Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Article Note: Brief one on "Making the Most of Twitter"

Citation for the article:

Sump-Crethar, A. Nicole, "Making the Most of Twitter." The Reference Librarian 53 (2012): 349-354.

Read online.

Like most LIS articles dealing with some social media or technology, this one may be starting to show age already. That is a common hazard for this type of article. A reason I say that is the suggestion on using RSS readers for monitoring things given that, unfortunately, RSS readers seem to be diminishing. Google pretty much has the monopoly on that, and if they remain as flaky as they have been with other things, like iGoogle, I wonder how long before it goes out too. That would be a pity given that, in my case, at least, I do like to get my feeds nice and organized rather than relying on random feeds from friends and others in social media. Point is I just wondered how accurate the suggestion from the article was.

The other thing I wondered about, which is something I often wonder about as a librarian, is the issue of the digital gap. As a profession, we tend to make the assumption that everyone, somehow, magically, can get on the Internet pretty much at any time and do so with speed and reliability. There is also the assumption that almost everyone has a mobile device, and they can, again, access the Internet with speed and reliability, never mind things such as cell phone companies putting caps on data plans (you know, the so-called "shared" plans out there; exception at the moment seem to be Spring and T-Mobile, for now). While I do think libraries need to adapt as much as possible to new technologies, for one, I don't think we should do it at the expense of those who may not have newer shinier toys. I could go on, but that is not what this article was really about. This is just some stuff I was thinking about as I read it.

So, the article itself does have a few good points that I think are worth remembering, so I am jotting them down. In addition, I am considering whether our library should jump and get a Twitter account or not. So far, the consensus seems to be we do not need it. I see some potential for it, but I may wait to bring it up. In part because we just launched a blog for our library, so I may see how the blog is received before I try something else. Plus, we do have a Facebook page, so I can see why the urgency to jump on another social media tool is not there. This looks like something for me to reflect upon a bit more before I make a move, which would be supported (I am fortunate in that regard).

So, what are some ideas from the article I want to remember?

  • "A library's Twitter feed needs to build relationships, grab people's attention, fit the user's needs, and generate a conversation between users and the library" (350). We do some of the above already on our Facebook page, and we hope to do a bit more on our blog now. The need for Twitter may not be there yet, and if it is not, then I don't think we should create a solution looking for a problem (at least not yet). 
  • The article mentions management tools Tweetdeck (has been bought by Twitter), Hootsuite (which has free and paid models), and Echofon. 
  • This next point does intrigue me because I do believe a library should be visible and play a central role in its community. The author writes, "libraries can increase their visibility and centrality as a community service by using Twitter to share important news" (352).  Sharing news and being a hub for people to find local information, whether by sharing content or creating it, seems to be a logical thing a library can do.
  • If you do choose to use Twitter, don't just link it on the library website. Use a widget (and there are various options for this) to display the actual Twitter feed on the library website. Twitter does have an option to create something you can embed. As for some of the suggestions in the article, such as Widgetbox, they either cost something (when I checked Widgetbox it did not seem to have any free options and apparently the company was acquired by someone else) or they are just no longer out there. That is another hazard with a lot of 2.0 tools; they are often here today and gone tomorrow, so use with caution. 
  • And finally, do remember that "social networks are personal" (353). There should be a person or more behind the social media presence. I will add that once you make the jump you do have to keep updating, adding and sharing content, and overall, be active and dynamic. Worse you can do is sign up and then leave a dead site in place. If you cannot put the effort in, do not bother. You are better off not doing it than starting out then letting it languish. 

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