The Real Life Power of Facebook Events

I saw John Carpenter’s The Thing on Thursday, March 2nd at the Museum of Fine Arts. I had only heard about the film before and had never before seen a movie at the MFA, but at some point during the last week of February I had seen the MFA’s event pop up on my Facebook newsfeed. I’m sure there have been plenty of posts before about the social power of Facebook Events, but what happened next was a very organic-feeling chain of events (no pun intended) that led up to the Thursday night screening.

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The event appeared in my feed because my friend Connor had marked himself as “Going.” Connor and I went to high school together and he now goes to school at Berklee. Unfortunately, he’s notoriously hard to get a hold of, so we’ve only hung out once or twice in the past few years. But I always see him RSVPing to interesting Facebook events! Typically these events are for hardcore music concerts that I wouldn’t enjoy, but The Thing caught my attention. I marked myself as “Interested,” threw Connor’s activity a Like just because, and went back to scrolling through my newsfeed.

Although I had indicated that I was Interested, at that point I didn’t really think I would end up going to the movie; it was more of a way to just set that event aside for later, on the off chance that I would eventually decide to go out and do something on that particular Thursday night. However, just as with Connor’s RSVP, my decision to say that I was Interested generated a Facebook post of its own. And this is the part of my story where the magic of Facebook Events truly comes into focus.

MFA

A few days after I saw the event, my buddy Nick liked my RSVP post, and sent me a message (via Facebook Chat, I should mention) asking if I was planning on going to the movie. What had started as an abstract fun idea was suddenly becoming a real, concrete plan for Thursday night, and I didn’t even have to do any of the typical social heavylifting to set it up (finding something fun to do, mentioning it to a friend, etc.)! And just like that, my loose “Interested” on Facebook turned into a very solid “Going.”

 

I ended up going to see the movie with Nick and my other friend Emily, meaning we bought three tickets. For the MFA, that’s a pretty sweet deal—three tickets at 11 bucks a pop, all from a free-to-create Facebook Event! But what really sold me on the power of Facebook Events was what happened when we got to the museum. While waiting in line, I looked around and saw a familiar face. It was none other than my friend Connor!

MFA

Hard evidence proving that Connor was in attendance. Nick is also here (third from the right), but is still marked as only “Interested.” Emily didn’t RSVP via Facebook at all. Plus, I have at least 5 other friends who also saw the event!

As Connor and I hugged and said hello, my initial reaction was “Huh, small world!” But it only took a few moments for me to realize that this was definitely not an act of fate or chance. Of course, Connor was the only reason why I had heard about the event in the first place! It’s worth mentioning that he was there with a friend of his own, and I can only imagine that they had first heard about the event from a friend’s post on one of their Facebook newsfeeds as well.

Upon entering the theater, I came to the conclusion that many of the audience members had most likely heard about the movie in a similar fashion. It was nearly a sold-out house, and I’d wager that the average age of audience members was floating somewhere in the MFAmid-20’s (no small feat for Boston on a Thursday night). This is a huge testament to the MFA’s excellent social media presence. Like many forward-thinking museums, the MFA has great accounts on every major platform, and makes extensive use of Facebook Events for their programming. It is quite possible that the MFA also spent some money on a Facebook ad campaign to make their event visible to more users, but I like to think that this was a purely “digital word of mouth” endeavor.

As I mentioned earlier, there has been plenty of research done on the social power of Facebook Events. In 2012, the British social media event promotion company Eventbrite published some of their findings. Their study found that whenever someone shared an event on Facebook, they generated an average of $4.16 in ticket sales (outperforming shares on both Twitter and LinkedIn). This of course should be taken with a grain of salt, as the Facebook ecosystem from 2012 must have been an entirely different beast than its current incarnation. However, included in the report was a statement from Eventbrite VP of Marketing Tamara Mendelsohn, the commonsense of which still rings true today:

“Events are naturally paired with social media. People inherently want to share the events they are going to on Facebook… Events are primarily driven by word-of-mouth. When you discover something you tell your friends to find out who will go with you. There is this inherent human behaviour to want to share events and social media magnifies and accelerates this.”

