Blogging Process for Topeka

Today, I met with some library staff where I work and talked about starting up another blog on my library’s website (look for a sports-related blog soon!). That reminded me that I said I’d write a post about our blogging process at tscpl.org … so here’s that post!

Our blogs are generally team-based, and are connected in some way to our collection or services:

Content Connections: For example, our Travel blog is connected to our Travel Neighborhood in the library (we have been pulling our collection out of traditional Dewey order, and are grouping them by topic – so for example, now all our travel books are grouped in one handy place, and labeled Travel). Our Art blog is connected to the art gallery in the library.

Team-Based: we generally have a team leader and 1-3 other staff who are team members. The team leader makes sure blog content matches the goals for the blog; makes sure content is actually getting posted; writes content; and can edit content as needed. Team members help write the blog posts, and do whatever else is needed for that blog.

When we create a new blog, our web team meets with the blog team (can you tell we like teams?), and we create some short-term goals and next-steps, including:

  • What’s the topic? Is it connected to the library’s collection?
  • Who’s the team leader? Who are the team members?
  • How often will you post? We have a posting schedule for our blogs. For example, the Travel blog has a new post every other Wednesday. We have a Google Calendar that serves as our content calendar.
  • During the meeting, we talk about content – mainly me talking about how every post needs to relate back to the library. Each post should focus in some way on our staff, our stuff, and our community – and it should always point back to the library.
  • They’re also reminded that photographs and videos are cool, too – as long as they relate back to the topic.
  • We ask the blog team to create a list of 25 things our customers should know about that neighborhood or collection, and use that list as ideas for the blog’s first 25 blog posts. This helps our bloggers (some of who are new at writing scheduled posts) some blog posting ideas.
  • I also ask each blog team to develop a persona or two to target with posts. We’re big on analytics and market segmentation data here, so generally we’re using a couple of target audiences that relate back to the library’s strategic plan.

That’s pretty much it. We have approximately 18 blogs on our public website right now, and are growing more as we need them.

image by Maria Reyes McDavis

Why Isn’t Your Stuff Getting Read?

Are your library blog posts getting read? If not, here are some possibilities as to why:

Bad content. Simply put, your content might not be all that good to begin with. Maybe it’s stuff you’re interested in, but your patrons don’t share that interest. How to fix it – Why not find out what your patrons are interested in, then write about that?

Poorly written content. Maybe the topic is on-target, but your writing stinks. If your writing is hard to read, guess what? Your patrons probably won’t read it. How to fix it – Why not work on improving your writing skills? Go consult some of those “How to Write” books in your library’s collection. Let the good writers on staff write your blog posts. Use modern web-writing standards.

Your website looks bad. If your website site looks icky, people will assume the content is icky too. How to fix it – update that website. Use a modern CMS like Drupal or WordPress, and use a nice-looking visual template design (or find a talented graphic designer that understands how to design for the web). Make it look as professional as the rest of your library.

Your content is hidden. Is your content hidden under multiple links? Not pulled out in an obvious way so people can find it? If so, that could be the problem. Why? Because your customers aren’t going to hunt for it. How to fix it – pull that content out. Put obvious links on your library’s main page that lead to your great content. Make sure your site is easy to use.

You’re not promoting your content. Maybe your writing is good, the site looks inviting, and your content is easy enough to find – but you’re simply not telling your patrons about it. Instead, you’re playing that passive “oh, I hope How to fix it – promote your blog posts. Instead of making a nice mystery book display in the library, write some short, pithy book reviews. Post those. Then drop the link onto your library’s Facebook Wall, and ask for responses. Ask people to Like it, for their thoughts … which helps spread the joy of your writing into other people’s walls, potentially lead to other comments, etc. Then rinse and repeat.

What would you add?

pic by vial3tt3r

How We Post in Topeka

I was recently asked how my library posts so frequently on our blogs. It’s a morphing process – here’s where we are now, and where we’re [probably] going.

Right now, here’s what we’re doing. Our digital branch is a huge priority for our library. We’re one big building and 17 bookmobile stops, and we have to reach a whole county. So we have prioritized reaching out digitally. In fact, our executive director often says “no one can opt out of the digital branch.” It’s that important to us.

