Thing 13: how libraries can use Facebook to connect with their users

Libraries on Facebook 

This subject is quite relevant to me at the moment, as Lauren and I set up the SSL’s Facebook page last year.


It’s been going since October 2010, and as I write the page has 95 fans. It was quite an accomplishment when the number of ‘real’ fans overtook the fans that were SSL staff!

Since Lauren and I were already on Facebook, we were both pretty familiar with setting up a ‘page’. Since it’s been going a little while now, I have a clearer idea of the pros and cons of a Facebook page for a library, and why a library might decide on this tool over (or along with) other web technologies to connect with their readers.

Pros

  • When an admin posts on the library page, that post appears in their followers’ news feed.  In this way, the information goes TO the person, rather than them seeking out the information, for example by going to the website. You are engaging with the reader on a level they are already familiar with and using very frequently.
  • Facebook is especially useful for academic libraries, since, in my experience, it is mostly students who use Facebook.
  • Posting on a page, you are given the option to post a status, photo, link or video, which gives a multi-media platform on which to engage with users. Some of the things I have posted about on the SSL page include links to e-resources, posters of upcoming events, or just quick general information, e.g. changes to opening hours.

 
Cons

  • One thing we have experienced since setting up the SSL page, and have gotten frustrated with, is the way Facebook often changes its layout. It can be hard to keep up to date with the site if you don’t have someone who uses it regularly working on it. We found this when we had just completed the staff manual entry, when Facebook announced pages were to become more like personal profiles.
  • A worry is that library Facebook pages may be intrusive. I use Facebook myself, but for keeping in touch with friends and for frittering away time when I’m meant to be doing other important things. No one wants to be reminded to do work when they’re intentionally avoiding that looming essay, nor do they want to remember that shocking fine when they are at home relaxing. It’s a fine line between engaging users in their own environment, and intruding in their personal domain.
  • What to post?! Never mind intruding if you haven’t a thing to post! We often struggle to come up with exciting posts, and to keep them upbeat. It’s all too easy to start posting about negative things, which will just make people ‘unlike’ your page.

There are of course many more of both categories, but those sprang to mind from my own experience.

Some libraries probably do make the most of Facebook to engage with their users, but it is difficult to say whether it is best placed to do so. I have enjoyed setting up the SSL page, and do think it is a good idea to have one in the ether, simply as another way to find our information on a platform that is highly used by our readers.