Turning Strangers into Friends

The Thank You Economy

I just read The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. Good read. Here’s an interesting thought I got out of it that relates to libraries.

On page 53, he writes about Nielson conducting a study on what drives consumer trust. 70% of people said they turn to family and friends for advice when making purchasing decisions.

Then Gary says this: “The ROI of your relationship with your mother is going to be much higher than that of the one you have with a good friend. Both, however, are more valuable than the one you have with an acquaintance, which trumps the relationship you have with a stranger. Without social media, you and your customer are relegated to strangers; with it, depending on your efforts, you can potentially upgrade your relationship to that of casual acquaintances, and even, in time, to friends. The power of that relationship can go so far as to convert a casual browser into a committed buyer, or a buyer into an advocate.” (pg 54-55).

This idea of turning strangers into friends works great in libraries, too. The goal is simply this – become casual acquaintances, or even friends, with our customers. We have done that for years in our buildings – I’d say that’s business as usual.

Online? We can do the same thing by using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. Start friending people in your community. Your customers. That’s how you start turning strangers into friends … and into customers of your library.

Here’s what Gary did – he created Twitter alerts for wine words like Merlot. When someone had a question about that term, he answered it … and started growing a reputation about actually knowing something about wine.

We know stuff too – we are librarians, after all! Use a tool like Twitter. Do a zip code search for your local area or a town search … then add some words to that search, like book, reading, etc. Or business terms … or whatever the hot issues in your town happen to be.

Then start answering questions or making comments as they seem relevant. Point to your stuff, like the book that answers it, when it makes sense. Be helpful … like you already are in your building.

It’s a way to get out in the community without actually leaving the air conditioning!

Pic by Steven Rosenbaum

Inviting Comments

Sometimes, a blog post or article on a library website doesn’t get any comments. And that’s fine – not every post is comment-worthy, right? But there are ways to prompt, or “invite” visitors to comment … even by using the website’s built-in comment functionality. Let me show you what I mean.

Here are two examples – the first from my library’s website, and the second one from Atchison Public Library. Both of these examples are screenshots taken from the main page of both websites – each a teaser for an article.

Mine first (screenshot below):

no prompting

We let the comment functionality simply announce that no one has left a comment on this post (and darn it – it’s MY post!). We do that via the text “0 Comments.” This works fine – it’s what that functionality is supposed to do.

But check this out – here’s what Atchison Public Library does (screenshot below):

prompting for comments

See the difference? Atchison uses their lack of comments to … invite people to comment. They do this by prompting their website visitors to “be the first to comment.”

I know – it’s one of those little detail-y things. But it’s that type of detail, that focus on inviting patrons to participate, that just might prompt them … to participate. It might just convert that lurker into a more active participant.

Nothing wrong with that – good job, Atchison!