Facebook should tell me what to do tonight. It already knows what I like, where I live, and who I hang out with.
Now it will. After accidentally becoming the most powerful force in party invitations, Facebook is jacking us into its omniscient view of the event landscape.
Starting today on iOS, Facebook has a powerful new Event browsing experience. First, rather than suggesting Events on random dates, you can now specify if you’re looking for something to do today, tomorrow, this weekend, or next week. There’s also a “Suggested For You” section based on all of Facebook’s data about you.
Below that, you’ll find categorized suggestions with sections including Music, Food & Drinks, Nightlife, Sports & Fitness, Fine Arts & Crafts, Community, Film & Photography, Performing Arts, and Causes. If you’ve got for a feeling for what you’re up for, whether it’s a concert, pub crawl, gallery opening, or wine & cheese, Facebook can recommend where to go. These can all be sorted by date too so you can find the right place for the right time.
And for extroverts on the move, you can now adjust your location to see what’s happening in whatever city you’re in, or peek at parties in distant lands.
Matching People To Parties
Somehow, every other company with a chance to chase event discovery has fallen asleep at the wheel. Eventbrite still seems like a sterile ticketing platform, though it’s starting to put a bit more focus on finding something to do. Foursquare never made it a priority to figure out events even though it knows where people are gathering. And most everyone selling tickets only wants to promote their own events where they make money.
Beyond Facebook, the best bets for inspiring a night out are Songkick and DoStuff. Songkick’s comprehensive concert calendar, alerts, and its willingness to show gigs it doesn’t sell tickets for makes it the prime place to find music. DoStuff has representatives in all the major U.S. cities culling through the endless crappy club night listings to suggest the best stuff…to do, regardless of category.
But Facebook is the only company with near total knowledge of what’s going on and limited financial interest in steering you to one event over another. Combined with its personal data on what and who we care about, it’s the best at matching people to parties.
Now Facebook is waking up to this opportunity. Here are a few ways it’s recently revamped Events, which had a staggering 450 million active users as of July:
- Events For You suggestions
- Subscriptions to notifications of a Page’s Events
- Events plugin for external websites
- Ticket buying directly through Events
- Event reminder notifications
- Place tips that let you see content from Events
- The Interested button for remembering an Event without committing to go
- Added virality in the News Feed for big public Events
Why does Facebook care about upgrading Events? In theory, the feature pushes people to spend time together IRL in the meatspace, rather than online where Facebook earns money. But Facebook knows structured event discovery is one of the few things people can’t do with its competitors. In fact, a fair number of people tell me Events is the one reason they can’t quit Facebook.
A Special Place In Our Social Lives
Hopefully today’s Event suggestion feature is the first of more moves in this direction. After spending a while combing through the suggestions, I was pretty impressed. I’m a hyper-extroverted culture omnivore but Facebook was still able to recommend awesome events I hadn’t heard about. The interface is simple to jump around, and the cards are informative.
One thing Facebook could improve would be understanding the difference between low and high quality events by comparing the invite count to how many people RSVP’d. Right now it’s showing me tons of smarmy, generic club nights where professional promoters spam all their friends with invites but few people actually want to go. Facebook could do better by prioritizing high RSVP-to-invite ratio Events. It’d also be nice to see the mile distance of Events from me in the previews.
If Facebook plays these little mobile Event cards right, it could lock more users into its platform where it shows ads, become the best place to host the content people generate at Events, and even make money directly through sponsored Event suggestions. Plus, people make friends at Events, and if Facebook is responsible for both getting you there and keeping you and your new buddies connected, you’ll keep it a part of your life.