We Need to Work on Our Listening Skills

Photo by Fozzman on Flickr

Photo by Fozzman on Flickr

People are talking about your library in both the physical and virtual world. It is difficult to know what is being said in private conversations without being omnipresent, but it’s easy to discover what’s being said online. You just need to work on your listening skills. Using tools like RSS, alerts, and saved searches it is possible to hear most of what is being said about your library online.

Twitter Alerts

To find out what users are saying about your library on Twitter, first go to Twitter advanced search. From there you can run any number of searches for your library using either exact phrases or including certain words. Use your librarian chops to run searches that might be about your library. For example at my institution our building is called the Miller Information Commons, but people may just refer to it as the Champlain Library. So some searches may include: “miller information commons,” “mic,” “champlain college library,” and “champlain library.” After you run each of these searches you’ll see a link on the right that says “feed for this query.”


You can then grab this feed and save it to Google Reader or your feedreader of choice as a saved search. Whenever someone says something using those words you’ll be notified.

You can also set up searches by location. For example, I have set up a search for the word “library” within 25 miles of my city. I get some unrelated hits (which are still pretty interesting), but I also get many that I may have missed otherwise.

Google Alerts

Another useful tool to know what is being said is Google Alerts. This tool gives you “updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.”¬†Once again, you can set up variations of searches for your library. These alerts can be delivered once a week, once a day, or as they happen. You can then get them sent either to your email or again create a feed for them and have them go to your feedreader. I actually have a folder in Google Reader that is all saved searches and alerts for my library.

Blog Alerts

It’s also possible to set up alerts for what is being said in the blogosphere about your library. If you go to Google Blog Search you can run the same searches as above and find blog posts about your library. After you run a search there is once again the option on the left side of the results screen to subscribe either via email or feed.

Social Search

In addition to these searches, both Bing and Google will be adding social searching capabilities within the coming weeks. This will make it even easier to find out what people are saying on Twitter, Facebook and possibly other social networks. Once these features are rolled out try setting up alerts on these services as well. I know I’ll try it.

Once you know what is being said you can address people’s concerns, respond to compliments, and ultimately understand your users better.

Kelly Dallen and Chris Brogan both have good information on this topic as well.


Seven More Things Libraries Should Tweet

I got some good feedback on post my a couple months ago called¬†Six Things Libraries Should Tweet, and I think it helped a lot of people. I haven’t stopped thinking about that topic though. It’s difficult to come up with fresh things to tweet everyday, as I’ve found posting to our library Twitter account. But I’ve learned a lot in the past few months, and I figured I’d share seven more things libraries should tweet:

  • Pictures – Posts can get stale if all you are giving your audience is text or links to more text. Set up an account through a Twitter enabled photo-sharing service like TwitPic or Yfrog. Services like these allow you to easily upload photos from anywhere and share them to your library’s Twitter account.
  • Retweet other people’s stuff – An easy way to make friends is to promote content that other folks are sharing. Perhaps one of your friends just shared an interesting fact or video or article. By retweeting that piece of content you’re complimenting the friend that shared it because it shows them that you think they share good things. You’re also passing on interesting information to your followers. Retweeting is win-win and really easy to do.
  • Community Info – Going along with retweeting, you can also pass along information of significance to your community. When there are events going on on campus, even if they have nothing to do with the library, I’ll post about them. Libraries are community centers and central hubs. It’s only fitting that you share information of interest to your community.
  • Encouragement – People are often trying to accomplish something at your library. Let them know that you’re on their side and ready to help. It’s important to include the personal touch when you’re tweeting.



  • Announcements – Keep your followers informed of anything that comes up. If your website crashes, post a quick tweet about it letting people know you’re aware of the problem and working on it. Snowstorm? Alert people of sudden library closings. Twitter is where people go for real-time information. Make sure that they can get it.
  • Links to cool library content – You’re doing other cool things besides Twitter, right? Maybe you have an awesome Flickr stream, or perhaps you just shot a really fun video about ninjas and laptop lending. Twitter is a great way to link to and promote the other content that your library is creating.
  • Respond to criticism – I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. People are saying things about your library whether you like it or not. If they’re talking about the library online, you should definitely be addressing their concerns in a positive manner. You have power online to influence conversations about your library, and the worst thing you can do is ignore people.

Figuring out the problem of what to post as a library is easier if you think about what interests you as a consumer of social media. What kind of tweets do you read or click through? What are interesting tweets? Not all of your tweets have to be related to the library. The measure of your tweets should be, “Is this interesting or useful to my specific community?” If you think it would be, then post away.

Are there other thoughts? I’m always trying to come up with good ideas. Tell me about some of your favorite library tweets.