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David Lee King

Don’t Friend Me!



do your library friends look like this?Libraries… stop friending me! What???

I’m noticing that when a library decides to start a flickr account, a twitter feed, or create a Facebook page, they naturally want to start “making friends.” So what do they do? They friend me. Or you. Or they friend other libraries.

This is bad.

Why?

Social networks exist to connect with other people, right? When your organization decides, say, to create a Facebook page … who are you trying to connect with? Me? I don’t live in your neighborhood. Another library on the other side of the world? They’re not going to use your services.

Who are you trying to connect with? If you can’t answer this question, take a breather from the web for a couple of days and figure out your answer. Think about it for a sec – you wouldn’t open a new branch if you didn’t know your target audience, would you? Do you invite people to a book group with no idea of what book to read or who the target audience is? I hope not.

It’s the same with social network sites – you need to establish a target audience, and then work on finding that audience. Once you do that, my guess is this – the friends you want to attract probably don’t include me or a library from the other side of the country!

Another way to look at this is from your customers’ point of view. If I use [fill in your favorite social tool here], and I discover your page, one of the first things I might do is check out who your friends are. If they are mainly other libraries, I might decide it’s a librarian thing, and not for me. I’m gone!

Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to get ideas from other libraries, and to spy on their social media tools to see what they’re doing. But if you can, try not to accept too many friend requests from other libraries … or your friend page will look more like an ALA reunion rather than a true reflection of your local community.

Update: This is part of my slowly-growing series on organization-based friending in social networks. Here’s what I have so far:

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://librarianbyday.net Bobbi Newman

    I’m not sure I agree with this. I think by nature people are joiners. If they look at your site/page and see no one or a just a few people there they may not join. But if they see it has a lot of friends/fans (ie its popular) they will join. I’m not sure they do look to see who else is friends unless they are looking for people they know on the friends list. I think it may be better to appear to be popular even if the friends are library types, sort of like seeding the plot, you know how if you have a tip jar, you put a couple of bucks in to start with, people are more likely to tip if there is already money in there.

  • http://librarianbyday.wordpress.com Bobbi Newman

    I’m not sure I agree with this. I think by nature people are joiners. If they look at your site/page and see no one or a just a few people there they may not join. But if they see it has a lot of friends/fans (ie its popular) they will join. I’m not sure they do look to see who else is friends unless they are looking for people they know on the friends list. I think it may be better to appear to be popular even if the friends are library types, sort of like seeding the plot, you know how if you have a tip jar, you put a couple of bucks in to start with, people are more likely to tip if there is already money in there.

  • http://www.heidigoseek.com/ heidi

    I agree David, I don’t friend back “libraries” that I’m affiliated with. And actually I decided to unfriend one that I was because that library was following nobody on their network, and was using Twitter as a newsfeed. I guess that’s ok if they want to do that, but that’s not how I want to use Twitter… I want to have conversations. The instances of software companies that friend me on Twitter do it right, they monitor Twitter for mentions of their product and then they contact me addressing the issue (or sometime they friend me because I compliment them), but they’re having a conversation with me in the meantime. I don’t see any reason why libraries can’t do that same thing.

  • http://www.heidigoseek.com/ heidi

    I agree David, I don’t friend back “libraries” that I’m affiliated with. And actually I decided to unfriend one that I was because that library was following nobody on their network, and was using Twitter as a newsfeed. I guess that’s ok if they want to do that, but that’s not how I want to use Twitter… I want to have conversations. The instances of software companies that friend me on Twitter do it right, they monitor Twitter for mentions of their product and then they contact me addressing the issue (or sometime they friend me because I compliment them), but they’re having a conversation with me in the meantime. I don’t see any reason why libraries can’t do that same thing.

  • http://gathernodust.blogspot.com/ Jeff

    You have a good point David. I would say the majority of activity on library related social networking sites (getting a myspace, facebooks, flickr, etc.) come from other libraries or librarians. We should really connect with our patrons. I would say the problem is finding our patrons and not coming off as stalkers, spammers, or just annoying to them.

  • http://gathernodust.blogspot.com Jeff

    You have a good point David. I would say the majority of activity on library related social networking sites (getting a myspace, facebooks, flickr, etc.) come from other libraries or librarians. We should really connect with our patrons. I would say the problem is finding our patrons and not coming off as stalkers, spammers, or just annoying to them.

