Maximizing Social Media Tools: Planning and Evaluating Social Media Strategies for Special Libraries

Maximizing Social Media Tools: Planning and Evaluating Social Media Strategies for Special Libraries

Maria Cecilia I. Ayson (Filipinas Heritage Library, Philippines)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9542-9.ch007
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Abstract

The emergence of social networking sites and platforms has paved the way for alternative marketing and information dissemination tools. Several institutions, including special libraries, take advantage of this new technology due to its low cost, ease of use, and wider reach. But since it is a relatively new technology, and its practice is usually not formalized, there is a lack of policies in implementing social media campaigns, especially in special libraries. While social media tools are very popular and easy to use, they still demand considerable time and effort. Thus, it is important to evaluate the impact of special libraries' use of social media among their clientele and target audience. This chapter will feature selected social media tools appropriate for special libraries and recommend guidelines in planning social media campaigns and evaluating their impact.
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Introduction

Every day, millions of people interact in social media. It has undeniably become an integral means of communication in today’s highly connected age of the Internet, both for personal and business purposes.

Over the past decade, several social networking sites and platforms have proliferated. The emergence of such has paved the way not just for convenient personal communication, but for alternative marketing and information dissemination tools, as well. Several businesses or institutions, including special libraries, take advantage of this new technology due to its low cost, ease of use, and wider reach.

However, it is a relatively new technology and as such, its practice is usually not formalized. Several people are proficient with social media use on a personal basis, but this does not necessarily translate to good practice when tasked to utilize social media skills for the workplace. For professional use, there is a lack of policies in implementing social media campaigns, especially in libraries in general, and special libraries, in particular.

While social media tools are very popular and easy to use, they still demand considerable time and effort. It may seem easy to implement but there are several things to be taken into consideration, and special skills needed for better execution. Thus, it is important to evaluate the impact of special libraries' use of social media among their clientele and target audience. This chapter will feature selected social media tools appropriate for special libraries and recommend guidelines in planning social media campaigns and evaluating their impact.

Social Media

Social media is generally defined as “forms of electronic communication (as web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)” (Merriam-Webster, 2014). Its history can be traced way back in 1997 with the launch of the “first recognizable social networking site” SixDegrees.com (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Its usage went mainstream with the popularity of MySpace in 2004. Many social media sites and platforms have come and gone and the landscape continues to evolve.

There are hundreds of social media platforms that can be grouped into several categories. Lou Safko, in his book The Social Media Bible (2010), classified various social media tools into 15 categories. These are Social Networking, Publish, Photo Sharing, Audio, Video, Microblogging, Livecasting, Virtual Worlds, Gaming, Productivity Applications, Aggregators, RSS, Search, Mobile, and Interpersonal. There are social media tools that fit multiple categories. However, this chapter will mainly focus on the Social Networking category wherein most tools are also able to provide functions in other categories such as publishing, photo/audio/video sharing, microblogging, among others. Furthermore, the focus will be on the most widely used platforms (at least in the Philippines), particularly Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

As of January 2014 data, around 2.5 billion people or 35% of the world’s population are internet users wherein several hours per day are spent in social media. In the Asia Pacific region, the Philippines is the top country in terms of time spent on the Internet via laptop/desktop, as well as time spent on social media at an average of four hours per day. Facebook is the top social platform worldwide, having the most number of active users at 1,184 million. It is followed by China’s QQ, QZone; WhatsApp; Google+; WeChat; LinkedIn; Twitter; Tumblr; and China’s Tencent Weibo. In the Philippines, the top five social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and LinkedIn (We Are Social, 2014) (We Are Social, 2014).

The popularity of the Internet and social media in particular brings a vast opportunity for businesses or institutions to reach out to a massive audience. The social media landscape continues to grow and evolve with the continuous advancements in technology, particularly mobile devices and Internet connectivity, which empowers users to access information and connect via the World Wide Web more conveniently than ever. Thus, many take advantage of the mileage that social media offers.

The free service and ease of use attracts more and more libraries including special libraries to make use of social media as a marketing and communications tool. Still, many libraries do not have clear guidelines and policies in utilizing such relatively new and constantly evolving social media platforms.

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