Why every librarian should take a social media class like this

FB Comment: Applebee's, just shut up

Screencap by: R.L. Stollar

I ran across two different blog posts today that are both fascinating examples of how social media is a powerful tool that you need to know how to wield. Better to not wield it at all than to do it badly.

From the train wreck side of things, we have “Applebee’s Overnight Social Media Meltdown”. I’ll summarize it in the next paragraph, but you really should go give it a read. It’s enlightening, captivating, and amusing (as long as you’re not Applebee’s).

To sum: An employee posted a picture of a guest’s check. Applebee’s fired her. But that’s just the start of the story. Someone on behalf of Applebee’s, or probably several someones, was posting to their Facebook page. They posted a comment that should’ve been a status update. They tagged people with a repeated message, ie. spamming. They deleted comments. Then they deleted entire posts and their attendant comment threads. And as of the blog post I linked to, they hadn’t yet twigged to the idea of turning off comments.

In other words, they didn’t understand how to use Facebook or even how to engage with the Internet generally. There are things you don’t do. Deleting vast swaths of comments for one, spamming for another. And there are things that just aren’t a good idea to do — commenting on a thousands+ comment thread what should really be a status update if you want people to see it.

Was this someone they had hired as a social media expert? If so, the commentors that said that person should be fired as completely right. That person or persons don’t know what they’re doing.

Libraries are not immune to a situation blowing up like this one has. And yet the vast majority of them are probably less equipped to handle it than Applebee’s should be. Applebee’s has the money to high a top notch PR firm and social media experts. Most libraries only have a handful of staff with a hodgepodge of skills. How easy it would be for one of them to blunder along on Facebook, Twitter, their blog, without knowing how badly they’re screwing up until it’s too late.

Of course, maybe if that Applebee’s person had listened to some of the comments they were so busy deleting, they might have learned a few things about social media and Facebook in particular right quick.

Now from the opposite side of the coin, here’s John Scalzi, president of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) doing his best to stomp on a troll. A particularly heinous troll. I’ll spare you the details, as what’s mostly relevant here is how he’s decided to try tackling the situation. “Solving My Racist Sexist Homophobic Dipshit Problem”. Don’t let the title scare you off, the post itself is pretty tame. But feel free to read my summary below instead of or before you click.

To sum: Scalzi has thrown out there that he will be donating money to causes this troll would be firmly against any time said troll mentions him in one of his blog posts. So the troll now has two options. Keep talking about Scalzi, causing money to go to causes he’s against. Or stop talking about Scalzi.

And if anyone can pull this off well, it’s John Scalzi. He’s a well-known blogger and Twitterer. You may know him as the bacon on my cat guy. He’s even more well-known in science fiction and fantasy circles, the community in which this troll is trying to stir up trouble.

Both of these examples can only lead me to the conclusion that it’s better for a business to not do social media AT ALL, than to do it in ignorance. But if you can do it with a deep knowledge of how social media works and of that particular platform’s norms and mores, well, it can be absolutely stunningly effective.


5 thoughts on “Why every librarian should take a social media class like this

  1. Nettie

    Excellent post, Julie! Thoroughly entertaining and enlightening. I am in full agreement. Social media is powerful tool for better…or worse in the wrong hands. Web 2.0 is without a doubt a crucial part of libraries “keeping with the times” and a class like this should be a given for all of us headed out there packin’ MLIS’.

    1. Nomi

      I just find it horrifying how little common sense seems to show up at various points. It’s true, I tend to use social media in the minimum and to be very circumspect about what I might share with the world, but at the same time, who are these morons? Because really, that’s the nicest way to describe such behavior, moronic! Be sensible, make reasonable choices about what should possibly be shared with the public and assume that everything that you share will be visible to EVERYONE, so if you wouldn’t comfortably share it with your boss, your grandmother, or your principal, DON’T SHARE!

  2. Michelle Chimento

    I am duly frightened!
    I am a beginner at any social presence. This is one reason I wanted this class.
    I have two sons, one 24 and the other 21. I am certain that with this information you will know that I am behind in social networking skills. My sons just laugh at me-it is easy for them since they could walk they were technologically savvy.
    I hope that my ignorance can be remedied! Fear is not an option.
    I pray that my native suspicion and refusal to just fling anything out in the public will save me.

    Keep in mind that is I.Q. is a bell shaped curve, half of the world has less than 100 I.Q. and 100 is average. This realization alone is scary! Remember those kids in school that were slow..they are now adults?!

  3. J. Andrews Post author

    I think if you screw up once, then apologize correctly, the Internet is forgiving. The organizations that get into the most trouble are the ones doing damage control badly, and then very, very badly.

    In brighter news, John Scalzi’s post has blown up since I originally linked to it. He’s gotten people to pledge like 50K to these charities, and has received some media attention to it as well. Not that he didn’t have a large enough following without the media attention to affect real change on the Internet and in the world.

  4. Christy Confetti Higgins

    Hi Julie – what a great blog post! I really enjoyed reading your post and the links you include in your post to really showcase your message – do it right or don’t do it as the risks are too high.

    Thank you for sharing this perspective and the impactful examples!



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