Facebook’s latest announcement, a free platform for paid-for events is huge news. Facebook’s e-commerce capabilities (or lack of) have always been a stumbling block for the platform, which undoubtedly drives huge amounts of top of funnel intent, but intent that is all too difficult to track. Even within Facebook’s portfolio, although Instagram is so visual and aspiration-driven, it’s been surprisingly slow to make a successful link between in-platform product and cash transaction. Many brands “know” that social drives sales, but they struggle to attribute that impact to anything specific, which means it’s difficult to learn and optimise.
Charities often see really engaged audiences on both of these platforms, sharing news and success stories, but it’s often tricky activating that audience to donate and fundraise off the back of it. The role of social is a tricky one – people generally don’t like to click off-platform. But if social is where you can communicate most effectively with your most loyal and dedicated audience, it has to be a platform for activation, not just information. This is where in-platform events bookings could be really helpful for that fundraising revenue stream: for virtual 10ks, quizzes, and coffee mornings… or whatever else our imaginative fundraising teams can think of.
But what does this mean for the wider landscape? The pandemic has already seen the loss of Hoop, an app where parents and families can find events and things to do in their area. Hoop was a lifeline for lonely new mums on maternity leave and it will be sorely missed. But with the widespread cancellation of classes and events, it lost its only revenue source and had no choice but to close its doors. You can only wonder how other platforms like Skiddle and MeetUp are coping with no events and revenue coming through. And now along comes Facebook, undercutting these platforms, offering brands and organisations the chance to sell their ticketed events for free (albeit virtual events only – for now). It’s not clear whether it will have the same functionality (or level of trust) of specialist platforms, but it could potentially work out cheaper than other event platforms. On Android devices using Facebook Pay, fees are being waived, although Apple have not agreed to waive their 30% cut.
On the plus side for brands and non-profits, your audience are staying in-platform, likely with half their personal information pre-filled, This presents an effortlessly simple click to buy or book. With such a short, frictionless funnel, we could see much higher conversion rates, particularly benefiting charities who look to social media to fill their fundraising spots. This is incredibly exciting for charities relying on virtual fundraising at the moment.
But what happens in twelve months, if Facebook introduces fees for the service? The pandemic has only increased Facebook’s share of attention, with a 12% increase in daily usage year on year – if brands get into a habit of promoting, booking and hosting all in one platform, it will be a difficult habit to break. This is an incredibly fast-moving space with both technology and ethics constantly evolving. The new Events platform presents a great opportunity, but with an eye on the future for what happens next.