I’d like to start with a beautiful little short that dramatizes how it might feel to be a Librarian these days. (Play vid) Librarians are being forced out of their comfort zone and expected to navigate a space unfamiliar to them: social media.
Why is this? A common narrative is that Americans are turning away from libraries because of newer technology, but a recent study from Pew shows that most highly-engaged library users are also big technology users. In fact, members of high engagement groups are more likely to use the internet than lower engagement groups. That’s why libraries need to be engage in the digital space too.
I could stand here and promise to give you the latest happening in social media but that talk would be outdated by the time I sat down. What I will say is that it’s an ever-evolving mediascape characterized by some fundamentals that you need to know. The fundamentals are what I’m going to speak about tonight.
The most fundamental thing to know about social media is that it's not about media, it’s about being social. Which means most of what you need to know to succeed in social media, you learned in kindergarten. The fundamentals have to do with simple rules of civility. I didn’t go to kindergarten myself, but I learned these rules at charm school classes held at a Singer Sewing Machine store in King of Prussia. If I recall correctly, one of my classmates was your president Eileen Palmer, pictured here in her Sunday best with my brother.
Listen to others. Before you send out a single tweet or post on Facebook, be a lurker. Read what others are saying, learn the language and social contracts. And once you start posting, engage with others. The biggest misconception about social media is that if you post enough interesting things, people will read them and be overcome with desire to follow you. So the stream of many new to sm is post after post of observations or musings that have nothing to do with what anyone else is saying. It's as if they're in the middle of a cocktail party to which people from all over the world have been invited, and choosing to talk to only…themselves.
There's another misperception that to be success on social media requires you to be rude. But rudeness is as much of a turnoff on social media as it is in other kinds of social situations. You wouldn't walk through the door of a party and greet people by shouting at them ”Like me! Buy my stuff!" It's just as much of a turnoff if you do that on Facebook.
Never write posts in all caps. This is the equivalent of using a megaphone.
For many grown-ups, the hardest thing about using social media is learning how to share. We grew up in a time when kids were pitted against each other in competitions—spelling bees, sack races, we were always trying to beat out the person next to us. But our kids were raised in a more collaborative environment and digital is based on a sharing economy. Retweets and likes are a form of social currency—don’t be stingy.
Social media isn’t a soapbox, it’s a conversation. If you make it one-sided, people will walk away. Just like they would at a party. Don’t talk at people. Take an interest in them. Engage with them. Ask questions. The more interested you are in others, the more interested others will be in you. Just like in the real world.
There are over 500 social media platforms now, but honestly, you just have to know about a few. Here they are, explained, using donuts.
So before I talk about how donuts can help libraries, I’m going to tell you the story of my own journey through the social media space learning these fundamentals, with hopes that my story will have relevance to you.
I started in advertising, as a copywriter, writing copy for any medium that proved useful for a client—in the early 1980s, that meant print ads, radio spots, commercials, even match book covers. I loved advertising, but it’s a young person’s business and one not particularly conducive to raising children. I went freelance which gave me time to spend summers with my kids, but it also meant I'd volunteered for the mommy track. In 2007, I was 53 years old, working at a big ad agency for a guy decades younger than I, and in a fit of frustration one afternoon, I shut the door and started an anonymous blog on Blogger. I needed a name for it before it could be published, though. In a second, I named it: The Oldest Working Writer in Advertising. Putting my name to it would have been professional suicide. Not only because I was outing my age, but in those days companies had rules against employees blogging. In fact, a writer at another big company had just been fired for blogging. I signed myself AdBroad and remained anonymous.
I became a regular blogger, my site visits soon grew by hundreds a day, which told me there were a lot of other frustrated adbroads out there. Then, in 2008, I became intrigued by a new social media platform called twitter. No one at that time really knew what twitter was for. It had been developed in San Francisco by kids in their 20s who were barhopping and wanted to know which bar their friends were at. But, even though its higher purpose wasn’t clear, a lot of smart people had started to use it and I went on to eavesdrop on their conversations. It was a great way to find out what was happening in my business and in the world, before anything hit the trades or the papers. Because a lot of the first tweeters were journalists, looking for stories.
When the show Mad Men came along I became a Maddict. How many of you know the show about advertising in the 60s? For those of us who had once worked for actual Mad Men, it became a cult hit. In 2008, twitter was used mostly for information exchange. I and others appropriated mad men characters and put them on twitter. AMC’s instinct was to shut it down. But within days, accounts were back up persuaded in part by bloggers and journalists who couldn't believe AMC would toss away a brilliant promotional idea that did not cost them a cent.
