Help me make sense of the facebook
January 19, 2012 9:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm in charge of inviting people to Facebook events for a small nonprofit. We've started tracking the number of people that say they are going and maybe going on Facebook vs. the number of people who actually show up to the event. It looks like of the people that say they are going or maybe going to an event about 50% actually show up. Is this a normal show up rate? Has anyone done statistical study on this kind of data?

Bonus: Does anyone have tips on getting a larger percentage of people to show up?
posted by gregr to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If everyone who shows up to your events also RSVP'd on facebook, and you've got a 50% show-up rate, I'd actually call that very impressive. Some wag described the facebook event RSVP options thus:

"I'm going means I might go. Maybe means I won't go but I'd like you to think I might. Declining means I think you're an asshole."
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:18 PM on January 19, 2012 [10 favorites]

"Maybe" means either "I don't want to hurt your feelings by declining" if they're a good friend, or "I didn't even read this but I'm just clearing it off my list" if they're an acquaintance.

If you want people to show up, invite them personally by name. In person, on the phone, through an email, heck, even through Facebook's mail if it comes to that. These days, if you invite someone by Facebook, chances are that they won't even read the invitation. I get bombarded by 20 invites a day, and the only ones which get through are the ones where people personally follow up with me and go "hey I invited you to so-and-so, are you coming? Because I'd really like to see you there", because I otherwise assume the person in question just checked every friend on his/her list and wouldn't care if I showed up or not.

In other words - you want people to show up, put in a little bit more work than just checking off someone's name on a invitation.
posted by Conspire at 9:22 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Personally, i click 'maybe' if i haven't decided if i'm going to go, or if i want to see who else is going before i click yes. Statistically, i have no idea what typical response rates are.

Ultimately, the point of using social media is to spread the word. If your invitees (and past attendees) aren't forwarding the invite to friends, or past attendees aren't engaging with your facebook page or your event pages, then you should think about creating more compelling events and more compelling invitations. It might not increase the percentage of invitees who attend, but simply increasing the number of invitees (via the enthusiasm of your audience) will bring a larger total audience, and will mean your organisation will reap the benefits of using facebook, beyond simply it's handiness as an rsvp tool.

And yes, i'm aware that i didn't answer your question (i'm sorry!) but hopefully my answer will be helpful anyway!
posted by Kololo at 9:31 PM on January 19, 2012

What is your demographic? In my age/social/regional/cultural/whatever group, a Facebook invitation isn't perceived as a real invitation. It has no value to the recipient. It is about one step up from spam. So there is that.

If you want a larger percentage of people who RSVP Yes or Maybe to actually turn up, you should consider a different communication and invitation mechanism. This is pretty much what well-done, personalised email campaigns (Mail Chimp, campaign Monitor) were made for IMHO.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:37 PM on January 19, 2012

For a free event that sounds about right. If it's on a weekend night or other high value time slot then you might get less. If they get to take off work to attend, more.
posted by fshgrl at 9:38 PM on January 19, 2012

The bar for replying is low, almost frictionless (to coin a term). The bar for not showing up is also low, as almost nobody follows up and asks why you didn't show up despite an unambiguous RSVP. This isn't the 50s, it isn't done by card or even phone, and you just have to expect that this is the way the medium works. It's literally no effort to say yes, so the perceived value of an answer is quite low.

It may be some small comfort that their activity means others see your event and may be encouraged to go.

One way that you can increase participation is by treating the event as another means of interaction, as it has its own wall. Hold back on small, meaningless but seemingly juicy information and pitch it out in the days leading up to the event: "We're excited to see you on Saturday! Don't forget there's free punch and cookies!" This shows in the activity of the daily facebookers, at least, and reminds them of their (minor) commitment.
posted by dhartung at 9:47 PM on January 19, 2012

We held an unoffical school reunion last year (aka Revenge of the Nerds Reunion) to catch up with all the friends who weren't invited to the first official reunion.

We invited 40-ish people through Facebook, but we messaged them personally, as well as making phone calls and sending snail mail. Maybe 10 didn't turn up, of those maybe 5 let us know shortly beforehand that they'd planned to come but suddenly couldn't make it. An uninvited few extras did turn up. We ended up with about the same number of people as we'd estimated.

Tl;dr: don't rely on Facebook only. Contact your prospective guests through a non-FB method as well.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:03 PM on January 19, 2012

My data's not from Facebook, but I ran a monthly Meetup for a couple years. 50% was about average, and probably 20% of the people who showed didn't bother to respond, so it was actually less.

