I’ve been following David’s posts about online friending with extreme interest. In a nutshell, he suggests that before libraries join social sites they do it deliberately: set goals, a target audience, find a voice, and do outreach around it:
You might have noticed that most of my suggestions on getting friends for social networking tools … doesn’t involve using the tool to make friends. Instead, it’s all about YOU leaving the library and meeting your community.
On this point I think I have to disagree… or at least embellish. To me, the gift and the power of this type of tool is in its potential to reach constituencies we are not otherwise reaching. These are the people who are not already using the library. They are not attending lectures; they may be looking at flyers or cards idly and, while it doesn’t hurt, it won’t necessarily translate into a service to them. Why not meet them where they already are?
To me, representing the library online requires the same kind of cultivation as any other contact. I manage MPOW‘s Twitter and Flickr accounts. I use each service’s search feature to identify other users in my community. Every so often I repeat a search for my town. When something comes up I look at the profile, to confirm the user’s location and under the assumption that if it’s not listed in the profile they might not want to be identified geographically. Then I scan their content for anything overtly offensive. If I don’t find an inordinate amount of profanity or pornography, I friend them. It’s fun, actually.
And then, here’s the money part, I make it part of my routine tasks to review the content and look for ways to pop in. If someone is wondering on Twitter where the good local Greek joints are, I jump in with a list. Or if they post a lovely photo of a particular mill building, I might offer some snippet of history.
To me, this is a way to begin to get embedded in the fabric of your community and isn’t that the ultimate goal?