Why Facebook Events Don’t Work as a Promotional Tool

Last week, a focus group came into one of my classes at American University. They were a group of graduate students in the School of Communication asking a simple question: What makes AU students show up at events? They wanted to know how to get the message of their campaign out, publicize events, and build a movement among students. Naturally, one of the first things they asked about was social media. While the class agreed that having a Facebook event is a good idea, I realized that most of the time, it does very little to drive attendance.

At American, everyone is passionate about something. Some cause, project, person, or place. This creates a stimulating environment for learning, but also makes it almost impossible to tear anyone away from their issue and focus on another. Students agreed that while they are interested in some of the events that they are invited to on Facebook, there is simply an overwhelming number of them, over-saturating their events calendar. One student commented that she rarely even looks at an event she’s invited too–unless someone she is close to personally invites her. When everyone is fighting for the attention of a relatively few number of students, simply having engaging content and a great event idea isn’t enough. Peer-to-peer interaction is what really gets students to events.

As a student who has planned plenty of on-campus events, I shared in the frustration that many of my peers expressed. They’ll send out a Facebook invite to everyone from their freshman year roommate to their best friend to their bio lab partner, and inevitably, only a select few show up. Many people click to indicate that they will go, but you can only expect to see about a fourth (if you’re lucky) of that number next to “attending” show up day of event.

I realized that I’ve been a bit lazy by only relying on the most basic social media strategies to drive interests in the events I care so much about. I want to learn what, other than free pizza, what really makes an event on a busy college campus a success. My next post will focus on what students can do to make their events stand out on social media by emulating the “strong ties” that word of mouth promotion relies on.

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