What to do when Facebook goes down (again)

Facebook does not owe you anything, it does not exist to serve you, or your event marketing.

On top of issues around privacy, shady back-office dealings, coverups and more, Facebook (and Instagram, owned by Facebook) in the last week has gone down/ceased working for millions of people around the world.  A stark reminder that the most popular social network around the world is not a public service, nor a right that we can demand.  Essentially, Mark Zuckerberg could take the site offline tomorrow.

Where would that leave you, and your event?

As an Event Director, this must be a consideration for your future marketing plans.  If you ran an event before Facebook event pages were the norm, what did you do?  How did you get the word out to people across the world about your event?

If you have never run an event without the social network to assist you in getting the word out, how would you do it without Facebook?

The rise of email (again)

Image result for gmail inbox

I wrote about email marketing last year: West Coast Swing Event Marketing: Why Email? and the advice hasn’t changed.  You must start building your email list, and if you already have an email list, you must start actively engaging with your subscribers.

Things to consider

COMPLIANCE:
In the USA – make sure you understand CAN-SPAM laws related to commercial messages sent via email, here is a quick overview: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2018/06/06/is-your-email-marketing-compliant-with-the-can-spam-act/. Basically, in the US, you must not mislead, and you must clearly give people a way to OPT-OUT.

In Canada – CASL is the law you must be aware of, it is more restrictive than the laws in the USA.  Here is some reading on when you can and cannot email a commercial message: https://mailchimp.com/help/about-the-canada-anti-spam-law-casl/ . In Canada, you must have a clear documented trail of someone OPTING – IN to receive your messages.

CHOOSE A SENDING PLATFORM: 

There are many low-cost solutions available to you to manage your email list, create good looking emails, and crucially, keep compliant with opt-in/opt-out capabilities that your own gmail/yahoo/hotmail address does not allow.

If you are going to email commercial messages about your event, you must never, ever, ever, ever, ever use your own email address and a bcc list.

Have a look at these professional platforms:

Mailchimp
Constant Contact
Mad Mimi 

MOBILE READY (RESPONSIVE):

Depending on the average age of your audience, it is likely that 50% – 70% of the people who receive your emails will access them on a smart device.  Make sure that the template you use is set up to display properly on a small screen, otherwise, people simply will not read it, and they will stop opening it.

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SENDING SCHEDULE:

When switching to email communication, it is important to find a balance of how often to send messages.  A simple rule of thumb is to do it less than you would post on Facebook, and to include more information with each send.

Your Website

West Coast Event websites can often be a little neglected… let’s be honest.  If a particular website just popped into your head, you know exactly what I mean.

However, no matter if your website is kinda-outta-date, or new and snazzy, it isn’t the design that matters, really.  It is the useable, findable, and up-to-date information that matters. 

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a new website, but you do have to invest some time (and maybe some money) in making sure that your site works properly, that the information is up to date, and that people can find the information they need easily on your site.

On top of that, can people find your website?  If you type your event name into Google, does your website show at the top of the results?  If not, you need to invest some effort into Search Engine Optimization (SEO for short).

Non-digital methods

In a (hypothetical) world without Facebook, you still need a social network!  Connect with local organizers everywhere you possibly can.  Support them in their endeavours, and ask for their support in yours.  Share messages with them about your event and ask them to share it with their local dancers.  Give them flyers for your event, and of course, always reciprocate!  In a world without the reliance on a Facebook event page, you need a way to reach further than your own community…. if you run an event, and haven’t been out on the event circuit recently, meeting new people and catching up with old friends, it might be time to dust off those dance shoes and get back out there.

Other ideas include:
– Sponsoring something at a nearby event, to get exposure to those dancers
– Offering event passes as prizes to other EDs
– Advertising opportunities (like the US Open Program)
– Cross promotion with other complimentary dance styles, like Hustle, Zouk, Ballroom, etc.

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Facebook algorithm changes and your West Coast Swing Event (March 2018)

In January, Facebook announced dramatic changes to the Newsfeed in order to favour content from friends and family, rather than posts from third-party publishers – those are your business pages.  In the days following Facebook’s announcement that its users would see 20 percent fewer posts from publishers’ pages in their news feeds thanks to a change in the Facebook algorithm, I speculated about what effect this would really have on the work I do at WestieMarketing.

I’ve waited two months to observe the effects of this change, and unfortunately, there is definitely a decline in both reach and interaction when it comes to Pages.  The silver lining, if you can call it that, is that reach and engagement on event-specific pages have only seen a small decline, so far.

Not sure what I am referring to?  On the left is the Liberty Swing Dance Championships Page and on the right, the Liberty Swing 2018 Event Page.

So, a ‘Page’ is losing its ability to reach its fans, with this new change, as I will demonstrate below, while event-specific pages have retained most of their traction with audiences.

Anonymous West Coast Swing Page – Example 

Post reach December 2017 into January 2018 

Reach is indicated by the numbers and orange boxes in the 3rd column, to the right of that is the number of interactions and comments.

Post reach February into March 2018 

As you can see, there has been quite a dramatic change in both the reach and the interactions on these posts.

While this is just one example, the results match up with what I am seeing across all of the Pages that I manage for both WestieMarketing, and my other business, Socially Good.

But there is better news, or at least, less bad news.

Reach and engagement of event pages has taken much less of a hit.  Here are a couple examples from West Coast Swing Event Pages I manage.

 

 

You can see just the smallest of dips across likes, comments, shares and posts.  Of course, engagement always increases closer to the event, and these events are not happening immediately.

What is the takeaway? 

Relying on Facebook to get the word out should not be your only method of reaching your audience.  Yes, it is still a great channel, do not stop doing it, however, be realistic about your expectations and expand into other methods to make sure you have your bases covered.

  • Check your own Facebook Insights
    Knowing how your own Page and Event Page is performing will help you make better decisions.
  • Consider adding some budget to pay for Facebook promotion
    Contact me if you want help to do this.  Facebook advertising can be incredibly effective, or a giant waste of money if you are not clever about what you are doing.   Having a goal that translates to your business goal, and targeting the right audience is key.   Pro-tip, ‘friends of people who like this page’ isn’t usually the right audience.
  • Make sure you are emailing
    If you don’t have an email list, get one started immediately by adding email sign up to your website.   Make sure you add your past event attendees to your email list.  (Important note: You MUST send them a reconfirmation email with the link to sign up in order to comply with the law if you did not collect their permission to add them to your email list at the time that you collected their email, read more.) Want to know why I think email is so important? Check out this blog post from a few months ago. 
  • Look at other channels of communication
    Who is your event audience?  Instagram may be a good channel for raising awareness about your event with a younger demographic, although it is not likely to create ticket sales, it does create engagement with attendees, which is very valuable for repeat sales in the future.Don’t forget your website!  Read more on why your event website is important.

There is a lot more to West Coast Swing Event Marketing than just putting posts on Facebook. The landscape digital is changing, and events need to change with it.  This article does not address how different content can influence reach and engagement, it only looks at how the Facebook changes are affecting reach and engagement.  Content is a whole other blog post just waiting to be written….