Magazine article Online

A SWOT Analysis for Social Media in Libraries

Magazine article Online

A SWOT Analysis for Social Media in Libraries

Article excerpt

It's probably no secret that we live in an information-driven society in which people use information strategically for various purposes. Libraries are major information providers and facilitators. Moving from clay tablets to card catalogs and then to digital catalogs, libraries have always played a very important role in purveying information as a social commodity. In an extension to this traditional role, librarians have become some of the earliest adopters of social networking technologies in order to connect with their users. Although libraries have always connected people with information, social media is beginning to play an important role in marketing information to library users and in branding the library as a community hub.

Social media gained global attention with its very effective use in the political arena. The Obama presidential campaign will be studied for years to come as a very successful social media campaign. President Obama's campaign team basically crowdsourced his campaign in ways never before seen in the world of politics. He reached out to a large audience using electronic tools that are easily available to anyone.

Similarly, although on a different scale, librarians have been quietly marketing their resources and services and connecting with their users successfully using various forms of social media, in addition to their traditional communication tools. Librarians have realized the marketing potential of social media that sometimes bear frivolous-sounding names--Digg, StumbleUpon, Flickr, Twitter, Delicious, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Ning, and many others too numerous to be listed here. Library social media enable two-way communication between librarians and users; the input from users is crucial for libraries in making strategic decisions to provide optimum services to their clientele.


Librarians have the mojo to change people's lives in unimagined ways thanks to all the information and information tools at their disposal. In their mission to connect with library users, librarians have adopted social media tools as part of the Library 2.0 movement. Interestingly enough, people, upon first encountering these tools, haven't always taken them seriously, writing them off due to the perceived silliness or frivolity of their names. Sometimes they have resisted using them only to find later that these social media tools are actually serious stuff. One of the greatest advantages of marketing with social media is that users can be anywhere to receive information-related news from librarians. They don't need to physically be in the library.

Social media offers libraries and librarians the opportunity to be more proactive in their outreach to their users. Just as businesses are using social media to develop customer loyalty, libraries are using social media to develop user loyalty. Considering that this kind of marketing is a growing phenomenon among libraries, a SWOT analysis of social media in libraries encourages librarians to take stock of their usage of social media, to guard against inappropriate applications, and to offer effective implementations. A SWOT analysis, presented in an orderly, methodical manner, will appeal to stakeholders hesitating about enabling the technology.


SWOT analyses are a staple of the business world. They enable business entities to understand their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Such analyses drive businesses to strategically chart their business direction more effectively as they cultivate the customer loyalty that is ultimately crucial to their bottom line.

In a somewhat similar manner, a SWOT analysis of social media in libraries will give libraries the opportunity to use such media to develop a dynamic relationship between themselves and their users; they have the potential to produce more user-centered libraries that are constantly evolving to maintain their relevancy as they compete with other online resources. …

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