Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Facebook, Facetime and Friends!

Facebook has changed the way our society communicates and share ideas. At first glance social media, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and FourSquare, allows their members to communicate effectively and quickly through a few key strokes. It's not limited to just saying hello or letting the world know what's on your mind. It can also allow event planning, forming fan pages and buidling virtual communities. It's hard to imagine life before these tools of mass communication? How did we ever get anything accomplished with plain old email? Thank goodness those archaic times are behind us! Libraries, if they have not aleady done so, should grab hold of the opportunity to build public support for their libraries.

My Facebook account was activated in 1997 because I had enrolled in an online course through YALSA, that required that I sign up on various social media sites in order to become familiar with them and experiment on how to use these tools to fit my needs. It was an interesting class, but afterwards, the lure was not there. Primarily becasue it felt weird to send "friend requests" and "follow" someone. Secondly, the idea of knowing what was on the minds of my fellow classmates and colleagues 24/7 seemed like TMI. (For those who don't know the abreviation, TMI means Too Much Informaiton.) Laslty, was there anything worth saying to the world and would anyone be interested.

After watching how Facebook and other other social media forums have exploded, the pieces have come together. Especially in terms of marketing and building patron loyalty for libraries. It is amazing what a fan page can do for a library's image. Fan pages help libraries promote who they are, where they are and what they are doing. Think of it as virtual "facetime" with patrons whenever they login onto Facebook. The best part of it is that it is FREE advertising.

Social media is all about making the connection and starting the conversatioin. That is what libraries have done since they first opened their doors. People have always come into the libraries for books, information, music and the local news. What do they normally do with the information they find? Talk about it with others in order to make sense of it all and perhaps even shape the events in their community. Social media can breath life into the library world in so many ways, andyet the surface has just been scratched.

If I Love Libraries can count the number of fans they have, wouldn't it be cool if a library could tell a patron how many times they have used the library this year, how many items they have checked out or programs they have attended just by swipping their card at check out? Going beyond that, think how FourSquare would boost the library's image if a prominent politican "checked in" that they were at they library? These are the numbers and images libraries need to make the case that the library is not only needed but is used on a daily basis. Why not reward them for being the 100th fan of your page with a library tshirt or other promotion? Buidling a "friends" list would not be difficult once word got out about the "hip" library where inforamtion is easy to access and communitcating with a librarian is almsot instantaneous with live "chat". These will be the "friends" that the library will need for longevity and viabilty in the future.

Nothing stays the same and technology is ever changing. Libraries not only need to be the place for information but also visionaries. The future is so bright, it's time to put on the shades and dream of all the things we would love to do and find ways to make it happen for our future and our facebook friends.
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