  • Kelly

    I disagree. We all have our own particular reason for twittering, or using facebook, or some other kind of social networking tool. If the way I use twitter wasn’t working for me, I probably wouldn’t use twitter. If a patron wants to use a library Facebook or MySpace page, they will, if it works for them and fills a need they have. I have a feeling that the design and the implementation of a library’s [fill in your favorite social tool here] is more important to its patrons than who has friended the library. If that IS a issue, that patron probably wasn’t going to use the library’s [fill in your favorite social tool here] in any sort of useful way. Just my opinion, I would not assume that any one person could ever know the correct way to use [fill in your favorite social tool here]. One uses [fill in your favorite social tool here] to meet a need, and if it doesn’t meet that need, then why bother? Your patrons feel the same way.

  • http://acplitslibrarian.wordpress.com/ Melissa Kiser

    I think it’s *really* important to connect with others professionally. But I think that social networking sites have missed the boat here because they don’t give us a chance to categorize our contacts. I would really like it if Flickr had a third contact category: Colleagues.
    And the same goes for the rest of ya (social networking sites)!

  • http://acplitslibrarian.wordpress.com Melissa Kiser

    I think it’s *really* important to connect with others professionally. But I think that social networking sites have missed the boat here because they don’t give us a chance to categorize our contacts. I would really like it if Flickr had a third contact category: Colleagues.
    And the same goes for the rest of ya (social networking sites)!

  • Kelly

    I disagree. We all have our own particular reason for twittering, or using facebook, or some other kind of social networking tool. If the way I use twitter wasn’t working for me, I probably wouldn’t use twitter. If a patron wants to use a library Facebook or MySpace page, they will, if it works for them and fills a need they have. I have a feeling that the design and the implementation of a library’s [fill in your favorite social tool here] is more important to its patrons than who has friended the library. If that IS a issue, that patron probably wasn’t going to use the library’s [fill in your favorite social tool here] in any sort of useful way. Just my opinion, I would not assume that any one person could ever know the correct way to use [fill in your favorite social tool here]. One uses [fill in your favorite social tool here] to meet a need, and if it doesn’t meet that need, then why bother? Your patrons feel the same way.

  • eabarbanel

    I totally agaree with you. That is why I didn’t post my library’s facebook page on twitter, etc.. I just want my students there, and I want them to see each other.(For some reason I have a fan who is a boy in Jordan, but that is beside the point..) I have personal accounts for my life and professional network, but a different facebook and blog life for my students/community. And I want those spaces to be their spaces. I don’t need you all to be fans of my little school library. I’d rather you join my other facebook…where my friends who are my age are! And I am sure you don’t want my local info anyway – do you care that my high school library just gor a new best seller, or a new database? I hope not!

  • eabarbanel

    I totally agaree with you. That is why I didn’t post my library’s facebook page on twitter, etc.. I just want my students there, and I want them to see each other.(For some reason I have a fan who is a boy in Jordan, but that is beside the point..) I have personal accounts for my life and professional network, but a different facebook and blog life for my students/community. And I want those spaces to be their spaces. I don’t need you all to be fans of my little school library. I’d rather you join my other facebook…where my friends who are my age are! And I am sure you don’t want my local info anyway – do you care that my high school library just gor a new best seller, or a new database? I hope not!

  • Eric Gustafson

    Great post David. It’s important to focus your efforts on the local community. I have really felt that some institutional Flickr or Facebook pages are just a gathering point for librarians and that might discourage your actual community from participating. I definitely agree with you on this!

  • Eric Gustafson

    Great post David. It’s important to focus your efforts on the local community. I have really felt that some institutional Flickr or Facebook pages are just a gathering point for librarians and that might discourage your actual community from participating. I definitely agree with you on this!

  • Susan

    David, I see your point but I don’t agree with you on this. Why tell libraries/librarians that they are doing social networking, in this case, friending all wrong? Why discourage those who were not early adopters and might find the fear of “not doing it right” just another reason not to join in any social networking. “Fear of change” and “not being perfect” as I recall are factors that we are encouraging librarians not to be. Why tell libraries now they have the “wrong” friends. Yes, we need to reach out to others in our community. Our online connections should reflect our community. Of course. But one of the great pluses of being on the web is that we can have friends from around the world some being libraries. Why would I want to limit the links when the point of the web is to connect. And why assume that our viewers aren’t interested in other libraries when they are coming to your libraries blog/pictures/other sns in the first place? Why not talk about this issue the other way around, perhaps a post about the hierarchy of friending? Couch the topic in a positive way and you still get the point across that library friends should not be, in your opinion, at the top of the list.

  • Susan

    David, I see your point but I don’t agree with you on this. Why tell libraries/librarians that they are doing social networking, in this case, friending all wrong? Why discourage those who were not early adopters and might find the fear of “not doing it right” just another reason not to join in any social networking. “Fear of change” and “not being perfect” as I recall are factors that we are encouraging librarians not to be. Why tell libraries now they have the “wrong” friends. Yes, we need to reach out to others in our community. Our online connections should reflect our community. Of course. But one of the great pluses of being on the web is that we can have friends from around the world some being libraries. Why would I want to limit the links when the point of the web is to connect. And why assume that our viewers aren’t interested in other libraries when they are coming to your libraries blog/pictures/other sns in the first place? Why not talk about this issue the other way around, perhaps a post about the hierarchy of friending? Couch the topic in a positive way and you still get the point across that library friends should not be, in your opinion, at the top of the list.

  • http://epist.wordpress.com/ Sara

    I think this is an important point to make, David – the question “Who are you trying to connect with?”
    Perhaps this is where libraries can use the distinctions of many social networking sites between “friends” and “groups”. “Friends” would be the perfect connection to the local community, whereas “groups” can be a space for libraries to keep in touch with other libraries. I think both relationships are important, but do need to be put into context somehow. Sites like Facebook and Twitter do tend to make everything one big ball o’ wax, unfortunately.

  • http://epist.wordpress.com Sara

    I think this is an important point to make, David – the question “Who are you trying to connect with?”
    Perhaps this is where libraries can use the distinctions of many social networking sites between “friends” and “groups”. “Friends” would be the perfect connection to the local community, whereas “groups” can be a space for libraries to keep in touch with other libraries. I think both relationships are important, but do need to be put into context somehow. Sites like Facebook and Twitter do tend to make everything one big ball o’ wax, unfortunately.

  • Michael Stephens

    I agree with your points. It reminded me that when Cliff Landis and I did a TechSource post, I said this:

    That brings up something that has been on my mind for the past few months as I watch more libraries diving into creating Facebook pages and other sites. What do you think about the Facebook pages for libraries that have a bunch of other librarians as fans? Frankly, it disappoints me. I’ve actually curtailed some of my “fan-ing” of pages lately. I’d rather leave the fandom to the users and watch to see how it goes from outside. How do the users find and adopt the page. What are the patterns of use and what types of outreach builds the community. Tapping into that is most important for understanding user needs.

    and Cliff said this:

    CL: This is another symptom of librarians talking to each other, saying “Hey! Look at this neat thing I did!” and never involving the users. What do you suppose would happen if the person managing the library page wasn’t a librarian, but a student? (I can already hear the gasps of thousands of librarians.) Let’s face it–we’re control freaks.

    http://www.alatechsource.org/blog/2008/05/endless-possibilities-an-ala-techsource-conversation-with-cliff-landis.html

  • Michael Stephens

    I agree with your points. It reminded me that when Cliff Landis and I did a TechSource post, I said this:

    That brings up something that has been on my mind for the past few months as I watch more libraries diving into creating Facebook pages and other sites. What do you think about the Facebook pages for libraries that have a bunch of other librarians as fans? Frankly, it disappoints me. I’ve actually curtailed some of my “fan-ing” of pages lately. I’d rather leave the fandom to the users and watch to see how it goes from outside. How do the users find and adopt the page. What are the patterns of use and what types of outreach builds the community. Tapping into that is most important for understanding user needs.

    and Cliff said this:

    CL: This is another symptom of librarians talking to each other, saying “Hey! Look at this neat thing I did!” and never involving the users. What do you suppose would happen if the person managing the library page wasn’t a librarian, but a student? (I can already hear the gasps of thousands of librarians.) Let’s face it–we’re control freaks.

