I mapped as many approved and proposed projects as I could find for the city of Atlanta.
I believe Facebook can rival Google Maps and help local news with an extremely powerful discovery tool created by expanding Events by Facebook to include places, articles, and things for sale.
I discuss the content that can be gathered from the Facebook login and the difficulties in doing so. I hypothesize a third party service that handles this difficulty for companies interested in tapping into the largest social network. I brainstorm a few uses of this content and I am curious to hear additional uses of this service.
My attempt to describe my understanding of event discovery and the fundamental difficulties presented by events as a content type.
My story of the blood sweat and tears that went into building Hugecity.
I have met with lots of friends who wanted to build an app to start a company and I find myself repeating my advice. I am writing this to share my advice with you.
I have met with lots of friends who have already built an app but don't know where to go next. Here is what I tell them.
I recently read the Cleaner than what article in the Economist which talked about a study that said electric cars powered by coal plants produce more CO2 than fuel-powered cars. This study is incorrect because it falls into a trap I have fallen into in the past. Energy consumption is not directly related to energy production.
I fell into this logic in my previous employment with Philips LED. With Philips, I would meet with cities to help them understand how switching from traditional bulb street lighting to LED would cut down on the cities energy production and thus decrease their CO2 emission. In 2010 I attended the Street and Area Lighting Conference in Huntington Beach. I sat next to Michael Stevens, head of lighting at Southern Company, while Robert Koenig of the Clinton Climate Initiative spoke about selling carbon credits created from cities switching to LED street lighting. Michael laughed under his breath. His laugh shocked me. I had recently started a career that I thought was saving the world by reducing energy consumption through LED street lighting. To me it was the lowest of the low hanging fruit in reducing our emission of CO2. So I asked Michael why he was laughing. He told me he was that energy consumption and energy production are two very different things. He drew me this very simple graph.
Energy consumption varies like a wave, with the lowest points when residents and businesses are asleep and the highest around mid-afternoon when everyone is most active. Southern Company, like most energy producers use a mixture of production methods to meet the demand. Southern Company has a base production turbines that provide most of the power that is to be consumed. These turbines never turn off and they do not vary with demand. Southern Company turns on auxiliary turbines to meet peak demand energy consumption during the day. These turbines vary with the energy demand. To lower CO2 emission due to energy production you must lower peak-time demand.
Michael said even though energy consumption drops off at night, the base turbines are still on, producing energy and emitting CO2. That excess energy is lost because we have not created the technology to store great amounts of energy efficiently. Michael said when a city reduces their night time energy consumption by 10% by switching to LED street lights, it will have no effect on CO2 emission, because the turbines were still on. This is the same trap that Christopher Tessum, Jason Hill and Julian Marshall of the University of Minnesota have just fallen into with their recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This study found that a battery-powered car recharged with electricity generated by coal-fired power stations is likely to cause more than three times as many deaths from pollution as a conventional petrol-driven vehicle. Just like LED street lighting carbon credits, this study directly relates energy consumption with CO2 emission without taking into account when the energy is being produced.
In this case electric vehicles are usually plugged in at night consuming the excess energy produced during off-peak hours. This energy is stored in their batteries for use during peak hours during the day. The net result of charging your electric car at night not only removes the CO2 that would be produced by a petrol-driven car during the day it is also consuming excess energy that would normally be lost by the coal power plant at night.
Furthermore, if all cars were switched to electric cars, the general public would make much better use of the lost energy produced during off-peak hours of the base production turbines as well as removing the petrol-burning cars from the roads all together. Electric vehicles could behave as one massive battery for the power company.
In the future, a more effective study would measure when electric cars are plugged in. It could also look at what can be done with aligning power companies with the electric car chargers. Perhaps they could provide free energy between 2 and 5AM to electric car chargers.
In past 3 months our Facebook posts were clicked on 1.25 million times without setting up a single promotion. We were able to target our audience for free by posting to Facebook event walls.
Facebook is a great way to get a message out to a lot of people, but the costs can add up quickly. With the right message you can get a lot more engagement by posting to Facebook event walls.
There are lots of benefits of posting to a Facebook event. First, it’s free. When you post to a Facebook event wall everyone who is attending that event gets a notification about your post. This way your message is not lost in the Newsfeed. You can target specific interests and locations. Unfortunately, Facebook events don’t have categories but simply reading the description you will learn the interests of the attendees.
You want to find an event on Facebook? It’s difficult! So we have made it easy for you. We have gathered all the events in your neighborhood, and in every city, and we have put these events on our map, www.hugecity.us. Our map is as big or as small as you want it to be. It is the very best way to see all Facebook events by attendance and location. If you log in you can post directly to the event on Facebook.
