So, OK, I do recommend that libraries have some social media presence, whether Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, whatever. . . or a combination of any of them. BUT, I don’t think you should have these just for the sake of having them, or because that’s what everybody’s doing these days. Like everything else we do in libraries, you must have some purpose, and do what works best for you.
And you have to use these wisely and carefully. Not just scatter-shot. I never really understood how to do this, until I read Understanding Social Capital (American Libraries, May 2013) . Please be sure to read the full post, but here are some highlights:
- Having social capital is, in many ways, equivalent to having credibility in a selected online community. Social capital can be earned only over time, by participating appropriately in the community.
- When someone comments on your library blog, even if it’s just to agree, thank him or her. If the commenter says something negative, express appreciation for the feedback.
- Offer links to other sites of interest. Posting only links to your library’s assets (e.g., catalog, programs, or website) is just another method of self-promotion and not a form of engagement.
- Provide customer service. Chances are good that your library will occasionally encounter requests for help via social media. Respect that these people want to communicate with the library and respond, as well as possible, using the same medium.
- Knowing that social capital should be spent only when necessary, you should ration it for only critical purposes. Promoting every program going on at your library will quickly run your social media account into overdraft status. Self-promotion is expensive.
- Advocacy is certainly one legitimate use for social capital. Some other worthwhile purposes include:
- Breaking news (“Sorry, the internet is down—we’re working on it!”)
- Feedback (“What do you think of the new selfcheckout machines?”)
- Informal polls (“Which is better: storytimes on weekends or weeknights? Why?”)