Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Learning from mistakes in business blogging: a short series of thoughts for library blogs, part three

I conclude my look at what libraries that blog can learn from the mistakes business blogs make. As I said before, this was inspired by Josh Catone's post in Mashable entitled "Top 5 Business Blogging Mistakes and How to Avoid Them." Here are part one and part two.

"Making new content hard to discover" is the fourth item on Mr. Catone's list. I don't think that this is as a big a problem for libraries that blog. From what I have seen out there, and again I clarify that my observations are far from scientific, many libraries already link their blogs on their websites. Some do it more prominently than others. If your library is not linking to your library blog from your website, you need to do this. Odds are good that a lot of your readers will find your blog via your website rather than going directly to your blog's site. As Mr. Catone suggests, we use full feed for the library's blog at my library. I also have a subscription to the feed on a couple of readers so I can see how the blog looks on a feed reader. I am aware of the full versus partial feed debate (here is one take on it), much of it driven by a desire to get folks to your site so they see your ads as well. This should not be a concern for most libraries, or at least for nonprofit ones, so use the full feed and let people read your blog in the way they prefer. After all, you do want them to read your blog. Additionally, use tools like Facebook or Twitter to your advantage. For instance, our library's Facebook page is set up so it picks up our library's blog feed. Very often we get a response to a blog via Facebook rather than via the blog itself, and that's cool. This is a simple way of being where your patrons are.

Catone's last list item is "expecting too much, too soon." That's a mistake bosses in business and administrators in libraries commonly make. A new library blog is not going to suddenly become an Internet destination. You have to build readership with good, consistent content delivered regularly. You have to invite and nurture conversations. This process takes time, and even then, readership may be low according to raw metrics. However, your library should not be blogging just for the sake of the numbers. Let me blunt: if your director says to you, "let's set up a blog so more people visit our website" or a similar statement, just say no. A library blog is a tool and resource that should meet your library's needs, serve your patrons, and fall in place with your institutional mission and goals. If you choose to implement a library blog, work at it, and give it time. Success will not come overnight, but with some work and effort, it will come.

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