550 million people use Facebook Events each month, with 60% of connections to events happening serendipitously in the News Feed. But Facebook is giving hardcore extroverts seeking more parties a new Featured Events list full of hand-picked gatherings.
Starting today, iOS users in 10 US cities will see the option for Featured Events in a carousel atop their list of upcoming soirees. Facebook’s curators will cull through each city’s top art, entertainment, family, festival, fitness, food & drink, learning, community, music, and sports events, and select a few with the capacity to accept some extra foot traffic.
“You can think about it like a weekend or weekly digest of cool stuff that you can do in your city” Facebook Events product manager Aditya Koolwal tells me. The first cities with access are Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., though it may roll out wider if it works well.
Facebook was already algorithmically surfacing events coming up soon in News Feed as well as the Events sections like Popular With Friends and Suggested For You. These analyzed what friends had RSVP’d for, your interests, and the past events you attended. But often, the events were too soon to be able to assemble a squad to go with.
Featured Events will give you a little more lead time to plan. Highly engaged Events users will also receive a push notification which Koolwal says will give them “enough to time to see what the Featured Events are, reach out to friends, and see if they want to go.”
Facebook is being cautious about exactly how curators select what gets featured after allegations that it was suppressing conservative subjects in its Trending Topics feature. The events curation team “will not include events primarily focused on politics or worship”. Koolwal admits, “After trending we’ve learned a lot.”
Facebook is also going to avoid blowing up the spot of small or private events that might not be able to handle a massive influx of guests. Over 123 million public and private Events were created last year, but many of them are friends-only affairs or couldn’t fit an extra thousand people.
“What we do is have a team of people who are basically looking at events on Facebook that have broad appeal, that a lot of people could go to, and they’re highlighting ones they think will be good to list out” Koolwal explains. But that downplays the distinct tastes of Facebook’s users. Late night raves, early morning yoga, fancy gallery openings, and relaxed crafting meetups all appeal to different types of people. Finding events that appeal to everyone will be a challenge.
Buying ads also won’t increase the likelihood of being included in the list. However, Facebook could eventually sell sponsored spots in the Featured Events list if it wants to earn money. It recently began offering Event ads that lead directly to a ticket purchase site instead of the Facebook RSVP.
Alongside the new curated feature, users will also see specific event categories like “Music” or “Food” and time frames like “This weekend” where they can explore algorithmically aggregated events. And for frequent event hosts, there’ll be a new tab that helps them see who typically is or isn’t responding to their invites so they can avoid sending spam and ensure they don’t waste their allotted 500 invites per event on people who won’t come.
Still, Koolwal said Facebook has no plans for a standalone Events app. While the feature is buried in the More tab, he says “The cost to installing an app is high. If we can build a lot of discovery features into Facebook and get people to use them, that’s a huge win.”
Facebook Events has quietly grown into one of the company’s most powerful and unique features. While there are feeds and messaging options in every social network, Facebook leveraged its grip on real-world identity to dominate the world of birthday parties, gallery openings, and street festivals.