Events Experienced Through the 'Facebook Eye'

Facebook LikeLast year I was running in a race when I saw an awesome t-shirt. It was royal blue with the Facebook "like" thumb and it said, "Just Doing It For the Photos." I couldn't help but to laugh because it summed up how many of those in my generation view our activities: in terms of potential things we can share on social media. The t-shirt-wearer in question was essentially saying, "Do I really want to run this half-marathon? No, but it will look pretty cool on Facebook!"

Social media has fundamentally changed the way that we experience our lives, including how we experience events that we attend. The Atlantic recently published a piece titled, "The Facebook Eye," which discussed how social media, and Facebook in particular, has changed our perceptions of the way we experience things in the world.

According to the article, in the early 1900s people felt a similar way about photography. A photographer began to see things not as they were in "real life" but as they would be in photographs. Particularly adept photographers would begin to develop a "camera eye" where their vision becomes the viewfinder; their life's purpose becomes a quest for the next great photograph.

The writer postulates that just as photographers see life through potential photographs, we, as a society, have begun to experience life through how it might be portrayed via social media. Arrivals at a hip, new nightspot equals a noteworthy check-in; a witty comment becomes a status update that will receive lots of "likes;" a gourmet meal at a posh restaurant becomes a photo shared online before a fork even hits the food; events that we experience in the present are now seen as a "future past." Everything we say or do is thought of in the context of what that experience will be like when it is consumed by others on social media.

We have become hyper-cognizant of the way our daily activities are portrayed online for others to see. For many of us, our lives have become what we share on social media. We are what we tweet.

So rather than debate whether or not this is good for society, why don't we—as event planners—just accept this as current, unavoidable truth? Let’s embrace this shift in how we collectively experience life and leverage it in our attendees' experiences of events. Here are a few ways I think we can make this happen:

Check-Ins 

Holding a major conference or event? Think about creating this event on Foursquare or as a Facebook page so that attendees can check-in, not only to the location, but to the actual event. Put reminders at the registration table and throughout the venue to nudge attendees to do this. Want to add something a little extra? How about making a really cool photo op right near the registration table so while attendees are checking-in they have something unique to share on social media?

Photo Documentation and Sharing Made Easy

Speaking of photos, make it really easy for guests to instantly share photos at your event. Professional photographers typically don't upload and share photographs until well after the event; so how about helping attendees have photos to share in real time? A cool photo booth where people can instantly share the pictures or videos via their own social networks is sure to be a huge hit. Some photo booth solutions, like Keshot, even allow you to add a unique brand experience to your corporate events.
After the event make sure you upload the photos to a public Facebook page where attendees can view them and tag themselves and their friends. This seems elementary but I can't even tell you how many times I've attended a conference or event where this did not happen in a timely manner.

Suggested Tweets and Statuses

Is it just me or are we all infinitely funnier on social media than we are in real life? Arm attendees with some pithy quips that they can use as status updates or tweets. These could be snippets included in a PowerPoint presentation with a prompt to "Tweet This," or funny sayings on place cards on the event’s tables. People are going to share this info via Facebook status updates and Twitter, so why not help them out and encourage them to give a little plug for the event or use the hashtag of your choice?

These are just a few ways to get you thinking in the framework of how many attendees already view an event: via check-ins, Facebook statuses, Tweets, and photo sharing. The more you can help attendees "experience" your events, the more control you have over what they are sharing and the more in-tune you look as a planner.

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