I was lucky to be invited to speak to the Mississippi State University MBA Association monthly meeting last week. I prepared this talk on how to take advantage of the fact that recruiters and employers are “pre-screening” candidates online. Social media, handled smartly, is a powerful introduction to future employers. For those prepared few, it bring these Googlers onto a jobseeker’s home turf, and into an environment that can be arranged to strategically present industry expertise, a well-rounded personality, or anything else the jobseeker wants to highlight. Done well, it also demonstrates proficiency using these tools, now a critical skill in many markets.
I’m giving a workshop for English Majors today who are looking for jobs, and I decided to throw in my new project…teaching graduating seniors how to clean up their Facebook profiles. Posting the slides for anyone that wants to see them.
Usually when I talk to groups about managing identity in social networks, the focus ends up being on privacy settings and information overload—how to balance the personal and the public and how to deal with the deluge of information we inevitably trigger by being involved in these networks. Instead today, I’m going to venture out into the broader (and more helpful to you I hope) subject of identity creation and growth in business. These topics are inevitably related, because whether or not you are a company or an individual, we all start out as newborns in any social network. And like newborns, there is a natural process of growth and maturity that is inescapable. No one is born into Twitter or Facebook with an identity, community and relationships in place, even if you are the most recognizable brand in the world. The “who you are” in a social network relies on your work, your habits, your activities, and your connections as you create them. Today I will go over what seem to be the current “best practices” for creating, growing and managing identities as a business in a social network. There is no way for me to be comprehensive—at this point, people are building entire careers around these topics. You may very well be more expert than I am at this. I have been struggling with social networks for the MSU Libraries and for my own professional identity since 2007—and I mean struggling. I cannot count how many times Facebook and Twitter have themselves convulsed and grown and re-invented themselves, often with me hanging by my fingernails along the way. Not only that, but the Libraries and even I have done the same in the last four years—changing what we would like to be, how we would like to be seen, even our goals in the use of these tools.
And they are tools. Tools you may not even need, or that may not be appropriate for you or the companies or organizations you represent. My one guiding principle is to know about it, know about everything, experiment with anything plausible, but don’t implement anything unless there is a demonstrated need or goal. Flat out. There is no sense wasting time and resources on something that isn’t going to be used. In fact, it could be detrimental. A sad and static Facebook or Twitter page can be worse than not having one at all.
So….you have decided Facebook and/or Twitter are the place to be. You have someone who is engaged and energetic and committed to entering into these relationships. And they are relationships, with all that entails. They take time and thought and creativity and investment.
The first thing to do is to begin to brand yourself. Find a “username” that represents you that you can use across the internet in any social network you join. For example, MSU_Libraries or AmandaClay or SBCoffeehouse. In Facebook, it’s easier. You can use whatever name you’d like—but make it searchable. Make the name discoverable and simple. You will be able to create a vanity URL for Facebook that identifies you—but at this point lots of them are taken. Use a search engine like namechk.com to find which ones are taken and make yours symmetrical across the web. This is important for several reasons. 1) Findability. People will expect that once they know your identity in one place, it will be the same in other places. 2) Search results. This will create “ownership” over this term. For example, if you search “AmandaClay” or “Amanda Clay Powers”, I am in most of the results. For “Amanda Clay Powers” I am in all the results for the first eight pages.
The second thing is to decide who you want to be. You will experiment in the beginning, and you will have your blue eyeshadow period. Your mother will not be there to wipe it off for you on the way out the door this time, though, so begin cautiously.
Your page or pages can be “static”—I’d call it Web 1.5. Web 1.0 was the web before RSS, blogs, comments on news articles, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If you make yourself interesting enough, Web 1.5 can be okay. You can push information out, become “valuable,” create an identity and a name for yourself based on what you produce. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is a different thing than jumping into the interactive, relationship-oriented world of Web 2.0. The “Live Web”—this is the web people talk about moving their lives into—and this is the web where the real riches of brand relationship happen.
