"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Jun 19, 2012

PLA 2012 session notes: Engaging Customers in an Online Environment

Following are my notes from the "Engaging Customers in an Online Environment" session at PLA 2012, held on Thursday, March 15 at 8:15.


Three basic levels of online engagement
1) Social media as primarily a promotional tool – one-sided
2) Online engagement: customer-focused communication
- have conversations with them on topics they’re interested in
- quality more important than the number of people you reach
- personalizes the organization, shows you care about what customers have to say
3) Customers feel comfortable starting conversations with you and others in your network

Have an online strategy and policy
Strategy = road map – where you’re going and how you’re going to get there
Policy = rules of the road
Include: goals and measurements, strategy for publicizing your online presence, an exit strategy (how do we handle it if we decide to leave a social networking site?)
First, survey the online environment and your current presence on social media (whether deliberate or inadvertent)
Metrics are more than followers; consider interactions and responses
Think carefully about how many platforms you can support (don’t overextend)
Who can post? Do you need a coordinator/moderator?
Make sure your branding is consistent across sites

Legal considerations
This is still a fuzzy area; talk to your lawyer
Look carefully at sites’ TOS documents

Finding your voice
Think of your library as a character/persona – what would its personality be?
If you have many people posting, sign tweets with the poster’s name?
“columns” on Facebook – a staff member posting regularly on a given topic

Engaging customers online
Go to meetups and tweetups locally and talk up your social media
Try to use Trending Topics hashtags on Twitter
Create and use your own hashtags
Surveys, questions, staff columns
- first person to answer correctly gets a prize (to be picked up at an event IRL?)
- Make sure you’re being authentic (“question of the week” fizzled out b/c it was too formulaic)
Being engaging = sharing personalized info – share inside information (statistics?) – have exclusive content for followers
Hey girl, let’s jump on a meme
- Andy Woodward got Old Spice guy to talk about libraries
- library created video of Old Spice guy
- failblog.org – Memebase category
Listening to the crowd – sometimes the conversation isn’t happening in your feed/on your Facebook page/etc
- set up Google Alerts

Look for what your patrons are using (and how it correlates with demographics)

Initiate/develop partnerships w/community organizations
Friend potential partners with your personal account, and communicate with them that way
“Like” local organizations

Measuring success
Stop if you aren’t meeting objectives, or if it isn’t interesting to you anymore
Look at other organizations to establish baselines

Online book club for teens done via Ning chat (Ning also offers message boards) – but Ning is now paid service
“Where in the world is the bookmobile?”
* Library has laminated cutout of bookmobile; staff take it on trips and post photos, asking patrons to guess where the bookmobile is
Create booklists (covers link to reviews?)

What’s next?
Facebook app letting people reserve and check out books
One library shares “how to” videos from YouTube – start creating them?
Giving patrons the opportunity to create content, or finding content they’re creating and promoting it
Make your personal use of social media professional – connect with other librarians etc. through your personal accounts

What if you’re doing “everything right” (asking questions, etc) and people still aren’t engaging/answering?
* Find a couple of people to engage regularly – it breaks the ice – maybe even staff?
* Promote sites in person to make people feel a more personalized connection to your social media