Brian Solis wrote an interesting post, “The End of Social Media 1.0,” describing a shift in the social media landscape to value added social media. He says people are still embracing social networks but competition for their eyes and their loyalty is stiff because users are no longer willy nilly hitting the like button, re-tweeting and following like they once did. They have become discerning social media consumers, interested only in companies that have value to them.
While I kind of dislike the whole 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 way of labeling of things other than specific software updates, Brian brings up a good point. Even though he is speaking specifically about businesses and social media, the same should be said about libraries and social media. Simply having a presence on Facebook or Twitter isn’t going to cut it. So what if you have 800 fans…big deal. How active are your fans on your page? How active are you at engaging your fans? Technically I am a fan of CVS Pharmacy but that was just so I could enter to win a contest. I really don’t care about CVS, I just haven’t taken the time to “un-fan” them. I don’t read their posts, I don’t interact with them on their wall, and quite frankly I completely forgot I was a fan until I was doing some Facebook house cleaning. How many of your library fans are like that? How many of your library Facebook fans are still students or employees?
In light of the recent study “What Students Don’t Know,” few students even think of the library or the librarian in general, so you gotta do more than just have a Facebook presence to win their attention. What are you doing on library’s Facebook page or Twitter to be of value to current and potential fans? Brian says, “Businesses must first realize that there’s more to social media than just managing an active presence, driven by an active editorial calendar. Listening is key and within each conversation lies a clue to earn relevance and ultimately establish leadership.” Now change the word businesses for the word libraries or library businesses.
Unfortunately, there is a bit of a chicken and egg thing going on here. You kind of have to first have fans to listen to them. Normally I would say that librarians are pretty good listeners. But if a tree falls in the woods does anyone hear it? The “What Students Don’t Know” study clearly worries me and makes me wonder if we are good listeners but crummy overall communicators.
If your library has a Facebook presence as a way to connect to users, simply having a bunch of fans does not show how good you are at communicating through social media. What you do with those fans on Facebook, the conversations, interactions, and changes you make to your products or services is a better indicator of your social media presence. How many libraries have established a relationship with their fans? What has your library done differently as a result of Facebook communication?
I was listening to the radio the other day and the DJs were talking about who has more followers on Twitter. At first they were comparing their numbers to each other, then they started comparing themselves to outside personalities. You have 100,000 followers, big deal. How many are actively following you and re-tweeting? How many still use their Twitter accounts and tweet at least once a month? Recently there was a big broohaha over Newt Gingrich’s Twitter followers. People claimed that he had staffers buy the Twitter followers in order to boost his numbers. Mashable conducted a Twitter analysis of Gingrich’s account along with several other politicians and discovered many of his followers (and followers of other politicians) were due to being on Twitter’s Suggested User List. Many of the followers are either spambots or people who signed up but never did anything. According to Mashable 14% of Gingrich’s followers have posted within the last month. Various reports from 2009 say that most people quit Twitter after one month, leaving lots of inactive Twitter accounts. (Remember when everybody had to start a blog and all of the dead blogs littering the Internet?) These accounts are still subscribed and “following” people, they just aren’t active. Twitter is all about communication and reaching out to people, yet the number of followers you have cannot be used as an indicator of success.
Social media is about communicating with our users. Having lots of fans and followers does not mean your library or company is successful at social networking. Communication is a two way street. If your wall is dead, your fans aren’t interested and they aren’t getting your message. If your wall is dead, you are my CVS Pharmacy to your Facebook fans, something they “liked” but really don’t care about anymore.
Indifference may not wreck a man’s life at any one turn, but it will destroy him with a kind of dry-rot in the long run.
You can have lots of fans and followers but that is just having a social media presence. While participation requires presence, presence does not require participation. There are too many libraries and library vendors present on Facebook and Twitter and trumpeting their “success,” in social media. There are very few that are participating and engaging their fans and followers which is the true mark of success.