They key to Web 2.0 is to jump in to the mix. Becoming part of a community is about finding your “people” and listening to them. And then interacting with them. It will not happen overnight. This is something that more than any other way of being on the web demonstrates the growth cycle. You will inevitably start out small. Small is a great place to be. This is where you can begin to build you strongest relationships. In fact, depending on the community you serve, you may not want to be much more than small. Strange Brew, for example, has a limited community to draw from—they are based in Starkville and circumscribed by coffee drinkers in Starkville that want something more than McDonalds and come to that end of town regularly. However, they have managed to build a strong brand and community on Twitter—and not by being “professional” in the strictest definition. SBCoffeehouse has opinions on Twitter, engages with the community, “loves” individual patrons, and knows when finals are. During finals, frequently they will offer specials that are “instant”—i.e. first come first served. Or contests with coffee drinks as prizes to engage their base, like coming up with what to put on the sign outside their building. But the only reason it works is because their base is already listening. And the only reason they are listening is because SBCoffeehouse listened first. Created a specific identity that melds with the role of the coffee house in a university town. They also follow their followers. And their followers respond. For the comments they make get just as many responses. They follow 2010 people and are followed by 2005. In Starkville, Mississippi, they have built a community of more than 2,000 people.
It is critical in Twitter to follow people back that follow you. Not only is it considered “good manners” but it is also necessary if they want to send you a “Direct Message.” We won’t go into the ins and outs of Twitter at this point, but the critical thing to know is if someone addresses you, there is a way for you to separate that flow out from the rest of the 2000+ people’s chatter. You can use an RSS feed or click directly from within any Twitter application to see them. You can have it “pushed” to a mobile device so you never miss it. This is a new feature, but an extremely helpful one—especially with the pervasiveness of mobile tech now.
This feature is also available in Facebook, but Facebook is a different monster than Twitter. Generally you will choose to create a “Page” in Facebook, which is not interactive in the same way that Twitter is, and in this way they can be symbiotic. In fact you can have your Facebook posts automatically put on your Twitter page or vice-verse.
There are advantages to Facebook, however. One of them is analytics. Another is targeted advertising. There are certainly services on Twitter that can analyze your Twitter account. I’ve got a list of them up on my MSU Twitter Guide, but the one I like most is called Klout. It has nothing on Facebook, however, because people actually put real information about themselves on Facebook, and so you can get actual demographics.
And the point of any of this is to know your audience so that you can be valuable to them. So you can engage with them. And finding out what they are interested in is difficult. Finding out what they are interested in that helps build your brain is the holy grail. The only way to figure this out is to listen. One of the features of the newest New Facebook Page is that you can interact on Facebook as the page. This means you can comment as the Page and you can have your own “feed” composed of Pages you have “liked.” For us, this is a collection of MSU Pages, so we can know what is going on on campus. For you it could be competitors—just know whoever it is, they will appear as liked Pages on your Page.
Watch your stats (Insights in FB Page talk) and see where they are coming from, who are they—ages are easiest, what they respond to. In my experience, it is notices about hours or library information, then pictures of themselves for the Libraries’ Facebook Page first, but anything interactive is good too. This is dangerous because you have to hope someone is going to respond. There is nothing worse than posing a question or asking for involvement and hearing nothing back. This, however, is just part of the growth process. You will make mistakes. Respond to them as quickly as you can, with humor if possible. Transparency is key–be real.
To sum up, these are some of the current “best practices” for creating, growing and managing identities as a business in a social network. Branding yourself, choosing your goals, listening, interacting, and adding value are the ways you can create and grow an identity in a social network. Not all social networks are the same. Twitter has different value, reach and purpose than Facebook. There are other social networks that are valuable as well—investigate and listen. Find out where your customers are and if a tool will be valuable. Experiment and be willing to grow. Growth can mean failure. Transparency is key—respect your community and they will respect you.
I’m not an expert on this subject. See Buffy Hamilton for that. I am deeply interested in this subject, and exploring it in the same way the school librarians that come to MegaResource are. For the last four years, I’ve had my annual “reality check” doing some version of this presentation for k-12 librarians in Mississippi that gather for this conference. I learn more about my incoming freshmen during these sessions than at any other time of the year. Teaching this workshop gives me a “futurist” perspective that is grounded in reality….and not just any reality–the reality from the on-the-ground troops here in the great state of Mississippi. These are the resources I’ve put together for this workshop for their reference and for anyone else who cares to peek at our conversation this year.