I began to create a social media presence for Betty Draper, wife of the protagonist, tweeting about the cares and concerns of a 1960s housewife.
Expanding her presence to other social media channels…
Connecting the experience from one platform to another, making Betty’s offshow existence an immersive experience.
All of us behind mad men characters kept our identities secret and became known in the as Mad Men on Twitter. We’d stumbled upon a new way to market entertainment, to remind people about a show between episodes and seasons. We were all people from marketing, it turned out, and loved inventing new ways to create opportunities for audience interaction. We sent out invites to twitter events, gave them a hashtag, invited fans to engage with their favorite characters.
We created a Tweaser, a twitter warm-up to the premiere of Season 3.
And invented the Twepisode. When Don promises his teenage daughter Sally he’ll take her to the Beatles concert at Shea Stadium, we knew that even Matthew Weiner couldn’t recreate Shea and hire a cast of 50,000 screaming teenyboppers. But what couldn’t happen on television could happen on Twitter. We staged the story on twitter and invited fans to join in.
We extended the story to Betty’s blog, to make the event an immersive experience. “Sally was hoarse for days after seeing the Beatles,” Betty writes.
We received recognition from award shows and the press. NBC wrote about us. What we were doing was news in 2009. No entertainment company was doing this yet. Now, of course, it’s standard procedure. Before a sitcom names characters, someone in the writers room grabs names for twitter.
In 2009, the Wall Street Journal, outed us, with our permission. The people behind Mad Men on Twitter “came out”
And so, Adbroad came out, too. Lucky for me, companies by then had changed their minds about social, and ad agencies were now looking for grownups web-savvy enough to speak digital.
I became the recipient of awards and was cited in trade press which ended up helping me get not only work but a two book publishing deal from Simon and Schuster. I have an eBook called Making It: A Novel of Madison Avenue. Which I hope you’ll buy anywhere but on Amazon. And another novel coming out next Spring. All of which I hadn’t foreseen, years before, in a frustrated moment when I followed my instinct to set up an anonymous blog.
Which brings me to the question almost everyone asks: what is the ROI of social media? Especially in a community facing budget cuts, reduced staff, a thousand strains on time resources, why put in time learning to be conversant in a space where the biggest draw seems to be cat videos? The answer is--you have to be in social media because the people you want to reach are already there. The people you want to become patrons, advocates, supporters are already posting, tweeting and hashtagging so you have to be there to connect with them. But social media is a relationship that takes time to grow. Expecting immediate ROI is like a teenage boy asking about the ROI of dating. The time and money he spends on a girl at dinner may not result that night in the pay off he’s looking for. But it doesn’t mean dating her won’t lead to that benefit. Social media can help you develop users and patrons by teaching them there’s another way to “use” libraries than by showing up at the physical plant. Exploit the fact that the younger generation uses digital differently—it’s embedded into their lives. Example—I was at a 70th birthday party this weekend and for some reason talk turned to the origin of biscuits. What is the origin of biscuits, where did they come from? Someone said, “People under 30 would have already whipped out their phones to find out.” So one of us did. But we still don’t know the answer because none of us had our reading glasses to be able to read it.
With almost 500 social media platforms out there now, how does a library decide the best ones to use?
Happily, for most libraries, it comes down to only four platforms you really need to know. And, honestly, you probably don’t need to engage with more than two of them. I like to think of the platforms as different parties. Facebook is basically a tailgate party at your alma mater.
Twitter is a professional networking party.
Pinterest is a potluck party, where you bring a nice dish and also the recipe.
Blogging is a fundraising party, with speeches. The way you dress and what you talk about will be different at all these parties, but who you are will remain the same. Also the same are rules of social etiquette.
Think visually and mix in a little fun stuff with the real content. The silly stuff gets people interested. A group of librarians have created a DropBox repository for pictures that have created engagement for them on Facebook.
You can email email@example.com for details and access to the folder.
Ben Bizzle is director of technology for Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library in Arizona who was profiled in Library Journal last year. In early 2012, he got his town talking library with a billboard emblazoned “Spoiler Alert! Dumbledore dies on page 596.” He began promoting the library through simple ecards that used stock illustrations for quips like “Concerts on the Lawn…it’s the closest you’ll ever get to being a groupie.” These ads weren’t only memorable, they were galvanizing, rousing many more patrons into actively participating in programming. In 2012, he increased concert series participation and foot traffic to the library over 100 percent. His also significantly increased downloads—in one year eBook downloads jumped from 12,000 to 31,000 and Freegal MP3 downloads went from 10,000 to 22,000.
