Social Media Executive Briefing

I attended CILIP’s Social Media Executive Briefing on Tuesday.  It was a very interesting and informative day, and well attended by people from a variety of sectors and with differing experience with social media.
The day was kicked off by Phil Bradley, who gave us an introduction to social media, pointing out that it is all about information, people and communications – and so made for librarians.  He looked at the difference between Web 1 and Web 2, and how easy it is now to create things on the web –

everyone can be both creator and consumer.  He also declared content is no longer king, context has taken the throne – because there is so much content out there.

There is an issue with social media being so immediate, the expectations for an instant answer, and no time to get things perfect, just get them good enough, done and move on – not everyone likes this.  It is all about sharing, and the community.

Next Tim Fletcher spoke about Birkbeck’s use of Twitter.  This was very interesting to me as it seems that what they do is pretty close to what we do where I work.  
They tweet, allow anyone to follow them (only blocking obvious spam accounts), and don’t follow students.  They do follow other libraries, research institutions, and people who give relevant information to them.  At my workplace, we have tried to follow other University departments, academic staff, and local organisations – not just people who may tweet things relevant to the Library, but people the students may find interesting or useful to follow.   One thing Birkbeck does, which we don’t, is social tweeting, which according to Tim gives the Library a human touch.  This is something I will be giving some thought to as a way to further engage with our students.

The third talk of the morning, after some very welcome refreshments, was by Janice Waugh and Annastasia Ward from Essex Libraries, who talked about the experience of using social media in public libraries, starting with their eNewsletter, then Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.  It was very interesting to hear about how they have been using these, and how they have been trying to encourage participation – it is a problem we have experienced as well, that people are there, lurking, but not actively engaging with us.

I was also interested to hear about their use of YouTube, as we are currently in the process of creating videos for staff training, and possibly for students too.  They include book trailers, training videos, and promotional videos on their YouTube Channel.
Essex libraries use the same avatar and give a co-ordinated message across all their channels for maximum effect.

The afternoon session started with Laura Waldoch talking about Cambridge University Library’s use of social media.  This was very interesting, as she talked about Google+, which I hadn’t used, and Pinterest, which I have been using personally, but not professionally.  I was inspired by the fact that they have a standard profile picture, tag line, and pool of images which they use to set up on new social media sites, making the process much quicker for them – it is definitely something I will set up.  
It was also interesting to hear how they have been more successful on Google+ than on Facebook, which I hadn’t expected, and I will have to investigate this too.  Cambridge think of twitter enquiries like the library enquiries desk, which is what I would like to happen at my workplace, but we haven’t quite got there yet.  Their use of Pinterest certainly seemed to be popular – apparently they gain 2-3 followers for every picture shared.  A good excuse to go round the Library taking photos!  Laura did warn us that there are copyright issues with using Pinterest, so be careful what you pin!  The benefits of social media are an increased awareness of collections, a chance to send informal messages, see readers opinons, and promote services.

Phil Bradley was up again next, talking about the changing role of search. He started off telling us that “Search is broken”, and went on to explain why we cannot trust search engines. He spoke about how search engines are changing to include social media searches, and how Google now use Google+ to affect your search results, while Bing use Facebook. Search is changing focus to the individual rather than the website, telling you what people you know have shared, liked, etc, and including this in your search results. There is obviously an impact on training and help resources in this – not everyone will have the same results for the same search terms.  I found his statement that Facebook wants to BE the internet a bit worrying.  Phil  then listed some useful apps for current awareness, which give you news based on what the people you follow have been sharing – Zite, Flipboard, and – I like Zite and the best so far.

The final talk of the day was Putting Social Media to work by Jim Thompson from Edinburgh libraries. They took the ‘better to seek forgiveness than ask permission’ approach (always my favourite), and it seems to have worked very well for them.  They have moved their web presence away from the council run site, and gone out on their own so that they could have a more dynamic site.  He talked about their digital strategy – which was that the digital and physical services should be joined together into a single library experience.  Edinburgh has created an interactive map with locations from literature.
The Edinburgh Library App will let you search the catalogue by scanning a barcode on a book, renew items, and scan in your membership card to use at the self service machines.  This is definitely something we would like to do where I work.
Other tips included writing once, and publish across all platforms, and if you’ve got a good idea, use it more than once.  One point that caused a lot of interest was the idea of moving to mobile devices, apps, and using your phone as a library card.

Main points of the day
  • There is no right way to use social media, it depends on your audience
  • If you don’t currently search for what people are saying about you/your organisation – start
  • Be aware of social media tools, but don’t feel you have to use ones that don’t suit your needs (but maybe remember them and look again later on)
  • You have more to lose by not using social media than by using it. You have to participate, be part of the community, part of the conversation, or you will be left behind. There is no point in having expertise, if no-one is listening to you, because you aren’t where they are. You need to be actively involved in social media to affect what people  see.

Presentations are now available at: