Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some lessons I have learned about social networking sites, some the hard way

This is the third in a series of posts prompted by Steiner's article (see previous here and here). This time I will go over some lessons I have learned over time when it comes to using social networking sites (SNS). Some I have learned the hard way; others are common sense. I am not trying to be prescriptive. These are just some things I have learned over time.

  1. You use what works for you. The service solves a problem and/or meets a need. It fits in with what you do already. If it is something new, then it integrates easily into your routines. It's not a chore or just another service to mind.
  2. You need to discard anything that does not work for you. If you are no using it, if it is not relevant to you, if it just does not work for you, delete or deactivate the account. Personally, I think that unless it is something that has some value if left online, say a project's blog, then it is time to take it down. Back it up if you need to, but then delete. I think leaving debris in the Internet, such as a blog you started for a class assignment, then wrote three posts (likely because someone made you do it), then never used it again, leaves a bad impression. Clean your tracks.
  3. Don't feel like you have to open yet another account. Just because the "cool kids" are doing it, it does not follow you have to do it. The old adage your mom probably used on you of "if everyone else jumps off a cliff. . ." probably applies here. As I have said before, feel free to experiment but do so judiciously.
  4. Take it seriously. This is specially applicable to libraries. If you decide to make the jump and set up a blog or a presence on an SNS like Facebook, take it seriously. It is not the thing that the geeky librarian on your staff does on the side when he or she has time (as if he or she has spare time given that he or she is already likely overworked). SNS for libraries are extensions of their services in addition to being an impression you make on your patrons online. Why would you treat it less than seriously? This means commitment not only from the staff working with the SNS, but it also means clear and unequivocal support from the administrators. It also means you give some thought to what you are doing and make sure it fits with your service goals and strategic plans. The worse thing an administrator can do is treat it as just something the librarian working on SNS does on the side, or worse, think he or she is goofing off.
I don't pretend to have all the lessons. These are just lessons I have learned over time that stick out right away. I am still learning and discovering.

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