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

Making Connections – the Institutional Version

Last post, I covered things I think about when making personal friend connections in a bunch of social networks I use. I also said “for MPOW, it’s slightly different – I might cover that in another post.” Here’s that other post.

As an institution, who should you friend? Why? This is pretty subjective of course, but here are some general guidelines to get you started:

Friend patrons/customers/members. Friend people living in your service area, or who are likely to use your services. Find them using tools like Twitter’s Find People search or any number of third party search services. Your goal is to share your stuff, your events, and yourselves with other people and organizations who can actually use and benefit your content in  a social network.

If someone friends you, check them out. Look at their posts, look at their bio, and where they’re from. If they live close by, friend them. Then start sharing.

Friend other local organizations. Again, the goal is to share your stuff with other organizations that can potentially partner with you, or otherwise send people your way.

Friend others who are interested in your stuff. Have a local history collection that focuses on a certain individual or era? Friend others who are interested in the same things. This should hold true especially on social networks that focus on multimedia, like Flickr and YouTube.

Other Considerations

Facebook Groups
– these can have a narrower focus, so you might be friending fewer people in a group, especially if it’s more of a niche group. For example, if you have a Facebook Group focused on teens, you’ll want to friend actual teens, rather than just anyone of any age.

YouTube – do your local news media outlets have YouTube accounts? Make sure to friend them, and favorite some of their videos.

Finally, be friend-neutral. Don’t agree with what the person says, or don’t like their content? Remind yourself that this isn’t your personal social network you’re developing, but your organization’s network. And most likeley, you take all shapes and sizes of friend connections.

Further reading: my set of posts on attracting friends, starting with Don’t Friend Me.

What am I missing? Any other groups it might be good to friend? Not to friend?

photo from sausyn

Making Connections

Social Media connections in my inboxIf you sign up and use social media tools, here’s what might happen to you: the image accompanying this post is my inbox. I recently visited my parents, and I only answered pressing emails … but didn’t really clear stuff out like normal.

Check out the pic – everyone wants to follow! Twitter follow requests … Facebook friend requests … new listeners … Friendfeed subscribers … Flickr contacts … even a request to do something from church (they’re using a cool 2.0-ish tool for worship team scheduling). Probably a couple of blog comments in there, too. There were 2 pages of this.

And some of you play with this stuff more than me … I can only imagine what YOUR inbox looks like!

Who to friend? Who to ignore? Who to respond to? And when? Here’s what I do:

  • Twitter: I get more of these than the others, so I’m a bit pickier here. I friend you if you sound interesting and don’t look like a spammer. I read your bio and a couple of tweets. Sometimes, I look at your follow-to-follower ratio. I usually don’t follow other libraries or people that sound too much like snakeoil salesmen (i.e, that mention SEO/make money online/I’ll make your life better stuff).
  • Also picky with Flickr – I’ll follow you if I know you, if I’ve met you, or if I might meet you professionally (i.e., if you’re a librarian or a social media type).
  • Facebook: I follow most people who follow me. I recently had a run of high school chums discover Facebook.
  • If you follow me as a listener, I’ll follow you back.
  • Friendfeed: Same – I follow back almost everyone who follows me.
  • In any of these, if you send me a message/tweet me/write on my wall, I’ll read it and usually respond if it makes sense to do so. Sometimes I read it, think “huh” and move on – no response needed.
  • Also – if I come across your blog, your book, or an interesting tweet/post, I might friend/follow you – so I can receive more interesting content from you!

When do I do this? Personally, I usually when I read it and/or when it’s convenient to do so (for MPOW, it’s slightly different – I might cover that in another post). I think of follow requests and comments/tweets/wall posts as introductions and conversation, so it makes sense to me to do it sooner rather than later. But then, I don’t have a ton of them, and find it’s simply easier to quickly deal with a follow request quickly and move on, rather than letting them pile up (unless I’m out of town or away from the web for a bit).

What do you do? Who do you friend? And when do you find the time? Stuff to think about…

Friend Customers like Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk has some good things to say about social media. Here’s one example (embedded above) discussing how to “make friends” – watch it, then let’s discuss.

In this video, Gary talks about how to participate in social networks and how to friend people – this is essential for libraries! Some big points from his video:

  • think of the internet as a big conference or room or a mixer – in those settings, you find a group to talk to and jump right in
  • in social networks, you do the very same thing – you walk in, and you start saying hello (it’s not stalking)
  • if people are putting stuff out there, they know that people can see it (so it’s really ok to friend them)

Take-aways? Don’t be scared to friend people. Set up a library twitter account, facebook or myspace account, etc… then search for people using those tools who live in your community, and say hello by friending them.

Then start participating in their conversations.

OK – someone will say “but David, that’s weird.” No it’s not – it’s how the emerging online world works. Businesses are already doing this successfully (ie., Gary’s doing just this thing for his Wine business).

Attracting Friends, Part 3: Facebook

This is part 3 (or really part 4 or 5) of my slowly-growing series on organization-based friending in social networks. Here’s what I have so far:

Now, on to Facebook. How do you attract friends using Facebook? You really have to think of your organization two different ways with Facebook – think in terms of organizations and of people. Organizationally, you can create Pages and Groups. Personally, you can create an individual Facebook account that you use professionally.

For example, one of our Youth Services librarians has created a personal Facebook account specifically to connect with our teen audience. It’s working – she’s gathered over 500 friends – mostly teens in Topeka. And she uses the account to push out stuff to that group.

Ideas on attracting friends in Facebook:

  • search for local people, request to friend them
  • friend local Facebook Pages – businesses, authors, etc.
  • Advertise your Facebook Page outside of Facebook (i.e., website, twitter, myspace, email newsletter, etc)
  • Business cards with Facebook contact info at a public services desk, passed out at programs
  • Teach a class on Facebook
  • Create a Facebook Ad to advertise your Page to other Facebook users (there’s a cost attached)
  • Leave those business cards at place local Facebook users hang out, like coffee shops
  • Have good content on your page – send your blog there, add some photos that connect to flickr, same with youtube
  • photos and visuals are important – helps you look more real
  • Especially for people using a personal Facebook account – interact with your Facebook friends!

What else? How do you attract friends using Facebook?