New Media vs. Old
One of the greatest challenges libraries, or any organization, has with social media is recognizing how it’s so fundamentally different than what we are used to. Most noticeably, many library blogs, twitter accounts, etc. read like an extended marketing efforts. The posts are mere announcements and serve only as a broadcast of information, not a conversation. But that’ missing the best part, the social nature of the web. Don’t feel too bad, it’s easy to forget how social always trumps technological. Even Yahoo missed out on this one. And history is full of other examples. Alexander Graham Bell thought the telephone would be a great way to broadcast symphonies. Here are a few easy ways to actively engage patrons.
Always (always, always!) invite feedback
This is probably the fundamental difference between “newsletter” type writing and active engagement. Sure most, if not all, blogs have space for comments, but actively asking for feedback does a couple of things. It lets patrons know that you really are interested in their feedback, that you are listening (in addition, its best to respond to comments). And it creates an opportunity for patrons to talk to each other via our space. So we are, in essence, creating a new social sphere. Never doubt the value of the third place.
Use Ideas from Patrons
Probably my favorite form of user engagement lately is Starbuck’s “my starbucks idea” campaign. Its brilliant, a simple place for users to upload their ideas to make Starbucks better. Users can submit something simple (bring back the walnut scone) and other users can vote, comment on, and share these ideas. It’s a simple idea. After all, its merely an extension of the comment box, right? Well, the big difference is that users can see their ideas in action. They aren’t dropped off and then forgotten forever. Its a form of active listening. The best part. Starbucks will actually use ideas and the users have seen the full circle of their engagement.
This is an easy and very simple way to engage patrons. There can be suggestions for speakers, reading programs, events, “book of the week”, anything really. The point is not to mine ideas from patrons, but to create an opportunity for people to engage a project and shape it from start to finish.
Incorporate All Aspects of The Library
Its important to work as much as possible with all departments and programs in the library. A colleague of mine was sending around this article from the Boston Globe about a private school that is getting rid of its books and replacing the library with a multimedia learning space. The sad fact is that many librarians think this is the end result of social media and the web. Its important than to keep web engagement and space engagement (such a speakers) entwined. In many ways the value of the library in the public mind is tied to the buildings. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Active promotion can work both ways. Promote web resources at events. Promote events from the web.
Edit: D’oh. Way to not follow your own advice. Please, leave me a comment let me know what you think! Or hit me on twitter @joesmorgan