The Social Psychology of Facebook Events

One of the biggest complaints I hear about organizing on Facebook is the difficulty in getting people to actually show up to events that are promoted on Facebook. By using the social psychology principles of social proof and consistency/commitment you should be able to dramatically increase your event turnout.

Social Proof

According to Dr. Robert Cialdini, the principle of social proof “states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.”

This is the principle that bar and club owners use when they keep people waiting in line outside even though there is space available inside: you are creating the perception that the place is popular in order to make more people want to go there. If people like the place so much that there is a line to get in, it must be good.

In terms of Facebook events, you want to increase the amount of social evidence showing that people want to attend your event while limiting the social evidence that shows people not wanting to attend your event.

Hide “Not Attending” RSVPS: When you create a Facebook event, you have the option to hide people that have declined the event invitation. This feature exists largely because of the social proof principle. If someone is checking out your event page and see 42 people attending but 231 people declined, even without consciously thinking about it social proof disinclines them from attending (the exception being when the attendees are in the person’s own social network providing a more intense social proof).

Have a core group of people RSVP for an event before sending mass invites: Most people create their event and immediately invite everyone and their mother. Unfortunately this means that the people that view the invitation early on are going to see an event that looks unpopular. By first inviting the people that you already know are planning on coming to the event, the mass round of invitees will see what appears to be a more popular event.


“Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.”

Follow up on RSVPs: In the past I’ve talked about how an RSVP on Facebook is not a true RSVP because people don’t view it on its own as a real commitment. However, by following up with those people that have said they would attend with a phone call, email, or Facebook message you can turn their RSVP into an “exploitable public commitment.” Here is an example:

Hey Kevin, it’s [Name] from [Event Host Org]. I am calling/emailing because you said that you would be attending our event on [Date] and wanted to make sure you had all of the details. If you have any questions let me know. Look forward to seeing you on [Day].

This tells the person you are calling that their commitment to attend (RSVP) was noticed. In the case of a phone call, you can get them to recommit based on their prior commitment, which has a much stronger effect.

By using these tactics based on the principles of social proof and consistency, you will be much more effective at growing attendance for your events.