This will, most likely, be my final post. I can’t say I’m a convert, to blogs or to Twitter. I can say that I had more fun writing this than I thought I would, that I’m almost entirely unafraid of social media in a professional setting, and that I’ve developed a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
The first step, I think, in building a social media presence for an organization is choosing the right platform. A mantra from Library 500 was, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.” It may all be easy to set up, but that doesn’t mean that hopping on board will do anything for your organization or your patrons.
For example, I spent some time exploring the website of the Medical Library Association. I didn’t do a separate post because it’s not a library but a professional association for librarians, and also because, as of yet, they’re not using Twitter. Instead, they have a Youtube channel, full of dork-tastic videos that I, as an aspiring medical librarian, didn’t find very useful. (Although some of the lines were pretty great: “Librarians are good people people”; “I love what I do, and I love it because, every day, I learn at least twelve new things.”*) Here again, I could see blogs being better, or at least some form of social media that has a lot of written content and is more serious, more informative, and at least a little easier to stomach.
If you choose to use Twitter, remember that every tweet matters. Think seriously about its purpose before you send it off (grab attention? draw new patrons? announce an unforeseen closure?). Think about the extent to which you want your Twitter feed to focus on and reflect your organization. If you are like The Huntington, and your blog is doing most of that work, then you may want to simply let Twitter be Twitter, and use it to talk to your patrons. Or you may be like the World Digital Library and use an “#onthisday” feature to highlight aspects of and items in your collection.
To the extent you’re able, use un-acronymed, natural language. I’ve gone back and forth on this but, in the end, I think it’s best to avoid jargon and any but the most obvious abbreviations. The 140-character limit does invite fun new language — but I think we should see it as an invitation to practice what may be the dying art of concision, not to madly follow the new fad of MEIA (Making Everything Into an Acronym).
I think if you’re an expert in communication, it’s not really necessary to be an expert in the ins and outs of Twitter. I’m starting to believe that hashtags can do a whole lot of good, but they seem to follow naturally form other things that librarians do, like build and use controlled vocabularies. Other Twitter features, like FF (which means Something-Friday… First-Friday? Fast-Friday? Fun-Friday?) may expand your SC (Street Cred! In my mind, it will be Street Cred) among Twitter denizens, but you can make use of the program by sticking to the basics.
And finally, make your Twitter feed available through at least one other channel, whether a box (I guess it’s a widget?) on your website, an email newsletter, or some other resource that you have at your disposal (and that your patrons are already using). Try to make your social media information available to anyone who gets online (which should, increasingly, mean anyone who has access to a library — which should mean anyone), and not only to anyone willing to set up an account with The Next Big Social Media Thing. Libraries and librarians are trendsetters (for real — uncool is definitely the new cool), but that doesn’t mean we have to get on board everything that comes along.
Oh! Post-finally, consider the wider organization when you set up new social media — by which I mean the people who work for it. You may set up an account, and you may be willing and able to keep it active and exciting, and you may not be with that organization in a year. Your profile may then go fallow, leaving any patrons who used it in a lurch. Choose something that truly is easy to use and use well, that suits your library, and that can be maintained for the foreseeable future, regardless of staff, software, etc. changes.
Managing social media is one more thing that librarians will need to keep track of in the coming years. I think this is fine; if most librarians are anything like me, they like to be very busy. Except, of course, for that hour every day that they spend on the couch, TV on, dog curled up, brain on cruise control.
And maybe this is just me trying to rationalize the amount of TV I watch, but I do think this neutral time is pretty healthy behavior. I want to close by directing you to a recent blog post I read, You’re Not As Busy As You Think. I think it provides some excellent words of caution for any and all professionals and especially for those of us whose bread and butter is information. Here in the twenty-first century, there is a lot to post and a lot of places to post it. But we don’t need to post something to the Internet the second it happens. Organizationally and individually, we need to remember that we still matter, even if we’re not constantly plugged in.
*This was said without any discernible irony; apparently the speaker does, in fact, keep a running total.