Social Capital in Action

Consider the social capital of networksAwhile back, Joyce Valenza, an assistant professor at Rutgers University (she blogs here and tweets here), asked me and a bunch of others to contribute content on the importance for a librarian to develop “social capital.” Joyce defined “social capital” this way:

How, through your blogs, reviews, tweets, webinars, have you developed friendships with authors and experts and other librarians that you’ve been able to leverage in less-than intangible ways? How has sharing a lot changed your position in your community, or, perhaps, led to speaking gigs and requests to publish? How do you digitally mentor and in what ways do you experience a return on those kind investments? How do you serve as a network bridge? How do you build and nurture ties weak and strong? How has the digital building of social capital benefited you either personally and professionally? (from Joyce’s email to me).

Here’s how Wikipedia defines Social Capital:

… social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups. Although different social sciences emphasize different aspects of social capital, they tend to share the core idea “that social networks have value”.

Interesting concept, huh?

Here’s what I sent back to Joyce as my response:

Check out this video of mine on Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wj0B2RzuyZE – it’s not actually the video that’s important, but the comments. One in particular that happened recently. Melissa Saubers left a comment, inviting me (and my coworking/makerspace group in Topeka) to a conference in the Kansas City area (a cool-sounding co-working conference. Wish I could go!). She’s a coworking space owner in the KC area.

There are a couple of important social capital concepts here:

  • The invite, and that particular conference, is potentially really valuable to Topeka. We are creating a combined coworking/makerspace organization, and the library is playing a part in the developmental stages (along with 4-5 other non-profits/colleges in the area).
  • I’ve never met Melissa. I’d guess she ran across my video on KC-area makerspaces, is possibly helping to organize the KC event, and sent the invite via a comment because she thought it might be helpful to us.
  • The invite would have never happened if I didn’t already have social capital. I’m online, I’m already creating a variety of content and participating in professional-focused conversations. Because of that, and because I made a video with “social wings,” I received valuable info that can help my whole community.

My point? You can’t ignore social media. You can’t “have an account” but not use it much, or just be your “weekend self” and expect to make business connections. But if you actively participate on a variety of social media channels, and include at least a mix of business and personal, then … you just might be able to help your career, your library, and possibly even your community.

Image by Howard Lake

Finding Yourself on Google… when you’re a Kid

A couple days ago, one of my children showed the rest of the family a funny Facebook meme/game being passed around. Here are the rules:

  1. Open Google
  2. Search your first name
  3. Take the first picture that comes up
  4. Upload it to Facebook
  5. That’s you in 10 years

The rest of us thought it’d be funny to try, so we did. And yes, my family tends to gather around the computer to watch a funny Youtube video, look at a silly website, etc. Anyway, here are the results my family got while playing this game:

  • My son found a normal-looking, slightly-pudgy, balding middle-aged man (I think he said “aww, man!” when that photo came up).
  • My wife found a young woman.
  • My oldest daughter found a female wrestler (she found that sorta odd).
  • Me? I got the naked statue of David, King of Israel (and a bit of ribbing from the family)
  • My youngest daughter, age 12? She found … herself. From one of my Flickr pics (I put her name in the photo description). She found that a little weird, and a little pleasing at the same time – she won the game!

A couple of observations:

  • Kids games these days … how funny that you can make a game out of a google search, huh?
  • Anyone catch what’s involved in playing this game? A Google image search (Image search wasn’t even mentioned, just assumed), downloading an image, then uploading it to Facebook, then posting all of that as a Facebook status update. There’s a good 2-3 skillsets there that some of us have actually taught in a formal setting in the last 15 years, reduced to the ease and throw-away-ness of a goofy game. Wow.
  • Copyright, anyone? Yes, it’s harmless fun. But still, it does involve randomly lifting and reposting photos of strangers into Facebook … without their permission. And it’s easy to do, too.
  • Privacy, anyone? My daughter found herself. In the results of that same search, you can also find a photo of my oldest daughter and a photo of a ballet production both my daughters danced in. Weird, huh?

I’m fine with finding photos of my kids online, and wasn’t too surprised at those results. I know how it works. But how about other people who put private moments online for, say, a grandparent to see? Or someone posting photos and information, and not really thinking of the connectivity that the web provides? That can REALLY freak some people out, and might feel a bit like “Google knows who you are.”

What to do? Teach your customers (and staff) the implications of posting online, whether that’s a blog, a photo-sharing site like Flickr, or even an all-in-one social network like Facebook.

If it’s online, people can find it. Period. Teach people how to set their privacy setting in social networks, and also teach them that once something’s online, it’s most likely available to EVERYONE IN THE WORLD.

And then, teach them how to deal with that. Fun, huh?

Update – check out Posting Photos of Your Kids on Facebook: The Realities by the ReadWriteWeb.

Google Plus – Should you and your Library be there?

Google Plus is all the rage this week – invites have started spreading around (here’s a link to my Google Plus account – feel free to friend me!).

Some tech leaders have been making big claims about Google Plus, saying things like it will replace blogging, they’re moving from Facebook to Google Plus, it will take over Facebook or Twitter, etc.

