Supporting Your Community

I just read You Don’t Sell to a Community. You Support a Community by Dan Blank (found via Chris Brogan’s Twitter feed). And hey – Dan must be ok – he used to work at Reed Business Info (ie., Library Journal, etc). So he gets us library types.

Here’s the gist of the post (make sure to read the whole thing): “As the business landscape rushes into social media – a more nuanced connection with people’s lives – this is something to be understood. The business funnel of marketing to a segmented group of people is not the same as building trust within a community – of supporting a community.”

Two other good quotes:

  • “You don’t sell to a community. You support a community. You provide for a community. You connect a community. You mediate a community. You balance a community. You sacrifice for a community.”
  • “it is hard to truly “build” a community. Communities exist already. A list of Twitter followers is not necessarily a community.”

So – how does this relate to libraries? We don’t sell stuff, do we? Sure we do. My library has a 3-person marketing team that creates newsletters, giant posters, and marketing & promotion campaigns (for starters. They do a lot of great work). Their business is making sure everyone in Shawnee County knows about us, checks out our stuff, and attends our events. That’s selling – selling our stuff and our services.

What do some libraries do soon after they set up their blogs, Facebook Pages, and Twitter feeds? They start selling! Many of us primarily use our online social communities as broadcast avenues. We throw billboards out into the middle of our digital community, hoping someone reads it, clicks the link, and attends the event (or checks out the book).

But I’m with Dan – that’s not the primary thing we should be doing in our online communities.

Think about it for a sec – when it comes to our analog community (ie., our buildings), we get that. We ROCK in that space. Who else (maybe besides a church) has an actual community that visits regularly, connects with the people who work there, and that’s not obviously selling stuff (like a grocery store)? That’s us! We’re not there to sell stuff – our stuff sells itself. In our analog spaces, we exist to support our communities, and we do it well.

So why, when we venture online, do we suddenly turn into snake oil salesmen? How come we have a hard time connecting via a text box, a camera, or a short video? We’ve had some form of these tools for a LONG TIME (ie., email for example). The rest of our community picked it up (look at national Facebook and email adoption rates) – why are we struggling here?

Want to fix this? Here’s a couple of things to try:

  • Take a look at your organization’s social media spaces (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Is it full of answering questions, or is it full of announcements? Think about balancing those out a bit.
  • Think of your social media spaces like a large gathering of people where you’ve been asked to represent your library. I’m guessing you wouldn’t bring your bullhorn, right? Instead, you might say “Hi – I’m from the library. What do you do?” … then you’d go from there. Treat your social media spaces the same way.
  • Give this quote from Dan some thought – “You don’t sell to a community. You support a community. You provide for a community. You connect a community. You mediate a community. You balance a community. You sacrifice for a community.” Are there ways you can do this online? Probably so.
  • In your library’s social media spaces, don’t be “The Library.” Be “David, the dude who works at the library.” Be a person, not a billboard.

More later.

Photo by cindiann

Building the Digital Branch – A Webinar for ALA Techsource

Yesterday, I gave a webinar for the ALA Techsource folks on building digital branches … and here are my slides for that.


Update – Slideshare was having problems when I posted this, so I deleted the slideshare version and started over. This time, it works. Yay!