First, I feel it is essential to acknowledge several leaders in this field who have been resources for these workshops all along. The first is Buffy Hamilton, who is always always the person to watch in this area. Her work with The Unquiet Library is among the must-follow streams of innovation in school librarianship. The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy recognized her program for Cutting Edge Technology in Library Services in 2011.
Second and third are two researchers who have influenced my thinking about teens (in particular) and social networking. Michael Wesch and danah boyd [lowercase by design]. Both are pioneers in research on social networking and youth and continue to be innovators in this field. In 2007 Michael Wesch created a video that still stands today in describing the challenges we face as educators with the generation coming next.
I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with these teacher librarians again, and I can’t wait to hear what they have to tell me. These are the slides from the talk I gave at the MegaResource Conference 2/11/11:
Reporting from Taking the Library With You: VR Going Mobile (the session will also be virtual on 7/7!). This started out on Twitter, but moved to the blog when Twitter went belly-up at the beginning of the session.
Moderator: Dr. Marie Radford from Rutgers University
Pam Sessoms from University of North Carolina / LibraryH3lp
Cathy Sanford from Contra Costa Libraries
Mary Carol Lindbloom from South Central Library Council / MyInfoquest.com
Each panelist provided a brief introduction, then Dr. Radford posed questions to the panel, and lastly the panel and moderator took questions from the audience. These are quick notes from the session to get them up quickly:
Sessoms: focusing on LibraryH3lp mobile. UNC using it on their mobile web page. Java/HTML/CSS. Light–More text than mobile
Sessoms: For SMS service,began with AOL hack–little traffic. Switched to Google voice going through LibraryH3lp.Slightly fragile
Sessoms: Not many in-depth reference from mobile reference interface. Librarians can tell that it is mobile from an avatar.
Sessoms: Librarians can be mobile or at desktop to answer SMS/Mobile/Chat. LibraryH3lp allows all to be transferred to queues.
Sanford: LibGudies, LibAnswers, SMS plus the rest. Staff multi-tasking while answering questions.
Sanford: Answer-me_this is favorite tool. Users automatically redirected to potential matches. Available when libraries aren’t open. Knowledge database for staff.
Sanford: Answer-me-this for reference, reading recommendations, public can be involved. Pre-scripted responses mean quicker to answer all questions.
Sanford: Their philosophy is that everything you can do in the building, they want you to be able to do online.
Lindbloom: June 17 PewInternet Guide to Teens, Young Adults, Mobile Phones and Social Media—must read.
Lindbloom: Cell phones decreasing digital divide by allowing all to have access to the web. J
Lindbloom: Reasons for chat reference are the same reason to look at chat reference. www.myinfoquest.info. Libraries have # for users with three letter codes for each library. Nationwide with 70 libraries. Goal is 24/7. Now open 80 hrs/week for the summer.
