome limitations in the tools that we use?