In prepping for a tour for RAs at our college last week I started thinking of libraries in terms of space and realized that libraries are a combination of three distinct spaces: community space, learning space, and virtual space. This was how I ended up framing the tour, and I thought it was pretty helpful.
Libraries are places where people can go to be social and be a part of a community. Libraries hold events like gaming nights, book clubs and film screenings. It’s also a place where you can go and meet friends and relax or even study with a group.
In addition to their function as a community hub, libraries are also a space for learning. Whether public, academic or special, libraries function as refuges to those who want to learn. They make information resources available to learners such as books, magazines, DVDs, and databases. They also provide other exploratory resources such as computers with internet access. Libraries also have trained people to assist learners along the way. These are people like librarians who can help searchers find relevant useful information and make sense of it, or people in writing centers who can help users write their papers. Libraries create environments that facilitate exploration and discovery.
Finally, the library is not confined to a brick and mortar building. The library is also a space online. Through social media tools like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter it is possible to further that sense of community discussed above. Patrons can also continue their learning online. Library websites try to make it easy for users to find relevant useful information.
image from mars_discovery_district on Flickr
Looking back on your social media use of your library or organization is important. Whether your blogging or using tools like Facebook and Twitter we need to be scientists. We need to conduct experiments. Social media is great for this because you get rapid, measurable feedback. You can see what sorts of posts get shared, liked, retweeted, or commented on. Once you understand what people are responding to you can then try to replicate it, thus improving your posts. Below are three types of posts that get responses from our library’s social media following:
- Questions – Want a response? Ask a question. It’s one of the most natural exchanges in conversation. People are much more willing to reply to a question than to a statement. If you can phrase your informational post as a question or add a question to it you have a better chance of a response. Example: “Who loves chili? Chili cookoff today at 2:00pm in the library.”
- Fun – Posts that are lighthearted and fun often get responses, at least from our students. You don’t have to only post about library news or events and not everything has to be informational. Social media is about being social so you need a balance of business and pleasure. Here’s an example of having fun with the Kanye meme that swept the web.
- Talking about others – Only talking about yourself is boring in real life. The same is true in the virtual world. Blogger Chris Brogan is an evangelist for talking about others and I find that he’s right. When I retweet people’s content from our library account it gets shared again. When I post on the library Facebook about a student group organizing a Quidditch team the organizers appreciate it. Talk about others and you’ll be rewarded.
These types of posts got the most responses at our library. It may not be exactly the same for yours. Remember to experiment. Try some unorthodox posts sometimes. Try different posts and see what works and what doesn’t, but make sure you learn from your mistakes.
What sorts of social media posts have been working for your library?
free burrito day
This past Thursday in Burlington the restaurant Boloco had a free burrito day promotion in honor of being open for one year at that location. They also allowed the local charity COTS to accept donations during their promotion, and because COTS raised over $1500 Boloco threw in another $500. Boloco is a solid company. Their burritos are good, they have cups made out of corn, the meat offerings are naturally raised, and the people that work there have always been very friendly to me.
The CEO John Pepper is also a very prolific tweeter. He engages with customers, retweets, and has fun with it. There are even contests where if you snap a pic of the Boloco Airstream, you can get a free burrito. They use Twitter well as a way to build excitement and have conversations with customers.
There was also another promotion right before free burrito day where you could get a burrito for $3 if you picked up a piece of trash off the street and brought it in. It was an idea they cooked up at the last minute, but a cool one. They sent out an email and it was also heavily tweeted and retweeted. It was an admirable environmental message.
This is a business that understands the meaning of community, even if they are not a small mom and pop shop. They give back and actually think about the community. Using Twitter they engage with their customers, address grievances, and have fun promoting their business.
Well done Boloco. I’m impressed!