Facebook events don’t mean much

Promoters of a plan to raid Area 51 in Nevada must be scratching their heads today.

Their plan was to get millions of people to show up at the military base, storm the gates, and uncover the truth about hidden alien technology.

More than 2 million people checked the “going” box on the “Raid Area 51” social media event page.

Imagine that number: more than 2 million people. According to a 2017 U.S. Defense Department report, that’s roughly the same size as our active and reserve military forces.

On the day of the scheduled Area 51 raid, however, only a few dozen people actually showed up at the gate.

So, what went wrong? What happened to the other millions of people who said they’d show up? Could it be they were abducted by — wait for it — oh, never mind.

The “truth” is, like most things we try to plan and promote on social media, it’s easy to slap some information and a picture or video on an event page. It’s not as easy to get people to actually show up for the event, even if they tell us they’re “going.”

Regardless of what platform we use (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, etc.), the process of promoting an event using social media is fairly straightforward. However, it doesn’t mean people will show up, even if they use your page to share the event with friends, or even commit to attend.

Facebook users have several options when they visit our event pages. They can select the “going,” “interested,” or “ignore” boxes, they can share the event with friends, or they can really “ignore” our events and do nothing at all.

Checking the “going” box is a reflex for some users. For some of us, as it was with the “Raid Area 51” event, selecting the “going” option is more of a sign of support. It’s an impulsive reaction to something we like, no different that actually liking some content we see in our social media news feeds.

Promoters, however, would much prefer we select the “interested” option, as in, “I’m interested in seeing what’s beyond the heavily fortified Area 51 gates, but I’m not ready to say I’ll show up and, well, possibly be arrested.”

The question then centers on how to convert those who say they’re “going” to, or at least “interested” in, an event into attendees.

Don’t rely solely on social media to promote your events. Of course, newspaper advertising works well. And write good press releases to distribute to local media. Then we use the information from our press releases to create social media event pages. We do a bit of email marketing with pithy subject lines to attract recipients. In the body of the email, we’ll often place a link to the event page on Facebook.

Avoid the temptation to pay to “boost” your event on social media. Chances are you’ll get more engagement with people who “share” your event with their followers.

The truth about Area 51 is still out there, but the truth about using social media to promote our events is right in front of us.

If we want people to show up, it takes more than a few million people to say they’re “going” on a Facebook event page to make it happen.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn .com.


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