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Looks Like Facebook Is Starting To Change Up Its Event Invitation Policies.

By Pete on Monday, March 25, 2013 at 4:38 PM

There's a tagline on Facebook's sign-up page -- one that's been there for years.

"It's free," that tagline reads, "and will always be free."

In Facebook's defense, that line only implies that signing up for the site is a free venture. Already, we know, other features on the site -- namely, messaging people with whom a friendship hasn't yet been established, something the social media giant began charging for right around the turn of the calendar year -- are starting to fall by the free-of-charge wayside.

But could sending out event invitations be next on the pay-to-play front? Charslie Grace, of Dallas promotions company The Artist Collective, which has made a name for itself of late thanks to its hand in the recent resurgence of Lower Greenville venue The Crown and Harp, worries that this might be the case.

And, if not that, well, she has good reason to believe that something strange is definitely going on with the site's event invitation feature.

Last week, while sending out Facebook event invitations for a show she'd booked -- just as she does most days -- Grace received a bit of a cryptic error from Facebook.

"We're sorry," the message that popped up on her screen read, "but you seem to be sending invitations to people who aren't interested in accepting them. Please make sure you're only inviting people you know and think would enjoy this event. You'll be able to send invitations again once more people have accepted."

In today's world of invite-everyone-you-know social media mass-marketing, the note struck Grace like a slap in the face: "How can people accept an invite if I can't send one?" she asked, frustrated, in a Facebook status update she posted immediately after receiving the error, in which she alerted her friends to what she hoped was nothing more than a temporary glitch.

Turns out, though, Grace is hardly the only promoter to have been slapped with this note of late. In fact, there's a whole Facebook help forum thread of similar complaints from promoters like Grace that dates back a week or so -- and none of these complaints have yet to receive an answer from the social giant.

Is it possible that the change is simply Facebook responding in kind to the overwhelming -- and oft-complained about -- number of event invites most users receive on a daily basis? Absolutely.

One problem: It'd be one thing, Grace says, if Facebook allowed her company to invite those who "liked" her Artist Collective business page to send out invites to the events it creates -- but it doesn't. That option isn't available for business pages, not at this time.

As currently stands, only individuals or Facebook group managers can blast their friends and/or members with event invitations. Business pages can only post links to their events. And, unless these businesses pay to promote their events through yet another recently monetized Facebook feature, there's no guarantee that everyone who "likes" a page will receive all the information that page shares.

As a promoter, making sure her whole audience receives her updates is basically Grace's end goal. And, as a part-time promoter working on a shoestring budget, doing so without paying for it is essentially an imperative.

Now Grace, just like other promoters, such as Toronto promoter Brownman Ali, worry that the writing's on the wall, and that paying to send out event invitations is a oncoming inevitability.

Pontificates Ali in his own complaint posted to that aforementioned forum thread: "I think this is the 1st stages [sic] of an attempt by Facebook to monetize event invitations. They seem to have implemented a ridiculous algorithm that creates a ration between number of invites and number of acceptances. Except their logic has no real world value... I just tried instead to send a single invite to my concert event -- to my mother. And that message comes up. A message telling me that she's not interested in accepting it, so FB has decided for me not to send it, thus paralyzing me from inviting her IN THE FIRST PLACE. How can the condition of "once more people have accepted" to be met, if I now can't invite a single person? Including my own mother?"

It's a good -- and perhaps scary point -- that Ali raises.

But Grace thought she'd circumvented such issues a while back. Already, she'd created an individual account for the Crown and Harp -- a method she'd employed so she could be certain that she was only blasting invites out to those who wanted to receive them, rather than just her own personal friends.

"I've been sending out invites for months on that account," she says. "Why stop it now?"

Likely because, in one fashion or another, a major sea change in social media is on the horizon -- and that's something Grace isn't looking forward to dealing with.

"I'm livid," she says. "Those invites account for a huge part of getting people out to shows. Perhaps because there is nothing in it for Facebook when we are promoting events? They win if they can take away every other avenue and force us to pay for 'sponsored stories' and ads. We've tried both, but the simple process of inviting people to an event is more effective. I already think it's insane that I can't invite any of the thousands of people who have willingly 'liked' our pages. And most of them don't see our posts. By 'liking' a page, they are saying that they want to see posts and receive invites."

To her credit, Grace does have a suggestion for a potential Facebook change that she would be open to.

"If Facebook wants to make this about money, why don't they instead charge their billion users a small fee -- $20 a year max -- and businesses $50 a year?" she offers. "In return, no more ads, sponsored stories or $1 messages to people you're not friends with. That is reasonable -- and is a ton of money for them."

Hey, at least it's an idea -- if, granted, one that's unlikely to ever be heard.

In the meantime, with Facebook mum on any potential changes coming on this front, Grace will just have to wait and see how everything plays out -- and then formulate a strategy around whatever Facebook rolls out. Because, in this day and age, such is the life of the social media-dependent event promoter.

"I just hope I can figure out a way around it all," she says. "We are building something cool at The Crown and Harp. I'd hate for this to slow down progress.

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