Is Social Media Important for Libraries?

Todd Vandenbark

Collection of social media logos in the shape of a face.According to a recently released Nielsen report, the popularity of social networks and blogs continues to grow, and now accounts for “nearly a quarter of total time spent on the Internet.” Facebook is the most popular such site for Americans, and nearly 40% of people using these services access them via mobile phone. And twice as many people aged 55+ visited social networking sites on their mobile phone than last year.

The Krafty Librarian recently asked some thoughtful questions about the value of social media to medical and academic librarians:

  • Since it is apparent that social media is being used and it is here to stay for a while, what are the biggest issues you face personally and professionally?
  • Do you worry about a lack of privacy?  As more and more companies are going on Facebook and Twitter what is your thought about following them?  Do you follow them? Why or why not?
  • What is your library or institution doing on Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare? How is your library or institution engaging its users? How do you measure engagement?
  • Does the increase of bots on Twitter and inactive Facebook followers concern you?

The Eccles Library is trying to engage its users via its Twitter feed, Facebook page and this blog. One hot topic among medical academic libraries is health literacy, which Wikipedia defines as “an individual’s ability to read, understand and use healthcare information to make decisions and follow instructions for treatment.” Twitter searches using “#healthliteracy” has proven to be informative in learning what that site’s users are reading and thinking about this topic, as noted in a previous post. And as I posted more tweets on this topic, our feed has gained a few more followers.

On our Facebook page, the topic that appears to have garnered the most comments and Likes was copyright issues. But measuring engagement has proven elusive. Having worked in business previously, the value of time spent on a particular project was described as a return on investment or ROI. The book Social Media ROI by Olivier Blanchard just arrived on my desk via Interlibrary Loan, and may offer some insights on how to apply this concept to libraries and their use of social media. Stay tuned…