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Library Services Finding Users Via Social Media

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.

Twitter conversation about a religion paper

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.

Andy Burkhardt

6 Comments

  1. I really like this idea, but I live in a bigger city with a lot of universities and colleges. Does anybody have suggestions for how to make this manageable in that type of situation? Thanks!

  2. Cheers for the follow-up post Andy – really interesting! Glad it seems to be working out :)
    I think what you say about using services like Twitter not just to answer queries, but to learn more about your users and their habits, is a very good point. There has been a shift in terms of information seeking behaviour – people won't come to us any more, we need to go to them. Just “hanging out” in their online spaces, learning more about what they're looking for and offering help when the opportunity arises – and it may not have occurred to them to ask for help – strikes me as a really good way to raise the profile of the library.

  3. Thanks Laura. There are so many things to capture people's attention these days. It's necessary for the library to be more aggressive in promoting itself. As opposed to waiting for people we can engage them. It doesn't have to be aggressive or pushy though. Just simply letting them know we're here to help. Reminding folks that we're a resource for them.

  4. I really like this idea, but I live in a bigger city with a lot of universities and colleges. Does anybody have suggestions for how to make this manageable in that type of situation? Thanks!

  5. Cheers for the follow-up post Andy – really interesting! Glad it seems to be working out :)
    I think what you say about using services like Twitter not just to answer queries, but to learn more about your users and their habits, is a very good point. There has been a shift in terms of information seeking behaviour – people won't come to us any more, we need to go to them. Just “hanging out” in their online spaces, learning more about what they're looking for and offering help when the opportunity arises – and it may not have occurred to them to ask for help – strikes me as a really good way to raise the profile of the library.

  6. Thanks Laura. There are so many things to capture people's attention these days. It's necessary for the library to be more aggressive in promoting itself. As opposed to waiting for people we can engage them. It doesn't have to be aggressive or pushy though. Just simply letting them know we're here to help. Reminding folks that we're a resource for them.

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