Lindbloom: For VR Collaborative 10k-12k questions/yr. For SMS 7k/yr text reference request in that consortium. Goal is response time <10minutes. Lindbloom: Each library donates 2hrs/wk. Trouble with people not showing up for shifts. Usser/advisory meetings & training session. Using Altarama software, filtered into Gmail acct. Lindbloom: ww.myinfoquest.info for patrons. Hidden part of site holds PR, swapping desk shifts. Marketing to librarians and library users. “Txt 4 Answers” is the tagline they have evolved. Lindbloom: Find them on Facebook, Twitter. Project evaluation is ongoing. Just got IMLS grant to carry the project through another year. Testing out Text a Librarian, Gmail, 511, Altarama in July. Radford: QR = Quick Response codes you can aim a camera at and download information into the smartphone. Radford ?: What do you think are currently the 1-2 most important virtual apps for providing virtual services? What would you like to see in terms of apps in the next few years: Sessoms: Not a big proponents of apps for VR because they have to exist across platforms. Jabber apps to monitor IM can be used on the go—roaming reference models. HTML5 is going to be the big thing. Get electronic reference in mobile friendly formats will be important. As questions become more challenging, better e-books will be great. Sanford: Focused on library-service. Wants the outcome to be good for the patrons. Feels that QR codes will be useful in the future. Video chat will make a difference for VR—we will be F2F again. Lindbloom: Challenging to monitor questions through mobile device—would like those options to improve. QP quidgets could improve. QR have been around since 1994 for manufacturing applications. Create augmented reality walking tour with QR codes. Get up to a page of information from the code (4000 characters). Radford: QR/Augmented Reality = hyperlocal. Students took pic of call number on the screen from reference desk to carry with me to the desk. Also text-me-this-call-number. Circ stats have bounced in one library with this in their catalog. Students coming to the reference desk with call number on the phone. Marketing in SMS in elevators. Radford: How are you marketing your mobile VR services? Sanford: Be careful with branding. Go where your customers are—identify those places. Embed widget when they have a no result found that automatically opens IM widget. Find where they get stumped and market there. QR codes get library into the community virally. Sessoms: Traffic is slow at the beginning of new tech. People have to come to rely on them. Getting them mentioned in instruction sessions. Busier services seem to be in more urban environments (anecdotal). NYU has a busy texting services. Lindbloom: In 60-70 communities—half academic, half public--each marketing differently. Website has posters and suggestions. Start of the semester checklist for academic. One library has students working on a video to advertise SMS service. 6x3ft banner idea for parades, hang in the library. Door hangers, posters, lots of ideas on website. Barriers for success can be geography, hours available. Should mirror reference 24/7. Students using VR up until 1-2am. Radford: Perhaps texting is still being used for social interactions, and not “business” interactions. That may change over time with marketing, etc. Barrier is getting the word out—letting people know it exists. Most effective marketing is viral—recommended by friends or trusted people (librarians, teachers, faculty)…need to market to librarians as well as users. Library Instruction sessions are very important—demo it. Have students take out the cell and put the library’s number in their contacts. Radford: Worried about being overwhelmed? It hasn’t happened yet. Loves the banner idea—hang a banner in front of the library that says “Free WiFi” Radford: Social change with current devices or will it take more technology to affect change? Lindbloom: It comes down to broadband. Broadband initiatives are critical—still a lot of dumb phones out there. They will be replaced over time (like color TVs). Sessoms: We are all still trying to figure out how to serve our patrons. We are all still putting ourselves out there, trying to experiment, take risks and see what works. It will work itself out as the technology matures. Sanford: We need to be paying attention to change as it happens. Radford: Things are moving so rapidly, it’s important to keep on top of societal shifts. ACRL 2025 report. Maybe no traditional students due to rising costs, etc. Globalization of privatization. Maybe for profit universities are taking most profitable undergraduate programs. Radford: New term “tree books” vs “e-books”—but still have to take into account energy produced in manufacturing e-books (actual higher energy cost than tree-books). Anywhere/anytime societal change. Modern office building structured around the paper. J Radford: In your experience how does the traffic coming from mobile VR users differ from that coming from other VR channels? Sessoms: Fewer hardcore research questions coming through SMS or mobile widget. More “nitty gritty” things, like book availability, study room availability, hours. They are on the go, trying to figure out if they want to stop in. Do get the occasional research question, but not as much as in traditional IM/Chat. Lindbloom: Questions are not as indepth in general for SMS: directional, “stump the librarian” questions. Treat every question with respect (future tax payers). Trying to establishing whether or not there is a real person behind the service with