Social Media Strategies and Your Library: Giving Up Control and Focusing on Creating an Authentic Relationship with Clients and Fellow Librarians Are Central to Creating an Effective Social Media Strategy

By Brown, Kathleen; Lastres, Steve et al. | Information Outlook, March-April 2013 | Go to article overview

Social Media Strategies and Your Library: Giving Up Control and Focusing on Creating an Authentic Relationship with Clients and Fellow Librarians Are Central to Creating an Effective Social Media Strategy


Brown, Kathleen, Lastres, Steve, Murray, Jennifer, Information Outlook


Social media are now prevalent means of business communication in addition to being popular tools for personal use. Social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Ning turn simple dialogue into interactive conversations by allowing us to connect with our clients, patrons and others. Moreover, these conversations can become even more complex because we can use social media for both personal and professional communication.

Information professionals looking to create social media rules for themselves and their organizations will find several sources they can consult. One such source is Charlene Li, author of Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead in the Future. According to Li, the "biggest indicator for success has been an open mind-set--the ability of leaders to let go of control at the right time in the right place and in the right amount."

Using this and other themes from Li's book as well as examples from our own organizations, we will demonstrate how we have successfully participated in an open dialogue with our stakeholders. We hope this information will encourage readers to create and implement a social media participation strategy that embraces the idea of open leadership in a way that suits the needs of both the librarian and the employer.

Practicing Open Leadership

Before applying the concepts of open leadership to social media, it is important to understand this distinct approach to leadership. Li defines open leadership as individuals or organizations "having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals." To yield maximum benefit from this approach, you must have an authentic relationship with your employees, clients, patrons and followers.

Establishing an open leadership relationship with these stakeholders necessitates practicing five rules of open leadership: (1) respecting the power that your patrons and employees have in their relationship with you and others, (2) sharing content constantly to assist in building trust, (3) nurturing curiosity and humility in yourself as well as in others, (4) holding openness accountable, and (5) forgiving the failures of others and yourself. The budding relationships that will flourish as a result of applying these rules will reward each party involved.

With these principles in mind, you can use social media to empower yourself as a leader. The first step to becoming an open leader through social media is to create your own social media strategy. (Remember, this strategy can be created at both the professional and personal levels.)

First, identify your social media goal. Determine what type of social media user you will be. Will you participate in dialogue, follow, or innovate? The Five Types of Social Media Users chart (Figure 1) can help you learn more and decide what type of user you would like to be. You also can review the Social Media Engagement Pyramid (Figure 2) to aid you in this decision.

Figure 1 5 Types of Social Media Influencers

The Networker       has the biggest contact list and is found on
(Social             all platforms. He or she who knows everybody
Butterfly)          and everybody knows him or her.

The Opinion Leader  can become the best ambassador of a brand. He
(Thought Leader)    or she has built a strong authority in his or
                    her field through credibility. His or her
                    messages are most often commented on and
                    re-tweeted.

The Discoverer      is always the first to use a new platform.
(Trendsetter)       Constantly on the lookout for new trends,
                    he/she becomes the "hub" in the sector.

The Sharer          distributes information to the bloggers and
(Reporter)          journalists through specialized webzines. He
                    or she usually amplifies messages.

The User
(Everyday           represents the regular customer. … 

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