12 days into 2018, Mark Zuckerberg dropped a bombshell. He announced – via Facebook post, unsurprisingly – that the social network will start giving preference to posts from “friends, family and groups”, at the expense of content published by “businesses, brands and media”.
Cue mass panic by publishers and digital marketers.
Doomsday prophecies abound
Organic reach on Facebook is dead, shout the headlines, heralding a new dark age in which brands and publishers are no longer welcome in the world’s leading social media network and its billions of engaged eyeballs.
Media organisations, which for years worked hard to abide by Facebook’s rules and garner a sizeable amount of Likes and Follows, were particularly outraged, with the Guardian labeling the change “bad news for democracy”. Many have questioned the tech giant’s stated altruistic reasoning, noting how the announced change to its algorithms had a positive impact on company stock prices.
The general consensus seems to be that Facebook has left businesses out in the cold, relegating them to pay more than ever to get their content in front of the massive global audience that is Facebook, fight for crumbs of organic reach, or search for their traffic elsewhere.
Why you shouldn’t jump on the panic bandwagon just yet
To an extent, this apocalyptic atmosphere is understandable and even justified. Brands and publishers have been seeing diminishing returns from organic Facebook activity for years, and for them Zuckerberg’s latest announcement was almost the final nail in the coffin.
However, if you’re reading this, you’re probably in the event marketing space. Well, we’ve got some good news — or at the very least, some optimistic predictions. Because although it’s too early to say for certain, we’re going to guess that Facebook is still going to be an amazing place to promote your events throughout 2018. In a pinch, it could even be better than ever.
3 Strategies to Maintain and Increase Your Organic Reach
Now that we’ve (hopefully) got your attention, let’s take a quick look at how you should market your events on Facebook in 2018. We’ll suggest some broad strategies as well as a few specific tactics that should ensure Facebook remains a viable marketing channel for your events well throughout the year.
1. Seize the user-generate content opportunity
Events and user-generated content go hand in hand. It’s your job, as an event planner, to gently nurture and encourage your patrons to share their experience.
As an event planner, the changes to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm actually presents an awesome opportunity. Why? Because people tend to post on social media at events they enjoy, and these posts are going to get more exposure than ever. This means you have a unique advantage over other businesses. If you were selling some other product, e.g. accounting software, you probably wouldn’t see a lot of people posting enthusiastically on Facebook about it. Not that there’s anything wrong with accounting software – it’s just not how people usually use Facebook (LinkedIn could be a different story).
On the other hand, events are absolutely the kind of activity an average Facebook user likes showcasing on his or her timeline. This is especially true for music shows, outdoor festivals and club nights, but even professional conferences are a more exciting and shareable slice of life than another day at the office. And with Facebook tilting the scales towards content posted by actual human users, all of these posts can help your event reach a greater audience than ever.
Try these tactics to get your visitors to share more updates about your event:
- Run promotions that tie into social sharing, or find other creative ways to award guests for sharing updates about your event on their timeline through contests and giveaways.
- Having a hashtag for your event and making sure everyone is familiar with it can give you a major boost.
- Look into experiential activations, especially ones that have social media sharing baked into them (e.g. a photobooth that automatically posts the pictures to Facebook on the guest’s behalf).
2. Engage and build communities, don’t broadcast
Going back to Mark Zuckerberg’s statement – he talked about friends and family, which we’ve covered in the previous section, but also about groups. This is important. It gives you another way to reach that coveted Facebook traffic. After all, the (stated) logic behind Facebook’s decision is that it wants people to be more engaged with their feeds, rather than sheepishly scrolling through them in a state of half-sleep.
If you create an engaged community around your event, you can increase your organic reach.
And here’s the best part – you don’t actually need to create anything. Your patrons already are an engaged community. They have a shared interest that they’re willing to spend time and money enjoying, together. They’re quite enthusiastic. They love talking about it with like-minded people.
Your job is simple: give this community a place to meet, talk and share experiences about your event — on Facebook. You’re in a prime position to do so.
Use these tactics to create engaged communities around your events:
- Direct ticket buyers to your Facebook page and to relevant groups.
- Treat these channels as discussion forums for your users, rather than a captive audience to broadcast your messaging to. Think about having a real discussion with your followers, rather than reaching as many of them as possible or getting them to click on something.
- As a rule of thumb, try prioritizing comments over likes. If users are commenting, they’re active participants in the discussion, which is exactly what Facebook is trying to encourage.
- High-quality live video can be extremely engaging (with people tagging each other in the comments etc.), and is also prioritised by Facebook’s algorithms – see if you can incorporate it into your event’s content mix.
3. Don’t be afraid to pay – but be smart about it
If advertising costs are going to increase (as some predict), now is the time to be smarter about the way you spend money on Facebook.
Finally – there’s nothing wrong with paying to increase your social media footprint. It’s unavoidable in certain situations, such as when you’re launching a new brand or line of events.
However, the changes to Facebook’s algorithm might drive increased advertising costs in the platform as more and more publishers turn to advertising to recover their lost audiences. This means that now is the perfect time to learn the ins and outs of social media advertising for events.
Ideas to up your paid advertising game on Facebook:
- Measure and optimize everything. Leverage data from previous events and promotions to better understand what works and what doesn’t with your particular audience.
- Think outside the box – use your patrons’ Spotify playlists as a way to segment your existing audience, and to target potential new audiences.
- Even if you’re relying on paid advertising, you can still think about ways to leverage the increased organic reach of user-generated content. It all comes back to giving users a reason to share, and building a community around your event – and these principles apply even if you paid for their first click.
We’ll be covering this topic a bit more in-depth in later posts, so stay tuned for updates (you can follow us on Facebook, for example).
Time to stop worrying and get right back on Facebook
By using these three tactics, we’re quite certain you can continue relying on Facebook as a source of high-quality traffic for your next event. Let the media outlets and less exciting businesses of the world bite their fingernails in anxiety over losing reach – and bask in the carefree existence of an event planner, whose business is naturally Facebook-friendly.
Do you think our nonchalance in justified? Or are we completely off and the events industry is going to be hit hard by Facebook’s new algorithms? Tell us in the comments below!