On Tuesday several Libraries staff met to discuss use of social media with the aim to discuss why and how we were currently using social media, what our goals were, and how we could best meet those goals. Below is my summary of what we discussed, and my take on some of the things that were said—please weigh in, and those who were at this meeting, please comment below, add in what I forgot, and correct any mistakes I may have made.
To bound the discussion somewhat, we focused on three major social media tools: blogging (this here blog!), twitter, and facebook. From the beginning our biggest unknown has been who is our target audience? We would usually say 'the public' but that is much too vague an audience to target. Public includes Libraries staff, Smithsonian Institution staff … researchers, people who stumble across us via a Google search … so, perhaps focusing on who our audience is might not be the most productive way to evaluate what we're doing. Instead let's just think about what content we are creating, and what we are putting out there.
Right now, the majority of our participation in social media is on the blog (if you can call this participating in social media—I might argue it's really just publishing.) Though staff may also be on facebook, there is not a lot of staff activity on the Libraries' facebook page. Twitter is in limited use by select staff (most of whom were in the room or on the phone for this discussion!) or in heavy use by one staff (you know who you are.) So what are we doing on the blog? What "brand identity" has the Libraries created, or are we trying to create? From the beginning, aside from publicizing events, most posts focus on our collections so the brand is firmly "book". Is there anything that sets the Libraries apart from any other library who is also rocking the "book" brand? What do we have that no one else has? Are we only about collections? Suggestions were made that we could shift and include more posts that highlight the services we offer. Recent surveys of library users often highlight that we are valued for the individual services branch librarians provide. How can we communicate better about our services? Should we devote more time and effort to doing instruction and outreach via social media?
Looking back on the genesis of the Libraries' involvement in social media, much of it was done as an experiment, to try to get staff to learn more about various social media platforms (this is particularly true of twitter) and to get folks to see the possibilities for using social media at work—for professional development, for outreach to users, and of course to flog our awesome collections. If we are only going by number of staff participating, this has been a mixed success. (I am not going to say "hasn't been a success," because one can't seriously expect to convince everyone of the value of using something like twitter—for one, it isn't valuable for everyone.) The time has come, though, to get out of the "experimental" phase and into the strategic use phase. Again the questions are: what goals are we trying to achieve, who are we trying to connecting with, and how can we best do both?