    http://www.alatechsource.org/blog/2008/05/endless-possibilities-an-ala-techsource-conversation-with-cliff-landis.html

  • John

    Not much more to add here. At first I was in complete agreement with your points. At first. Then I began thinking about the great opportunity missed out by not intermingling here. Okay, good reason for a high school teacher to have two facebook accounts (or other sn account), but in most cases this interchange of ideas that librarians might have with one another could be unbelievably useful and insightful (perhaps just my big head) to younger users, patrons, and students. “Hey look at what my librarian/teacher is blogging with his coworkers and peers.” This type of play could really encourage younger snips to jump on the wagon and involve themselves with professional discussions/ideas/trends. Could even encourage a punk to go library-wild. Maybe I’m a dreamer.

  • John

    Not much more to add here. At first I was in complete agreement with your points. At first. Then I began thinking about the great opportunity missed out by not intermingling here. Okay, good reason for a high school teacher to have two facebook accounts (or other sn account), but in most cases this interchange of ideas that librarians might have with one another could be unbelievably useful and insightful (perhaps just my big head) to younger users, patrons, and students. “Hey look at what my librarian/teacher is blogging with his coworkers and peers.” This type of play could really encourage younger snips to jump on the wagon and involve themselves with professional discussions/ideas/trends. Could even encourage a punk to go library-wild. Maybe I’m a dreamer.

  • richard

    David, you’re getting out of control. Think about this for a second. Social networks do not exist for the sole purpose of serving your social networking ideals. Who cares if you have a connection to a library in, let’s say, Japan? Libraries shouldn’t judge other libraries by who they befriend.

  • richard

    David, you’re getting out of control. Think about this for a second. Social networks do not exist for the sole purpose of serving your social networking ideals. Who cares if you have a connection to a library in, let’s say, Japan? Libraries shouldn’t judge other libraries by who they befriend.

  • davidleeking

    Richard – please explain how in the world I’m “out of control” by asking if people know their target markets for a social network site?

    As to your comment – you said “who cares if you have a connection to a library in, let’s say, Japan?” Great – if it’s a couple. But many libraries have started SN sites without first figuring out any goals for the site, and end up friending primarily other libraries.

    Whether you like it or not, Libraries do indeed exist to connect with their local communities – be that an academic library at a university, or a public library smack dab in the middle of Topeka, KS. We’re here to serve OUR social networks – our patrons. In fact, libraries have been doing that for a couple hundred years now. Facebook, Twitter, et al are just digital versions of the same thing. We exist to serve our community.

    Digitally? The same.

  • davidleeking

    Richard – please explain how in the world I’m “out of control” by asking if people know their target markets for a social network site?

    As to your comment – you said “who cares if you have a connection to a library in, let’s say, Japan?” Great – if it’s a couple. But many libraries have started SN sites without first figuring out any goals for the site, and end up friending primarily other libraries.

    Whether you like it or not, Libraries do indeed exist to connect with their local communities – be that an academic library at a university, or a public library smack dab in the middle of Topeka, KS. We’re here to serve OUR social networks – our patrons. In fact, libraries have been doing that for a couple hundred years now. Facebook, Twitter, et al are just digital versions of the same thing. We exist to serve our community.

    Digitally? The same.

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  • tgb

    Hi David,

    You might be moving into the old and crabby catagory of life.

  • tgb

    Hi David,

    You might be moving into the old and crabby catagory of life.

  • Tamara

    I have been trying very hard to establish a social networking web presence for patrons, but most of my current followers are other libraries and librarians. It’s great for networking, but has no relevance to the patron. And at a certain point, I think that it even deters patrons for participating, because it makes our 2.0 presence look more like an all-librarians club. If anyone has ideas of how to move past this phenomenon, please let me know!

  • Tamara

    I have been trying very hard to establish a social networking web presence for patrons, but most of my current followers are other libraries and librarians. It’s great for networking, but has no relevance to the patron. And at a certain point, I think that it even deters patrons for participating, because it makes our 2.0 presence look more like an all-librarians club. If anyone has ideas of how to move past this phenomenon, please let me know!

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