Make sure your message is interesting to the event attendees. If it is not, someone can report your message or your account as spam. Experiment and find out what works best for you. A few reports won’t get you blocked. However, if your posts are reported enough over time Facebook will temporarily lock your account.
After verifying your account using a government issued ID you should be back up within two weeks. If you are using a fake account, Facebook could ask you to convert your account to a page.
Copying and pasting a message is easy but pace yourself. If you submit too many posts too quickly Facebook will temporarily block your account from posting to events.
If you keep going you will get restricted from posting to events for two days. This can happen many times without your account getting temporarily blocked.
Like most first-time entrepreneurs we took the Field of Dreams approach, “If you build it, they will come.” We quickly learned that there is a ton of competition out there asking for your user’s time. Today, marketing needs as much focus and time as your product.
Goal: Make my target market aware of Hugecity
Available Budget: $3,000
Timeframe: 6 months
Target Audience: All event lovers on Facebook could use Hugecity. So it was natural for us to target Facebook events. We concentrated on rare and hard to find events. These events normally had little to no marketing budget. These public events were rarely known outside of the event manager’s circle of friends. If these attendees knew that there was something going on they would go out almost every day.
Step 1: Bought Facebook ads (Cost per click $1.13)
Step 2: Market at local events and never bought swag again (Cost per click $2.50)
Step 3: Create a fake Facebook account and hire an intern to post in events (Cost per click $0.01)
Step 4: Automate Facebook event posting (Cost per click $0)
After we learned through A/B testing and trial and error, we were ready for automation. Apparently, people really like TOP 10 lists. So, we created a list of the TOP 10 Facebook events in every city and neighborhood every day. Then we posted a link to the list to the walls of each of the TOP 10 events.
Even though we never asked for feedback but the messages and comments were amazing. We were showing people how creative and deep their event community really was. No newspaper or blog could ever have covered 12 million events all over the world. Our posts also reminded people about the event and helped undecided people buy a ticket.
Starting from one city and we gradually scaled to 1084 cities and neighborhoods around the world. Using the Facebook Platform we could post to an event wall without attending the event with either a user or a page. You cannot do this on Facebook.
Mechanical Turk helped us identify the geographical boundaries for each target city. Then posted a targeted message in the local language in the ten most attended events within the bounds for each city every day. We had to built a city management system to modify cites as we went.
Facebook allows you to set up an unlimited number of pages so we set up 94 of them, one for each state and each major country. Each page had a weight corresponding to its number of cities.
Averaging less than 1 spam report per 10,000 views, we were well under the radar for Facebook’s spam filter. However, we were limited by how frequent we could post to Facebook. Through trial and error using the platform we discovered evenly paced 100 posts per hour per page would keep us from getting blocked. We enlisted some friends to be admins for our pages and we spread our posts over several time zones. We were posting through the page so my friends or their friends never saw the posts unless they were attending the targeted events.
We averaged one like and six clicks per post. On the weekends our 8,000 posts would yield 55,000 visits a day. Eventually Facebook Platform changed and closed the ability of being able to post to an event wall without attending the event first. This strategy is still possible if you attend the event first using a user.
Unfortunately, Facebook regularly makes changes to their platform. Anything you build is not guaranteed to work indefinitely. Still, its benefits far outweigh all the work. Our underfunded neighborhood event guide from Atlanta was able to race up to the top of the millions being spent on our competitors.
On October 29th, I received an email that there were questions about my application for Y Combinator’s Winter 2014 cohort. I was surprised because our team had filmed our application video in one take and I had quickly answered the questions on the application. Our answers were brief. Event discovery is a very crowded space and our traffic was growing quickly. To stand out, I listed our current traffic in the elevator pitch question, “What is your team going to make?” I figured that line had the best chance of being read with the thousands of applications YC would receive. I had pressed submit without reviewing the application and forgot all about it.
These are the questions I received after they reviewed our application.
YC Question 1: This is a pretty obscure event. How do you know 8 people are attending?
My Answer: We know that 8 people have said that they are attending on Facebook.
YC Question 2: Can you please send us the url of a graph of unique visits per day since launch?
My Answer: Here is a link to a photo of our Google Analytics account: Facebook Post
On November 5th, I received an email asking if we could make it to Mountain View for a 10-minute interview in ten days. They were going to cover our travel up to $1100. We quickly booked our flights from Atlanta to San Francisco and an Airbnb on Castro.
