Expressing your Organizational Personality Online

Shmear - is your copy fun & informal?I love how some companies do that “informal language” thing – like Einstein Bros Bagels. Have you seen what they call their cream cheese? They call it “shmear.” Because you “shmear” it onto your bagel, right?

When businesses do that type of thing – use informal slang, or informal visuals in signage, or even when they always do certain things the same way – they are expressing their organizational personality.

What do I mean by organizational personality? Well – have you ever walked into a store, a business, even a restaurant … and felt the “vibe” of the place? Suddenly felt like you needed to whisper, for example? Or the atmosphere of the place felt light and lively, and immediately put a smile on your face?

Those businesses are most likely aware of that vibe … and have even planned for it. When they focus on creating certain types of consistent experiences, and on consistent touch points, they are expressing their organizational personality.

And once that personality is created, an organization can consistently express it everywhere – in a storefront, online, out of the office, even in print material.

Does your organization have a personality? You bet. Do you know what it is, and how to express it in different venues? Probably not, I’m guessing. Libraries are a great example of this. For many of us, the in-the-library personality is expressed as a fun, casual, maybe even sometimes inspirational one – smiles, helpful staff, colorful books, etc. That adds up to a light, informal, casual-but-hip organizational personality.

But when you visit the library’s website, you get a different personality entirely. Frequently, the website isn’t fun at all – instead, it’s all columns, formality, staid colors, and no friendly chatter at all. Very different personality from the in-the-library experience, isn’t it?

Give it some thought – figur out what your organization’s personality is, and how it’s being expressed. Then work on making that organizational personality consistent everywhere. It’ll add up to a better, more consistent experience for your customers.

Humanizing your Facebook Pages

A “Book and Digital Media Studies” student (wow – what a cool-sounding program!) emailed me last week, asking about my favorite university library Facebook Pages. Well … to be honest, I can’t say I frequent university library Facebook Pages much.

But I followed up a bit, and did a search in Facebook for university library then narrowed the search to Pages, and found over 500 university libraries with Facebook Pages.

As I browsed through the list, I started noticing that some Pages had low friend counts in the 0-30 range, and many were in the 70-200 range. And there were a handful that had thousands of friends:

Why do these Pages have more friends? Glancing through them, it looks like they are doing one thing – they are humanizing their Facebook Pages. What do I mean by that?

They’re “doing stuff.” Stuff like this:

  • Posting regular status updates
  • Interacting with visitors in the comments of status updates – some status updates have 20-30 comments, as well as “Likes”
  • Pointing to stuff that’s happening in the library (ie., lectures)
  • Regularly add photos and videos – sometimes hundreds of them.
  • They use Facebook’s Events feature to list events.

How about libraries with a low fan count? Here’s one example – the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Main Library, with 7 fans. What are they doing? Nothing. They have 1 status update, from August 2009. Their most recent activity was adding the library’s website url, mailing address, and phone number.

So, to answer the question “Do students friend university library Facebook Pages?” (I hear that one a lot) the answer would be yes – IF those pages are being humanized. Looks like the pages with high fan counts have constant activity streams. Pretty much every day or so, something is happening on those Pages – there are regular status update posts, photos or videos are being added, and event reminders are being posted.

Basically, activity attracts Facebook users. Think of your Facebook Page like a party. Anyone ever attended a dead party? If there’s nothing going on, the party goers quickly find an excuse to leave, because the party is boring, right? In the same way, if your Facebook Page has no updates … your party is boring, and you are inviting your students to go do something else.

This is easily fixable if you do one simple thing. Post an update every day, and make it interesting. Examples from the Fan-heavy pages above include helping students out – pointing to a book/resource that has the “answers” for an assignment, just sharing an interesting tidbit of university or library news, sharing quotes, etc. Pretty normal stuff – just shared with Facebook users.

But if you’re not human, if nothing’s going on … no one will show up to your party.

Bunny by Alyssa Miller

Designing the Digital Experience Presentation

On Tuesday, I gave a Designing the Digital Experience presentation at Nassau Library System in New York. It was a fun time – lots of good questions and discussion!

So … here are the slides from that talk. Enjoy!

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!

Conversation is Experience

Some web designers, especially those with a marketing or graphic design background, say they want to build an experience – but their designed experience, no matter who the website is for, tends to be designed like a movie or a rockstar’s website¬† – heavy on the Flash, on the intro page (complete with low-pitched ominous music), and it makes cute noises when you click on a link.

That’s great for a movie or a rockstar website. But most of us are building library, organization and company websites. What type of “experiences” should we be creating for those types of websites?

Conversation Spaces

Visitors to your website want to talk – with you, and with each other. Are you providing conversation spaces? The web is FULL of conversation now – check out Amazon, most newspaper and TV news sites, YouTube, this blog, Facebook, Twitter – all spaces where conversation can happen. And conversation DOES happen, because that’s what people do. We like to talk, we like to share, we like to voice our opinion (as I hope some of you do in the comments!).


So, my simple digital experience tip for today is this – make sure to create conversation spaces on your websites. Places like comment boxes, online forums or discussion groups around a topic, Twitter accounts for feedback, online places to Ask a Librarian, etc.

Enable Conversations

Also remember to actually enable conversations once you build the space. What’s that mean? In my library’s case, we allow unmoderated comments to fly free and easy onto our digital branch. I know what some of you are thinking – “OMG, David! Don’t you have a TON of cussing, swearing, name-calling, and other highly inappropriate things being posted? How could you EVER allow that!???!!??”

Um. No. We simply don’t have that. Yes, once in awhile we have some negative comments. But why would we moderate or not show those? Instead, we respond appropriately.

But some of you will need to moderate comments for one reason or the other (i.e., those old-fashioned city attorneys who haven’t yet discovered the joys of Facebook). If you DO moderate comments, make sure to do it quickly. Same day is good. Same hour is best. Why? Because it’s a CONVERSATION. If someone starts a conversation and you don’t get around to moderating the comment for a few days … well, you have killed the conversation. And that’s really no conversation at all.

pic by Adventures in Librarianship