Like many of us, I hang out on Facebook too much. While perusing the streams (and my own invites) I’ve come across many events, including Facebook Parties. Though I accept many invites (by clicking the Join button), I’ve personally participated in roughly two author parties (by commenting on one post each) and several jewelry parties. Being a Facebook Party Host virgin, I was a bit unprepared for my party, so I wanted to share some things I learned.
1 – What is a Facebook party? A Facebook party is an event that takes place for anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days (I set mine to last for six days. Oh my.) There are games, puzzles, giveaways and (hopefully) lots of author/fan interactions. Sometimes authors share parties. Many authors have a third party organize and run their party. I’m thrifty, so I did it myself. (If you’d like to see an example party, this is the link to mine.)
2 – To set up a Facebook party first choose a date at least one month in advance (I’ll explain later) and then choose your theme – I’m going to guess it’s for a book release, so that should be pretty easy. Go to your Events menu option (click “events” on the left side on a PC) and then use the blue Create button. In order to make Facebook recognize that your party lasts multiple days, you need to put in a starting time.
3 – You need at *least* one month to get everything organized! Because this is the *only* giveaway/event I’m planning for several months I went a bit crazy on the prizes, so not only was there time to plan what all the games would be and make all the graphics, but I needed to wait for everything to arrive so that I had all the prizes ready to be mailed after the party was over. I actually started ordering prizes in August for my October Party.
4 – Speaking of Prizes… You will want to give things away. Most author parties I’ve seen do some ebooks or autographed books, or an amazon gift card as a grand prize. As I said I have participated all of twice in these parties (no offense guys!) but if I’m a fan then it’s a pretty good chance I already have those books, and if I’m not a fan I probably have a kindle crammed full of books I paid for, so those free books have the potential to land at the bottom of my TBR list. Unless the book really catches my eye, I’m not going to bother entering that game (I will enter for signed paperbacks from authors I love, however, because those I rarely own). But, play a game with the prize of a piece of jewelry (A lot of which you can buy for $.99 on eBay) or nail polish, or stickers, and I’m more likely to play. I’m not a unique person, so I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer autographed bookmarks, or even those free ebooks as prizes, but pepper it in with some little fun stuff that appeals to your ideal audience. (Though we do want to have fun with our readers, the goal of a party is to endear ourselves to them and get new ones – and new people will be turned off if the event and prizes feels exclusive to current fans). My theme was my vampire series -that is primarily written in a female POV -so jewelry and nail polish were popular items, but so were the more unisex “vampire” items such as bloody hand print decals and a cool vampire baseball hat.
5. Prizes don’t need to be expensive. I mentioned the $.99 jewelry on ebay. My grand prize was a set of awesome dolls I traded some art work for, and with the exception of the paperback version of the Amaranthine Handbook, none of the items cost more than 5$ and most were $.99 to $1.50. But, that cheap stuff comes with loooooong shipping times (read, it comes from China), so again, leave plenty of time between concept and party time. Also, people don’t care so much WHAT they’re winning, just that they are winning. I posted several “random” games where the tagline said “I have no idea what you’ve won. It may be from a gumball machine” and people still entered because they just wanted to win something. (Plus, some of us love the grab bag random idea. I do.)
6. Not every thread needs a prize. My guests had so much fun talking to each other that they were happy to share and chat on question posts, even with no prize attached. (Things like “What are you doing for Halloween” or “What’s a memory you have from school”?) In fact, we had so much fun we’re having a chat get together on November 13th – no prizes, just a group of vampire lovers hanging out for a few hours.
7. Have all your links/sites/info/social sites ready to go. One question I kept getting asked (that I did not anticipate!) was where to get my books in paperback. Each book page on my website has a link, but giving people a list of links is annoying for both of us, so half way through the party I had to take half an hour and code a quick page (which looks bad, but got the job done) listing all those links. Don’t make my mistake. Have your info ready to go.
8.Have your games ready ahead of time. I made graphics for all of my games, but you don’t need to. Either way, name your graphics in numerical order or write them out IN ORDER in a word document so that on party day you can copy and paste them in. This prevents hurried typos and makes you feel less stressed. Also, match up which prizes go with which games, and if you want to post photos of the prizes, take those ahead of time, too, and save everything in a folder together.
9. Choose a variety of Games. Some examples of Facebook “games” we played
- A scavenger hunt – the first person to find images of a list of items/or to find keywords or the answers to questions in a book excerpt wins – this one went *really* fast and did not generate much chatter, so I only recommend it for lightning rounds.