Ok … Google Plus is only a week or so old. WAY too early to predict the demise of anything – especially of something like Facebook, with its 600 gazillion followers. Also remember that this is a third try for Google – Waves and Buzz both sorta fizzled out. let’s give it a good 6 months to a year to see if it survives.

On to the more important questions – should YOU be using Google Plus? Should your Library/organization?

You – this one’s easy. If you get an invite (or have an account already), by all means sign up and play around with it. Friend people, do some posting, try a video chat. Get familiar with the tool. Then either use it or not … that part really depends on you. But since it has some early potential in becoming another useful social media tool … why not at least play with it a bit?

Your library/organization – this one’s a bit more tricky. Or not – Google Plus isn’t supporting organizational accounts right now, according to this article from Search Engine Land. This article from ReelSEO goes one further, saying Google Plus will shut down an organizational account (though there are a couple out there [DLK – oops. Google found those, and they’re now 404-nothing found pages. You might check this out for some news orgs, from Moonflowerdragon in my comments] anyway).

So for the time being anyway, Google Plus is an individual-only network. That’s great, because it gives you time to play with the new tool, and gives Google time to see if it’s a winner (translation = profitable) for them.

Once that happens, and Google OKs organizational accounts – should you be there? The answer is … it depends. Are your users there? If so, then yes. Recent national stats claim that 51% of people age 12 and up are on Facebook – that’s 51% of your community, so it definitely makes sense for most libraries and organizations to have a Facebook presence.

But for other social networks, it really depends on your organization’s goals, and on where your customers tend to gather. If they start gathering in Google Plus, then yes – you should figure it out and be there for them.

If not? Maybe not so much. Time will tell!

And a question – are you playing with Google Plus? If so – what do you like/dislike about the service? Let me know in the comments!

Facebook and Privacy – is this REALLY a big deal?

being of two mindsI’ve seen lots of posts on Facebook privacy issues the last couple of days, some taking about sharing, some about privacy, some just confused about the whole thing. Me? I’m of two minds about Facebook and privacy.

So I ask – is the privacy you [think you] have on Facebook REALLY that big of a deal?

On the one hand, of course it is. They should at least TELL you they’re going to do something before doing it. And they should let you opt in, rather than forcing you to opt out.

We are, after all, their bread and butter – no people, no Facebook.

On the other hand …. what are you trying to keep private on Facebook, when it comes down to it? Let’s take a peek at what you can share [or not] in Facebook:

First, there’s the “update me with your stuff” things, like status updates, new photos, and new videos:

  • If you want those to be private, you shouldn’t post them. Period.
  • Hello! Nothing’s private on the web. Even on Facebook.
  • If you want to share a status update with just some people, you can do that. Which is more than Twitter gives you.

Basic info, like:

  • Name: um … don’t open a Facebook account if you don’t want to share your name.
  • Gender: That’s rather apparent, isn’t it? Is it bad that you know I’m a guy?
  • Birthday: Hmm. I don’t really care. Should I?
  • Relationship Status: OK – so I have a recently divorced friend, and it was rather painful to watch his relationship status go from married to single to it’s complicated … back to single, etc. Maybe a case of sharing too much info, rather than one of privacy. So if your life’s on a rolloercoaster ride … don’t fill that one out.
  • Current city: big whoop. Google already knows this.
  • Hometown: That’s sort of important when connecting with past schoolmates.
  • Religious and Political views: I have em. So does everyone else.

Work and education:

  • Seeing that I have my resume online and brag about what my library does all the time, this obviously doesn’t bother me.

Likes and interests: stuff like music, movies, etc.

  • Oh man. You’ll find out that I like U2, Fountains of Wayne, and a weird, old-school christian alternative group (Daniel Amos Band). Will my life be ruined if you find this out? Nope. Will yours? I’m guessing not.

Contact info: So … the whole POINT with Facebook is to connect with people …

  • email: already published in many places online, including my website.
  • Mobile phone number: Not had a problem yet.
  • AIM, GTalk, etc IM: Already out there
  • Website URL: I want that shared.

Your friends list:

  • Is it bad that you know who I’ve friended? I don’t really think so. Then again, I’ll probably friend you if you ask, just for kicks.

************

Ok. It really doesn’t bother me that you know some or all of this stuff. At the same time, I DO know how to hide certain things – for example, most of my contact info is only available to Friends (as in people who friend me).

But – isn’t all this sorta beside the point? My basic contact info is already scattered all over the web. In fact, it was BEFORE I even had a Facebook account. My resume’s online. These days, I tweet, flickr, and Youtube you guys like crazy. So if you really want to know more about me, you can – with or without Facebook.

Want to talk about privacy? How about that credit card all of us plunk down in front of lots of 20-year old strangers every day at the mall or Walmart or a restaurant? Besides the kiddo who now has access to your credit card (not that anything’s ever happened to my credit card yet), every time you swipe, that company finds out more about you. Or how about your cell phone – your phone company knows where you are. Or Google? All those searches you just did? Yep. Google knows you.

Facebook and my taste in bands or what I said in a little text box? Not really on my radar.

How about you?

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