Don’t censor, etc.
I should say here how important branding is, to the mix. Why do many library social media plans fail? Because there is no brand plan. Without direction, social media content creators work in silos, without any strategy to communicate their brand, connect to services, or drive people to the library or its website.
Branding is critical. It’s more than logo and graphics used in materials, and it’s not simply a tool for fundraising. Branding impacts the psychic construct people have about you, built upon every interaction you have: in person, in print, online and on mobile. Branding constitutes a deep dive into an organization, to articulate current mission and core values, in order to come up with a strategic approach to communications that will attract new users, advocates and collaborators. Branding is hard to do if you’re inside an organization because it requires looking at your org with the eyes of an outsider. I urge you to reach out to a board member or patron with professional experience in branding to help you do it because in the current marketplace, a strong Library Brand is critical to galvanizing new usage and support.
OK, say you’ve done this and are now clear on your brand. How do you launch it into social media space?
Say you—and your branding consultant—decide that the two platforms you’re going to focus on are twitter and Facebook. You set up a twitter page and Facebook page, linking one to the other. When you choose your twitter handle, try to make it short. You have only 140 characters and you don’t want to use up too many saying your name. Bernardsville Library made the good choice to shorten its handle to @BvilleTweets
And New Jersey Library Association is wisely NJLA
When you do your twitter profile, communicate that you want to engage. The NYPL not only posts a description of itself as a library, but lists its phone number and text number and invites people to ask questions. Actively seeking engagement may be one reason their page is up to 325K followers.
Next, you begin following people. Search for a topic you’re interested in. For me, it was “advertising.” For you, maybe it’s “public library.” I quickly discovered a lot of people taking part in conversations I wanted to be part of. Follow people. Retweet them. Do this a few times and chances are, they’ll follow you back. Especially if you link your twitter page to a page of more content, like your FB page. The reason Adbroad was able to build follower count quickly, was because my twitter linked to a blog where content was focused on what people I was interested in were interested in, too. So link your twitter profile to your blog or your Facebook, to credential yourself in a particular field.
Twitter gives you the option to aggregate who you follow, according to lists. You can make these lists public or private, visible only to yourself. You name your list and give it a description. You can create as many as you like. For example, you might have a list of Fiction Lovers that will include all the people you follow who primarily discuss fiction.
Or, you can create a list for all of your community leaders: the board of trustees, the school principal, the mayor, etc. A Twitter list is simply a way to organize everyone you follow, much as you organize the books in your stacks. There's no need to sort ALL of those you're following into lists, just focus on those who are relevant to building your brand and who are on topic for your library.
Start to engage with people you’re following, and people you’re not. It may take a while to develop your voice. That’s ok. Give yourself a break. Even Oprah didn’t get it right the first time she tweeted. She did it in all caps and Shaq called her out for it. Don’t stress too much. Tweets can be deleted. Facebook posts can be edited. It may take a a few hours a week over the course of a couple of months, but once you get the hang of social media, keeping your presence going won’t require a lot of your time or brain space. And chance are, there’ll be payoff in ways you can’t imagine right now.
What are the most common uses of social media for libraries? Updating service changes and making announcements…
Promoting services and events. Promotion is anything libraries do to let the community know who they are and what they do.
Getting feedback from patrons. Don’t discourage feedback. If you’re using social media correctly, you won’t have to step in to shut down a jerk. People who “like” you will do it for you. These are brand advocates. Important to cultivate and why you need to post regularly about things that may not be appear to be goal-oriented. But your goal is making and keeping friends who will be spokespeople for the library in conversations you’re not in. Those friendships are important and can result in all kinds of support.
Getting ideas. I’m on the board of a small town library in Connecticut and we’re looking to renovate our children’s room. Pinterest has been a helpful resource for ideas.
Of course, just getting going on social media isn’t enough to engage people. You want to get good at it. Last year, University of Texas Library was acknowledged as #1 of 100 most social media savvy college libraries. Why? It’s not which social media platforms they use, it’s how they use the platforms.
They don’t just post announcements on their Facebook page, they post unique ideas to encourage audience engagement. Like inviting exam-stressed students who haven’t had time to check in with their families, to stop at the library where prestamped postcards are waiting for them to sign, which the library will mail to parents and grandparents.
Or, during finals week, inviting those students to stop by for a hug. And then they post pictures of the hugs, which naturally ups the “likes” count of their page because people go on to see their friends.
