This week, we discussed the appeal and potential of microblogging. When we update our Facebook status or post onto Twitter, we are microblogging. While I am a daily Facebook user and am familiar with the status update form of microblogging, I haven’t become a regular user of Twitter (yet?). Personally, I have never connected with Twitter. I’ve had two separate accounts and in both instances, I eventually deleted the account. I’ve used Twitter in the past to follow my favourite bands, authors, TV show pages, actors and news websites. But I found that the types of updates posted on Twitter were normally not particularly interesting, or relevant to me. Both times that I tried out Twitter (in about 2009, then again in 2011 I believe), not many of my friends or family members had accounts yet. Those who did have accounts normally used it to post about food, or to complain. I didn’t see any appeal in reading those posts, and I eventually gave up on Twitter. The second time I deleted my account, I vowed to never go back! Nowadays, many more people that I know are using the website, so perhaps I will eventually return. In any case, the increase in users of the site is good news for libraries.
In David Allen Kennedy’s How Your Library May Not be Using Twitter but Should, he outlines the main ways librarians can use Twitter to their advantage. He identifies five main types of library tweets: (1) the average library tweet, (2) the materials promotion tweet, (3) the promoting things as they happen tweet, (4) the “it doesn’t have to require a library visit” tweet and (5) interaction tweets with other users. After spending some time perusing the Twitter accounts of the London Public and Toronto Public Libraries, I found that these types of tweets were fairly consistent with the content that was being posted on these accounts. Both library’s accounts seem to do a fair job of promoting events without bombarding users with reminders. Both accounts post several times a day, tweeting about library events, meetings, branch renovations, closures and re-openings, and community events. But most importantly, both libraries seem to be making an active effort to reply to or to retweet posts users make about the respective library systems. Kennedy asserts that these forms of interaction with other users are one of the most “useful ways libraries can use Twitter but don’t.” It’s important for libraries to interact with other users as a way to address patron concerns that are posted online, and also to retweet compliments that the libraries are given!
In order to remain current, libraries should read all posts directed at them, and should also check up on hashtags relevant to the library that may be of interest. These posts may be helpful to librarians trying to roll out new library initiatives or changes. As Kennedy suggests, since Twitter’s popularity is on the rise, the site presents a prime opportunity for a library to reach users. TPL has 15,400+ followers and LPL has nearly 4,000. With these amounts of followers, information about library events and programs is bound to reach more people than traditional, physical promotion at a library. In smaller libraries, Twitter may not yield enough benefits to keep an account running, but the website has seemingly become a staple of larger library systems.
On a final note, here’s a neat website that I found that shows Real-time Local Twitter Trends. I found it particularly interesting to see how certain trends are prevalent across all continents, like the Harlem Shake meme (if you haven’t seen any of these videos yet, check out Western’s Harlem Shake video).