I called Kyle Azevedo, the CEO of Viacycle, for advice for the interview. Viacycle was the only YC alum based in Atlanta that I knew. He got me in touch with his batch mates Nick Baum of StoryWorth and Aston Motes of YouThere. Everyone said pretty much the same thing. Have your answers ready and in one quick sentence and that YC hadn’t had any success with startups in the event space. Paul Graham, one of the founders of YC, had tried to get them to pivot the entire time they were in Mountain View.
Our interview was at 10:15am on Friday November 15th. We showed up caffeinated and a little early. The Y Combinator office doesn’t look like much from the outside. We watched multiple Teslas and a Fisker Karma pull into the parking lot. The doors were unlocked at 9:45 and we walked inside with a group of nervous and excited startups. Food and coffee was available but nerves kept us from eating.
In the interview the three of us sat across from four interviewers. The first question was “tell us what you do” and a flood of questions followed. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to demo Hugecity, which is normally the strongest part of our presentation.
One interviewer was on his phone playing with our app. Another was only interested in growth. I was able to satisfy him with a printout of different parts of our growth (see below). Another interviewer was only interested in engagement and another took notes.
It was a game about how many questions we could answer well in the time was given. There was confusion about how we were getting traffic, which sucked up part of our time. We also mentioned a small feature that had not been implemented yet and it took the conversation from 30,000 feet to 1,000 feet. It really showed how easily the conversation could be derailed. We had not read the fine print. YC is for founders only. They want everyone in the room to have at least 20% equity. One of the members of our team was not a founder even though we treated him like one.
It was surprising how quickly they honed in on our weakest link, user engagement. A regular user doesn’t look for events everyday or even every week. So, just like Yelp, we have to add an event review layer. We had identified what we wanted to add but there would still be a lot of experimentation to see what would stick. We wanted to use our three months at YC to do just that. There was a knock at the door and the interview was over before we knew it.
We were told that we would hear something that evening. I would get a call if we made it in or an email if we did not.
We visited Google for lunch. Then headed to the Computer History Museum to clear our heads. Then we went to the mecca of personal information, Facebook. We found out that Facebook only has three people running the largest event database on the planet and they don’t care about it because they don’t know what to do with it. “Events don’t move the dial for us.”
A little after six we got emails from the other startups we met in the morning. They had all been told that they did not make it in. 7PM came and went. My family was calling and every time our whole team jumped in excitement. Finally, at 8:11 we got an email saying that that they liked that Hugecity had seen growth in a space that most others had struggled in but they were concerned about our user engagement. “They did not know how to address our level of activity in terms of monthly visits/visitors, mobile app usage, and registration rates.”
Our trip to SF had us very excited. Ideas were pouring out of us before the interview. We were looking around for places to live and how much we would have to give up to live there with the higher cost of living. On the way to SFO we noticed New Relic and iPhone 5C billboards. We were the target market in San Francisco. On the way home form ATL we saw billboards for Krystal and a church at Six Flags.
The Hugecity team is taking a week to decompress after our trip. We are very happy and proud to have been invited out to Mountain View. We met so many awesome people and quickly learned a lot about what was going on in the event space. Stay tuned for more.
The chart I showed:
The chart I wish I had shown:
1. Use a Facebook Page to create your event and add your personal profile as a host
- Invitees have a link to see all of the other events you have created
- Invitees have a link to like your page
- Your personal profile can directly message all of the invitees (Abuse of this feature can be seen as spam)
2. Don’t make someone search for information on your event
Make sure the important stuff is at the top of the details section and can be seen without hitting “See More”.
- If there is a separate registration website, put that first!
- At the end of the details section, list all of the links someone would be interested in: main event link, tickets, audio, video, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and ALL other event links
- Third party Facebook event aggregators like HUGECITY recognize these links and highlight them for their audience.
3. Use Facebook recognized venues not addresses for the location
Type the venue name into the location bar slowly. Facebook will autocomplete the name of the venue, click on one of the suggestions. If your venue is not listed, create a venue.
- VERY IMPORTANT: If you do not have a map on your event Facebook will not recommend it to friends of your attendees or people in the area
4. If your event lasts longer than 5 days, create multiple events
Calendars automatically import Facebook events and you will create more friends than enemies if you squat on someone’s calendar for days.
- If you don’t add an end time Facebook defaults your event to 3 hours long.
5. Never check “Only admins can post to the event wall”
The wall is the best place to engage your invitees. Allow them to communicate with you.
