About a year ago NLM launched ReferencePoint Blog targeting health sciences library staff in the U.S. and abroad. The postings were intended to:
- Increase the awareness of NLM products and services available online and onsite.
- Inform the targeted audiences about health sciences resources outside of NLM.
- Promote dialogue and learning exchanges between NLM staff and staff at other libraries.
Well according the final post, “blog membership and participation” was lower than anticipated and “lacked dialogue among the viewership.”
Although the blog is gone, people can still find out about information from the Tech Bull, RMLs, NLM Social Media outlets, and from other libraries’ web and social media.
At first I misread the information about ReferencePointe Blog, I actually thought they were launching a new blog. It wasn’t until I re-read things did I realize they were ending the blog. I admit there is a lot that gets by me at times. But I had no idea that ReferenceBlog existed and I do try to keep on top of that sort of thing. It is sad that something that looked so promising failed, but I have to wonder what was done to promote it. I did a very quick unofficial poll in the Twittersphere asking medical librarians if they had ever heard of ReferencePointe Blog. I figured the librarians on Twitter are usually more in tune with blogs and social media and if something was out there maybe a few librarians might not know but the group as a whole would know about it. Most of the people who responded to my tweet said they had either never heard of ReferencePointe Blog or just learned about it very recently. One person who mentioned they knew of it said it was in her feed reader but she felt it unfortunately found its voice.
This brings up several very good points about blogs, social media, and communication.
- Market the hell out of your blog, Twitter account, Facebook, etc. If your many of social media techie librarians did not know about you, then you didn’t reach out in the right ways. Simply building a site or feed and hoping people will come or comment…those days are l-o-n-g gone. Regardless if you are making a blog for librarians or Twitter feed for doctors, you are competing against a whole slew of other social media things that are louder and potentially more interesting.
- You need a voice. Whether it is in 140 characters, a look/feeling on Facebook, or longer blog dialog. Without a specific voice, theme, presence…overall vibe if you will, users won’t identify with you and come back for more. It can take a while to find your voice, and possibly longer if you have several people who have to work together has one voice. But without a specific voice or vibe it is difficult for people to follow.
- Timeliness is EVERYTHING! The half life of a tweet is like 5 minutes. Obviously blogs have a little longer half life but you really need to keep posts, tweets, Facebook content centered around what is currently going on. For example in May 2012 PubMed changed Limits to Filters, a good post on a tricky search using Filters would have been great. Discussing the differences, pros and cons, etc. of search with Limits vs. Filters would be very helpful.
- Feeback is essential. Commenting, Re-tweeting, and wall posts must be open and easy. Creating a barrier such as having somebody login to comment, locking your Twitter feed, or preventing wall posts will drastically limit your readership’s interest in communicating and will effect your overall readership.
- Finally your numbers are only half of the picture. I would like to think that I am pretty popular blog among the medical library community. Yet I have only a few comments on my blog. I have even less well posts on my Facebook page (to be honest I don’t really market my FB page). I have a reasonable number of RTs, MTs, and @s on Twitter. But I am no KevinMD. However I bet his actual comments, RTs, MTs, etc. represent a very small fraction of his oodles and oodels of readers and followers. The numbers are only part of the story. I don’t begrudge anybody for shutting down based on poor numbers but you can’t use the numbers as your entire picture.
So in the end, I am sorry to see that a potentially good resource is gone. I hope that isn’t the end for people thinking of doing something similar.