Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Four: Where does your community hang out?

Finishing up with this series. In this post, let’s talk about something simple that relates to adapting an online first mentality.

Where are your customers?

Guess what? For most of the day, they are not in your library building.

Darn! So where are they? At school, at home, at work, in their cars, exercising, eating, etc. But NOT hanging out with you, at the library.

And that’s ok and normal, obviously.

But here’s the thing. You have access to your customers … even when they aren’t in your building.

In fact, it’s quite possible you have BETTER access to them when they aren’t in your building. Here’s what I mean – how many of you distribute your library staff throughout the public area of the library, like a store, to help people at the point of need? Not too many of us. For most of our customers, it’s very easy to visit the library, browse for a book, check it out, and leave without ever having to interact with library staff.

But online, your customers are within reach:

So … if the majority of your customers are online instead of in your library … where should you be? What’s that look like in terms of staffing? In terms of events and classes and programs? In terms of your collection and reference tools?

Definitely something to think about!

Photo by David Goehring

Ask for Suggestions

Ask for SuggestionsI have been thinking about ways to improve our library’s main Facebook Page. We have come up with some great ideas, but one idea was to simply ask our Facebook-using customers what THEY wanted to see in Facebook.

Here’s what we asked (find the Facebook post here):

“Hey friends, we’re doing an informal poll. What sorts of Facebook updates would you like to see more of from us? We want to hear from you regarding what library stuff you want us to post.”

And here’s what our customers said:

  • kid activities. MY little sister and baby would love more of that.
  • new movies
  • Event updates
  • Kid events!
  • kid events!
  • new e-books
  • New movies and books
  • Kids’ events!!
  • Best seller lists
  • Maybe have a librarian recommendation day, like every Tuesday (or other day) have a book or movie recommended by staff? That way we can get to “know” the staff better and learn about books/movies that we may not of thought of otherwise.
  • I would like to know more about the e-books.
  • Winners of the reading program, it would be nice to actually see they get won, even if it isn’t by me 😉
  • More about the kids events, especially the teen events. Storytimes and Blockbusters get so much notice, but there are a ton of great programs slipping through the cracks!
  • Reminders. Like – don’t forget, sign up for tot time starts tomorrow!
  • Event reminders, and not just for kids events. I knew the rain barrel event was coming up, failed to put it in my planner, and missed it! I was bummed.
  • events for adults and kids
  • Upcoming events!
  • pictures or video shorts of people, exhibits, remodels/moves, staff, art. Something to post that makes the library come alive for us.
  • E- book info.
  • Events and the librarian recommendation is a terrific idea.
  • Love Tiffani’s idea of the recommendation day!

So – more event reminders, more mentions of new stuff, more recommendations from staff. More photos and videos.

Yes, we might have come to this same conclusion if we set up a committee to look into improving our Facebook Page, figured out when everyone could meet, and actually had a discussion on it. But it would have been our best guess. And it probably would have taken us 2-3 weeks – we’re a busy bunch, so meetings are a bit of a logistical challenge :-)

Instead, we gathered these comments, for the most part, in a 3-hour timeframe in one day. And it took us maybe a few minutes to write the Facebook post. And it was from customers.

Question – are you using your organization’s Facebook Page to find out what your Facebook-using customers want to do there? If so, what are you hearing from them?

photo by Sylvain Masson

Apologizing & Communicating with Customers

Ever had to apologize to a customer about something you or your library didn’t do well? Well, guess what? I did that just last week.

We have a Mediabank media dispenser that has been acting up (as in, it’s been out of order for a month, and been spotty before that). We have been doing a lot of work on the back-end of things, working with the vendor to get things fixed, etc – to no avail. We have a weird problem, and Mediabank’s sending someone onsite to fix our machine. So – fingers crossed on that front!

During this “oh darn it’s down” month, we have been explaining what’s going on individually at our service desks, and we’ve had an “out of order” announcement that appears on our website and in our building (it’s a pretty popular service).

But it finally dawned on us that we weren’t actively communicating the issues or what we were doing about it – we just passively put up signs, and only answered those who took the time to ask about it.

So we went one step further, and created an apology video that we posted to our website. In the video, we state the problem, state what we’re doing about it … and also apologize to our customers for the less than stellar service we’ve given in that area.

Watch the video and tell me what you think. But more importantly … think through how YOU communicate huge problems in service to your patrons. Do you:

  • put up signs in the building?
  • put up announcements on your website?
  • give front-line staff some talking points?
  • make a video or blog post, then update that post when progress has been made?

Or something else entirely? I’d love to know!

Where are your Customers Gathering?

You know that phrase “go where your patrons are?” It’s always bugged me. Not because of the concept – the concept’s great. But because of the grammar – that ending in “are” thing. It’s never sounded right to me (says David, who got a B- in grammar).

At the Free State Social conference last week, someone – not sure who – added a word to that phrase that made a lot of sense to me. Or maybe it just sounds better to my ears. Anyway, here it is:

Go where your customers are gathering.

Besides just sounding slightly better (to me, anyway), it also gives a bit of direction, doesn’t it? Where “are” your customers/patrons? You don’t have to look around every corner for them – just find the places they’re already gathering … then figure out how to exist in those places.

So – where do your customers gather? I can’t answer that one, because it will look different for every organization. My library’s customers gather … at the actual library, on Facebook, at the mall. At church. In schools and our one university in town. And probably other places, too.

Chris Brogan put a marketing spin on the phrase during a small group session. He said “the marketplace convenes where it’s convenient.” Where are those “convenient” places in your community? Facebook is convenient for a lot of people (but not the people you probably think of when you think of Facebook). Not kids and younger teens (although they’re certainly there). Think people with easy, convenient access to the web, at work, at home, at school … and on their mobile devices. Just one example of many.

Find those convenient gathering places – online and off – and take your message/your services/your library to those places.

IL2009: Micro Interactions, Conversations, and Customers

My part of this session is above… I introduced the concept and talked about the variety of interactions available using social networks.

Up next was Amy Kearns and Julie Strange, talking about: Tweet What? 5 sweet ways to connect in 140 characters or less. Notes below:

Searching for tweets with a positive/negative attitude – sentiment at advanced search of search.twitter.com

showing examples of types of tweets from libraries

Twitter can be embedded anywhere…

1. use it for reference
2. connect for customer service
3. broadcast news & events
4. solicit feedback
5. broaden professional networks
6. harness the hive

Lists overview