8. May, 2017

A Facebook Party Guide: What, Why and How?

As followers of my social media feeds may be aware, I took part in a Facebook Party on Sunday 7 May. It was a lot of work but I really enjoyed it and I used my 'Guest Author’ forum to launch my new Book Trailer for Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo.

A Facebook Party is a useful tool for promoting yourself as an author or blogger but

What exactly is it?

Why would you use it? (and)

How do you get it right?

Over the next three weeks, I’m going to blog about my experiences and share some tips to help others who may be keen to try the format but nervous about its capabilities and limitations.

The party I’m going to use as a reference point is Michelle Dennise’s Cover Reveal Facebook Party, a page which is still live and filled with great content across seven different children’s authors. It's a good working example of the format and I’m going to preface this blog by saying that I was very impressed with the host’s execution of this party and any experiential knowledge taken from it, will be used here purely for constructive purposes.

And, I should mention that I’ve also been to one other Facebook Party, hosted by a popular writer’s group. I attended as a guest, so I now have user experiences from both the hosting and joining perspectives. There is good and bad in the format, regardless of how well it is executed, and I’ll do my best to present a balanced representation as a kind of ‘beginner’s guide’ to the what, why and how.

In this week’s post, I’ll be musing on a common reaction to the format:-

What on earth is a Facebook Party?

I think your reaction to a Facebook Party invite might depend on whether you are using social media for professional or private purposes. Case in point, my professional author/blogger contacts tended to take my invitations to join a Facebook Party in their stride, or they weren’t letting on to me if they didn’t understand what I was talking about. On the other hand, close family members I invited were terrified of the offer. Maybe that says something about my personal ‘pull’ but I think it was more likely a healthy skepticism on their part as ‘personal’ users of social media. What am I being roped into? Do I have to be on camera in a live party situation? Would I attend this party if the host wasn’t my relative/friend?

So, if you’re considering a Facebook Party invitation and wondering if you should go, let me clear up some possible misconceptions. The beauty of the format is that it can be as ‘live’ an experience as you want it to be, for the participant. You don’t have to break the safety of your anonymous, social media cocoon. You can wear your PJs and sit behind the computer screen chowing down on the snack of your choice with gay abandon, though you will need one hand spare to hit the ‘refresh’ button (more on that in coming weeks!). And, you can dip in and out and be as social or as antisocial as you want to, during the party. You can even miss the party and come back as a voyeur later, if the page remains published by the host.

While live video streaming might be employed if you’re 'techie' enough, the host would use this function at their own peril. Technical gremlins might freeze or delay the feed, especially if you’re at one of those elusive Facebook Parties with 'very high traffic'. Most author parties online would still play it safe and conduct most of the interaction through a series of posts on which guests can comment, as per usual Facebook behaviour, except you know that your host will (or should) be there ‘live’ to respond to your queries.

So hopefully, I’m conveying the idea that a Facebook Party is more like a silent disco with headphones, than a face-to-face, raucous concoction of music, laughter and alcohol. It’s more of an intellectual, knowledge exchange party, you might say, usually with prizes, like a kid’s party! Content can be shared by the host and participants (to varying degrees) via text-based posts, text and photo posts, memes, emojis, clip art, pre-recorded video and links to YouTube and other weird and wonderful places. Live engagement with posts is also encouraged via the commenting function within posts, or visitor posts and page reviews.

To Fly Solo or Co-host?

From an author’s, or Facebook group's perspective, you may ponder whether to host solo or share the spotlight and invite others to ‘co-host’ or ‘guest host’. There are pros and cons to both and I’ll talk more about this when I look at ‘why host a Facebook Party’ in the blog next week. Whichever option you choose, the content you post is designed to impart information about your product, services or group, in the most engaging way possible. A healthy mix is needed between instructive posts, information sharing and inviting audience participation to achieve the interactive and social engagement goals of the party. The most interactive parties encourage ‘live Q&A’, commenting and submitting answers to quiz questions, to enter the draw for promotional prizes.

Varied content and mixed use of audio visual posts, such as pre-recorded video, will liven up what can otherwise be a slow format and as always, asking your guests to compete for ‘free stuff’ will get the party started instantly. Trivia-based giveaways work particularly well when you have an existing group in attendance, with prior knowledge and affiliation with the ‘product’ the party is promoting.

So, the next time you are asked to attend a Facebook Party, don’t freak out. It’s a little like attending comedy or live theatre. Those who love audience participation book front row seats and those who prefer a one-way, observational experience will sit as far from the front as possible. The more of yourself you commit to a Facebook Party, whether host or guest, the more rewarding the experience will be but you might equally prefer to be a fly of the wall and there is no better party for introverts.

And now that you’ve been brave and clicked ‘Going’ to your Facebook Party invite, come back next week for more blogging wisdom on why you might choose this format to promote your writing wares.