Meeting, Tweeting and Fb’ing – An SLA Europe event

On the 24th of April, I went along to the National Library of Scotland to attend the SLA Europe event “Meeting, Tweeting and Fb’ing”, which promised to cover topics such as “how useful is social media for libraries? Can Facebook really help me to promote what I do? What benefits can using LinkedIn bring me as an information professional? “
We began with Bryan Christie of the National Library of Scotland (NLS) giving us an overview of the aims and activities of the NLS on social media. The purpose of this approach is to increase the NLS’ digital presence, and raise awareness of the interesting, non-digital materials within its collections, especially to a younger audience. Bryan views a relevant social media presence as being like journalism – you have to find the interesting information. He’s found that posts on Twitter publicising material from the NLS collections is driving traffic to the NLS website, for more information on these materials. Examples of traffic-creating posts on Twitter included an online discussion of the new, e-legal deposit responsibility of the NLS, with the accompanying hashtag of #digitaluniverse allowing easy collation of the discussion. The NLS’ Facebook presence is also focused on promoting the collections through highlighting interesting holdings – a post showcasing Mary Queen of Scots last letter was particularly popular. By analysing the statistics on, it can be seen that the followers of the NLS Twitter account have trebled in the last 18 months, and comparing the NLS Twitter account to that of the National Library of Wales and the National Library of Ireland, all libraries are experiencing an increase in followers. Bryan did say that at this point, it’s hard to know whether this growth is due to the NLS being an active tweeter, or due to the general integration and uptake of Twitter in the general population. Using Twittercounter, it was also possible to pick out some of the basics of the Twitter approach of the other National Libraries, including whether they had a set target amount of tweets per day to create. Another example given of a successful NLS social media campaign was the “Scotland At The Movies” Facebook competition, which attracted around 1800 entries over the three month period of the event, hugely increased referrals from Facebook page to the website, and reached a younger demographic  (a majority of 18-34 year olds)than other methods of attracting interaction. There was also an effort made to monitor the entries for inappropriate language, as the competition was open to all, and therefore potentially able to be abused.  In general, Bryan said that the best way to build a social media presence is to be active, be interesting, be funny,  monitor,  listen and respond.
Nick Goldstein, Senior Account Executive was there as a representative of LinkedIn, which currently has a membership of between 80-90% of UK professionals. Nick began by describing one of the benefits of social networks – they allow tracking of the dissemination of information within them. They also allow power to be in the hands of the people producing the material hosted on them, and people are producing material at an astonishing rate – the activity statistics of users of social media are mindboggling, and the number of users continues to rise. The major players in social media are sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, with the different sites fulfilling different purposes for users, whether it be for personal or professional use. Personal use of social media is centred on activities that link to the desire to have fun, keep in touch, and the enjoyment of nostalgia, while business use mainly relates to learning, developing, and finding information. LinkedIn itself is a massive company, with 11 million members (if not 12 million by the time of writing of this article) in the UK, and over 200 million worldwide, as at December 2012. Its growth has been purely viral, as it doesn’t advertise, and it’s now so massive that it’s the only real professional platform, internationally, and is the 21st most visited site on the internet. Although it is already a massive network, it aims eventually to have all of the world’s estimated 640 million professionals as members. It makes acquisitions of key business that it thinks will enhance its offering, such as their purchase of Slideshare in 2012, designed to allow better representation of members work. LinkedIn also uses member activity to tailor their homepage to what it believes to be their interests, basing the news it presents to them in their LinkedIn Today section on each individual users previous activity history. This ability to see what individual users are doing also allows them to see how the way LinkedIn is being used changes throughout the day – in the morning, it’s mainly accessed via mobile devices, as members travel to work, in the daytime, it’s mainly desktop based access while users are in offices, and in the evening, access is mainly through tablet devices.  It also has an open API (Application Programming Interface), which makes the development of new elements to the site, and its integration into organisations far easier.
After each speaker had given their presentation, there was an opportunity for attendees to ask questions. The first question related to using Twitter in business, and how to improve your reach. The response boiled down to:
Have guidelines in place for appropriate account use/content (with the example used of the April Fools Top Gear joke tweet issued by the Danish police, as a time when more care should have been taken)
Be interesting
Be active
The next question was how best to use LinkedIn for career opportunities. This led to a long list of tips to enhance your account:
Get an 100% completeness score – adding a photo is a large part of this.
Get recommendations, by giving recommendations – 3 recommendations are required for a full profile.
Use the headline area – describe what you do and who you are. It’s better than the job description area.
Flesh out and give detail to your previous job information.
Join groups – you can be a member of up to 50.
If you make sure your profile is as complete as possible, it allows their algorithms a better chance to match members and their skills to opportunities. 
The issue of false staff having claimed on their profiles to have worked at organisations that they didn’t actually work at was raised next. It was explained that as LinkedIn is an open platform, sometimes things do get abused, but checking algorithms are running, and human moderators are also performing checks, so there’s a constant mixture of human and machine monitoring. Also, individuals can alert LinkedIn to any false users or claims.
Then… it was onwards, to the networking!
I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by the amount of user activity tracking that’s going on behind the scenes with LinkedIn. I don’t ever actually look at the LinkedInToday section, as it’s not a site I go to for news, nor are the suggestions every particularly relevant to me. I don’t know what they base their news suggestions on – perhaps it’s related to whose profile I clicked on? But I’m pretty sure I’m not deeply interested in learning about management from bees or golfers, which is today’s main story! Personally, I think I may be the wrong market for any site that wishes to tailor its content to my viewing preferences by using data on my browsing history: I have PrivacyFix installed on my browser, and try to minimise any information I give to sites that I know are using me as the product, like Facebook.  If I *want* a tailored service, I’ll give the information requested, I actually find the thought that this is being done in the background, based on how I use a site, kind of uncomfortable. But I think I must be in a minority – personalisation seems to be the way forward….

