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.
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.
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!
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 mid-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!