- Question answering – such as “Would you say yes to immortality” or “What is your favorite vampire movie?” People are there to connect with you BUT everyone’s favorite topic is always themselves. I got more responses on the Question style games than any other, and the less specific the question, the better, for example the “Name an interesting fact” had the most entrants. These generate a LOT of chatter and keep the party active.
- What is your __ name? – These are those charts where you use your birthday and the last letter of your last name to find out what your sparkle fairy or Christmas elf name is. For my party I let people discover their vampire names, their vampire author pen names, and their Amaranthine book titles. These may involve making graphics, unless you can find some pre-made ones that fit your theme. These were the second most popular games, but they generated moderate chatter – after guests had found their name ans the names of spouses or friends, there wasn’t much left to say.
- Picture Games – these can be anything from “Who should play X character in a movie?” to “Show us a picture of your pet.” I used “Find a funny vampire picture”, “Share the fifth picture in your gallery”, and “Find your ideal vampire mate” among others. I found that these were the best when you let people post multiple times – for instance the “Share your photo from your gallery” devolved into a thread of pet photos – and that’s okay! The point was to have fun, not be a forum enforcer. This generated a lot of chat, too, but some people had trouble posting pictures.
- Number picking games – these games usually involve an image that ties in to your theme, with each item being numbered, for instance:
A number has been pre-selected by you, and when someone chooses that numbered “item” they are the winner. This game went slow by luck because the winning number was the last one picked, but it has the potential to go super fast and it doesn’t generate chat.
- Last but not least are puzzle games. Puzzle games ask the guests to solve a riddle of some sort – find the differences in the pictures or find the hidden funnies in a paragraph, etc. For my genre and guests I found that these kind of games were the least popular (we played one and had three participants which contrasts to the normal 17-30), but if you’re a mystery author, for instance, your audience might love them.
- Of note: I did NOT do the ever popular “invite your friends and win” game because A) I don’t like it because it’s a popularity contest that bloats your numbers with people who are probably not really going to attend and B) I have never had a good response to it on any of my previous giveaways. Nor did I do the “Share this to win” because, again, I have never had worthwhile results. If you have in the past then this kind of game might work for you.
If you don’t know what kind of games to use, then experiment on your facebook ahead of time (I started my experiments in June). You can use either your personal page, or your author page, but post some different style games over a few weeks and see which ones your potential party attendees respond to the most.
10. Invite (most of) your Facebook friends. There’s nothing wrong with skipping those you know don’t like invites, but at the same time you might be surprised. I had two friends who were literally upset because I didn’t invite them, and two of my biggest commenters/participants were people I invited on a whim and didn’t expect to stop in. BUT, at the same time, don’t annoy people. This is a delicate line and one you just have to feel out for yourself.
11. No matter how much you advertise people will still miss it. I mentioned those two friends – one did not even know I was having a party until it started, despite the invite, multiple blog posts, newsletters, facebook posts, and contests that started two months before the party, because somehow they just “didn’t see it” – and with Facebook cutting down on post visibility and people’s busy lives, I believe it. I know I miss things a lot of the time. In other words I’m saying don’t be offended if someone doesn’t show up.
12. Joins, maybes, and actual appearances. I don’t know what other authors stats are (I assume many have better turnouts than I did) but I can tell you mine. I had 10 maybes, 89 going and 303 who ignored the invitations (Not all invited by me). Of those 99 (maybes and goings) I had 65 who actually participated, and of those 7 only posted once (or on one game). 2 of those were maybe attendees, and the other 63 came from the “going” pool. What I’m saying is don’t feel bad if your “going” count is much higher than the actual participation. There are a lot of people out there who click “going” to everything (like I do because I figure it helps people pad their numbers) or who meant to go or who went but were too intimidated/shy to post, or, especially if you used that “invite to win” game, who clicked going to satisfy/help a friend.
13. Explain the rules first thing. At the beginning of the party make sure to post how the party is going to work, and if the party runs for multiple days, remind them each day (it may be the fist time a guest is joining you). Also, on each game do a quick rundown of that game’s rules, including how long it will run for (one hour, two hours, until someone finds the right answer), how the winner will be chosen, and how to play (even if it seems obvious to you).
14. Make closed games and winners clear. When a game closes, make sure to comment on the game (and even better edit the original post) to say that the game is closed so latecomers don’t feel like they’ve wasted their time when they later stumble on the winner post. Also make sure your winners KNOW they won. Tag them if you can (On the phone app you can tag people who are not on your friends list or in the join list, so long as they have commented on the thread previously – but you can’t tag them in new posts. On the computer they have to be your friend or else a guest to be taggable at all.) Send them a message congratulating them, asking for their address, telling them when you plan to send prizes, and thanking them for coming.
