How a minister used Facebook to get 100 people to show up for an event. TWICE.

Usually, when it comes to getting people to show up to an event, one thinks of things like fliers, posters, word-of-mouth, and telephone calls.

However, in our last year¬†here in Mostar, we’ve had 2 events attended by 100+ people, an English course with about 50 people, and we’ve hung 0 posters, handed out 0 fliers, and spent less than $40 in advertizing. How did we do it?¬†We used social media. This is the story of what we did.

We are not social media experts.

I am a minister. I still was able to use Facebook to get 50 students to come to an English class, and over 200 students to come to two seminars in the space of 12 months —¬†with no pre-existing following. In other words, on October 1, 2015 (roughly 1 year ago), we had a Facebook page with about 30 likes and no friends in our city.

This was a lot of work, and took a lot of time.

When I say that we promoted our events on Facebook, lots of people respond, “Oh, I don’t have time for that.” To that I would simply ask, “why do you believe you have time to shake hands with hundreds of people you don’t know, hang up posters that will probably be covered up tomorrow by¬†an ad for a concert, and hand out thousands of flyers that will end up all over the sidewalk?” Save the trees! Use social media!

How to think about Facebook

There are a couple of concepts that govern our thinking about Facebook events.

Think in terms of tribes.

When people waste time on Facebook (if they’re not just watching stupid cat videos), chances are they are reading or watching something posted by a page they follow. They do this because, in social media speak, because they have joined that page’s “tribe“.¬†We wanted to get people to join our tribe.

Surveying the landscape on Facebook, we could see that there were several tribes already existing in our city. There was the Student Union’s page, with their 2,000 followers, and various other student organizations, each with hundreds of followers.¬†We knew that our job, if we wanted to succeed, was to somehow connect ourselves to¬†these tribes. So we went straight to the top.

Our goal was to meet the tribe leaders.

handshake

If you meet tribe leaders and show them that your organization can be beneficial to their tribe, they will share your events and content with their followers. The currency of social media is the social share, and the way to earn shares is through building real relationships.

  • We found the¬†tribes by simply searching for things on Facebook related to our audience — in our case, university students.
  • We used the phone numbers posted on these Facebook pages to contact the¬†owners of these Facebook pages. We scheduled a meeting to tell them who we are and what we do for their students. We didn’t mention our events at first.

Get tribe leaders to promote your event for you.

Later on, when we were planning our events, we sent a nice Facebook message to these people, with a link to our Facebook event, asking them to share the event with their followers. They all obliged.

They RSVPed to our event, and then posted our event to the wall of their Facebook page. So instead of their tribe getting invited by us, they were invited by the leader of the tribe.

We created a Facebook event.

If you’re having a real event, you¬†must¬†create a Facebook event. Don’t try some other method — Facebook has “Events“. Use it.

We offered a reward that people need.

Usually, people need some kind of reward in order to generate excitement. In our case, we were organizing academic seminars, and we offered a certificate of participation, and mentioned it in the Facebook event description. Everyone wants something for their resume.

We used an additional sign-up form, off Facebook.

create_events_tickets_link

It’s hard to keep track of the guest list through Facebook, but you can specify a link to “buy tickets” on a Facebook event. So, since our event was free, we created an additional sign-up form and pointed the tickets link to our form. We used Google Forms. This way, we had a spreadsheet of all the people who were intent on coming.

We posted and shared content every day.

We knew that we were competing with everything else that people follow on Facebook, so we had to produce content that our new followers wanted to see, and we had to do it often. We figured out how to schedule posts, so that we could work more efficiently.

  • We shared articles from news websites that applied directly to our event’s¬†theme.
  • We shared biographical information about our event’s speakers.
  • We shared¬†quizes and polls related to our event’s theme.

We answered messages immediately.

facebook-messages

Facebook tells people how quickly you usually answer messages, so we did our best to answer every single message, and answer it quickly. Posting content and answering messages quickly builds trust, and also helps to build a sense of anticipation among your tribe.

