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

The Daily Grape and the Daily Book?

Gary Vaynerchuk, who made videos about wine at Wine Library TV and now at the Daily Grape, has a really cool idea about how to add value to his wine videos, and to help his viewers keep track of (and buy) wine they’re interesting in trying.

Here’s what Gary wants to do (from episode #1 of the Daily Grape):

  • Create mobile app-based video (and have a web-based version too)
  • Make his videos shorter
  • Make the content entertaining and usable
  • Created a mobile app (Daily Grape in the iTunes app store) that goes along with the videos

Gary noticed that he mentions a lot of wine, and some of his viewers forget about the wine after they’re done watching the video. So why not make an app to solve that problem?

Here’s how Gary’s app works:

  • sign up for a free account through the Daily Grape app.
  • Then, watch one of Gary’s videos
  • If you like the sound of a wine Gary mentions, you can click through to the video details, and add the wine to your wish list.
  • Then you have a handy list when you’re at a restaurant or a wine store.
  • You can also comment on the wines found on the app.

Cool idea, huh? Believe it or not, I think this could work for libraries, too. More wine for everybody! No, just kidding.

We have books, don’t we? My library has a collection of almost 500,000 books/videos/etc. Do you think our patrons can remember all those titles?

Right – probably not. But that’s why some of the newer ILS’s include things like wish lists, tags, and comments. I’ve seen some library catalogs that let you take those wish lists and turn them into RSS feeds, which gives your patrons the ability to embed their lists wherever they want.

That’s cool. But what if library staff did the same thing? Why not keep a running list of staff picks that can be discovered in the catalog and on the website. And on the library’s blog sidebar (since it’s embeddable). And in Facebook (with a little coding added in).

In fact, my library is already providing some of that, in the form of blog posts with links to good books that happen to be in our collection.

So – just a slightly different, slightly more purposeful way to think about content created by library staff. Be a bit purposeful, like Gary Vaynerchuk – direct your customer to good content, help them check stuff out – and provide them with ways to remember the books they want to read.

Do you do that? If so – how do you do it?

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).