Two Keys to Social Media Success


There is no “right” way to do social media. But there are some best practices and etiquette that has developed around these tools. There are a couple¬† things to keep in mind when using social media professionally for your business, organization, or library.

Social, Not Broadcast

First off, this is social media that your using, not traditional broadcast media. This isn’t radio or TV. The rules are different.

I see some businesses or libraries trying to utilize social media, but often they are running plays out of the old playbook. They act like they have a megaphone and are simply yelling things AT people. In social media you don’t want to be talking AT people, you want to be talking WITH people.

Don’t simply post the same things over and over. Respond to people. Have conversations with users. If you’re using social media and not listening and talking WITH your users, you’re doing it wrong.

Business in the Front, Party in the Back

photo by heyjohngreen on flickr

photo by heyjohngreen on flickr

Just like the once popular hair style “the mullet” you want to keep your tone business in the front, party in the back.

What I mean by that is when using social media you should try to strike a balance between professionalism and fun. You’re trying to promote your library or organization, but don’t get caught up completely in that. Having fun will help in that goal. Libraries are fun places to be. Let that show through.

A lot of social media is about having fun. Feel free to post links to things that might not necessarily be related only to your library. Or make humorous videos. Collingswood Library in New Jersey did a good job with this recently.

There’s no perfect way to use social media but there’s a distinct spirit behind it. If you’re posting in that spirit you can’t go too far wrong.


Libraries and a Sense of Purpose

Photo by author

Photo by author

The Harvard Business Blog recently posted an article about how Britannica defied the odds. The article states that Britannica is continuing to thrive because it found its purpose (a commitment to excellence) and can stay focused on what’s important.

“Yet this year, defying predictions of its demise, Britannica leapt 19 places in the ranking of Brands in the UK. It charged ahead of Virgin Atlantic, Nike, and Sony. What’s the key to Britannica’s success? Britannica focused on its purpose; this made it possible to think clearly about its advantage.”

This got me thinking. Britannica is still around and succeeding. Wikipedia hasn’t killed it because they have different missions.

The idea of purpose is so powerful. But we often forget our purpose. We go about answering emails and going to meetings and get caught up in our day to day jobs. It’s necessary though to step back and think about why we’re doing all this and remember our purpose. It will reinvigorate our work and keep us focused on what we should be doing.

So what is our purpose? “The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.” That quote was taken from The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians, crafted by some pretty brilliant librarians.

Now I don’t expect people to think to themselves when they’re nuking withdrawn OCLC records, “gee…I’m preserving the integrity of civilization.” But having a sense of purpose in the back of your head is helpful. It doesn’t have to be this one from the Darien Statements either. That one applies to¬† libraries as an institution. Different libraries will have different purposes. But finding that purpose and keeping it in mind when you’re making important decisions is what is going to allow libraries to continue to thrive in this age of ubiquitous information.

What’s your library’s purpose?


Four Reasons Libraries Should be on Social Media

Many of the people I talk to are excited about social media, but not everyone. Sometimes it takes some convincing arguments to make people see the value in these social tools. So here are a few reasons why libraries should be taking advantage of these new technologies:

  • Communication – Social media is another way that you can get into contact with your patrons. Contacting younger people is becoming increasingly difficult since a growing number of them believe that email is dead. Instead they use instant messaging, Facebook, or SMS. It’s a change in our way of thinking since many of us still do business primarily through email, but it’s necessary to recognize this new trend.
  • Respond to Positive/Negative Feedback - People are talking about your library on the web and in different social media channels. They’re saying both good things and bad things. One of the most important tenets of customer service is to be responsive to your users’ concerns or praise. Recognize them and show that you’re interested in and care about their opinions. There’s no controlling what is said about your library anymore, but you can influence the message that comes across. The screenshot below illustrates an example where a library could reach out and assist a patron:


  • Marketing/Advertising – Your library likely already markets its services or events using traditional media: fliers, bookmarks, announcements in calendars of events, newspaper ads, press releases, etc. Social media is simply another form of media that you can use to get your message out there. Millions of people use social networks and likely a large percentage of the population you serve does too. You’re missing out on a lot of eyes if you eschew social media.
  • Understanding Users Better – Often people assume they know their user population. I know I do. But I’m also often very surprised at things I overhear or questions patrons ask. Social media allows conversations with your users, and these conversations often reveal important insights. Simply talking with people allows you to get to know them better, and more importantly, serve them better. Have conversations with patrons both in person and through social media. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

Getting people on board with new technologies can often be difficult, but if you can make a reasonable well argued case for it you stand a much better chance. Please leave other reasons libraries should be on social media you think of in the comments. But now my question is: why shouldn’t libraries be on social media?