No offense to my wonderful librarian friends, professional colleagues, and APALA mates. I ❤ you all very, very much. The thing is, the highlight of ALAMW13 for me was the program “Outreach 2.0: The Digital Revolution of Public Relations” with Ben Bizzle, Director of Technology at Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library, and David Lee King, Digital Services Director of Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library.
In that program, Ben and David talked about creating a successful social media campaign, primarily with Facebook.
Ben presented first and provided the audience with a description of the current environment libraries–we all–are in: digital is where it’s at. Not just plain digital, mind you. Social digital. Digital marketing and outreach through social media must be done more because it is now the medium. Many people still use traditional media for information (print, radio, and broadcast television), but people’s expectations and the management of advertising have shifted significantly towards digital social media. The numbers say so. Ben created a Facebook presence for Jonesboro Public Library and saw success. This led him to ask if such success can be replicated, particularly the investment of $10 to promote the library page on Facebook. The case study he is currently conducting strongly suggests that, yes, success can indeed be replicated in the increase of fans/followers, likes, and comments. Participating libraries have seen the jump in their numbers (see presentation slides linked above). To help his fellow librarians, Ben created a Dropbox space filled with images useful for library digital outreach and marketing in the visually inclined world of Facebook and social media. (He’s so cool and awesome! And his name–Ben Bizzle–just screams social media!)
What’s not on the presentation slides is a single truism from Ben (maybe 3?) that has been burning brightly in my mind since ALAMW13:
Be the George Takei of your community. Make them laugh. Pull their heart strings.
I already lurk on ALATT (ALA Think Tank) on Facebook, travel around Facebook quite a bit (for professional and personal purposes), and sit at my university’s social media marketing strategies group. What other reason do I need to be convinced? Convincing, no, I don’t need that.
David presented next and he talked about Facebook best practices (that’s what I need!). He stressed the importance of goals and advocated for just 2: (1) make it on people’s timelines and (2) get people to see what you post. I thought these were more strategic approaches than goals, but I’m not complaining. Not at all! He then talked about having a team with a schedule, work distribution, and content and posting guidelines. (Funny, I was just working on these before I left for ALAMW13…) For content, David stressed the need for these to be 3 things: (1) compelling (targeted to library lovers, mixed with expert tips and suggestions for resources, and just being there for customers); (2) seasonable and timely (Facebook moves fast!); and (3) tells the library story. First we have to agree on what that story is, but that’s a post for a different day…
As for Facebook posting guidelines, David suggested:
(1) Be human! Type like you talk. Be conversational. Mix the real stuff with the funny stuff.
(2) Think business casual (not weekend-kicking-back-with-a-beer casual). There’s a line. Know where it is. Get as close to it as possible. But don’t cross it.
(3) Think short. Keep to Tweetable posts.
(4) Draw audience participation. Do calls to action. Ask a question. Fill-in-the-blank posts. Let them participate!
(5) Be visual! Post pictures and videos.
(6) Be consistent. (Ok. We’ll need to figure out the timing and content that’s compelling to our community first, then we can be consistent.)
Then there’s the question of what to measure. How do we know we are successful? Is it through demographic metrics that I know I’ll be able to get through Google Analytics and Facebook Insight?
Demographic stats are nice and can definitely bolster my case that we need to do social media outreach (I’m currently executing a program that was born on Facebook, so… that right there says that Facebook’s an important space to be at). What I am after is engagement with my community.
Ben and David have backed me up. They stressed that social media gives us librarians a voice. (It also gives our libraries a voice.) Facebook is about conversation (that’s a form of engagement, yes?). It’s a broadcast medium. It’s a fast and easy way to distribute our library story to our patrons, funders, supporters, and detractors. It provides us with more opportunities, not less.
So, after my Seattle trip, I threw myself into my Facebook-conceived Valentine-y project (we’re doing Blind Date With a Book 2013 for the entire month of February! Our first! Woohoo!) and emailed Ben so I can get access to the Dropbox space he talked about. I now have it and am working to develop an approachable online persona for Armacost and a distributed team to carry out and maintain that persona. If you have suggestions for me, please let me know. What sorts of calls-to-action should I incorporate into my academic library’s Facebook persona?