15. Keep a list of the winners. I had a word document with each prize listed. Under it, I put their name and, when I got it, their address, so when the time came to send prizes I could just start at the top. If the same person won multiple prizes I moved that item’s name up to their previous entry. You may have a different or better way. The important thing is to keep this organized.
16. Keep the conversation flowing. Just like any good party, conversation is where it’s at. These people are your fans for a reason – your writing resonates with them, meaning that you probably have things in common. Yes, this is your party, but making it all about YOU is the fastest way to bore guests. Instead, make it about THEM. Get to know what they like, what they don’t like, places they’ve been, other franchises they enjoy. Not only could this be used as a goldmine of data for tracking exactly what kind of people like what you’re putting out, but it also makes you seem cool and interested AND frankly it’s fun. If you’re a lucky author with several hundred participants, this may be harder to do, but I still suggest you give it a try.
17. Let guests ask questions. Not just to you but to your characters (if you write a series or book that this works with). This is especially great if you write a series because it lets you see your fan’s opinions of your characters; what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Does everyone hate the villain? Is the hero resonating with them? What are they asking about (aka what do they want to see more of?)?
18. But, remember, it’s not just about YOU. I mentioned this in point sixteen, but I’ll say it again. Sure, it’s your party, but don’t make it a boring party. Invite guest authors you think your fans might like. If you have guests that run businesses that might appeal to your fans, showcase them. (For instance I have one who runs jewelry parties, and with jewelry being popular with my guests, and also given as prizes, it was a natural to include her contact info).
19. Be ready for spontaneity. Yes, have your games and prizes planned, but be flexible. If you have extra bookmarks, for instance, and you get a lot of participants in a game giving a set away, maybe do a second, or even third round to offer others a chance. Let your guests guide the party. For instance I had a guest who spontaneously started sharing images of what she thought the characters looked like, so I showcased that post and asked for other people’s opinions and we had a lot of fun with it. You can even do random games with random prizes (my random winners got string people keychains from the grocery store gumball machine – literally).
20. Leave yourself time to run your party. I stupidly thought (considering my usual turn out for things) that I would have the same ten gusts I had for my past blog event (which was three years ago) and so I’d be able to log in once an hour and then spend the rest of the time working on my book. During peak time (9 am – 11am and 7pm to 9pm central) I was pretty much glued to the event page to keep up. The rest of the time I did get some other things done, but the whole thing took a lot more time than I thought it would and a the slowest I had to check in every half hour. (Luckily I’d set up to enjoy that time writing, so I had the it free). Be prepared to be on a lot and if you’re only available for a certain time a day, then schedule the events for that time. Nothing is worse than a party without a host. On a side note, I don’t recommend trying to do a six day party by yourself. If I do another it will probably only be two days.
21. Budget enough money to mail those prizes! As I mentioned, I went nuts with prizes because I didn’t do a blog tour with my last release, and I’m not planning one for my next book. (That’s another post in itself). I had twenty-five planned prizes, seven random surprises, and four sets of bookmarks (I offered bookmarks to anyone who had played a game but not won anything). Add in a pair of thank you cards and I spent $58.00 in postage. Wowsers. Because of that I had to split the mailing up and some prizes went out a week later than I had planned. While I don’t think anyone is upset about it, you want to make sure that you’re not ending up with a cost you can’t cover that makes you look like an irresponsible author who doesn’t follow through.
22. Most of all have fun! Because if you’re not having fun, your guests aren’t having fun. Don’t stress over details (I posted the wrong game at one point and blamed it on one of my characters), don’t feel bad if you have dull, quiet times (I found that 11 – 12:30pm things died, then picked up until 2pm where they petered down slowly until 5pm when it died again until 7), don’t be crazy about rules (games are supposed to be fun!) and most of all don’t bite off more than you can chew or you may find yourself having a facebook breakdown.
BONUS: For those who want graphics for their party but can’t make them (marketing statistics say that a post with an image catches the eye much quicker than a text post and I believe it) then here are some places to get images:
- random vector style pics: http://www.vectorportal.com/ – I used owls, a TV, and other images for random games. Right click on the images and SAVE AS – do NOT download as they will be zip files of image types that facebook won’t let you post.
- Text-based images: http://cooltext.com/ & http://glowtxt.com/ – I used these for headlines for random threads, but you could use them to punch up winner posts, or even to draw attention to game posts.
- photos: http://search.creativecommons.org/ search the Flickr option for photos you can use via Creative Commons license. Be sure to leave a comment of credit under the image with a link to the photographers photo stream – it’s just good karma.
Have you hosted a Facebook party? Do you have any tips to share with us?