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:

PHP course

Earlier this week I attended a course run by Netskills, entitled PHP: Primed and Ready. I had never used PHP before – I have been happy enough with ASP for creating web applications up to now. However, a colleague is using PHP, and I wanted to be able to support her, and this course came along at the right time. I also thought it would be a good idea to get some kind of training in programming, as I’ve never had any before.

The course was a mixture of presentation, and hands on exercises, which I thought was quite a good way of doing it. However the time given for the exercises was quite long considering the content of some of the exercises (some of which just involved opening a file, saving it onto the test server, and opening it again in a browser!), and I did find myself getting a little bored waiting for the next bit to start.

It was interesting to see the differences between PHP and ASP, and to see where PHP has built in functions for things I spent time creating from scratch in ASP. I am probably going to stick with ASP (or maybe move onto ASP.NET), over PHP, though I can see its advantages, and will keep it in mind for future projects. One thing I particularly liked was the Heredoc syntax for multi-line output of text, and the ability to dynamically generate graphics (which I believe you can do in ASP, but I have never investigated).

Overall, I thought the course was a bit basic for my needs. It covered programming concepts such as loops, conditionals etc, which I felt was done a little quickly for people who hadn’t come across them before, but was a bit boring for those of us already quite familiar with them. A lot of time was spent covering the basics, and much less on the more interesting bits, like manipulating databases. It was nice, though, to find out that I  do know what I’m doing when it comes to this sort of thing, and I did learn how to write PHP, so the course was a success. I feel that it has given me more confidence in my own skills.

Introduction to Marketing

Introduction to Marketing course – MLA London / Hopkins Van Mil

It was a sunny day in June. The room was hot, the air-conditioner so noisy it needed to be turned off when the trainer was speaking. We were a small group of nine people from a variety of backgrounds – and we were there to learn about marketing.

Our first task was to chat in groups of two or three about who we were, our marketing knowledge and why we were here. Several of us admitted to no marketing knowledge at all, others had some on-the-job knowledge. Once this was done, we all reported back to the trainer, who wrote our aims (such as ‘learn about marketing’) on a flip chart.

We were then shown a slide entitled ‘Vision’, which listed a number of animals and their supposed characteristics, and were invited to pick one animal which represented our institution as it is now, and another to represent it as we thought it should be in five years time. I chose the Owl as my current animal – wise and knowledgeable, followed by Eagle (vigilant and focused). These were pretty randomly chosen, I really have no idea what animal best represents my place of work.
The trainer explained the difference between how we see our library/museum, and how others see it.

The trainer then explained the key things with strategic marketing: audience (talking to the right people), what motivates them (about the right things), which mediums are appropriate (in the right way), when is appropriate (at the right time), and to then monitor whether it worked.

The next point was the difference between benefits and features. Benefits being the things that draw people in, the reason for them to come, the thing they get out of it. The point being that you should advertise the benefits, not the features. This is (I think) open to argument – most of the benefits of the Library are along the same lines (learning, study space, research, help etc), whereas there are lots of different features (resources, staff, databases, equipment) which if we don’t advertise them no-one will know about, though I suppose the point is we should talk about the benefits of the feature.

Moving on to research – the ‘three pillars’ are:
Desk research – information already available, previous market research
Secondary research – information others have collected about similar services, census data
Primary research – collecting data – surveys, comment cards, focus groups.
I was quite surprised this hadn’t been called the ‘triangle of research’ as it has been my experience that every training course on every subject at some point has a triangle in it. This was the only exception so far – but then again, they stuck with the number three.

Planning marketing was the next issue. The better choice between Tactical or Strategic marketing – (‘quick-fix’ v long term, sustainable) was made pretty clear. We discussed SMART objectives and SWOT analyses as tools in the planning stages and talked about the importance of auditing, and the four (or six) Ps – Product, Promotion, Price, Place (People and Planning).

Split into groups, we were invited to each think of one thing (other than essentials) that we would take on a journey into space. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, we all chose technology – two groups chose a laptop, (as being able to hold ebooks, music, video, photographs etc), and the other a games console. The point of the exercise was the reasoning we had behind our choices (wanting to have something to occupy our time, remind us of home, enjoyment, etc) – we all focussed on benefits rather than features. A lesson learned.

We had a short discussion of the approach to marketing, budgeting (with a plug for Hopkins Van Mil’s upcoming course on marketing on a small budget), and then the tactics, or tools you would use eg posters, web, podcasts, blogs, social networking sites, leaflets.

Lunch, always an important part of any training session, couldn’t be faulted. The food arrived on time, and there was plenty of it. Trays of sandwiches, labelled meat or veggie, and a nice variety from cheese and pickle to coronation chicken. There were two trays of fresh fruit and two trays of absolutely gorgeous cakes. Definitely the best lunch I’ve had at a training session in a long time (and puts our internal training lunches to shame). There was also choice of tea, coffee, water and apple or orange juice (which, speaking as someone who doesn’t drink tea or coffee, made a nice change, as usually you just get water).

