Everybody wants their best Facebook post or event to "Go Viral". It's the unicorn of all personal and business marketing. I'm sure if people really knew what that meant, however, they might rethink it. It's a headache. You might not be prepared for the amount of people who will message you 24/7, messing up your response rate if it's 3 a.m. and you don't respond within the hour. Or worse yet, you might be blown away by the number of people who will actually show up to your event, not be able to find parking and than trash you and your company all over the internet.
This actually happened to me.
I took it upon myself to advertise my town's annual community festival on Facebook without spending a single dollar. I just wanted to get the word out there on social media. I knew after the first day, when my post had reached over 30,000 people, that we were in trouble. Or better yet, I was in trouble, as I was the only person handling the social media.
It became my full time job. All of my friends knew about the event and the latest stranger/Internet troll to give me grief in a private message. The other volunteers from the organization couldn't stomach the sheer number of "mean" people on Facebook or the "special" people that asked me questions they could very well find the answers to themselves, such as the time they could board the train at their stop in somewhere America, or the date of the event (that was listed in the event post), or what should they do about their chairs if they wanted to walk around (I don't know, what do you do at the beach?), ALL OF WHICH I HAD TO ANSWER, and without the slightest bit of condescension or sarcasm, and in a timely fashion.
All of that hard work paid off. The event post reached 568.5 THOUSAND people. Yes, that's half a million people. The post was shared 2.7 thousand times. Nearly 50,000 people marked themselves interested or attending the event, an event which typically brought in about 8-12 thousand people. Best estimates say that 18,000-25,000 people showed up to this event. And there was definitely not enough parking.
The Facebook event post was the gift that kept on giving. Our organization's Facebook page went from about 200 likes to 1400. Our events immediately following the festival got tons of engagement and new people showed up. People started contacting us about joining the organization and getting involved. Our local businesses started seeing an increase in sales too. It was a success, by all measures.
But could it be duplicated?
I'm here to tell you it can, if you are prepared to put in the effort. It depends on a lot of factors, such as date, location, and price, but I truly believe anyone can use Facebook events to successfully promote their event and reap the rewards. Whether you are a volunteer for a nonprofit, or a paid marketer for your company, these tips are for you.
If you take even one of the following five steps to grow your event, you will see vast improvement in engagement. If you take all five, make sure you have help. You're going to need it.
1. Fill out the event description completely and publish the event at least one month before the event start date.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it's easy to miss something. Your event needs an eye-catching cover photo that is relevant to the event. It needs a date, time, and a link to a physical Facebook-suggested address. If your location does not show up on the suggestions, fix that before continuing to set up your event, or use a general location that has received a few thousand check-ins before. This is key.
If you are selling tickets to the event, connect your ticketing link (e.g. Eventbrite). If you are not using online tickets and your event requires tickets, rethink this whole thing. No really. 🤔 No one remembers to write the check and find a stamp and mail it weeks after they've seen it in a passing post on Facebook while they were taking a quick look in the waiting room of their doctor's office. If they can buy it when they see it, you'll sell more tickets. End of story.
Then, fill in as much detail as you can in the "About" section. There will still be people who don't understand how Facebook works who will make you repeat all these details in the event discussion. But guess what? Instant content. No need to figure out for how you're going to keep these people engaged for the next month. You can just screenshot your "About" section once per week and post it in the event discussion. This is not all you're going to post, but it's a helpful start.
Most people do not know what they are going to do on April 25, 2020 (I do, but I'm going on vacation), but the earlier you fill out your event for that far off date, the longer you have to promote that event and get people interested. The more people who are interested, the more it is shared. The more engagement your event has, the more likely Facebook will suggest it two days before the event when they are looking for something to do in their area.
2. Post in the event page frequently.
How frequently? Post at least 3-4 times each week for the first few weeks, and then in the two weeks prior to your event, post everyday. Multiple times each day if you can.
What do I post?
This is the easiest part ever for non-profits and vendor events. This is your value-added benefit to sell more sponsorships and tables at your event. You are going to share a thank you to your sponsor/vendor in a post linking back to their Facebook page, website, or Google maps location. If this is currently a benefit for only your top sponsors, rethink that as well. You need something to post, and you want all of their followers to come to your event. Right? You want to expand your reach, your awareness in the community, and your income from the event. So partner up with your clients, local chamber, sponsors, vendors, whomever likes recognition too.
If you are hosting an event and you are a for-profit business, you can still find content to post in your event page. Whatever you are normally posting on your Facebook business page should also be posted in your event page, whether it is about your products, services or your event.
3. Allow posts to your page without approval and respond to every comment, post, and share.
I know a lot of businesses are terrified of allowing someone to post to their Facebook wall or event page because they are afraid someone will post something "bad." Bad can mean many things: a poor review about your business, an unrelated post promoting their own business, something racist or political or sexual. Ultimately, as the admin or editor of a page, you still have control. Delete things that are not in keeping with the event, and block the user. If the offending post was up for more than a few hours (perhaps they posted it while you were sleeping), don't panic. People will comment on the post, they'll leave little angry emojiis, and voila! You will not only find the post to take it down, but you will also get more engagement with your event! The Facebook algorithm doesn't care if people are angry or happy, it only cares how much they care.
When someone asks a question on your page, answer it. If they say something negative about your business, respond in the most caring way possible "I'm sorry you had that experience. Send us a private message so we can find a solution." A negative review is your chance to show off what amazing customer service you have! What an opportunity! (If anyone else add their gripes in the comments, ignore them. Misery loves company.)
If someone tags a friend on your post in your event page, "Love" the tag using the heart emojii, and then comment "We hope you can both make it!"
If someone shares your event, Facebook will give you a notification. Go to their share, love it as your business, and then comment "Thanks for sharing! We'll see you there!" People love it when a business responds to their posts.
4. Invite, invite, invite.
Share the event with everyone you know using the invite button, but also in private messages and on your wall. Invite others in your organization to do the same. Share weekly in local groups in which you are a member. Invite others in your organization to do the same. This is a group effort!
Facebook will give you a notification of people who liked your post who are NOT following your business page. It will give you the opportunity to invite them to like your page. Invite them all. There may be thousands. Do it anyway.
5. Go Live.
Not everyone loves to be on video. I understand. So if you can't stand it, don't worry. Turn the camera to face away from you. The day of your event, go to the venue and go live. Walk around. Show people where to park, which doors to enter, where the food will be, where the music is, where the bathrooms are...really anything. Talk about your sponsors. Tell your viewers how excited you are for the event. Tell them you won't be able to answer any more questions today, but you wanted them to have as much information as possible before they arrived.
Then, when you are at the event, ask people how they heard about it. Go up to complete strangers, introduce yourself, and ask questions. (People loved that I asked for feedback. They even let me take their photo for Facebook.) If they say Facebook, tell them that you handled the social media. If they meet you, they'll have a harder time talking bad about you on Facebook if they don't have fun, but they'll also be more likely to defend you when others talk bad about you on Facebook. And people will. You can't please everyone.
In conclusion, there are good and bad points to trying to make an event go viral on social media, but the most important tip I have for you is to not take it personally. Do the best you can to get the word out. You have no control over who comes and whether or not they have a good time. The more you get the word out, however, the more publicity you gain for your organization. And the more help you have, the less stress you'll have in doing it. So grab your team, check your insights regularly, and plan an awesome event!
If it seems too overwhelming, send us an email and we can help you!