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There has been a lot of information/ posts about this subject recently – I am not intending to give instructions on how to use social media in libraries here – that can be found in a number of places. What I will be doing is giving some of my own views on why social media is useful for libraries and librarians, although I am always aware that a medium that works for one person is a complete anathema to another. So please bear this in mind when looking at social media and considering whether it is useful for you or not!

This post was inspired by a post called “the vocal employee” about the actions of some Domino’s employees and what their company did about it. …….It made me think about the fact that not having a social media presence does not stop bad things happening about your company (or library) – and maybe if the company listened to and worked with its employees this situation could have been averted. In my view the risk of not being there is greater than the risk of being an active presence.

You only know what people are saying about you if you are in the same places and listening to/ monitoring what is happening in the places where people go to talk. And if you are there listening /monitoring, surely it is better to interact and contribute to the conversations rather than being a ‘lurker’. This needs to be part of a planned communication programme so that the messages in all of the media you use (and face to face is one of these) and professional BUT the style used needs to be appropriate to the format you are using. For example, the tone of a news release is very different to a piece of information put onto Twitter. Twitter is a long conversation you dip into and out of and so you need to be interesting and concise. Information on Facebook is a mix of the two. Staff using social media need to be trained and made aware of the ‘do’s’ and ‘do nots” but without taking away their own voice – so long as that voice is appropriate to the image you want to give. One good example of the use of humour is the twitter feed for Orkney Libraries.

It is also excellent PR to be seen to respond to the bad comments – not necessarily to answer them as some issues may be too sensitive – but to say something like

“thank you for your comment – I have passed it onto ………. who will answer you directly”.

You are acknowledging the issue and being seen to respond. It may be that your answers are made public afterwards but the complainer’s points will be made public anyway.

You will also have positive comments and feedback that will be in the public sphere and seen by others – never a bad thing.:-)

The recent issue of how Twitter and Facebook were used during the riots is a case in point. Yes, they were used for negative things, but there was also a major positive element to their use which would be lost if they were switched off during similar occasions in the future. In Wolverhampton, Twitter was used to help to calm down the situation in a very positive way through Superintendent Payne noting the misinformation that was going out and posting information about what was really happening (or more often not happening). This has been continued by regular updates about what has been done about the rioters by the police along with continuing to do his regular posts about the job.

From all of my news feeds I usually find out about what is happening first on, maybe because I check it quite regularly. I can then go to sites with more information either from the tweet or directly to the webpage.

I currently don’t make much use of you-tube or other social media sites, so this musing is based on the ones I find useful .

In my mind the benefits of using social media well outweigh the problems.

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