23. May, 2017

A Facebook Party Guide: How To Host A Good Shindig

Welcome to another week and the third and final instalment in my Facebook Party Guide: the WHAT, the WHY and the HOW.

This week: the 'HOW'

Anyone can throw a Facebook Party but as with a real-life party, or launch event, a bad or poorly executed party, could do more harm than good.

If your aim as a writer or writer's group, is to promote and engage, then there are ways to do this to a professional standard. On a public-facing page, we are always on show and every opportunity counts.

From my experiences, as both a party attendee and guest host (and former event manager), I’ve gleaned some trips of the trade, designed to help your party provide a better user experience and return on investment for the host/s.

Timing and Duration

Let’s be real. A virtual party is an awkward format for both the host and the user. Therefore, the best tactic is to keep it short and sweet. One hour works well, as the pace can often be frantic when the activity is live. Your users will appreciate a manageable timeslot they can devote themselves to, around their busy lives.

If you have good reason to make your party longer (for example, you might be co-hosting and providing multiple guest author slots), then keep the schedule tight. Publicise key timings for tuning in (i.e. cover reveals or Q&As) and accept that your audience and engagement will ebb and flow, as with any real-life party over several hours. Just give guests enough reasons to tune in and keep coming back.

If your audience is international, you are never going to please all timezones. As with Michelle Dennise’s recent Cover Reveal Party, the host invited US and Australian guest authors to take part, so found a morning/evening slot that suited US and Australian timezones. If your audience is local, around 8pm on a Sunday evening or weeknight might be a good time, to allow families to get their commitments out of the way before hand.

Inviting co-hosts: the pros and cons

A simple term for inviting other people to co-host your party is ‘group work’. How many projects have I seen fail as soon as responsibility becomes decentralised and the most conscientious person ends up doing all the work?

In terms of hosting a Facebook Party as a professional, promotional tool, it doesn’t have to be this way. Group work in this scenario should mean, strength in numbers, pooled talents, pooled resources, depth of content and variety of approaches. Michelle Dennise’s Facebook Party page is a good example of a group activity making for a richer promotional and user experience. Post-party, the page is still attracting more and more likes by the day!

When you bring others into your project, these tips migh help keep things on track:

  • As host, you are ultimately responsible for how the party plays out, so plan, promote, rehearse and expect the same of your guest hosts.
  • Invite people you know to co-host, or have some sort of vetting process, or agreement from your co-hosts that they will be able to commit to what is required (including cross-promotion of the event on their own feeds).
  • Guest hosts are responsible for the success of their individual slots but don’t assume anything, as people’s knowledge of the technical capacities of Facebook will differ. If you are main host, make sure everyone involved is clear on the ground rules for posting and interaction and that they understand how to navigate and use the party page effectively, BEFORE the party goes live.
  • Maintain pre-party communication with your co-hosts and perhaps set up a chat group on messenger (useful during the party, in particular). Don’t be afraid to ask for segment outlines from your group, so you know all is well in advance, or can help, if potential glitches seem to be arising.
  • Provide 'trouble shooting' guidelines for your co-hosts, so they are aware of the technical gremlins that can plague Facebook Parties. For example, attendees need to regularly refresh their pages, so that they can see the newest content. Co-hosts will also do well to pre-schedule some posts and rehearse and plan the best way to post video material in the feed.

How to Deliver A Fun Party When You Are Live

For my money, here’s a summary of some do's and don’ts to get the most of your Facebook Party.

Don’ts

  • Don’t leave too much to chance. Know what you are going to post, when you are going to post it and how. Audience interaction should be 'by the seat of their pants' but your's as host should be controlled wherever possible.
  • Don’t leave too much time between posts. Think carefully of the user experience. How long will it realistically take attendees to read and interact with the post, leaving some buffer for delays and technical issues? If you leave it too long before your next post, it will break momentum and leave those with good WIFI connections and reflexes, bored.

Do's

  • As with any event, provide some simple and friendly housekeeping rules for your attendees (and co-hosts). If they’ve never been to a Facebook Party before, they’ll appreciate it. The main thing is to manage EVERYONE’s expectations. Technology/WIFI is our friend but can also be our greatest foe. The more traffic to your site at one time, or the weaker a participant's internet connection, the more delays you might expect. Let everyone know upfront, that new posts will go up regularly and to keep refreshing their pages every few minutes to stay in touch with the latest posts.
  • Use a wide variety of posts to enrich your content delivery including text, colourful or meaningful graphics, text with graphics, funny/cool gifs, book trailers, cover reveals, short presenter videos (pre-record preferably) and quizzes with prizes.
  • Did someone say trivia and prizes!! This is a terrific drawcard and engagement tool and I’ve seen it used expertly by the Just Write for Kids and Creative Kids Tales Facebook pages for their group parties. The latter upped the ante and competitive spirit, by asking questions that required a live visit to its webpage. The former chose a fantasy theme, Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, to keep all of us writerly types enthralled and engaged.
  • If you run a quiz, I do think it’s rewarding for those in attendance, to award a prize at the end of the event but you might  also like to keep an avenue open for post-party engagement to the page. This could be done by running another competition for those who couldn’t attend and keep it open for a certain amount of time post-party.
  • Invite real interaction from the audience, to make guests feel involved in the party and not just bystanders. A great technique I learned is to ask your guests to introduce themselves when they arrive and share their professional Facebook Pages. Writers love this!! Another idea is to run a live Q&A segment, or generally invite comments to any post. As host/s, try to  reply during the party if possible and if not, acknowledge and respond to comments/questions after. Reward and thank people for their participation.

I hope that the experiences I’ve shared have been constructive. I appreciate not everyone might agree, or you might have better ideas on how to pull a crowd and achieve a high return on investment from a Facebook Party.

I’d love to hear from you either via a comment on my website  or you might like to comment in the Facebook feeds where I share this post.

To all who’ve taken the time to read (and the parties I've cited as inspiration), thank you.

Now, good luck and get partying!

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