Clearly, Facebook Events are a marketing tool with serious lasting power. As the one stop shop for all things social media, businesses already on Facebook have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using the platform to publicize their upcoming events in a natural and organic manner. Because at our core, people like feeling busy and looking cool by RSVPing to events on Facebook!

But there’s no harm in also sticking to conventions by using an old-fashioned website: I had a great time watching The Thing, which is part of the MFA’s year-long film series entitled On the Fringe: American Cult Films of the 1980s. I highly recommend that you all check out the rest of the upcoming films, and don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook!

 

 

7 comments

  1. Nice post. I think that FB events are great, and of course it’s always interesting to check who RSVPs to them. I feel as though once, when friends would ask me to go with them to an event, I wouldn’t always choose to go. However, today, when we see these events on FB, the event seems more “official” or maybe even less prone to cancellation, and you can also find a decent amount of information on the event. I love checking which of my friends are going, and sometimes this also helps me make a decision on whether or not to attend, and who I can expect to meet there. It’s great that the MFA is using FB to attract people to their events, and I believe FB events are a great tool for many other businesses as well.

  2. “Their study found that whenever someone shared an event on Facebook, they generated an average of $4.16 in ticket sales”– this shocked me! I’m personally a big fan of Facebook events. Honestly, with the exception of looking at other peoples’ pictures, it’s one of the main reasons I use Facebook. Between school events, bar events, fairs, and other social gatherings, Facebook is really the go to. This is a huge accomplishment on Facebook’s part and an easy/ accessible way for anyone to get an event out. Like you, I often reply “interested” with no real intention of going unless someone else shows further interest. However, on the few occasions that I did end up going to a random event, I had a great time and was very happy that I randomly saw the event on Facebook. This pseudo-WOM marketing is clearly really effective and an essential part of events. Great post!

  3. Awesome post! Like Gabrielle, I was also in awe of the statistic that a single share on Facebook could generate $4.16 in ticket sales. I know I share tons of events that I don’t even go to, just to keep the event as a potential option should I ‘decide I want to go out and do something’ on any particular day. To think that me making that one click leads to real revenue is insane. After reading this article I thought back to some of the events I’ve been over my past 2 years in Boston, and almost all of them have been brought to my attention via facebook. It’s also a great point that it’s free advertising, and also really simple advertising–almost anyone can create a facebook event & the shares are super organic.

  4. diiorion · ·

    One of the most interesting things to me about Facebook Events is the versatility of the feature. One use would be for businesses, or museums in your example, to promote events on social media. Another is to set up private events with a small group of friends. My sister just recently invited me to a Facebook Event for a housewarming party because she had just moved to the Upper East Side in Manhattan. The event only had about 20 invitees but she was using it to gauge who could and could not come. Yet another use is for me to essentially have an automated calendar. I routinely mark “Interested” on events just to keep them on my radar. Every week, I get an update that reminds me of the events that are coming up that week and other events that are near me that my Facebook friends may be going to. I think the versatility of this feature makes it such an incredible tool and it has become so ubiquitous on Facebook that many users don’t even realize the impact that it has.

  5. Nice post. I confess that I always thought of the events as a bit gimmicky, but I think this is a really great use case that I had not considered to bring people together. I’ll have to start using it more!

  6. CarbNatalie · ·

    This is a great post! The statistic of ticket sales as affected by Facebook events is shocking however it shows the power of FOMO. For me, whenever I see that my close friends are interested or going to an event, there is a little more pressure to actually make it happen, and this becomes cyclical. There has been a number of events that I have attended simply because Facebook basically told me it was a good idea. As far as businesses go, they definitely should take advantage of this and utilize the events to their advantage for not only ticket sales but for turnout.

  7. I really enjoyed your post! I agree that Facebook is really useful for hearing about interesting events that you may not have heard about otherwise. There are many cases I can think of in which I have benefited from seeing on Facebook that a friend is “interested” or is “going” to an event, especially for cool events that are not well publicized originally.

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