Milwaukee Public Library used social in a completely different way: analog. By launching a low cost poster campaign using social media encouraging digerati to shift attention to books.
The Detroit Public Library created a separate Facebook page for its maker space. Library Maker Spaces are building foot traffic to libraries all over the country. Maker Spaces are a buzz word just now, but they aren’t only about 3D printers. Libraries offer classes in scrapbooking or genealogy or making your own holiday wreaths. The Grosse Point Public Library in Michigan has started offering rentals of tools. Eileen tells me that one of the most popular makerware items at Piscataway Public Library, to their surprise, is a Singer Sewing Machine. By creating maker spaces and posting about them to the community, libraries are getting more people to realize that the value they offer goes beyond the literature found on their shelves.
Many libraries use Pinterest, which is visually based. The most creative users have boards that include not only content you’d expect like library events…
It includes things you don’t expect…but are still relevant to their audience. Like 17 unexpected Studying Hacks or Brain Foods That Boost Productivity.
It’s true—animals and babies get the most traction online. But instead of scoffing at this, use it to promote engagement. Remember, engagement is what you’re after. Silly stuff gets people interested.
And getting them interested in the library is the first step to building a relationship that will lead to patronage and support.
Remember to amortize your presence on one platform, by linking it to another.
Milwaukee County Library blog talks about books…
And embeds links to the book on their website which includes information like Goodread reviews and which libraries have it in stock.
The Minneapolis Public Library blog did the same thing. In September, they posted about Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. They listed the 10 most frequently banned books in the country in 2010* and linked the post to the books availability on their website.
*according to the American Library Association: 1) And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson At New York City's Central Park Zoo, two male penguins fall in love and start a family by taking turns sitting on an abandoned egg until it hatches. 2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. 3) Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley Huxley's classic prophetic novel describes the socialized horrors of a futuristic utopia devoid of individual freedom. 4) Crank, by Ellen Hopkins Kristina Snow is the perfect daughter, but she meets a boy who introduces her to drugs and becomes a very different person, struggling to control her life and her mind. 5) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place. 6) Lush, by Natasha Friend Unable to cope with her father's alcoholism, thirteen-year-old Sam corresponds with an older student, sharing her family problems and asking for advice. 7) What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones A series of poems reflect the thoughts and feelings of Sophie, a fifteen-year-old-girl, as she describes her relationships with a series of boys and as she searches for Mr. Right. 8) Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich In an attempt to understand the lives of Americans earning near-minimum wages, Ehrenreich works as a waitress in Florida, a cleaning woman in Maine, and a sales clerk in Minnesota. 9) Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie An anthology of stories by gay youth reveal their fears and joyous moments as they attempt to survive and thrive. 10) Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer When seventeen-year-old Bella leaves Phoenix to live with her father in Forks, Washington, she meets an exquisitely handsome boy at school for whom she feels an overwhelming attraction and who she comes to realize is not wholly human.
As I know you know, libraries are usually funded by municipal budgets, but can’t campaign for ballot measures. Jeremy Graybill, marketing and communications director for Multnomah County Library in Oregon found a way to exert influence using social media to support a bill dictating library funding in the May 2012 election. He drove patrons to the library’s steps where he posed them for photos holding oversized prop hearts. He posted these visuals on Facebook, in wordless support of the bill, thus promoting it without doing any illegal posts or tweets. The bill passed with more than 80% of the vote, and a Facebook post thanking the library’s fans is still the library’s most popular social update—seen by tens of thousands and shared by hundreds. “We even trended on Twitter,” he said.
Libraries also use YouTube, with varying success.
NYPL posts you tubes of its author readings on Google hangout. Here’s Stephen Chbosky The Perks of Being a Wallflower, hanging out at New York Public Library, fielding questions, offering tips to aspiring writers, and he isn’t even in New York. You don’t have to bring the author to your town anymore,” says Johannes Neuer, associate director of marketing for NYPL. “Google Hangouts are the perfect places to create brand engagement.”
The most memorable library YouTube post is undoubtedly from a library I would never have heard of, if it wasn’t for this video they created, that went viral: Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Virginia.
Which bring me to a fundamental I neglected to list: Have fun! To which I’ll add just one more piece of advice…
Have patience. Social media takes time. Remember, It’s a relationship. Not a one-night stand.
For Libraries (and other NonProfits): How to Enter the Social Media Space
Helen Klein Ross
New Jersey Library
June 2, 2014
1. Think visually
2. Don’t censor comments (unless NSFW or spam)
3. Encourage debate = engagement
4. Be transparent (no place to hide)
5. Know your audience
6. Represent your brand