The purpose of social media is to begin a conversation. Very simple. Very straightforward. Most librarians believe that Twitter, Facebook and blogging are all about getting a message out to their patrons. While it is true that these tools are effective means of marketing programs and the library. Marketing and sales expert will remind social media users that to sell something to a customer, you must first get to know your customer. In the library's case, before using Social Media to blast out the last information about Summer Reading Program, first build a relationship with your patrons to find out what matters most to them.
Twitter is a wonderful tool to use when blasting out reminders about library programs. It is using time wisely and inexpensive. (Actually, any program that is free is worth looking into to see how effective it will be for the library.) However, it is very important to keep in mind who uses Twitter. Most teens don't use it for communicating, they are much more in tuned with Facebook. On the other hand, most adults love Twitter because it is a great tool to get information quickly. Twitter can also be helpful when looking for ideas for programming, book talks and mileage support. By simply following other libraries, a savvy librarian could get a wealth of information on library programs for adults and children. It's the new "message" board for professionals.
Creating a Facebook page for the library is quick, easy and a no brainer. With a few key strokes, patrons can be updated regularly about library programs. It can not be emphasized enough about the importance of keeping the page current. Patrons will flock to become friends of the library but they will leave just as quickly if there is nothing new about their local library. If that perception becomes the "reality" for the library, then all the social media tools in the world can not save that type of library. One of the best outcomes of social media, is that it reminds everyone to say, do or think about something, even if its just a joke. Libraries are slowly getting the hint that to be noticed, it's very important to be "talking" about the library at every moment.
Blogging is another tool that invites others to have a conversation about topics of interest. For librarians, most of the blogging is centered around book reviews. Which is a wonderful service to provide. Its the next step in Reader's advisory. However, as this blog often tries to achieve, there is a balance to helping patrons and helping each other. Finding topics that can and will appeal to both library patrons and professionals can be tricky. Yet, it is often a humbling experience when a librarian steps back and sees the library from the patron's view point. Thus blogigng not only enriches the community, it enriches the blogger as well when feedback is provided to help guide future blogs. At least that is the theory of producing a blog.
One form of social media is not better than the other. Each provides a different way of building the relationship with the patrons. What works great in one community might not work well in another. To begin with Social media in libraries, why not begin using all of them. The message has plenty of avenues to reach the intended audience. The next step in social media, is using YouTube, in creative ways to put a "spotlight" on the library. Although social media has been around for a while, there are still libraries who are not "sold" on the this new media. Hopefully, that is not your local library. If it is, perhaps it is time to get in the game and see how programs attendance grows because of social media. For the old pros in social media, watch for ideas next time for using YouTube. The possibilities are exciting. Just think of all the new friends waiting to find out what else is new at the library.