Google+, libraries and when to jump ship

I’m currently taking a class in Coursera, called E-Learning and Digital Cultures.  As an academic librarian, I’m always interested in how social media and digital technology in general can be used for teaching and learning and thought this class would be interesting to take alongside this one.  Last Friday, the professor’s for the course hosted a Google Hangout to discuss some of the learning material from Week 1.  It worked out quite well as a way to interact with a large (very large) student group synchronously online.  

I don’t really use Google Plus much.  In fact, I hardly been on there at all since I opened the account.  But it seems to be gaining in popularity and one of our course readings this past week predicted that more libraries will be opening a Google Plus accounts.

This has always been one of my issues with libraries using social media.  Well, not really an issue.  More like a nuisance.  As much as I love social media and advocate its use,  I have a hard time trying to determine when and if a library should think about migrating from one social media platform to another, or whether to maintain both or multiple.  Our library has a Facebook and a Twitter, but we’ve found that Facebook tends to have more interaction.  We’re not sure why or what it is, but the community where I live doesn’t seem to be very interested in using Twitter.  So, we’ve been discussing the idea of deleting the Twitter account altogether and focusing our interactions using Facebook.  Another thing we had to consider is that our campus as a whole (such as other departments…Student activities, Alumni Association, etc) have adopted Facebook but haven’t opened up Twitter accounts.  So there’s this sense that we have to be consistent with what everyone else is doing.  

One of the things I will be most interested in learning from this class is whether there is a way to identify when a library should jump ship to a different social media tool or when to consider using multiple tools.  


10 thoughts on “Google+, libraries and when to jump ship

  1. Meriwether

    I’m not really sure what to make of Google+. I stop by and read posts occasionally, but I don’t write anything there. It’s a much more public forum than I’m comfortable with; blogs feel like small satellite communities that occasionally intersect, but Google+ feels like a billboard where millions of people are writing messages aimed at the entire sentient population of the known universe.

    The Hangouts seem like they have potential to be useful. Limor Fried of Adafruit Industries has “show and tell” and “ask an engineer” hangouts pretty often, and they seem very popular. There might be some library systems that could have virtual staff meetings in Google+ Hangouts. But I don’t know that libraries need to have virtual meetings with patrons.

    I think Facebook and Twitter are dissimilar enough that they could both offer benefits, under the right circumstances. Facebook seems to develop a longer narrative; Twitter seems more like a short-story collection. There might be a narrative there, but it’s intended for scattershot attention, not devoted concentration. There are two options: drop Twitter, assuming it will never catch on; or make your Tweets so memorable that they attract a following. (I gather that this is not easy, because apparently there are people for hire that will write your Tweets for you.)

    Consistency is definitely important. The whole purpose of social media is to broadcast your message, and it’s impossible to develop a coherent message without consistency.

    1. Carleen Post author

      Hi Meriwether, you make some good points about options for Twitter. I’ll be honest, we haven’t really put much effort into making our Twitter unique and interesting. Basically, we just have our Facebook updates fed automatically to our Twitter which, if you read anything about best practices for social media, is considered kind of a no-no. I’m with you on Google+. I can see a good use for the Hangouts. My experience with them so far have been positive and I think they offer a decent free alternative to tools like Eluminate/Blackboard Collaborate that are used in teaching/learning settings.

  2. Lori

    I agree…determining when to jump in, when to jump ship or change social media is a challenge. As a one person (Jack[ie] of many trades!) librarian, I am often overwhelmed with the amount of ‘additional work’ that all of these various social media would amount to and I really need to get the most for my efforts. I think my next step, and am hopeful we’ll discuss as a class, how to evaluate what our patrons most need and want as a starting point. Survey anyone?! 😀

    1. Carleen Post author

      Yes, indeed. In the college world, I’ve actually heard many students didn’t really like it when libraries and schools started using Facebook. Like we were invading their social turf. I can definitely understand that which is why finding a way to evaluate/survey our patrons would be so useful.

  3. bibliolge

    Same here. We also have a Twitter account. Our blog posts automatically get fed into tweeter…yet we don’t see much activity. Our Facebook pages don’t have many likes and our Blog entries don’t get comments. We’ve thought about doing some sort of incentive to use our social media — something like “Like us Facebook and your name will be entered to win X!” In these times of dwindling staff resources, we have to prioritize. Having social media presence means commitment — you can’t just set something up and not post!

    1. Carleen Post author

      I’ve always felt a little weird about asking people to Like a page. It makes it feel more like a popularity contest when what you’re really trying to do is find a way to reach out in a meaningful way. We found that we started to get more Likes after we started sharing more personable updates like “Today’s Rose’s birthday, come by and which her a happy birthday” along with a pic….that kind of stuff. People like pictures. 🙂 I also hear ya about “dwindling staff resources”. We’re going through the same thing here. With only three librarians and four clerks, we have so many commitments and we inevitably have to set priorities. Sometimes social media ends up falling low on that list. 😦

  4. Barnaby Hughes

    I also enrolled in that Coursera class, but have yet to get involved. This semester has turned out to be busier than I expected. How are you liking it?

    1. Carleen Post author

      Hi Barnaby, the classes I have enrolled in have been surprisingly good. Have to admit, I never really complete all the assignments, and I probably lurk more nowadays then I do participate, but I like it.

  5. J. Andrews

    I don’t know how large a population, but Google+ lost some users early on by insisting people use their real, legal names on it. This was a problem for people who were transgender, but hadn’t had their legal names changed, people who were trying to hide from stalkers and other criminals, and others who were just so used to be another name online. It showed an insensitivity to real concerns and an ignorance of how people form identities online.

    I joined it at one point and didn’t see the point of it, so I dropped it pretty quickly.

  6. Christy Confetti Higgins

    Great discussion everyone and you bring up great questions Carleen which hopefully you’ll explore more in your Social Media Plan.

    You heard from EBSCO that they try it all and figure out what their users like and don’t like. Since they address all different audiences – public, academic, medical, corporate, government, etc. – they tend to have a presence in a lot of social media.

    There is not clear cut correct answer especially with new social tools, new features of current tools, and users changing all the time. Sometimes you have to give something a try and see how it works. Also, you need to really look at who your users are and where they like to engage, participate, and use information / social tools.

    Also, keep in mind that adoption and engagement take time. If Twitter is not working well for you now, how long have you been using it? What type of information are you sharing? And, how do your users learn that you have a Twitter account? There are lots of questions and a variety of possible answers but you are thinking about those scenarios and that’s good!


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