We used our website to promote the Facebook event.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-11-10-15

Our local organization has a blog, and we posted an article on it, promoting our Facebook event. We sent the article around to a few other student groups, and managed to get a few people to share the article, so that more people could see what we were doing.

We hosted a great event!

With 200 students registered for our last seminar in October, we didn’t know exactly how many would show up. About 115 ended up coming, and we had a great day. The speakers did a great job, and the students were pleased.

The moral of the story is that anyone can do this, if they understand their audience. We are no longer in the age when having a successful event means passing out paper fliers, hanging posters, and walking up to people on the street. That age has passed away; a new age has come. Use social media and have a successful event!

 

 

 

Rules About Blogging, Writing, and Finding Your Place on the Internet

A good photo of something. This is what you need if you're going to have a good blog.
A good photo of something. This is what you need if you’re going to have a good blog.

If you understand me, then you’ll probably understand why I have a blog.

Over the years, I have realized that there are a few things that are true in blogging, writing, and finding your place on the internet. I didn’t realize they were true when I started, which is probably why I’ve started so many things over the years, and left so many things unfinished.

Rule #1: Don’t Write for Other People.

I don’t write for the masses; I don’t write primarily for other people at all. I write primarily for¬†me.¬†I believe that is the first rule of blogging.¬†The most important reason that you write must have something to do with¬†you, and nobody else.

Some might view this as a very¬†exclusive¬†rule. They hear, “only the real writers need apply,” and¬†it seems to rule out so many people who¬†don’t think of¬†themselves as natural writers. Only those with that special ability to say things beautifully and concisely, with that special¬†flair¬†for mesmerising prose or lifelike description, can become bloggers.

But blogging has less to do with what you have to say, or how you say it, as it does with¬†why¬†you say it. You must say things that are important¬†to you.¬†This is the first and most important rule. If writing is not important to you, then it doesn’t matter if people read it or not —¬†you won’t write very much. And if you don’t write very much, then blogging isn’t really the place for you.¬†

A Word or Two About Blogs

The above sentence needs to be unpacked just a bit before I move on. There are a couple of¬†facts that need to be disseminated, just to make sure this post is understandable, and they are true regardless of what I think or what I write. In the big scheme of things, while I believe the rules stated in this post (with the big “Rule #…” headings) to be true, the rules are ultimately my opinions¬†about why and how blogging works for some people; these facts are not my opinions. They are things that bloggers need to learn in order to make their mark on the world.

The first fact has to do with the nature of a blog. A blog is technically (usually) just a website or a section of a website that is refreshed regularly with new content, or “posts”. The posts usually have something about them that binds them together, such as a common theme, author, or viewpoint. For example, this blog¬†is¬†updated it several times a week with new content from one author,¬†me.

The second fact is that there¬†are many types of media, and the blog is one type that was created for and thrives in¬†the internet. Media¬†is the plural of medium, which is why those intellectual-snobby types always follow the word with the verb¬†“are”¬†(instead of “is”, as I just did, albeit correctly), creating a brief moment of confusion in most of us before we go on to the next word. The reason the word is used is because it refers to media (think, “mediums”) of communication. Another medium would be¬†video,¬†which also thrives online.

Rule #2: Blogs Were Made for Man, not Man for Blogs.

Now that I’ve stated those two facts, maybe you can see that there are a few¬†things that are always going to be true about good blogs. Search and you’ll find plenty of lists, long and short, of the so-called¬†golden rules¬†of blogs. But the thing to remember about them is: there are several ways to express yourself — if blogging doesn’t fit you, then¬†don’t do it.¬†

Don’t try to create a blog that is “different” from all other blogs. If you don’t express yourself well in a format that necessitates sitting down every day or two and typing for a couple of hours, then it might not be best to start a blog with written posts. Don’t think that the only way to have a presence on the Internet is through writing a blog.

