A reflection on my use of social networks

Yesterday I shared the news that I had been recommended for reappointment for another 3-year term (yay!) on all three of the social networks that I actively participate in: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

I don’t use or think of all three networks the same way:

  • Facebook is my personal network: people I know or have at least met and chatted with a time or two. While I sometime share work-related information on Facebook, most of my activity there is more in the personal arena.
  • Twitter is more of a professional space for microblogging content related to my work as a librarian as well as my interests in technology, organizations, education, etc, etc.
  • I have to admit that Google+ is more of a placeholder. I tend to use it to share blog posts that I write (like this one) and other major events/items. But I spend far less time interacting with people in that space than in the other two.

I should also say that I probably spend the most time on Facebook, a bit less on Twitter, and far less on Google+.

Given this, the results of my posting my reappointment news are not surprising:

  • Google+: 177 people have me in circles –> 1 comment
  • Twitter: 536 followers –> 1 comment
  • Facebook: 550 friends –> 64 likes, 8 comments

Not surprising, but still something for me to think about. At the very least, I think this not only reflects but reinforces how I have chosen to use these various networks. The people I connect with on Facebook are of course more likely to react to personal news like this. I’ve also invested more in terms of interacting with people on Facebook, so it shouldn’t be surprising that my social connections in that space are stronger. It isn’t that I couldn’t have those same social connections in Twitter or Google+. I just haven’t chosen to use those spaces in that way. And I’m ok with that.

Dividing up the work of managing social networking channels

Last fall the Library began using Twitter and Facebook to share news and information with students. The accounts had listed for a while, but their use was adhoc, with occasional updates from some of the librarians working virtual reference. Our communications officer (Merika) and I sat down and planned out how we could use these channels more effectively.

We started by using them to support our orientation program in the fall. In this we were assisted by a few other librarians, and we worked together to draft a number of posts, scheduled the publishing of those posts (using a shared calendar in Exchange), and shared the responsibility of posting the content to Twitter and Facebook at the appropriate times.

Once orientation was over, Merika and I continued to use the calendar to prepare a ‘pipeline’ of content for these feeds, and each of us continued to post more or less the same content to Twitter and Facebook.

We had some success with this approach, but still have a long way to go to get our number of followers up into the range where we are reaching the number of people we would like.

This year I thought we would try something different. Merika is on extended leave, and so over the coming academic year I’ll be sharing the social networking duties with our current communications officer, Sabrina. As it turns out, Sabrina is more comfortable using Twitter, and I spend far more time using Facebook, so I thought to myself: instead of us both posting the same content to each network, why don’t we each take one channel and post content independently?

Of course, we’re still both working from the same announcements and trying to promote the same services, so there is and will always be some overlap. But each of us is free to write up the posts as we see fit, allowing us to take advantage of the particularities of the platform. For example, you can post more text with Facebook and images can be included directly in the news feed. More importantly, though, is that I’m hoping that each of us might develop a different voice, so that people will get a better sense that there is an actual person behind the feed, not just some bit of script pushing content out to all channels.

There is a risk that the voices will be different, but I don’t think that is all that important, as long as they are within the same ‘brand envelope’, if you will. It is ok for people to discover that there are different people working at the Library! In fact, I think it is very important that people get a better sense of the actual people who work at the Library, that these people come to represent the Library.

As I’ve mentioned before, we need to use the web not only to make information available to our users, but to create connections between our users and the people in the library. I’m hoping that this small change in how we manage our social networks will contribute to making that happen.

P.S. Please feel free to follow the Library on either Facebook or Twitter and let us know how we are doing!