According to Inside Facebook, As of July 2009, Facebook has more than 300 million regular users, making it the largest social network. 55% of users are female and 41% are male (other unknown). Interestingly, Facebook appeals to users of all ages, with the fastest growing age group being 55+ at 514% followed by 35-54 at 190% growth. Facebook is getting older.
There are many reasons people participate in the world’s largest social network. Some to understand what’s happening amongst their circle of friends, others to play games – the most popular games on Facebook are about farming and the mafia (thought of the day: what does this say about our society?), still others to share links, photos and videos. As far as events are concerned, there are over 3 million events created each month. Three million events. These of course range from meeting for drinks at the local pub, to birthday parties, concerts and full-scale trade shows.
With so much activity going on, how can event marketers possibly be successful on the Facebook platform? The answers are simple, but implementation and successful engagement can be quite complex. Here are some insights to consider as you build your presence.
1. Its not about the event, its about the community. As event marketers, its imperative we stop thinking about using Facebook for an event, and start trying to understand how we can incorporate our event into the community. Changing our state of mind will help ensure we are focused on the right things and enable long-term success.
2. Create a page for your event. This is really easy to do on Facebook. The hard part is building in relevant, compelling content that will keep your audiences engaged. Make sure your presence is branded appropriately and community centric. With the right discipline and focus, your Facebook presence can become the content hub for the subject matter around your event. Build comprehensive content into the Info section, post key photos, keep the Wall updated with fresh content and initiate relevant and engaging discussions on the Discussions tab. Take advantage of widgets like:
- Fan Box (where audiences can become fans)
- Live Stream Box (where your community can communicate)
- Page Badge (so fans can promote their affiliation with you as well as promote your event on other sites)
Post photos, videos, stories, links and updates that will keep your audiences interested and engaged. Here’s the hardest pill to swallow: In order to build a true community around your event, its important to have appropriate targeted content that is truly source agnostic. This might mean allowing content from competitive events – granted this content does not need to be as prominent in your presence, but it should be allowed. Otherwise, here are some thoughts on the kind of content you should post regularly.
- News about event content (again, think community interest first) and event operations
- Links to outside blogs (speakers, exhibitors, industry sites, subject matter experts, etc.)
- Links to other Facebook pages (speakers, exhibitors, industry / subject matter groups, etc.)
- Photos and videos (speakers, experiences, exhibits, demonstrations, previous events, subject matter relevant, audience and fan provided)
Remember, the beauty of social media, is you don’t need to create everything, you can leverage and share what others have done, provided it is on brand, relevant and appropriate for your presence.
3. Leverage appropriate applications. The Events application can be used to promote your event, or other activities both around and within your event. Beyond this there are hundreds of calendaring and other organizational or promotional applications that can be used. Some I’ve found to be valuable include: Polls, Promotions, SlideShare, CitySearch, EventBrite, Social RSS and My Documents. Search or Browse the Application Directory and select a few that are right for you and meet your needs. Another option of course is to hire a developer to create your own Facebook applications.
4. Identify, attract and befriend the right audience. You don’t need to boil the ocean here. Start by searching Facebook for people who you know who are already part of the community and “friending” them. You can also invite people you email or IM via your contact list to join Facebook. The next step is to use Facebook search to conduct searches of People, Pages and Groups to identify folks who might be interested in your content and your event and “friend” them. Finally, you can promote your Facebook presence off site to attract others to become your friend or fan.
5. Engage. If you build it, they might come. In order to be truly successful, you must engage and interact with others. Reach out to other Facebook pages with related content (industry, fan, speaker, exhibitor, etc.) and participate in discussions, post photos, videos, links, content and comments to their Walls. Think long-term. This is not just about awareness and audience generation for your event, but an engagement strategy that will make your event a vital component of the community and an important accentuation point in the relationship with your audiences, whether they be attendees, speakers, exhibitors, press, analysts or otherwise.
Building a Facebook engagement strategy (or any other community engagement strategy) is easier said than done. Participating in communities takes time and diligence, but with the right focus, your event can become a prominent fixture both within the Facebook community and beyond. Remember to observe, create, share and engage and long-term success will be yours.