ARLG and social media policies

Mid-way through the Social Media Driving Licence, I hopped in to Meg Westbury‘s car and we drove down to the University of Sussex to give a workshop on Social Media Policies as part of the 2014 ARLG conference. For those of you not caught up with the heady array of acronyms in librarianship, ARLG is Academic and Research Libraries Group, part of CILIP (or Chartered Institute of Information Professionals).

I can’t claim any originality in this particular talk as Meg asked me if I would be interested and she was keen to co-present with me which was rather lovely.

So we spoke for a relatively short space of time about the importance of a good social media policy and how it can help when venturing in to the world of social media as a library.

We did some rather clean slides using the excellent Haiku Deck (which we then had to download as a PowerPoint because of technology fails) and got our teach on.

Meg spoke about what social media is and what it can offer to libraries and users. Social media, apart from any else, is free and we can get a lot from it with relatively little effort. She also highlighted how social media can humanise the library service, if done well. This is always a point that people find surprising about social media but it is also something that I find is often the most powerful part of using social media well.

Social media can help us connect with our user base, get feedback and show off what we can do, as well as promoting our brand. Now I realise that the word ‘brand’ often results in a sharp intake of breath but we all have brands to maintain. Sure, a lot of our services won’t have its own dedicated logo, catchy slogan or mascot but our services represent things: integrity, professionalism, open access to information. Those are all our brand and we can built on that through consistent messaging and campaigns.

Meg moved on to discuss fears and concerns with regards to social media. Most of these concerns were pretty typical ones: lack of time and training. Social media does not have to take that long if done well and systematically, and training can be done on the job especially if you have a good social media policy backing you up when you’re still getting to grips with stuff.

Meg then started explaining a bit more about what a good social media policy can offer, especially with regards to ensuring social media sustainability, consistency and basically making sure people understand what they’re doing and why.

It was then my turn to discuss the social media policy that we have at Cambridge Judge Business School Information and Library Services. Our policy is very service specific and what we try to achieve is rather different to other School departments, hence the need for specialised policies.

I spoke about our Facebookables and Tweetables, which are essentially examples of good content that we can use for each platform. As each service is subtly different, we create content differently. In addition, we consider our audiences to be different on different platforms so we tailor our messages accordingly.

I went on to talk about the benefit and importance of a good social media rota. We have a rota for the team which includes desk shifts, enquiries work and all the other typical day-to-day things that go into keeping a library service running. Social media is a part of that and so we all take it in turns to generate content and respond to our followers on our various platforms. If we didn’t have a rota, other stuff would get in the way and it wouldn’t get done. Simple. If you’re going to do social media, you need to take it seriously and put in systems to make sure that it happens regularly and consistently.

I then moved on to a practical exercise where I asked people to start thinking about the following few points, write down their answers and then discuss in groups. These points were:

  • Who is your audience? (very important to identify this early on)
  • Why be on social media? (don’t just do it for the sake of it…have a goal!)
  • How will you keep it human? (stock message about opening times and nothing else is not going to work!)
  • What will you be promoting? (your service? yourself? your collection?
  • How will you manage staffing? (this is an integral part of the process)

I prepared a worksheet which is available for reuse. Meg and I also put together a list of what we think are ‘pretty good’ social media policies from elsewhere.

Once everyone had had a chance to talk amongst themselves, I encouraged people to feed back their ideas to the room and we had some great discussions from everyone. The key thing to remember with social media policies is that everyone’s approach will be as different and specific as the place within which they’re working so everyone came at it from a completely different angle which made for a fun discussion.

We concluded the session by briefly talking about the importance of measuring impact (built-in stats are your friend!) and also benchmarking your social media provision against other similar services that are doing the same sorts of things as you.

Overall it was a really fun session and it was really only made that way because of the great contributions and energy that the participants brought to the session.

Social media doesn’t have to be scary and a good policy can help set your social media efforts free, rather than hindering them. Having a good framework means that everyone knows what they’re doing, what is expected of them and where they can look if they need to double-check that they’re still on target with what everyone else is doing.

Image credit: Kristina Alexanderson via Flickr

 

 

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