The apparently unsociable librarian

I’m the first to admit, I love social media stuff. I’ve been on Twitter for almost 5 years, I (slightly grudgingly) eventually joined Facebook around the same time, and have played with all sorts of thing in between, from Formspring to Pinterest.

However – my use of all those sites is almost exclusively personal (apart from Twitter, which is actually heavily weighted towards work-relevant networks). There’s not actually much need that I can see to do anything involving social media in its current form for my own library service. I do enjoy reading about how academic and public libraries are furthering the use of their resources and exploring how to best use sites, using Facebook to inform users about events and service specifics, Twitter to respond to individuals, and Pinterest to collate interesting visual materials…but it just doesn’t work in my situation.

As a corporate librarian, I’m in a very different position from a public or academic librarians, in relation to sharing resources. Those types of services are set up to spread information, and allow as many people as possible to benefit from their resources, partially because the people using the resources are also helping to fund them (either through tuition fees or taxation). In a corporate library, the employing organisation has invested from their own funds to create their own library service, and properly staff it. A lot of time and effort is spent in a corporate library to create resources that are tailored to the needs and demands of internal service users, and which are therefore a valuable business asset, and definitely not a thing which could be shared. Corporate libraries cannot be sociable outside their own body – their work is for the benefit of their own, internal users only, the exact reverse of the situation for public and academic libraries.

And if it were possible to use social media in a manner suitable for sharing externally (eg for marketing purposes, which the library may have involvement in), most of the social media sites are based on the model of free sharing, e.g. Pinterest (although this has its own copyright-infringement issues, due to the sites enabling of such easy online sharing), or sites which are free because they carry advertising. This throws up all sorts of issues for a firm – what if the adverts on a free site were for an offensive service/company, or for a competitor of a client? By having firm-linked material on the same page, we could look like we were endorsing a client competitor. What if we accidentally infringed copyright on Pinterest by using an image that seemed freely and legally available, but in reality wasn’t? It could be a highly risky activity to be involved in.

Corporate library services basically have to be faceless, neutral, and non existent on social media.