6. Add a cover photo that fits the event and fits the rectangle (714 x 264 pixels) This is just like a magazine cover or flyer for an event
- Don’t use the flyer for the event unless you can see all of the information you need in the rectangle
7. Have one official Facebook event.
If you can, make everyone involved in the event a host to your event.
- Invitees can see all of their friends who are attending without having to look at lots of events.
- Those hosts can help spread the word about your event
- The true attendee number can be seen a lot easier
8. Use your invites wisely
Create groups of friends by location, interest, work and more.
- Use Facebook hacks like “invite all of your friends” to invite the groups of your friends to your event. (Abuse of this feature can be seen as spam)
9. Keep people excited about coming.
50% of tickets are sold when you first publish the event. The next 50% are sold the week of the event. Someone saying that they are attending does not mean that they will remember to be there.
- A post into your event wall notifies everyone who has been invited.
- Post pictures, past videos, reviews and articles written about the event (remember to tag all of the pages involved with the @ function)
- As your page, send an update for your event
- As your personal profile send a direct message to all attendees
10. Promote your event outside of your circle.
Facebook only allows you to invite your friends. Facebook ads give lots of impressions but very few attendees. (Not worth the cost)
- Share your event on Twitter and your Facebook page
- Share your Facebook event with all of the people involved with your event
- Share your Facebook event with bloggers and tastemakers that would care about your event
- Share the Facebook event with all of the local event bloggers like: Patch, Scoutmob, Waze, and Local Papers
- Promote your event on HUGECITY Your event will be featured at the top of the list on the website, app, and email. You can also add a sponsor to your event to show off your next event or the after party. Contact: hugh (at)hugecity.us
Two years ago, I moved back to Atlanta after finishing grad school in Holland. It had been 5 years since my undergrad at Georgia Tech and Facebook told me I still had friends in the city.
Unfortunately, I found myself travelling 5 days a week and when I arrived home at the weekends I was exhausted and had no plans with anyone. Fridays were always the same – send out last minute texts to a few friends and end up hanging out with a friend and his girlfriend or by myself at the same old bar.
I knew more people in town, but to re-establish contact without something specific to break the ice made me feel awkward. I knew we’d feel more comfortable if we were engaged in something fun and interesting – but where were those events? And how come I always heard about them AFTER they happened?
Fortunately, through my work with LED lighting I became involved with city improvement projects throughout the US. I quickly discovered these newly renovated areas, caused great excitement in each community and become magnets for artists, writers, performers, musicians, professors, political groups, and chefs. Soon we have pop-up galleries, theatres, concerts, lecture halls, and restaurants. These communities within communities, these hives of activity, are the underground pulse of the city and I have found it happening all over the country. Social media has allowed groups to internally communicate and share ideas. But these groups rarely mix or even know each other. As an observer I realized that no true renaissance is complete without an audience that can both interact and give feedback. The audience is the catalyst of further progress. I saw the opportunity to turn these renaissances, happening around the country into something big.
The problem with these many events is that they are local; they happen quickly and often the event holders do not have a marketing budget for traditional media such as newspapers to highlight them. So the only place to find these events is Facebook. Facebook has every public event that is happening around you but they make it impossible to discover events that you have not been invited to.
Our solution is simple. Bring on the Renaissance. Allow everyone to discover everything happening around them.
HUGE city takes all this information and maps out all of the public Facebook events happening around you, and all around the world. We give you a visual map of all events and you can limit that map to how far you want to travel, around the block, within the neighborhood, within the city. We know that you normally do more than one thing while you are out. So we map multiple events to enable you to see what else is possible around a particular event.
Since Facebook is global, HUGE city can be used like a live Lonely Planet for events as you travel around the world. HUGE city shows all of the neighborhood events in every city from New York to Tel Aviv. We only show 100 events at a time so click on the clusters of events to see more. You can see why we use clusters in the last picture which was the first HUGE city.
Your time is precious and you don’t want to miss the best, so our first filter is the top rated list. This shows the events in order of the number of people who have favorited the event on HUGE city. HUGE city also adds the favorited event to your recommended list.
The recommended list uses your Facebook profile to narrow the events shown to just the events your Facebook friends are going to and your Facebook likes have created.
The my friends list shows which of your friends are going out and what they are going to do. This instantly solved my need to find out which of my hundred friends in Atlanta are going out tonight and why they were going out.
HUGE city is available any where in the world.
*Hugh Malkin and Adam Wilson released the HUGE city website (www.hugecity.us) in early 2012. The website is continually refined and updated. They recently added the mobile website and will be releasing the mobile app in early 2013. So much more to come in the next three months!