Anyway, lunch was finally over, the few remaining cakes were removed (presumably for the MLA London staff to enjoy, can’t blame them for that), the air-con was switched back off, and we had to get back to the training. We were all labelled ‘1’ or ‘2’ and the ‘1’s had to get up and go sit somewhere else. The ‘2’s then had to explain to their new neighbours what had been covered in the morning session. Hideous as this was for me as a ‘2’, it was actually quite useful in fixing what we had learnt in my mind.

During lunch the trainer had passed out some case studies of marketing from the Tate, Dulwich Picture Gallery and The Women’s Library, which we read through and discussed what aspects we could use ourselves (though this was largely irrelevant for a library setting). We were also given a postcard of a building, and asked to read what was on the back for about half a minute, and then to stop, and say what it was about. This was not very successful, as there was a lot of text, and most of us managed to gather only that it was from Central Saint Martins and was about some kind of event. We then read through it again, to pick out any benefits listed – and there was only one. It was a good example of how not to do it.

We then moved on to the problem of how to tell if your marketing has worked. The things we came up with were: visitor numbers, web stats, feedback forms, comment cards, visitor books, stats on item usage, telephone enquiry logs (again some of these were relevant only to the museum staff).

In order to relate what we had learnt to our own jobs, we all had to come up with our own SMART objective, identify the benefits for some target groups, consider the four Ps in deciding what we could offer these groups, choose tactics to market to them, and then write a ‘message’. The groups I came up with were mature students, external visitors, staff, international students, undergraduates and postgraduates. The benefits were things like access to learning resources, access to supportive staff, a quiet space to study in, etc

After the tea-break we moved on to discuss the importance of internal support, and getting buy-in at all levels, from management to front of house staff.

The day ended, and it was back out into the sunshine, for a nice (delay ridden) tube journey back to Waterloo, and thence back home.

All in all it was an enjoyable and interesting day. It was good to meet people from museums and other libraries, and it did teach me some basic stuff about marketing – the difference between benefits and features, and the idea of identifying and targeting audiences – which I hope will be useful in the future. However, the course really was aimed at museums, and a lot of the information was completely irrelevant to me (such as setting up ‘Friends of’ groups). I therefore wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else from a Library – I am sure there are other courses more specifically aimed at the Library crowd.

Photoshop Part 1: Images for the Web

I attended this course from BBC Training yesterday. I’ve been using Photoshop for a couple of years already, but have never had any formal training (mainly learning by doing, or from various online sites), and as I will be using Photoshop for web graphics and images my manager agreed to send me on a course.

I searched around for a while online trying to find a course that a)didn’t cost over £400 and b)was somewhere sensible for me to get to, and came across this – it only cost £180, which is quite a bargain for this sort of thing.

I was the only attendee not associated with the BBC in some way, but everyone was friendly, and it didn’t prove to be a disadvantage. The session started out simply, with explanations of different image file-types, and a look at the Photoshop toolbox. We then proceeded to create a new image, and played around a little with layers, opacity, selections and moving things around. We looked at saving images for the web, and the trade-off between quality and file-size. We created 3D web buttons with text and drop shadows. I didn’t learn too much that was new at this stage, apart from a couple of little things (such as using the tick button to accept transformations and text) which I probably should have known about anyway.

We then moved on to working with photographs – resizing, changing contrast, sharpening, brightening, and changing colour levels – after mucking about making the trees blue and the wooden house bright red I actually tried to make the picture clearer, and was quite pleased with what I got. We then moved on to a portrait image (apparently of one of the trainer’s friends, though I don’t think she would remain so if she knew what we were doing to her picture!). We learnt how to remove spots, create magazine style images, and remove wrinkles (I have obviously since tried this on a picture of myself – may have to treat all my photos that way in future!). Someone pointed out how rich we’d be if we could do this in real life (if only!). We then played around with the different filters. The guy sitting beside me gave the poor woman a fantastic spiky look, while I contented myself with making her glowy and neon. We then moved on to making thumbnails, using various Dr Who images (past and present Drs), then made an ad by cutting out a picture of Peter Davison (kind of fiddly, but not as hard as I thought it would be) and adding some text.

All in all the day was quite fun. I learnt some useful things, gained confidence in the things I had been doing before (always gratifying when someone suggests the best way of doing something – and it is how you do it already), and got inspiration for what I can do with Photoshop. The trainer was very good – friendly, knowledgeable, and he gave me his card afterwards in case I have any questions.

I didn’t know before I found this that the BBC ran training courses like this (and they do a whole load of other courses), but I would recommend the course, and am considering going on the second part myself. There is also a Flash course I quite fancy.