How does everyone participate? Some blog, some take pictures or create/post videos. Some of us watch/add content to our outposts like Facebook or Twitter. Others answer texts/IMs/email reference questions.

For blog posting – right now, our guideline is two posts a week per blog/section of the site. Do we always make this? Nope – some areas do, some not so much. It’s a work in progress.

It also factors into our annual job performance reviews (more on this in a bit).

How will this be changing? Right now, we’re in the midst of a pretty major website redesign. We learned lots from our current design and the current way we operate on the back end, and are ready to put some improvements in place.

One improvement will be how we handle web content – here’s our thinking right now. We’ll probably align our blogs more closely with our physical library’s neighborhoods – we’re taking stuff out of Dewey Decimal order and putting them into content areas (i.e., all health-related books go in the Health neighborhood, etc).

Each of those neighborhoods has a team and a team leader … and each has a blog, too. So the blog is that team’s responsibility. We’ll figure out a posting schedule for them, and jointly create some goals/strategy for growing their little section of the digital branch (that’s a part of my job).

We’ll also probably figure out a way to more formally reward those teams for the digital branch work they do. Right now, it’s easy to say “no one can opt out” and “it’s part of our job performance” – but there’s no good, formal way to make that happen.

We’ll need to figure out a better way to say stuff like “yes, Joe wrote  24 posts this year, answered 200 text reference questions, and livestreamed an author event.” And have that somehow count for better scores on an annual review (alright – still need to talk to HR and other managers about this – it’s been mentioned that we need to improve in this area, just not exactly how yet).

The goal isn’t to punish people who don’t do the work (cause most of us already do it) – instead, the goal is to better recognize this great work.

And last – remember, I work in a pretty healthy organization. If our library decides to do something … we do it. If someone’s assigned to do something, that thing happens. Isn’t that how all libraries are [David quickly ducks]?

pic by pallotron

Posting and Traffic

Chris Brogan posts this simple observation – “the more you post, the more traffic you get.” Then he qualifies that a bit (ie., reasonably good content). Simple, yet powerful point.

Now – what about your organization? Think about your blog, or your Twitter feed, or your Facebook Page. Getting traffic there? If not … are you posting regularly?

My library’s website is a blog-based site, and we post quite a bit. Individually, it’s not regular, but it ends up looking like we post a lot (cause lots of us post). And over the year, our traffic HAS gone up.

But we can improve our process (which will probably look a bit like strategic planning, goal-setting, and putting our blog posts on more of a regular schedule). More on that next year.

How can you improve your organization’s blog post/content/social media process? Cause I bet, if you sit down and think about it for 10 minutes or so, that you CAN.

pic by Chris Brogan

Celebrating My Second Blogging Anniversary with a Song

For my second blogging anniversary, I’m not going to spew y’all with boring numbers about how popular my posts are, how many people subscribe, etc. Instead, I’m going to give you some good, old-fashioned entertainment (well, maybe not old-fashioned). I’m going to give you a song. And a video. About Web 2.0. ‘Cause I’m sometimes silly that way. So – if you want to download these behemoth files, here they are:

And of course, since my singing is most likely incoherent to some, the lyrics, in all their danged glory, are included below. Enjoy!

Are You Blogging This?
2006 by David King

My picture is flickring around technorati
And I just discovered I am such a newb, I’m on YouTube

Are you blogging this?

Delicious myspace then tell me with meebo
Drop my feed into bloglines, I’m so web 2.0

Are you blogging this?

Blogger blummy skobee ditto seekum suckingfish
Auctionmapper
frappr zoomr feedwhip blish
Rollyo
seekum previewseek swicki wink
Flickr
scanr talkr cheapr soonr kitchen sink

All Ourmedia’s confusing me
Maybe I need to read a Wikipedia entryAre you blogging this?

Google froogle blogger SketchUp calculator talk
Code
news catalogs academic search
Finance
images video alerts
Mobile
SMS picasa translate search

Are you blogging this?

[ad#dlks-sneaky-ad-unit]