I wrote about the use of social media for inforgs on Librarianautica.
One of the biggest uses for blogging or tweeting is to show that there is a person there as part of the institution to interact with. When a user is faced with solely a catalogue they’re dealing with a collection of items, be they journal articles databases exhibits or books (which I hear do still exist). When you include some sort of dynamic content that’s been made by a person, you’re reminding the user that there are people behind these services.
Example: The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney (Australia – it’s where I’m on my co-op so you’re going to get antipodean examples) is using Koha as their ILS. Integrating their library blog onto the main page of the OPAC makes the catalogue a destination for users. And then when the librarian is blogging about something in their collection (and they’ve got some cool stuff) and deep-links to it, that’s giving the user examples of how people can interact with the catalogue.
Having a personality that reminds people The Library isn’t some building but a collection of librarians is important, and not only when budgets are being threatened. Users are more likely to engage with you if they know there’s someone to engage with.
I’m a big fan of how the National, State and Territory libraries of Australia and New Zealand ran Libraryhack2011. This is a consortium of governmental libraries promoting the use of (a small selection of) their collections in mashups. They’ve got a blog explaining things, a pretty vibrant Twitter feed (that isn’t solely reposting the blog’s content), and dude, they’re doing the mashup thing. How much more social media can you get? (One of my favourite entries in the contest was this sound recording made from a photograph.)
Interestingly, maybe instructively, this is an event, not something ongoing, and it isn’t very prominent on the NSW State Library website, which I think is a bit odd. Maybe this isn’t a best-practice after all.
But it does work well for that idea of “stepped” approaches for organizations. Focusing a social media outbreak on something that’s happening with the organization would give a good focus, to quickly move beyond the “What would we tweet about?” questions.
Event-type experiments can also be sold as short-term projects especially to more traditional (read: hidebound) organizations, who’re scared of what people might say about them online. If you’re having an event you want people to talk about it so it’s a good demand generator for social media engagement. Starting up accounts related to some big event would be a way to get the kinks worked out, to see what works for your users and your staff.
Now this is all stuff that looks appealing to me as a person. I have no idea how the organizations involved are evaluating the success of the libraryhack project. Would that be based on pageviews or submissions or what? It seems that you can find out how many people love the hell out of hacking library stuff, but that metric might not translate to some mythical general user.
I wrote about libraryhack and engaging the community on Librarianautica.