About two months ago I wrote a post called Ambient Awareness in Twitter for Reference. I came up with the idea of setting up targeted search alerts in order to capture questions that people didn’t even know they had — questions in which the library could assist them.
Laura, a London law librarian, asked in the comments of the post how this idea was working out. So, I figured I would share my experiences.
So far, things have been fairly positive. If I find someone from our college is doing a paper I may send them a link to a possible useful resource, or even just wish them good luck. Sometimes I don’t hear anything back, sometimes I do.
Erik Qualman said in his viral video Social Media Revolution “in the near future we will no longer search for products and services. They will find us via social media.” That’s what’s going on here. Social media, powerful search capabilities, and RSS make it possible to have a form of ESP. We can deliver value to our patrons when they are not even expecting it and maybe even make them say “wow” like in the example above.
Like I said, not everything has been a success. Sometimes I don’t hear back from folks, but hopefully they find the support useful. But the alerts I’ve set up also give me a lot of insight into the research and study habits of students. There’s a lot of talk of procrastination, and a number of late night posts or posts about the rigors of writing papers. Some students post multiple tweets about the paper they’re working on, and you can see that their being pretty diligent about it.
The value of Twitter, and social media in general, is not just delivering services but also listening and learning more about your users. These alerts are doing both.