This set of appetizers will look at how and why institutions use social media. Hopefully, they’ll help you identify which tools meet your institution’s needs and wants.
To begin the conversation, answer me this: why do you want to use social media? (“Because I know I should” is a valid answer, but it’s not as informative as we’d like.)
To answer this question, think about who you want to reach. Maybe you want to:
- Draw in new users
- Target a specific community
- Broadcast across diverse communities
in order to:
- Increase your institution’s web presence
- Drive traffic to your site
- Market new materials or programs
- Give your community an opportunity to participate
- Generate a little buzz and good feeling
While we’re going to look at different tools individually, you’ll see that many of them work best in concert with each other (and we’ll look at some examples of that). We’ll start with twitter and Pinterest. (Other options for appetizers include Delicious, YouTube, WordPress, Tumblr, and Flickr - please weigh in via comments!) We’ll also get familiar with companion tool ifttt.
All roads lead to (and more importantly, from) twitter.
Because it seems to require two things that are hard to summon on command – wit and time – Twitter can be intimidating. But while wit and time are useful, they’re not necessary. True: a good twitter feed is updated regularly with useful or engaging content. False: a good twitter must be updated constantly with a succession of LIS-related one-liners.
One of the most common and stress-free ways to use twitter is as a link-sharing mechanism. Anything at all related to what you do, or that could be of interest to your followers, tweet it. Relate all things back to your collection or your services. Do you run a map library? Maybe there’s an issue in the news about distinguishing between Czechoslovakia and Chechnya. Tweet it. Another way to get started is to retweet from favorite or partner organizations.
We’ll look at some institutional accounts to illustrate how to use twitter. Specifically, how to:
- Share information
- Invite discussion
- Create access points
As we go through the different feeds, think about what you like, what you don’t like, and what you would do differently. We’ll start at basic and work our way up.
McMaster University libraries: @Maclibraries
@Maclibraries twitter feed
@Maclibraries is a good example of a simple, institutional information-based feed. It’s easy to tell who their audience is (students) by reading their tweets. They deal with relatively commonplace university library issues: connectivity disruption, new technology and services, jobs at the library, programs and events for managing stress, links to university news.
For @Maclibraries, twitter is an easy way to get in touch with students, who certainly appreciate being told that the printers are down before they travel to the library in a rainstorm. Students also appreciate being told, as you can see in the 2nd-to-most-recent tweet, that the library has free cupcakes.
The TPL’s twitter feed is often used as a means of engagement. Librarians (or whoever’s tweeting over there) ask questions and invite discussion.
For example, TPL runs a program called One Book, an open book club formed around one book with a multitude of related events. This month, TPL took it a step further with the TTC One Book Club, a twitter-based book club with designated hashtags, whose feed is broadcast on TTC platforms across the city. For the month of April, questions related to the One Book (Fahrenheit 451) are posted on the website and tweeted daily.
Companion website for #OneBookTTC
A few good things about this:
- The link with the TTC promotes serendipity by engaging people who aren’t already involved in the conversation.
- #OneBookTTC is a great and simple example of a twitter Best Practice: make it easy for people to interact with you. Give them hashtags for events, book clubs, or adopt hashtags people are already using.
- Also, conversation does the job of populating your twitter feed for you, as people respond to questions, mention you, and tweet at you.
As an aside, here’s another Good Use of Twitter:
responding to a complaint
This conversation was quick and easy, it gave the library feedback and let the patron feel like they were being heard and their feedback was welcome.
NY Public Library: @NYPL
Like other good twitter feeds, @NYPL starts conversations, advertises programs, links to industry and related news, and puts a public face on the library. Check out the mention of “Poem in your Pocket Day.”
@NYPL twitter feed
What’s notable about NYPL’s twitter feed is the way they create access points to library resources. @NYPL tweets all new posts from the NYPL blogs. These blogs (and there are a bunch) are subject-specific, which is identified in the tweet. The blog post then links to library holdings. So, in two clicks a patron moves from twitter to the catalog. See the example below – catalog links start at the bottom.
Twitter analytics with Twitonomy
To get the most out of twitter, it’s important to analyse the impact of your tweets. There are a few different tools for this – twitter for business offers one – but twitonomy is free, easy, and involves a lot of colourful visualizations.
- Mentions, retweets, followers & following
- Tweet history, tweets per day
- Hashtags used and how often
- Most retweeted tweets
- Specific keyword searches (i.e. how often “TPL” is tweeted)
- and more.
That’s a very brief whirlwind introduction to twitter. The moral of the story is, a twitter feed can be as simple or complex as you like or have time for, but it has a big payoff. There are currently 500 million twitter users, who make up 32% of all Internet users. If you want some more tips about using twitter, see the twitter cheat sheet. And please share your twitter best practices in the comments!
Next time we’ll look at Pinterest, and get a sense of the difference between text-based and image-based tools. Is your org using Pinterest? Comment or email me to tell us about your experience.
This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.