Don't worry about it. As others have said, the barrier for saying "I'll attend" is basically zero. Some people use it as a "Yeah, I'd like to attend", some use it as a "If I check this my friends will see I'm attending and think I'm cool/interesting/busy", others use it as a "I'll say I'm going and hopefully someone else I like will too. Otherwise I'm not going to bother."

You're doing fine. But feel free to harbor some resentment to the no shows.

If you have a reason for needing an accurate head count (for example if you need to have a certain amount of food or something) you'll need to use another method. The first thing I'd try is to set up a completely different service from Facebook so people need to make an effort. You could also sell tickets for a token sum, with the amount refunded at the door.
posted by Ookseer at 10:20 PM on January 19, 2012

In response to your bonus question:

Free food. People love food.
posted by deathpanels at 10:20 PM on January 19, 2012

I do gig invite events on Facebook for my band a couple of times a month. There is zero correlation in my experience between how people respond to the invite and what they actually do. People say they are coming and don't. People say they aren't coming and show up. It's like any response at all is 'maybe', just different shades of maybe. If you're getting 50% of people saying they'll show up actually showing up, you're doing better than me.
posted by motty at 10:48 PM on January 19, 2012

There are statistics for this but they are the property of people who call themselves social media gurus.

I think 50% is quite above average for most FB events among urban hipstery types. Maybe the folks you're inviting are older and like to tell the truth?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:26 AM on January 20, 2012

The rule of thumb I was taught as a community organizer was that about half the people who say "yes" to a real person come, so it sounds like you're doing well.
posted by slidell at 1:19 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my experience, people are more likely to come if

- they know the inviter personally or feel that they do
- they feel as if they have been personally invited
- you present a compelling reason for them to come to this particular event
- they feel that they will feel included at this event, because they know other people or because there is some structure to the event that helps people mix or something they can do that means mixing is not particularly necessary.

So, things that you can do:

- Circulate during events and chat to people. Smile a lot and tell them you're glad to see them. Remember your regulars. Try and avoid unintentionally seeming cliquey by spending ALL your time with the regulars instead of the new people.
- When present your organisation and events in writing, use chatty friendly personal language; try not to sound too formal. What would you say if you were inviting a close friend in person? Use those words.
- Ask for people's help. If you think you will have a lot of new people one time, ask nicely on your Facebook for regulars to come and help make new people feel welcome.
- If your events are unstructured, consider sometimes providing structured activities like a quiz with teams or a workshop or whatever makes sense in your context. Particularly if you know a lot of new people will be coming.
posted by emilyw at 2:01 AM on January 20, 2012

I've found Facebook invites really helpful when there's a buzz around the event - it sort of snowballs and brings in people who need to see that 35 people they like are going, and it's a constant reminder to all of them. This is the sort of event that people are talking about in real life, and I think it has to be a debut or something special for that to happen.

50% sounds pretty good, otherwise, and I know it sucks. The way to increase it is to have people telling their friends, 'cos then they've an incentive and an obligation to come. I was organising something ticketed, with a waiting list and high demand, and 30% of the people who'd been clamoring for an invitation just didn't show, leaving a lot of empty chairs. (Luckily, also some leftover booze.)
posted by carbide at 2:09 AM on January 20, 2012

As many others have said, a Facebook invitation is just so impersonal that it's easy to ignore. If there is any way you can invite a few people by phone or in person, that will likely increase the probability that they will show up.
posted by lulu68 at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2012

The rule of thumb I was taught as a community organizer was that about half the people who say "yes" to a real person come, so it sounds like you're doing well.

Yep. As a former organizer, we call that the "rule of halves." OP, sounds like you're doing a great job.
posted by lunasol at 8:34 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the information!

Has anyone seen academic research on this kind of thing?
posted by gregr at 9:18 AM on January 20, 2012

Response by poster: The demographic is mostly 19-35 art people. We have monthly art shows and sometimes have experimental music, readings, etc. The group of people is pretty well interconnected, so I suspect that people are reminding each other of the events. Also, the art scene isn't huge in our area, so that probably helps.
posted by gregr at 9:23 AM on January 20, 2012

Another organizer seconding slidell and lunasol. 50% is absolutely textbook.

I question the idea that you're unusual or doing especially well not to have a lower turnout rate than when people have said yes in person or on the phone though. I would expect the peer pressure people-pleasing yes's that come from actual contact to cancel out the "easy to click" low commitment aspect of FB.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:46 AM on January 20, 2012

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