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Techiquette

How To Nail Social Media Party Invites

A guide to getting people to your get-togethers in the digital age

Remember when you used to get STDs in the post? Relax, we’re talking about those pretty cardboard oblongs with “save the date” written on them. Not anything else. Yes, those were the days – a save the date followed by an invitation proper, both on paper. You could prop them up on your mantelpiece and admire them at leisure, in gentle anticipation of the event itself. Often they were rather attractively designed. The whole thing gave you an odd feeling of actually looking forward to things. Now, of course, the world has moved on. If someone wants you to witness them ageing, via a birthday party, or enable their drinking, via a festive cocktail evening, they’re more likely than not going to send you an exhortation of the digital variety. And, let’s face it, it will be on Facebook.

Facebook Events is an enormous beast of a thing. More than 550 million people use it every month. In the US, it’s even got its own standalone mobile app. Yet, does anyone really like it? Anyone? Of course, the company has tried, over the years, to make the whole thing a little more palatable. For example, in the mid-2010s – a point at which Events was undergoing a wider re-hash –  it changed the “Decline” RSVP option to the more human “Can’t Go”, which was helpful. But unfortunately, there’s nothing the company can do about the way people use Events, which is probably the worst thing about it.

In a 2015 article in tech bible Wired, Ms Molly McHugh names one problem with the whole thing: the fact that so many people give silly, capitalised and emoji-strewn names for their events makes it difficult for Facebook to send people push notifications about them. But of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to irritating behaviour while party planning in the digital world.

Unfortunately, though paper invites, texts and phone calls seem somewhat laborious and pedestrian now, it also feels like we still need them to protect us from our worst impulses: spamming people with constant updates, organising and planning on the fly (and even on the phone) and, ultimately, creating a slew of events that nobody really wants to go to. However, even in 2017, even on Facebook, there are more genteel ways to plan a party and let people know about it. As we stagger into holiday season, fingers outstretched and searching for all those slim champagne flutes, it’s a good time to reflect on a few pointers in this direction, which we’ve collected below.

BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE ARE GETTING

If you want people to hit “Going” and not “Maybe” on your Facebook event, you might want to do them the courtesy of telling them what they are actually letting themselves in for. Don’t fall into the trap, in these days of instant gratification, of creating the event, sending the invites, and sorting out the details later – it will matter to your guests whether the “Venue TBC” is near or far, somewhere where they will enjoy themselves, or somewhere they won’t. Equally, you should probably make the guest list visible – you want people to come, but you probably don’t want to force them to plunge themselves into a roomful of people they hate. Do you?

COMMUNICATE JUDICIOUSLY

You’re allowed to send one invitation and one reminder. That’s it. If you’re absolutely desperate, maybe a save the date, beforehand, but three updates is the absolute limit. If you’re going to have a conversation with guests about what will happen on the night/what they’re wearing/what they’ll sing at karaoke, etc, it’s best to do it via direct message rather than the shared group wall – anything else can be supremely off-putting for any guests who aren’t involved. And all those notifications can turn a “Maybe” into a curt “Can’t Go”.

DON’T INVITE EVERYONE

Yes, you may want to have the most amazing house/birthday/Instagram-quitting party ever, but is anyone going to feel at all special if they see they’re one of 750 invitees? Absolutely not. Be careful and curatorial in your guest list – choose people who will gel and get on with each other and they’re far more likely to actually want to be there.

MAYBE JUST… DON’T USE FACEBOOK?

Of course, the ultimate (and perhaps only) way not to annoy anyone on Facebook is just to not use it at all. Maybe design an e-vite and send out an email. Maybe use a different service, such as Paperless Post, which invites guests via email and includes an RSVP feature. Remember, there’s always the option – and we know this might sound crazy – of actually just foregoing the whole tedious ritual of disembodied invite-sending and, instead, calling around a few people to see if they’re free. Maybe, via a set of real conversations, you might actually be able to gauge interest in whatever bash you’re about to throw, and drum up some real excitement for it? Ah, who are we kidding, that’ll never work. WhatsApp it is.

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