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Monday, June 11, 2012

Does Facebook yield measurable results?

I'll admit it, I'm a social media seminar junkie. In the past month I've attended a record number of expos/conferences/conventions, call them what you will. The first was the NYXPO in early May, then it was the Small Business Expo, the Book Expo, and finally Word Camp this past weekend. My favorite workshops are always the social media ones. I feel that there's always so much to learn about the ins and out of each platform- Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest- what strategies will grow your following, what are the effective ways to use and manage social media, how to understand analytics and what works in terms of monetization.

After hearing what all of these experts have to say, I've noticed a recurring theme, which is that Facebook does not really seem to yield reliable, measurable results. True, it's not clear how to measure the return on investment (ROI) for most social media platforms. One of the speakers who has successfully used Twitter for her business shared what happened when she promoted one of her  networking events by inviting people to a Facebook event she had created. Hundreds of people RSVPed, but less than ten people actually showed up to the event.

I have to say that I've had a similar experience. I recently promoted an event on Facebook by inviting people from different Facebook groups to attend. Since more than one group was involved, I had to create identical Facebook events had to be created, one for each group. Plenty of people RSVPed, to the various Facebook event pages. But even with more than one Facebook event page, not even half of the people who responded actually ended up coming to the event.

For some reason, people's RSVPs on Facebook are not always reliable. I think there are a number of reasons for that. For one thing Facebook's  event page format has changed. It used to be that you could message your invited guests to give them reminder or a special message. But you can no longer to that. Now you can only write on your event's wall with special information or updates for your invited guests.

Also, perhaps people simply respond "yes" and "maybe" to event before actually deciding or checking their calendars to make sure if they will be able to make it. And so these events never actually make it onto people's personal calendars. I also find that there is this phenomena of people responding yes or maybe simply "in the spirit of" supporting you. Consequently people forget about the Facebook events that they've been invited to, or maybe they just don't login to Facebook frequently enought or check their Facebook events.  For some reason, people's responses on Facebook are just not that "sticky."

I recently gave it a second try. This time, in addition to setting up a Facebook page, I personally invited people via email and e-invitations. I made sure that I frequently posted messages to the Facebook event wall requesting firm RSVPs, reminding people that the event was coming up and enticing people to come early by letting them know that the venue would be offering complimentary drinks and appetizers for early birds.  In addition to this I used an e-invitation and emails to send additional information about the event and reminders. This method seemed to work much better. I had quite a respectable turn out and I'd say that 70-80% of the people who RSVPed did in fact show up at the event. Perhaps it was because this time I was constantly in contact with people and personally checking to see who was coming to the event. So it seems there is nothing that can quite replace the "personal touch," which I don't think people get from being simply invited to a Facebook event.

I think a lot of what I've described above is also because everything on Facebook happens so real time, and in the immediacy. There is a fleeting quality about the exchanges and interactions on Facebook. You can't write messages or schedule your status updates or any posts in advance. Everything is written real time. As a result, sometimes things get lost in the shuffle if you are not actually logged onto Facebook at the precise time that something has been posted or people do not read their Facebook messages if they are not logged in.

It's hard enough to keep up with all of your friends' status updates on Facebook, but it can be hard to keep track of activity within just one Facebook group. I am a member of a very active Facebook group that has 100s of members who constantly post on the group's wall and I've noticed that people's posts quickly get buried underneath the most recent posts. Who has the time to go and scroll back through everything that's been posted previously?

Why am I getting into all this? Because despite all the fun time I've spent on Facebook, I'm going to have to say that I agree with much of what's being said in this article, Why Facebook won't survive the decade

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