Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Putting the 'me' into social media

Snappy title, eh? It seems like I start most posts on here with an apology for not updating very often, but I feel that it might be necessary again. It's been almost two months since I decided that I was definitely definitely going to blog more often, which is a lot longer than I would have liked. Soz! I actually have something to blog about now though, you lucky people.

Last week I attended a training session called 'Enhancing Customer Experience Using Social Media'. The excellent Lisa Jeskins, who I think is going to be doing a similar session for CILIP North West, gave us a very useful introduction to social media tools and how, as an organisation, we could be using them to improve the services we offer.

The session gave me a lot to think about, and it inspired me to write a little something about my organisation's current social media policy. Although, having read the social media policy, I'm not going to say anywhere near as much as I'd like to for fear of getting a severe telling off.

If I had to use one word to describe it, the word I would choose would definitely be 'defensive'. On the organisation's intranet, before you even open the social media policy, three 'useful links' have been provided in the sidebar. There are links to three online news articles and the headlines read:

And possibly my favourite...

So you'll forgive me for not fully dissecting our social media policy! Within the organisation, access to social media is blocked for all but a handful of staff and our existing social media channels are locked down and controlled by a select few. I can see why this is the case. We're a large (charitable) organisation. If a member of staff says something naughty on the internet it could be extremely costly for us. I think this fear of social media, however, is stopping us from achieving great things. Maybe sometimes it's worth the risk?

I read a report recently about visually impaired people's use of social media tools (link here) in Norway. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to suggest that the results would be reasonably similar if the study was repeated in the UK. They found that 85% of the visually impaired 15-24 year olds they spoke to accessed Facebook at least once a week. This being the case, we need to make sure that we have a presence on social media websites, as more and more potential users of our service are accessing them regularly.

This is something that Lisa stressed on a number of occasions throughout the day. Facebook and Twitter are not a replacement for more traditional channels of communicating with service users, they are an extra. Some people feel more comfortable using social media to communicate in a more informal manner with organisations and this is something we need to facilitate. If our customers feel happier contacting us via Facebook rather than phoning us, then we should be making steps to provide this service for them.

The library currently has a Twitter account, but it is not accessed by customer services/reader advice staff. The library doesn't have its own Facebook page, but occasionally has news items and other bits and bobs published on the organisation's main page. Maybe changes are in the pipeline, but at the moment it would be difficult for a customer to get any help or guidance using our social media channels.

At the beginning of next year (hopefully!) we'll be implementing a new library management system (or Reading Business System, as we've been calling it). I'm still not completely sure about all the added functionality we'll be able to offer our users. I know that, for the first time, you'll be able to choose books for yourself using the OPAC, which will be brilliant. I don't know if there's any provision for utilising user generated content or anything like that though. It would be great if the new online catalogue allowed our customers to share the books they've read on social media sites which would provoke discussions about the services we provide. The more people know about what we do, the better!

In the training session, concerns were raised about how complaints are dealt with on social media, in full view of everyone. Isn't it a little bit like airing your dirty laundry in public? Well, no. Providing good customer service and resolving any issues is just good public relations, isn't it? In a typical phone call, only the customer is aware that they have received a good service and their problem has been solved. On Twitter or Facebook, the customer's friends or followers can also see that we've been able to help them as best we can. Of course some things aren't appropriate for discussing in an open forum, but these can be discussed via private messages or we can say 'I can't help you on Facebook, but I can phone you to discuss the matter further'.

It will be interesting to see if anything happens as a result of the training sessions that Lisa has presented here. There's a whole load of opportunities for us to improve the service we offer using social media sites, and I hope we can start to do more in the future. Here's a couple of things that I reckon we could do with social media:

- Have a library specific Facebook page, allowing us to create groups for children and young people and online reading groups
- Encourage service users to use social media to contact us with enquiries
- Encourage service users to discuss the services we provide. Facilitate discussions on what people like to read, which books they've borrowed from us that they don't like, the things they like about the service (AND the things they don't like)
- The thing I said earlier about sharing things from our OPAC on social media sites

I'm sure there's plenty more we could do beyond that, but I'm rushing towards the end now. I might add more stuff later, which is cheating, I know.

In other news, I have a new header for the blog! Liz from Young Explorer (link here) drew it for me. It's what the 245 MARC21 field might look like for this blog, except I've omitted the 245 04 bit because it made the whole thing look ugly. Soz.

Comments welcome (On the post, I mean, but you can comment on the header too if you like).


1 comment:

  1. Interesting post Steve. (and really pleased you've enjoyed the day)

    As you've alluded to, I do think that writing social media guidelines/policy that are enabling and encouraging are the best way forward. It allows staff to feel supported and I think that cuts down on the possibility of negative/inappropriate tweeting etc.