[This was first published at AMPed.]
Part IV: Using Social Media for Outreach and PR, part i
Last week, I talked about the difference between advocacy and public relations as well as presented a good base on how to create and use social media as advocacy outlets. Since the steps to create a social media outreach/PR campaign are similar to creating an advocacy campaign, I’ll discuss more on how to use social media effectively to create, maintain and engage with your community.
Because there is so much to cover with this topic, it is divided into two parts, the first of which covers creating a brand, connecting your social networks, engaging your users, and lastly, creating meaningful content. While I give examples to illustrate my points in this week’s post, next week I’ll spend more time on the WHY you should be doing this rather than just creating the approach to doing it.
- Create a (consistent) brand
This is one thing I did not cover last week, but is an incredibly important part of your social media strategy/policy. When creating accounts on social media or blog networks, make sure the username you create is consistent AND searchable across the network. For example, Detroit Public Library (DPL) is known as DetroitLibrary on Twitter. At first glance, this username doesn’t seem unrealistic given the public library’s name, but actually it is problematic. Since Twitter (and most social networks in general) has a character limit for username creation, the word “Public” was dropped. Since there was also a character limit in the “Name” field, the word “Public” was again dropped. Why is this a problem? Because if you decided to search and friend DPL on Twitter using the keywords “Detroit Public Library,” you would not be able to find them.1
Here is another example: Traverse District Library. A search for them on Twitter by name reveals nothing. So I searched Google instead. Aha! Found them. Their username is not indicative of who the account is for and while their institution name is in their bio, Twitter does not search the bio via keyword searches, and their account was only found via Google search. Secondly, consistent name across social networks. If I find a library and I’m curious to see their presence across the social web, I’ll search for the same username across those networks. 90% of the time, these institutions are not using a consistent name across the social web. I end up finding these institutions by searching for their full name, adding or removing words as necessary until I can either find them or give up and mark it as a loss. With character limitations, names already used by other entities and such can be an issue, the idea is to create a single username or similar enough name that your patrons can find you. For example, Alpena (MI) County Library has direct links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts of their main page of their website – great! Not great – Their Twitter username isAlpenaCoLibrary, their Facebook username is Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library and a non-linked Flickr account is AlpenaCountyLibrary. With very little consistency, if they had not linked their Twitter and Facebook pages from their website, as a patron and unable to find them otherwise, I would have never have known they had online presences since searching for them via those social network websites initially turned up no results.The question to ask yourself is, “If my patrons are using Facebook/Twitter/Flickr/YouTube, can they find my institution via search?” Then search for your institution. If you cannot find your institution via the social network’s search function or using Google, then neither can your patrons.
- Connect your networks
Have a blog? Facebook page? Multiple Facebook pages? Twitter or Flickr account? Do the patrons who visit your website know that you do? Make sure that you provide links or badges or widgets pointing your users/community to these other virtual front doors. Detroit Public Library has two large, easy to find badges hyperlinking to their accounts on other social networks. Links, badges, and widgets should be eye-catching, easy to find and correctly link to these social networks. They should also be available on all of the sites. For example, you should have links on Facebook to your main website, blog, and other social network accounts in your info tab or in the about me section. On your blog/website, add badges or widgets to link back to your other networks. On social networks that only have space for one website link (like Twitter), make sure that link goes to your main virtual front door.In my research on Michigan public libraries and the status of their online presence, 85% of those libraries that have a Facebook page (or a presence on any other social networks) do not advertise it anywhere else – even on their own website. How did I find out about the library having a Facebook page if it’s not on their website? I searched Facebook directly and found them. But I also know that not everyone is like me, so to assume that your patrons should or will automatically know to search the social networks for your presence is a dangerous assumption that may cost you big in the long run.Another interesting phenomenon is that most of libraries with a Facebook page were incredibly active by routinely engaging with their community while their other presences (website, blog, whatever) were nearly stagnant. Yes, you should go to where your online community is located but it should not be assumed that all of your online community is going to be in one centralized location. Having at least a public website will provide the basic information of hours, services, catalog search and other pertinent information to the public at large AND makes it searchable via search engines. Remember, for services like Facebook which require logins to participate, many people do not feel comfortable with creating accounts or providing information they feel is private AND the content is not searchable via search engines or viewable to the public without an account.
