Social Media? Using Online Tools to Improve Service

Article excerpt

Are efforts to use social media worth it? Indeed, they are. I see many reasons for libraries--or practically any other organization--to use these tools.

Listening

Listening comes first. Before your library starts "talking back" online, set up listening tools to see and hear what customers are saying about you, your services, and your community. Listening tools are easy to establish. For starters, create a search in Twitter for your library's name (for example, "topekalibrary" and "topeka library" for Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library). Save that search. Now, whenever someone uses those keywords in a tweet, you'll see it (assuming you revisit that search in your Twitter reader of choice). Next, set up and save an advanced Twitter search for the word "library" and the name of your town or city. When someone uses the word "library" in your vicinity, they may be talking about you. You can set up similar searches in Google Alerts (google.corn/alerts) and subscribe to those alerts via email or RSS. When a new search result appears, you will be notified.

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Using Twitter and Google Alerts helps you learn what customers are saying and how they interact with your library. Use this information as an informal focus group. Once you're comfortable with social media, start answering questions that pop up.

Communicating

Social media is called "social" for a reason. They enable communication. Using social media tools through the acts of friending and following gives your organization direct access to customers. This is huge. If people choose to follow you, it's because they like your organization and want to stay updated. Your library needs to follow through by providing interesting information.

Answering

Answer questions as they arise. You'll see two types of questions: direct and indirect. Direct questions are asked by a customer via social media. Your role, obviously, is to answer the question. …