frivolous questions. For academics—let everyone know (admissions, etc.) know you are providing this service. Sanford: Mostly ready reference. Want the questions from the bar. Radford: Questions may seem frivolous, but users can sometimes value them differently. May be really important to that person. Treat the patrons with respect and they will come back. If they aren’t treated well, they will remember forever. Only takes two characters to type “hi” Radford: They are chatting, IM’ing and texting the same question. Why? Cry for help—which method will be the most responsive. Who’s going to be nice to me? Where will I get the best information? We need to answer with as much compassion as possible. Do people need to put software on their phones for QR Codes? Yes, you do have to have an app that is a barcode scanner to downloaded for your phone. Sanford is recommending particular QR Code reader. C Do you use a push document on VR? Sessoms: LibraryH3lp does. Does not happen all the time, but very convenient. E.g. If patron can’t get the document, can send pdf of articles. Send scan of style guide. Lindbloom: do not push documents with SMS. What happens if you cannot answer a question, what do you do? Sessoms: We never say no. There has to be someone who knows more. “Let me get back to you” Tries to get email for follow-up. Lindbloom: There is no such thing as a question you can’t answer. Radford: Refer people to subject expert rather than giving a half-assed answer. But ask if it’s okay to do the follow-up referral. Sanford: LibGuides are owned by subject specialists so patrons have access. Sessoms: Notion of wanting a good answer really important in usability studies—on subject pages give them directly to a subject experts. If a library wants to start a VR reference but only has funds and staff to do one thing—what should they do? Lindbloom: Join Infoquest Sessoms: Start Meebo for free: IM, widget, etc. Smartphones are expensive. Do you offer smartphones for librarians to train? Sanford: No. Tech savvy staff. Lindbloom: Users are coming to the library with multiple devices and wanting to know what content the library has for each. We need to know what we have that works on what platform. New pathfinders. Sessoms: They do have iPod Touches for staff to learn what it’s like to use the mobile browser. Radford: Librarians aren’t accessing questions from a smartphone, but on the dashboard on their computer. How does the collaborative reference work with your database providers, copyright, etc.? Lindbloom: Comes up with collaborative reference. They have a sense of what the other libraries subscribed to in terms of databases (not as detailed as questionpoint). Leave it up to each library. It’s a grey area. Maybe less reference in text reference because there is less depth to the information needed for things like definitions. Sanford: Talk to vendors in advance about anything they are doing and ask them about limitations. Most have said none. Do not want them to impede a sale, but beyond that, nothing. Sessoms: In North Carolina they have a state-wide pool of resources to draw from, which includes the major databases. Judicial fair use. Speaker on Saturday discussed making videos about how to use the catalog and then email them. Is that possible with SMS? Sessoms: That could be done easily through Jing and then shorten the link with bit.ly. That could be great. Sanford: We would like to incorporate that into LibAnswers. We don’t want them getting a no response and nowhere to go. Lindbloom: Using Jing for other things…thinks it’s a great idea. How much traffic do you get through facebook or other social media? Sessoms: Very little chat traffic on Facebook. Some of the best results has been for looking at renovation in progress or special collections blogs. Sanford: Not a lot of chat through FB. Use facebook to recommend books, when they will get comments in response. A different level of virtual reference. Lindbloom: Not seeing traffic through FB. Eastern Illinois has been getting VR questions through FB. App on FB pushing to Questionpoint. Can you post hours with Meebo? What are the core hours to be available? Sessoms: With Meebo the widget will show whether you are online or offline. You post your hours on your webpage. You can have your widget disappear when you are not online. Spikes in the afternoon, lull at dinner, then peaks again in the evening. Radford: Peak hours correspond to in-house traffic. When you are busy f2f you will also be busy online. I wish I was married to my programmer. Do you know of a client for blackberry on the library end? Sessoms: Yes, any Jabber client. When you had embedded a widget in your online catalog for null result, what happens when people are offline? Sanford: Goes to email Do you use shorthand for SMS reference? Do you excuse poor grammar? Sessoms: Use the lingo if the patron uses it first. Radford: Mirror patron behavior. Have any panelists fielded geneology questions through VR? Any suggestions about how to make it satisfying for the patron? Lindbloom: Direct them to the library. Text ref is a segue into library services. It establishes a relationship with the library user. Sanford: Sends to subject guide on LibGuides. Sessoms: Refer questions to state library or North Carolina collection. Pam mentioned all these iterations of software. What do all the changes in software do to marketing? Sessoms: Opaque to patrons. Librarians have had more difficulties To reach patrons, use patrons using local media, youtube, etc. We just ask for phone numbers if the text is too complicated.