Everybody’s Talking at Me: THINGS 4, 5 & 6

Photo Credit: manganite  via Compfight  cc

Photo Credit: manganite via Compfight cc

… I don’t hear a word they’re saying.

Well, OK, yes I do. I’m a pretty heavy user of social media, but perhaps not of a wide range of services all of the time. I’ve dabbled with a few things here and there, some I’ve stuck with, other’s I’ve not gone back to. All for various reasons. This post covers Week 2, Social Networking and Things 4, 5 & 6 of the 23 Things RHUL sessions.

Lets start at the beginning (of my engagement with social media):

1. Fora & chat rooms: my first real interaction with a social media style format. Most of these were private & closed off (and no, I didn’t use them as a conspiracy theorist or for some nefarious purpose, just chatting & sharing information with like-minded people: music, film, food and librarianship). I don’t tend to use these that often now as their functionality is often limited or I just don’t have the time to engage in long protracted discussions. But …. it seems to me that we are seeing the return of this type of service, albeit in a more sophisticated format, as professional ‘community of practice’ tools (such as ‘virtual staff rooms’ or ‘project spaces’). Maybe more on this in another post.

2. Blogs & comments sections of newspapers & other online publications: I’ve been reading and interacting with other people’s blogs & news services for years. Less so nowadays due to the proliferation of blogs across many areas of professional & person interest. I’m more of a reader & a lurker than a poster / commenter on the whole.

3. Facebook: Love it or hate it, it is very popular, easy to use and brings in levels of interaction and functionality that very few other services offer (my 70+ year old Mum uses it, so it can’t be difficult – she likes to tell me off for ‘swearing on the internet’). I tend to use it to keep in touch with family, friends who live abroad, work people who are happy to listen to my ‘BS’ (though I’m never critical of work of course!) and those friends who don’t use Twitter (see below). It’s a service that makes it easy to interact on a micro-level; a quick ‘poke’, a brief ‘message’ a cheeky ‘status update’, the uploading of a photo or a link … all can easily tell your ‘friends’ that you are still alive, without having to write a magnum opus each time you need to get in touch with someone.

It’s not all good though: I don’t like Facebook’s intrusive nature and complex & tricksy settings. Privacy is important to me. I don’t want open up my life to the general public, and especially to advertisers and corporate bodies.

But Facebook really does offer a good platform for sharing what you are doing (down to detailed levels of the mundane – here I point the finger squarely at …. me), as and when you want to. It can work as a diary of sorts, and as a means for others to interact with you, comment on your behaviour & actions, to provide useful information, and to interact in a flexible multi-media environment.

4. Twitter: I love Twitter. I have 2 accounts: my work account (@libraryrussell) and my personal account. My personal account is kind of ‘anonymous’. I keep my personal one for friends outside of work and for the friends and followers that I have met on Twitter through my time tweeting on my personal account. This is because I’m a firm believer in free speech and freedom of expression, but I also understand that you need to be careful what you say in public especially in relation to your professional life & work, it may bring disrepute to or be seen as ‘the opinion of’ your employer. Sometimes work and play really do not mix …..

My work Twitter account is not very active in relation to my own posts, but I use it for professional awareness, keeping up to date with events relating to librarianship & the information profession and communicating with others in the industry.

My personal Twitter account (which I use a lot in my own time) is mainly used for spouting whatever is in my head, talking about food, drink & restaurants, films & literature, music & gigs, expressing my joy, venting my spleen, and chatting with friends. I love Twitter.

5. Google+, Pinterest, etc.: I’ve set up a Google+ account but I know of very few people who actively use it. People don’t seem to have strayed away from Twitter & Facebook. I don’t have much of an opinion on it as yet other than: ‘meh’. I’ve also got a Pinterest account, but again I don’t know of many folks who use it extensively from a personal perspective. I can really see how it could be quite a powerful communication, user engagement and marketing tool for organisations / services though. Visual tools are goooooood.

In the work place: my view is that all organisations / services need to engage at the very least with the big, more established social media tools: blogs (for more detailed news, advice and service information); Twitter and Facebook should be used more frequently to get out ‘headlines’ & links to information on your blog, quick service updates, good news items, events, reminders (we often don’t do enough ‘reminding’), anything that can usefully be micro-messaged (it has to be relevant, useful  and/or engaging and/or entertaining  though). All of these tools should be used together for outreach, marketing, help & advice and for user engagement. All will allow users to take part in ongoing dialogues with our services and, I believe, create a sense of belonging and being part of a user community (for many users if not all).

BUT …. social media tools need to be used in a way that is appropriate to the means, the message and the user community. I mentioned using them as marketing tools above. In this respect, I mean ‘marketing’ in a lower-case sense: fluid, informal & frequent. Not just in the more formal strategic creation of promotional campaigns, materials, etc. Sure, they should be part of the delivery mechanisms used for this & included in strategies and managed in a professional manner. But the professional use of the social media tools should be, on the whole, outside of (or at least as well as) an organisation’s strictly formal structures, terminology & syntax, and not be stifled by formal processes and the outcomes of committees etc. IMHO (in my humble opinion).

Right then. After all of that …. a nice bit of Harry Nilsson (plus 2 others as we’re covering 3 ‘Things’ here):

As this was quite an opinionated post …. Cameo: ‘Word Up’:

And this because it’s lovely: Jack ‘Lesser’ Lewis’ Awkward Energy: ‘Library Ghosts’. (Not sure about the stereotyping of the librarian, but at least she’s dancing with a wolf. Which, I think, is a good thing.):

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