- Engage with your users
First sub-rule of this rule? Do NOT utilize your institution’s social media accounts for personal use. I mutter “They’re doin’ it wrong.” a lot when I look at social media accounts linked to public institutions and the person running the account is using it for personal use. Personal use means engaging in behavior that would not be associated with the public face of a public institution, such as discussing what you ate for lunch, how sick your pets are or how big your behind looks in that day’s outfit. Second sub-rule of this rule? Only follow people on public services (such as Twitter) that accurately reflect your institutions goals or services. I live in the Detroit-metro area. On my personal Twitter account, I get followed A LOT by public libraries across the globe. On one hand, it’s flattering. On the other, I’m perplexed as to why a local library in Colorado or Sweden who only tweets about what’s happening in their particular branches is following someone who is clearly not in their community. If you find someone you think is interesting then create you own personal Twitter account and engage with that person outside of the “professional” account. Last week I talked about creating a social media policy – this type of issues and behaviors would be covered quite nicely in that policy.Now that I’ve covered two sub-rules: Here is the main crux of this post: Engage with your community. There are dozens if not hundreds of ways to engage with your community virtually. How?
- Host contests (and offer prizes) for your patrons only via Twitter or Facebook or your blog or whatever social network(s) you use.
- Feed your blog into Facebook2, so that you can streamline your posting process across multiple social networks so that you are spending less time updating all of your social networks and more time responding and engaging with your community. Use a free online tool, such as HootSuite, which allows you to monitor your social networks, cross-post, post-date and autopost your posts and much more, all in one tool.
- Dedicate a short (15 minute) chucks of time several times a day to check your accounts, respond to messages and provide status updates. Lots of libraries use Twitter and Facebook for Reader’s Advisory and quick reference questions, incorporate checking into your social networks and responding to your patrons inquiries part of your daily duties.
- Create meaningful content
This is the second emphasis of this post: Create meaningful content. Meaningful content is anything that is related or of interest to your institution and the community you serve. Use social networking to promote upcoming programs, events, author signings or any other happenings at your library and don’t be shy on promoting as often as you need. Several libraries will post about a big event on Twitter several times a day for a week or two leading up to the event, which is then pushed forward by their followers retweeting it for them. Or create multiple reminders in Facebook for their fans and have those reminders forwarded on to other Facebook fans. Other types of content to provide is historical or fun facts about the library, archives or community. Create auto-posts to post couple times a week reminding the community of the services you provide and vary the posts.Does your library offer services that are underused such as ILL, typewriters or special services for the physically impaired? Self-checkout down? Printers jammed? Wireless gone the way of the dodo? Did an author come in and do an impromptu signing? Is a popular book that is constantly checked out now have multiple copies available? Offering a one day only dismissal of fines for some reason? You can use social networking to broadcast the great to the mundane and it is communicated to your patrons quickly and efficiently.The Orkney Library in Scotland Twitter account does all the above beautifully as they combine humour, promotion and fun facts while also engaging with their community. Some examples of their tweets,
Which was followed up by:
Next week: Part V: Using Social Media for Outreach and PR, part ii
1. The person who runs DPL’s Twitter is aware of the naming issue. While the word “Public” is in the Twitter bio, the Twitter search algorithm does not search bios when doing keyword searches. However, if you search Google for “Detroit Public Library Twitter”, DPL’s Twitter account does come up. Since the account has been active for a year or two, renaming it would be more of a pain than it is worth. So be careful when selecting usernames on social networks.
2. I wrote about “Feeding Your Blog Into Facebook” a year ago and of course, the whole process has changed AGAIN as Facebook has changed its API setup. If you’re using WordPress, using the Notes import tool in Facebook is haphazard at best. A plugin I’ve started using recently on my personal blog is WPBook. There is few extra steps than what I describe in the post above, but it is consistent AND reliable, which is pretty significant.