HOWEVER

BUT.¬†There are other types of blogs out there — blogs that use few words, or even none at all. There are photoblogs¬†and¬†videoblogs (or vlogs), with wordless posts that simply contain content made by the author. Then there are¬†how-to blogs, business blogs, movie blogs, engineering¬†blogs…

Blogs are a tool for YOU. If they help you express yourself, then you should use them. But if they don’t, then don’t think that you have to fit your writing or art or personality into one. If they don’t help you express yourself, then don’t use them — just having a blog won’t make you smarter, happier, or better.

Rule #3: It’s Always Easier to Do the Wrong Thing

Most of us¬†can remember being directed by teachers or parents at some point to “go the extra mile” or “do the right¬†thing”. We must be told to do the right thing because it doesn’t come naturally — it is simply always easier to do the wrong thing. It’s easier to litter than to throw trash away. It’s easier to skip school than to make good grades. And it’s easier to get people to read your blogs by writing¬†spiteful and disrespectful things than by writing things that¬†help people.

There are two people your blog posts can help:¬†you¬†and your readers.¬†Some posts are like therapy. They help you form an opinion or solve a problem. They give you closure on a significant experience. Other posts share your experiences so that others can glean from them. They share insight with the world. These are the ways in which writing can improve the Internet — both for you and for other people.

However, it is easier to get readers by writing insulting posts about Presidents, celebrities, enemies, or friends. There is no end to the degrading filth that pervades the blogosphere — and I’m not even thinking about pornography. There is nothing wrong with expressing dissatisfaction or disappointment in the blog format, but when a blogger¬†stoops to the level of defaming their subject, using name-calling and misinformation to help their¬†case, the world has actually been made worse for those readers unfortunate enough to stumble upon that corner of the Internet. While such sensational writing draws attention to your blog quickly, IT IS NOT ART, and while you may think you are developing writing skills in the process, your skills have only brought shame to you and your blog, as you have used them for the purpose of belittling others who in reality are not worse than you.

This post, like all others on this blog, is therapy for me. I write for myself, about things that are significant to me, and about people whom I care about. It is a means of expressing myself, and of letting my personal story speak for itself, without tearing down the stories of others. I hope that it can be of use to some who are struggling to find their place on the Internet.

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout: Social Media and Discretion

pigs

In the past day I was the target of 2 verbal jabs from people on Social Media. The first was a¬†statement about “people” who write about “being what you are” not having a clue, and the second was a claim that I “must not be a Christian”.

Now, you can like my writing or not — you are entitled to your own opinions, and I have no problems with someone disagreeing with something I’ve said. I didn’t expect for everyone to agree with me when I started this blog. But something about these statements went beyond mere disagreement. These were personal attacks.

Which came first?

I was surprised. The incidents were unrelated, isolated. But they reminded me of a conversation I had just the other day with my wife, during the long drive back from Budapest. Seeing all kinds of sharp statements on social media, we were contemplating a sort of chick-and-egg question:

Has social media actually made people more spiteful and hateful, or did it simply unmask an evil contempt for others that already existed in all of us?

I agree with the latter statement, and that is in general how I view most things. The actual action is not really the problem; it just exposed the problem that already existed.

However, there are good people who fall on the other side, and they are entitled to their opinions. Some people believe that social media is bad, and while I disagree, I don’t blame them for coming to that conclusion.

Warts and all

It seems to me that saying social media is bad is the equivalent of saying that society would be better off without it. But I can’t help but think that people would still have the same thoughts in their heads, regardless of whether they had an¬†outlet for them.¬†Social media simply allows us to¬†see ourselves for what we are.

That accurate picture includes flaws and warts — not just the parts that we want people to see. That which can’t be seen (or heard) goes without reproof. And real progress will never be realized if we never see the problems that exist.

And if we can see our problems and don’t have the will to fix them, then we never were all that advanced in the first place.¬†

Our “world” society has many problems. If you want to make an impact in this world, take your pick — there is so much darkness that needs to be illuminated. If that means that you are to go to some far corner of the earth and free slaves, then so be it. But if it means that means¬†being a voice for change at your own dinner table, then do that as well.