Tuesday, July 10, 2012

To Facebook or Not To Facebook, That Is The Question

Is it bad that I like seeing the Fail Whale? S/he's too cute & happy to hate.

I don't quite remember how we got on the topic, but I had a long conversation with a coworker last week about the approach I take to managing my library's social networking presence, and about the successes I've seen with our Facebook page. She shocked me by suggesting I offer a workshop for the campus on the topic. I balked at this, since I don't think of myself as an expert on social networking, especially since we've really only had an active presence since the beginning of this year. However, social networking does seem perfect topic for a blog post, so here we are...

Yes. You read that correctly: my library only began our active engagement with Facebook at the beginning of 2012. It might seem odd, since libraries have been on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and MySpace (remember MySpace?) for a very long time now. I'll own it: I'm the reason we hadn't done anything yet. You see, I think very few institutions do social networking right, and I didn't want my library to be yet another example of what not to do. That's how I felt for a long time. Then I read this blog post by Steven Bell and this one by Brian Mathews, and it opened my eyes. Between these two giants of academic librarianship, I found a reason for my library to embark on a social networking journey: it was another venue to talk with the passionate library users in my community. So, instead of pushing my and/or my library's agenda out through Facebook and Twitter, I mostly post things that I think will make our followers think or smile or even laugh. Also, and I'm not sure where I got this idea, but I once read or someone told me that the reason people follow a Twitter stream &/or like a Facebook page is because they want to hear from that entity, so I post every weekday - without fail. 

Here are some examples of what I've posted:
  • Important information like when the library has a change in hours;
  • Interesting new acquisitions (almost exclusively popular materials);
  • Relevant news items such the death of a famous author/musician or award announcements;
  • lots and lots of pretty &/or funny pictures that are at least tangentially related to the library;
  • every once in a great while, something just for the fun of it.

Admittedly, I'm still experimenting with different ratios of this kind of post to that, with time of day, and so on, but I know I'm achieving my aim. How do I know it's working? I've seen a slow but steady growth in our  following, and that tells me that I'm doing something right. More importantly, though, people "like" our posts - people who don't work in the library. I've even had people seek me out in person to tell me how much they liked something I posted. That tells me that I'm reaching those passionate library users, and that's what I wanted.

So how about you? What makes you like &/or follow a institutional account? What are your pet peeves? What makes you unlike/unfollow? If you are in charge of an institutional account, how do you pick what you're going to post?


  1. Via Facebook, I’ve “liked” a number of institutional pages mainly for the reason to receive news about upcoming events and, of course, I enjoy the opportunity to read relevant and interesting articles in which they choose to share. Being able to “check-in” at a given location is also quite fun and has even encouraged others to stop by and visit! Aside from the “check-in” option, Facebook serves as a secondary website, of sorts – a place where agencies can share their hours of operation which is quite convenient.

    My pet peeve…
    When institutions get caught up with how many “likes” they have and begin either: (a) campaigning/soliciting for more or (b) posting how many “likes” they currently have and setting goals – e.g. “Help us reach 1,000 ‘likes’ by the end of the week!”
    I understand that one of the main reasons institutions employ Web 2.0 technologies is to increase visibility; however, I am a firm believer of quality versus quantity – don’t fleece the flock. Please don’t get me wrong, seeing several posts in my news feed from an institution doesn’t bother me as long as the content is relevant and meaningful – e.g. news that Ray Bradbury passed away, several response articles to Forbes slamming the MLIS, institutional blog posts, etc...

    Somewhat off-topic...
    My program, the School of Library and Information Science, has an "Ideas" blog in which students, faculty, and alumni are encouraged to contribute. Recently, there has been several posts about using Pinterest. Since academic libraries are your specialty, I'll share a link: http://blog.slis.wayne.edu/blog/bid/162322/5-More-Ways-to-Use-Pinterest-at-Your-Academic-Library

  2. I think it is important to know what you want to do with the site. A library shouldn't be on social networks because everyone else is, they should have a plan on what they want to do. The plan will keep it updated instead of just having a presence. We just started Facebook and Twitter last year. The Facebook is going well, but the Twitter isn't getting the same traction. Should we delete it? Change things?

    This is great advice. Thank you for sharing.

    1. That's exactly why I avoided it for so long - being on Facebook just to be on Facebook is doing it wrong.

    2. Lo and behold, the School of Library and Information Science "Ideas" blog published a post on Twitter for librarians today! http://blog.slis.wayne.edu/blog/bid/164273/Twitter-for-Librarians-How-are-you-re-envisioning-your-library

  3. Great post! I manage the social media for my library, and am always keeping an eye out for new avenues. I've found that it's important to keep a professional tone to the social media, but don't be aloof or distant. Social media is about connections!

    I like your categories for posts. Right now my strategy is probably
    35% library news (promoting classes, events, speakers, hours, chat, exc.)
    45% relevant news (studies, institution events, exc.)
    20% other (pictures, acquisitions, exhibits, cool stuff, exc.)

    My market is different than a strictly academic library, so this is the best formula I've found for expanding viewership while remaining relevant to the users.

    I'm watching these comments for any other social media venues to move in to and any other strategies to employ. Social media dislikes complacency.

    1. I try to approach my work here with a fair amount of public library attitude. We've got 40% first generation college students and when the traditional students first show up they are only a few months older than when YA librarians could claim them. I borrow from publics all the time.