So…don’t think I’m being unsociable if I’m not joining in with these discussions and experiments, but just remember: for every interesting public use of social media, there’s probably a corporate librarian watching it all, feeling frustrated that they can’t join in with the fun stuff…

Any other library service types out there unable to be sociable?

The pretty picture…

I’m such a copycat: I saw Karen Blakeman’s visual LinkedIn network on her blog, and thought I’d see what mine looked like…

I’ve taken out my name at the centre, and the shareable version strips out contact names, but I seem to have 3 separate worlds – orange is workmates, past and present. Blue is personal/real life contacts, green is online/social networks contacts, and pink are library-but not via-social-network contacts.
Methinks you can see that work and social/personal don’t really overlap in my life, although some of the colour coding, as Karen says, seems to be entirely random.
But it’s still quite pretty, all swirly and stuff!

No (Form)spring in this step

Yes, I’m the type of gal who likes to mess about and try new tools and sites. So, nine months ago, Formspring seemed like an amusing timewasting tool – people can ask you questions, either putting their name to them (usually a Twitter name), or anonymously. You then can answer them, and post the responses in your Formspring stream, either for the world to see, or only to your followers (I’m not sure if this was originally an option). You can also follow other people, and ask them questions too, so it can be quite interactive.

Yes, I know it was and still is attracting bad publicity for the fact that school kids use it to bully each other, but school kids can and will use anything to bully each other, from verbal abuse, notes written and passed around, text messages, or messages on various popular sites that over time have moved from MySpace, to Bebo, to Facebook and Twitter. Just because some people misuse it, doesn’t mean a tool is inherently bad. And as an adult, if I didn’t like any questions I received, I could either delete and not answer them, or publish them with a good putdown response.
So, I had fun: I was asked a lot of questions, and in the process actually had to think quite deeply about some things: in daily life you’re not often asked about your aspirations, dreams, or fears, so I learned a bit about myself. I also laughed myself silly at some of the questions, and had great fun thinking up suitably silly responses.
But, after a few months, I got bored. I abandoned the account about six months ago, and recently decided it was time to shut it down – why have that info floating about freely out in the world if I’m not actively using that service? So, I went to close the account.
But no, you can’t shut your account, you can only disable it. Huh? But…erm…I want it gone, and everything on it: there’s no sensitive info in my responses, but it is my choice whether that info stays posted, or not.
Ok, no delete account option? Right – lets delete those questions and answers: surely there must be a “delete all” option? No.
Cue me spending a good chunk of time deleting individually (with a pop-up “are you sure?” box for every one) three hundred and eighteen entries. Six hundred and thirty six clicks to delete. Not counting the page refresh every time the page of entries was done, to reload more to delete.
Ok, so they were all gone, yes?
When I deleted the entries, the questions were regarded as unanswered, and went back into my inbox, waiting for me to answer. As the questions themselves still sometimes contained potentially identifiable info about me, I wanted them gone too. Now, this was marginally better: at least the questions could be deleted in chunks of twenty five at a time. So only thirteen clicks to get rid of them. Plus page reloads.
Right, anything else I can do to remove “me” from this site, since they won’t get rid of the account?
OK, the profile picture – I can remove that, yes?
No. There’s no option NOT to have a picture, just to replace a picture. Hmmmm. Right, so I’ve now replaced that with a picture of something else random, but the option to not have a picture at all would have been far better.
What else? Oh look – I can effectively “protect” the account, so anyone who’s currently subscribed to see what I post, and be alerted when I answer a new question is removed, and have to request to “refollow” me. Much like Twitter – a better way of controlling who sees the material you’re posting. Ok, so the account I want to kill is now protected.
Now, after doing all this, clearing everything out that I can and making what’s left as inaccessible as possible, I’ll disable it. And look, there’s an option when disabling it to say why you want it disabled, and add further comment…so I informed them that I no longer wanted the account, and wished for it to be deleted.
Lets see if they get back to me on this point, eh?