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That Was the Week that Was: Social Media Take-Aways and Tips


As a global event partner for Social Media Week (February 7 - 11), NYPL hosted four events that afforded me, a seasoned librarian but novice blogger, a handy immersion in social messaging—and in my own backyard, too. 

At the lively opening reception in the Stephen A Schwartzman Building's vast Celeste Bartos Forum, I raised the average age of the revelers. Circulating through the celebratory crowd, I met few folks who had, shall we say, ‘achieved my maturity.’ Mixing with millenials on this scale was fun.   Photo, Herb ScherPhoto, Herb Scher
Attendees couldn’t seem to get enough of good,  old-fashioned conversation.  Despite ubiquitous laptops and handheldsand, I later learned,  upwards of 200 tweetsmost people, perhaps fueled by the superb Macallan scotch, were avidly engaged in face-to-face rather rather than on-screen chat. NYPL provided the sorely needed "third place"  where people can connect beyond home and office. 
The next day brought two lively panels. Future Library: Socializing History with Maps moderated by Dr. Jack Eichenbaum, Hunter College, featured NYPL’s geo-spatial librarian Matt Knutzen, and representatves from two commercial ventures, Google Maps and Earth, and Foursquare. These four experts talked longitude, latitude, and pixels; harnessing space/time relationships; built-in GIS; reconnaissance aeral imagery, alignment of flyovers; digital walking tours; and time travel.
In addition to new vocabulary, this panel provided me with two big take-aways. First, that new geo-location tools, platforms, and projects both enable and, frankly, necessitate the active collaboration of many participants.  These range from the “citizen cartographers” who geo-rectify thousands of maps in NYPL's map division and gad-abouts whose check ins provide Foursquare with its data, to on-the-ground volunteers  whose maps guide relief efforts in natural disasters like Haiti. Call it crowd-sourcing or "multi-directional creation of data,"  the initiatives these panelists described clearly invite and depend upon input from interested communities of users. Second, these aGIS advances signal new life for documents, data, surveys, censuses, from all levels government, for example, that are accessible at libraries like SIBL.  
Photo, Kathy SaeedPhoto, Kathy SaeedCoincidentally, and continuing the map-related theme, when I checked in back at SIBL, a librarian told me that she had just wowed an entrepreneur  whom she was helping to explore a retail site location in Harlem. Shen demonstrated a handy feature in Simply Map, a database we license at SIBL. to create a map pinpointing the location of limited service restaurants in a zip code, in his case, 10026. Amazing.
The next panel, Inner Workings: Staffing for Social Media showed how a traditional book publisher, a web marketer for indie music bands, and a multi-national bank staff up to integrate social messaging into their core business.  Knopf Doubleday gets its authors to update and re-fresh their own facebook pages by hooking them on social messaging as a direct connect to their fan base.  ReverbNation champions the concept of reciprocity. They troll for, curate, and post content relevant to their clients—indie bands. In return, they link and drive traffic to other music industry sites. Citi has found that staff who excel at handling phone traffic at regional call-in help centers are naturals at effective social messaging. Not surprisingly, then, Citi is using social media not just for promotion but for the direct resolution of customer service issues.
Photo, Herb ScherPhoto, Herb Scher
These key points made by my NYPL colleague Johannes Neuer and Susan Halligan were echoed by their fellow presenters.
  • Engage. Put a human face on your organization.
  • Be flexible and opportunistic, but plan carefully for social media  in advance.  
  • Develop an editorial calendar months ahead. Use an enterprise tool to schedule tweets and re tweets especially in a good sized organization where multiple outputs requires coordination.
  • Avoid noise.  Don't just shout out, encourage conversation.
  • Freshen and update content. Read widely using sources like SmartBrief for broad or generally focused content.
  • Strive for consistency of tone and brand.
  • Always follow back follower comments.
  • Don't just jump in. Follow what others are doing, and how often, on multiple platforms. Watch before leaping.
The final panel was live-streamed from the British Library’s Business & IP Centre which opened five years ago and modeled itself on SIBL.
Its title, "Inspiring Entrepreneurs: The power of social media" is apt. The stories of three wildly successful enterprises—Superjam, Songkick, and Mumsnet—are, in fact, so inspiring that I'd rather you watch the video rather than I try to reprise their stories which, collectively, make these points:
  • Offer a quality product or service.
  • Be authentic and transparent with your clients and you will win their trust.
  • Ask loyal customers for their input and support and you will get it. 
  • Learn when it is safe to relinguish control.   

I hope that folks catch at least the first testimonial on this program. Fraser Doherty left school at 16 to build Superjam using his Gran's homemade recipe for fruit jams made with no sugar or additives.  He credits social messaging for the fact Superjam is now on the shelves of grocery retailers Waitrose and Tesco and small village shops across the UK, and is featured at hundreds of charity "tea parties" that customers vie to host for old age pensioners nation-wide.


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