Nice Librarians Finish Last?

Pop a wheelie!!!

via Luke Mayes on flickr

Who normally gets the girl? The guy who helps senior citizens cross the street or the dude on the motorcycle? I surmise that the guy on the motorcycle gets more attention and likely wins in the short run, but the good egg is the one who has staying power and wins in the long run. This isn’t a dating column. This is a metaphor for our profession and ourselves.

Meredith Farkas recently wrote a response to Clay Shirky’s rant about women. She disagreed with Shirky’s assertion that “self aggrandizing” behavior is necessary to get ahead. Also my colleague Sarah Cohen also ruminated on this topic of self-promotion. She felt slightly uncomfortable sharing her success when she was nominated ACRL’s member of the week (which she deserves). I’ve also been thinking about this same topic. I recently got an article published in C&RL News (my first!) which I am really pumped about, but sometimes feel a little sheepish about when people mention it. I don’t really know how I should respond. I want to balance modesty with my excitement about being published.

As Individuals

In my opinion, the best course of action for us as individuals is to balance both the motorcycle dude with the good egg. Tweet your own blog post. Mention that you are the member of the week. You are doing great things. People aren’t going to find your stuff in this age of information overload, unless you promote yourself a little and are confident about what you’re doing. Most of the time, the reason I notice something is because it was promoted on Twitter (my Google Reader’s a mess). I don’t mind when people talk a little about themselves. That being said, don’t overdo it. It can get pretty annoying if you’re talking only about yourself or some project you’re working on.

Also, as Meredith pointed out, don’t lose sight of your values and what you’re trying to accomplish in the profession. If you’re simply trying to further your career you probably chose the wrong profession. Librarianship is about service and sharing. But if you’re looking at the big picture and what we’re trying to accomplish as a profession, you should share what others are doing too. There are a lot of cool things going on in our profession. One of my favorite bloggers, Chris Brogan, talks about promoting others a lot. He contends that you can build credibility through sharing cool things other people are accomplishing. As an individual, celebrate other peoples’ success and recognize the good they’re doing, but don’t forget that you’re making a difference too.

As a Profession

As a profession, I think we do need to rev our engines more and work on getting people to notice us. In this time of shrinking budgets we can’t afford to be meek. We need to continue to hone our PR and marketing skills. Get stories about the library in the local paper, create YouTube videos promoting the library, use social media to promote your awesome services, build relationships with faculty. If we don’t champion our own cause, who will? As a representative of your library, don’t be afraid to put on a leather jacket and be a little bad.

Thoughts? How do you feel about talking about yourself? Do you get annoyed by self-promoters? How are we doing as a profession in tooting our own horns?


How To Grow Your Library’s Social Media Presence

Social Media Marketing

So you’ve already figured out good things to post to your social media of choice and you have great content up there. Now where is everybody? A friend asked me a couple weeks ago “How do you market your web presence? Basically – how do you gain fans and followers?” I’ve been thinking about that a lot myself lately, so I figured I would share the strategies that I came up with.

  • Link everywhere you can -  Have a link to your social media pages on your library homepage. If you’re on multiple social networks mention one on the other. Put links to them in your email signature. Links are good. Use them generously.
  • Print advertising – Post fliers around your library, community or school, especially next to computers (see above picture). You could even take out an ad in your local or school newspaper. There’s still a place for print.
  • Instruction sessions – When you’re in the classroom feel free to mention your social media presence to students. Let them know that you’re trying to make it as easy as possible to connect with the library. They just might appreciate it.
  • Talk to people – Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing, so mention it to friends, people at the reference desk, and people in your community. If you tell two friends, and they tell two friends…
  • Build a contingent of friends – There are probably people already in your community who you are friends with on a social network. On Facebook you can “suggest a page to friends.” Ask people who are your friends to follow/fan the library. They want to help you out because they’re your friend, and they’re getting interesting content and conversation as a bonus.
  • Follow and be followed in return - This one is simply the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Find people in your community and start following them. Chances are, most of them will follow you back. I like this one a lot because the goal of social media is not simply to gain followers (that’s the goal of cults). Social media is about sharing, learning, conversations and giving.
  • Web Ads – I haven’t tried this one yet, but I hear that targeted ads on Facebook are pretty inexpensive and can be effective. Stanford library has utilized ads in the past and they may be the most popular college library Facebook page out there.
  • Give it time – Set small goals for yourself and meet them. Then set larger goals. This post is called “Grow Your Library’s Social Media Presence” not “Explode Your Library’s Social Media Presence.” That’s what it takes. It’s like a garden that needs nurturing. Give every user interaction proper attention. Eventually with care and diligence you’ll have a blossoming and fruitful social media presence.

Has anyone been trying other ways of promoting their social networks? Any great successes in getting the word out? I’d really love to hear about them.