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#SocialMediaWithKO: Proper etiquette for the digital invite

When was the last time you got an invitation in the mail that was for anything other than a wedding, baby shower or graduation? The social media platform known as “hand-written cards sent through the mail” is quaint, but rapidly disappearing. While many of us of a certain age lament the passing of an era, there’s no denying that today’s social media platforms make the process of announcing events and sending out invitations faster and easier than ever.

A pioneer in the digital invitation space, Evite launched in 1998 with the idea that one could design a virtual invitation, invite friends via their email addresses and receive quick responses. The company is still going strong, though they now have stiff competition from Paperless Post , a company that launched 10 years later with a bit more flash. Both companies offer their services free of charge through their website and smart phone apps. You can also post invites from both sites to your Facebook page, in case you don’t have the actual email addresses of all your friends.

In fact, Facebook is the first and only stop for many who want to promote anything from their product line to their birthday party. With just a click on the “Events” tab on the left hand side of the screen, you can create an event, invite your Facebook friends and post. Done. It’s a great idea, but has it worn out its welcome?

Many Facebook users have come to regard event invites as junk mail. They ignore it, delete it or let it stack up like a virtual mountain of unanswered letters (guilty).

But why? An informal survey of Facebook users under the age of 35 revealed that many are annoyed by too many invites from the same place or person and will choose to ignore them. This is a good lesson to learn. One might think they’re doing the right thing by aggressively promoting their personal appearances, concerts or company events, but it turns out that repetition can breed contempt or apathy.

Kevin McShane, editor and author of the blog Marketing Comedy, earns his living by helping stand-up comedians market themselves. He believes posting events is the wrong way to use Facebook.  “Using Facebook Event Invites to promote your show is the very definition of Interruption Marketing – you’re interrupting your potential audience (your friends) with an unsolicited promotional message (about your show) and forcing them to make a decision (in most cases, a public decision) about whether or not to take action (to RSVP). We have another term for unsolicited promotional messages like that: SPAM!” He wrote in his blog.

A better way to use an invite is for one-off events or really special occasions. If your business has specials every Tuesday, don’t send out event notices every week, instead work the information into the body of your page, people will be more likely to read it there or in the newsfeed – both of which are harder to ignore than another event in your inbox. Let the word “event” have some meaning, or people will stop paying attention.

How effective are the e-invites? The same survey of Facebook users showed that many people did actually attend some posted events, but only if they knew someone who was going, or if the event was actually being hosted by a “real life” friend. It’s no surprise then that the events getting the best responses were birthdays and barbeques.

No matter which of these electronic invite platforms you use, the secret to success is to target your invitees, send announcements sparingly and to use your actual Facebook page to “sneak” in your plug, as if it were any other post. Finally, there is one HUGE advantage to discarding the “old-fashioned” way of sending invites: no envelope licking.

–Kyle Osborne

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