Connecting to all members

Using Facebook for this purpose has a bunch of downsides … many related to the ownership and management of Facebook. Specifically, the Facebook discussion in the lecture made me think of my own usage of Facebook. I am probably an early adopter of Facebook for my age group although this is almost certainly an accident—Facebook was originally only open to undergraduates at colleges and universities and I was an undergraduate at RIT so I was eligible to join. Early on I didn’t use it for much because I didn’t have connections with my classmates—I was a distance student at RIT but being a distance student then (not even ten years ago—I graduated in 2006) was not nearly as connected as distance study now connects participants.

When Facebook was mentioned in the lecture I naturally went to my own Facebook page to look for San Francisco Public Library—this is a library which I use frequently (less frequently lately, as I explore the services I have access to through the University of California). I remembered adding them to my “Like” list early on but I couldn’t recall seeing anything from them on Facebook lately.

I had to search to find SFPL and, when I did find the page, there were items posted as recently as Friday. How did I miss this? I even missed out on a cool giveaway … and I’m pretty sure we all like free stuff. Eight of my Facebook friends had also liked the page: three were library people (and only one of them is a likely SFPL member) and two were journalists. Only one was actually in the service area of the library. Two aspects of their Facebook participation stood out: the number of “Likes” of their page (they were celebrating their 10,000th “Like”) and the entries themselves. Specifically, most entries weren’t particularly inviting.

Most of the items on their page were announcements—I understand that not every Facebook update will engage everyone, but most entries engaged a small fraction of one percent of the potential audience. It also seemed that, with more than ten thousand people watching the page, more people might interact with items posted there. Instead, at best most items had a few dozen likes and only a handful of replies were present on many items.

So … is this successful outreach? I’m not sure: while SFPL could be more inviting in the items it shares, Facebook also contributes to the problem. You see, at some point Facebook changed how it presents items from pages that were “Liked.” In the past the presentation of status items from liked pages was more egalitarian, but now liking a page isn’t enough: you have to have added the page to a personally-defined interest group and then have regular interactions with the page to see statuses from that page regularly. I have, at the moment, 477 pages that I’ve “Liked” but I’ve only listed a small fraction of those pages on interest lists, so I don’t see most of the updates on most of those pages. This may be a good thing for me (since it ensures that I see entries from pages that belong to people I know as well) but isn’t so good for those who own those pages, especially when Facebook changes the rules along the way.

What matters from all this? To reach all users a hyperlinked library has to be focused on each opportunity to engage members—falling into a rut can be costly. Librarians must also pay attention to the environment: new means of engagement become available regularly and librarians will need to go where their members are and existing avenues of engagement will change over time. Finally, to engage members broadly librarians will have to spread their effort across several channels … different channels will attract different parts of the membership and librarians will want to reach out to their entire communities.

One thought on “Connecting to all members

  1. michael says:

    This is a thoughtful commentary. I am still trying to understand the mechanics and potential for Facebook pages – I have one for our Little Free Library.

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