Doing Social Media so it Matters: A Librarian’s Guide.
Laura Solomon. Chicago, ALA Editions, 2011.
In just under three hours this book may change the way your library does social media or give you the confidence to propose a new social media campaign. In Doing Social Media so it Matters: A Librarian's Guide, Laura Solomon provides a library-centric overview of social media explaining how your library can benefit by engaging directly with your audience. Overall, the book's comforting tone and clear language helps ease libraries into the ever-changing digital landscape. Additionally, those librarians already familiar with social media will find tools to convince others to embrace social media and useful tips to hone their social networking skills for use in a professional, marketing setting.
Solomon opens with a story about how Ohio Public Libraries were able to save $147 million from budget cuts by mobilizing Ohio residents through various social media and traditional networks. However, "social media doesn't just happen" (vi) and so she covers methods for creating a plan and goals outlining expectations and guidelines for effective social media communication.
Knowing that any new social media endeavor is likely to encounter resistance, Solomon provides techniques for talking to co-workers to build support among library administration and staff. Librarians will find this section useful when educating others about the potential benefits and deflecting fears about loosing control of the message.
Essential to Solomon's argument is the concept of "social capital" and the importance of building a strong dialog through social media, rather than using it only as a way to broadcast information. She explains, "Every time your library promotes something or asks for a favor, it is making a withdrawal. If your withdrawal exceeds your deposits, your library effectively becomes a community leech" (24). Several very concrete suggestions are given – such as thanking people and asking for opinions – to help a library build social capital and establish a good online reputation.
For those having a difficult time finding interesting content that will build social capital, a section on "Status Update Makeovers" gives five very good examples of more effective messaging that will draw in engagement and provoke conversations between the followers. The difference between the before and after statements are so clear, that the reader almost wishes for more examples of how to effectively share library-related information through social networks.
While there are many different social media tools available, Solomon mostly sticks to Facebook and Twitter, which are the most likely tools to be considered for use by a library. People who want more details for using the many features of these and other tools will probably want to also read Dave Evan's Social Media Marketing: An hour a day (2008) or Beth Kanter and Allison Fine's The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with social media to drive change (2010). These books will help broaden the perspective beyond the library.
Important to any social media plan is evaluation and adjustment. Solomon encourages the reader consider how success will be measured and what to do if you find that your library is not succeeding. Solomon reminds the reader that the role of social media is to foster relationships and "directly engage and connect our patrons – to the library and to each other" (2), which means that there is a potential for greater interaction and a stronger sense of community support of the library. Measuring this engagement through both qualitative and quantitative methods is discussed.
Although this is not a comprehensive guide to social media, it is an informative, quick read and a must-read for anyone wanting to establish a coherent, successful social media campaign for their library.
Reviewed by: Tanya Cothran. Tanya is a recent MLIS graduate from St. Catherine University, and Executive Administrator for the international grant-making organization, Spirit in Action.