Socially Extend Your Website With Facebook

Facebook recently surpassed Yahoo to become the second most visited site in the US. According to the article, people also spend more of their attention there and stay on the site longer than Google or Yahoo. Facebook has more than 400 million active users and half of them log in on any given day. It’s clear that Facebook is the king of the social web.

Facebook has been around for six years now. And now is the time if you’ve been holding out to start a Facebook page for your library. Or if you have one, to recommit resources and attention to it. We can no longer afford to just “be on the web.” The web has become social, so we need to be social on the web. It reminds me of when the web was new and people were still unsure about getting a web page for their business. This is the same thing. I can guarantee you that if your users are on the web, then a significant portion of them are on Facebook.

The barriers to getting a page on Facebook are very low too. It’s not like designing an entire website. Facebook makes it easy for businesses and organizations to be represented and deliver their content to users. It’s also easy to customize your Facebook page. I see it as a more fun, interactive extension of your current website. Patrons are already in Facebook and used to it’s interface, so it could be a great place to get non-users aware of and perhaps using the library.

We have a very basic custom tab in Facebook called Research. It allows people to do research in a place they’re already familiar with. It includes a box to search the catalog, a box for Google Scholar (which we’ve enabled with Library Links), and ways to contact us, most notably by IM.

The time has come for libraries to be social on the web. Social is the new normal. It has become mainstream and people expect it. Library 2.0 is not dead, it has just become boring and commonplace. And to quote Clay Shirky, “Tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”

Well, things are getting interesting.


Ambient Awareness in Twitter for Reference

A couple of days ago I was able to help a patron on Twitter with a question that they had about citations. It wasn’t directly addressed to the library though, so I almost missed it. A savvy marketing professor actually referred the student to the library on Twitter, which was very helpful.

This got me thinking though. There are likely a lot of potential library related questions on Twitter from our patrons that we miss because they might not be asking us or thinking of the library when they tweet. Patrons may be talking about proper citation or research though not @replying or DMing the library.

So, to remedy this and catch some of these questions I set up several alerts using Twitter’s advanced search. You can take advantage of the Boolean nature of the advanced search to make your searches very specific. I set up searches for:

  • Tweets containing the word library
  • Tweets containing the word cite
  • Tweets containing the word research
  • Tweets containing the word paper
  • Tweets containing the word need AND book OR article OR books OR articles

All of these alerts I set up were within a 10-25 mile radius of the college to keep it targeted locally and keep hits managable. I keep these alerts in a folder in Google Reader.

Different libraries might run different searches. For example a public library around this time may run a search having to do with “tax help” or “taxes.” The searches can be tailored to your specific community, and they can be modified over time. I may find that some of the searches I’m running never return any useful hits. But something like the word “cite” or “citation” is not used that often. When it is, there’s a decent chance it’s something a library can help with.

What do other folks think? Are there other searches you would run? Is this just going out and looking for more work?


A Social Media Tool for Busy Librarians [VIDEO]

A valid concern that I’ve heard about using social media in libraries is “how do I find the time time to maintain a social media presence?” Librarians can be stretched pretty thin with their workload, or sometimes there are only one or two people running a library. Maintaining a social media presence takes time and commitment. It can be very difficult to regularly post Facebook page updates, fresh tweets, and new blog posts. This is where work flow comes in. There are technologies available to help even the busiest librarians post regularly to their social media accounts with ease.

One simple way to save time and make sure that you post regularly is to schedule tweets and posts. The best tool I have found to do that is HootSuite. HootSuite allows you to connect to both your library Twitter account and Facebook page and easily update them both from one web-based application. In addition HootSuite gives you the option to schedule your posts for sometime in the future.

Scheduling posts makes it easier to post regularly without the hassle of doing it every day. A librarian can take a half an hour once a week to write a research tip of the day and posts about multiple upcoming events, schedule them, and have posts coming out every day that week. This even makes it possible to post on weekends when you’re not actually around.

This is a very useful tool for already overtaxed librarians, yet it shouldn’t be the only thing you use. You also have to answer your patrons when they post on your wall or @mention you. And don’t let scheduled posts kill spontaneity either. Spontaneous posts are the often some of the best and most authentic. It’s necessary to find a good balance, but scheduling posts can be a very helpful practice in dealing with social media work flow.

Here’s a very brief video showing how to use HootSuite to schedule your posts.