It’s a simple question: do people read Facebook messages and signup for events in the way they used to?

The last fortnight has – in my personal case – given me a resounding answer: no.

I’ve tried to organise 2 personal events via Facebook – 16 friends in Oslo invited for a beer at Justisen, and 3 friends in Copenhagen invited for lunch there – and both have failed miserably. This could be because I don’t see the people in these cities very often, or it could be that I’m a sad case with no friends, but – I think – it’s more to do with people now routinely ignoring Facebook communications.

For the Oslo event 2 people replied ‘Yes’ and both came. 1 replied ‘No’ and told me why. 3 replied ‘Maybe’ and did not show up. But importantly 10 did not reply at all. I had sent a message to all the people a month before the event, and sent out the event details a week before.

The Copenhagen issue is even more interesting. Of the 3 invited for lunch one replied to the message immediately with a ‘I’ll get back to you’ which then became a ‘no’, yet from the others there was nothing for more than week. I then decided to mail both – using the e-mail addresses listed on their Facebook profiles – and both responded in a matter of hours, and hence the lunch is on.

I’m aware that it’s dangerous to draw a conclusion from such a small sample but these two events have focussed my mind and underlined what I have been feeling for some time – that Facebook communications are not as efficient as they were. I’m not aware of any stats to prove my hunch here, and Googling around doesn’t help… can anyone help me in the comments?


  1. Ingvild Stub

    Ok, since I’m one of the people you invited to your Oslo event: I had intended to go, but needed a sitter and couldn’t find one, and by the time I remembered I should let you know, the event had already taken place. I hate FB event invitations with a passion, and there are many reasons, some technical:
    – With e-mail, I tag important e-mails needing a response with a deadline and get a reminder. I don’t know of a similar function in FB.
    – FB requires me to login, which is annoying, especially on my work computer, which is prone to freezing when asked to perform multiple operations in a web browser
    – Unlike Twitter, which integrates beautifully into my workday through iGoogle, I haven’t found a good way to follow important FB feeds (and even relevant feeds such as my FB inbox, gets filled up by stupid stuff like FB group announcements)

    …but most of them have to do with FB user behaviour:
    – Some people invite everyone they know to every event, which makes it impossible to guess if you are in fact a welcomed guest or just someone they forgot was on their friends list.
    – Some people use FB for all kinds of crap, which I then have to wade through to get to important messages.
    – There is a limit to how many social forums I can follow continually, especially at work. I follow Twitter throughout the day, because it’s becoming an important news source for me, but FB is too friends- and schoolmate focused (at least my list is) to be useful in that respect, so I only log in a couple of times a week in the evening.

    So how do I use Facebook now? To keep track of distant friends and old contacts. If I’m going somewhere, I’ll look up e-mail addresses for contacts in the area and e-mail them directly. If they have no e-mail listed (and why would they not??), I’ll use direct messages. This is really the only thing I use Facebook for any more.

  2. Jeremy Hargreaves

    I don’t think FB’s ever really been set up to be a complete contacts/calendar/messages service, along the lines of, say, Outlook or Lotus Notes, and as a simple user, I think I would take a fair bit of convincing to use it as such.

    The question you ask is an interesting one, though – what is the online, near-universal, service that could persuade people to use it for that? I think it would be a challenge to get people to use something like that, though FB surely has the greatest head start to others.

  3. I guess it’s all about personnalization. If nobody invites you, you wouldn’t attend; all responsibility to get the information and to show up lies with you. But if you get a personal invitation, you sit back and depend on the person who invited you.
    My recent Facebook events have failed miserably, despite personal follow up. So I’m back to mailing people…

  4. @Jovan and @Jeremy – fair points from both of you, and I have completely blocked any Farmville stuff from my home feed 🙂

    But the problem is this: the work I do means I try to maintain a huge network of people, a lot of whom move often, change jobs often, and change e-mail addresses often. I don’t even have e-mail addresses in my address book for perhaps half the people I am friends of on Facebook, but there is at least a reasonable expectation that people keep their contact details in Facebook up to date – hence it should eliminate the need for address book maintenance.

    So if Facebook messaging is breaking down… then what? Go back to tedious address book updating à la 2002?

    Of course if FB were an open system that allowed you to export friends’ e-mail addresses that would help!

  5. Jeremy Hargreaves

    For what it’s worth, in my world, putting an event on Facebook, or even replying to one saying you’re coming, is not really like making a plan actually to go to it, and I don’t think this has really changed. It might remind you something’s happening, perhaps, but an appearance on FB is just an optional extra, not really organising something.

    About two years ago I invited about 150 people to an event on FB, and got about (I think) a 3 or 4% response rate, and they didn’t really relate to who actually came.

    Events get organised properly by email, as you say.

  6. I am seeing FB transforming into some kind of social/digital wasteland. The value it offers potentially is very high but practically is nothing but emptiness..

    I could correlate this experience with giving out flyers. When I first did that long time ago in eastern europe, the people passing by were interested to take the leaflet and even read it *shock*. Only handful of flyers remained on the floor after campaign would end. The key thing is: the thing was new and everyone was interested to participate.

    When was the last time you joined a group, clicked yes on event on FB? It’s like you get so much spam every day the easiest thing is to just ignore it.

    Email and phone are the two key person-to-person tools, FB is a platform where FarmVille lives 🙂

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