Social Media in Libraries

One of our assignments for Current Trends in Social Computing (IS30290) was a group presentation. My group chose to talk about social media use in libraries and I gave the 20 minute presentation in class on behalf of the group. Below is a edited version of the presentation, published with permission from the group members.

Social media iconsLibrary 2.0

‘Library 2.0’  is a term that provides focus to a number of ongoing conversations around the changing ways that libraries should make themselves and their services visible to end users. In the library domain, we are seeing trends to mirror those in the wider information space. Libraries 2.0 means implementing methods that make library content visible and relevant to those who might never have thought to turn to a library for anything more than a warm place to check their e-mail.

A library website is now only part of the online presence that a library now has to have. Web 2.0, the ever changing tide towards mobile internet and social and more on the go apps have shifted the sand even further and faster in the last 5 to 10 years then ever before. We as information professionals (or librarians) will be at the coalface of this information change. The real promise and hope of library 2.0 is in its ability to strengthen communities and enable discourse around information resources which works towards advancing human knowledge.

So why should libraries be using social media?

Community engagement: We hear over and over again how libraries need to engage with their users, go where their users are, particularly digital libraries need to bring their content to their users. Well the clue is in the name – social media.

It’s free: The second major reason to use social media is that it’s free. Ok, so it’s not totally free – you’re using spending money on time and human resources. But the platforms themselves are free to use, which is great news for libraries who generally have a pretty tight budget.

Tip #1: Look at what other libraries are doing and ‘borrow’ their ideas

We also looked at how we feel libraries can make the most out of social media by using examples of how Irish organisations are doing it well. So our first tip is look at what other libraries are doing and ‘borrow’ their ideas.

Tip #2: Have a clear social media policy

The Irish Cancer Society Cancer Information Service, while not a library, is a great example of how you can use social media to disseminate information. Their Cancer Information Service is using both Facebook and Twitter to provide cancer information.

They very kindly sent us a copy of their social media policy which sets out “how to comment and respond to comments on Facebook and Twitter, how to engage with followers and how to maximize security on these networks”. They also set out clear instructions in the event that their accounts get hacked as well as how to be proactive about security.

According to the social media policy cancer information services nurses compose messages promoting awareness of cancer, while also “taking every opportunity to link with the Irish Cancer Society’s website, promote the service, publications and campaigns.” They suggest posting corrections rather than removing comments that are innacurate, as removal of posts cause lack of trust and encourages backlash. They also include a stock response in their social media policy.

Tip #3: Don’t just broadcast – INTERACT

I’m sure we’ve all encountered an organisation that just uses social media to broadcast their message or links to their website but doesn’t actually interact with users. This is the easiest way to annoy your users. Libraries should be ready and willing to respond to comments and should set out how this is done in their Social Media Policy.

The Military Archives have taken interaction to another level. They are asking members of the public to help them identify the people in the photos in their archive. To do this they have made their archive available to the public via Flickr.

This is a great way to get the community to help them flesh out their archives but also to get the community engaged with the content that they have. The Defense Forces have also seen a rise in the demand for their physical archive since they have started interacting with their audience through social media.

Tip #4: Go beyond the metrics

Libraries need to constantly justify why the run programs and in some cases they need to justify their very existence. This is also true for social media.

The easiest way to look at ‘success’ with social media is to look at the metrics. This can mean looking at the usual metrics such as the google analytics and seeing how many people have viewed your website or blog.

But it also means looking at the number of likes on Facebook and the number of followers on Twitter or Flickr. Libraries can also look at the number of likes and retweets on a particular tweet, the number of likes, shares or comments on a Facebook post or blog post and the number of comments on Flickr.

But to get a real sense of whether their social media use is working Libraries should also go beyond the metrics and look at the comments and replies they are getting. By doing this they can see whether they are reaching their target audience.

Tip #4 NLI commentsIn the example on screen we’re returning to the National Library of Ireland. They shared a photo on Facebook from their Wiltshire Collection. As well as 63 likes and 21 shares we can see the comments on the post. One commenter said they could spend months browsing the collection, where another comments that they had just started to learn about holy wells that are also found in the collection and that they were delighted to find some photos of them. This proves that the NLI are reaching their intended audience and helping new users to discover their collections.

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