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January 11, 2010

One Approach to Org Twitter Accounts

I’ve been mulling over this post for several weeks now, but a conversation that happened on Twitter today prompted me to finally write and publish it. It started when Kenley Neufeld wrote a post about participating in ALA and tweeted the link. Cyndi E. engaged Kenley in a conversation about ALA following its members back on Twitter, which led Kenley to ask ALA’s Midwinter Meeting account what its follow policy is.

what's your follow policy?

Well, I work for ALA, and I run that account (along with three others), plus my personal one. The “royal” ALA has no official social media policy, although there is an internal staff task force working on one. I’m not on that group and I haven’t wanted to step on any toes, which is why I haven’t said much online about this topic, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought through some things for the accounts I manage. Given today’s conversation, I thought I’d share my approach and solicit feedback for what you think is and isn’t working.

Before I go any further, though, I want to note that I kind of fly by the seat of my pants with this stuff at work. I already have a couple of full time roles (as does pretty much everyone at ALA HQ), and tracking what’s said about MPOW online is pretty near impossible these days. Amongst the good and bad about the American Library Association, the term “ALA” also gets used for A List Apart (especially when they publish a new issue), the abbreviation for “Alabama” in news reports, Ala Moana in Honolulu, ala mode, “ala” meaning “in the style of,” in Spanish, and more. I do the best I can, but no one person could catch it all unless it was their only job responsibility. I know a lot of folks struggle to get support from the top in their organization, and I’m lucky that this isn’t one of the battles I have to fight.

All of which is my way of saying, your mileage may vary, even within ALA. These are just my thoughts for how I’m handling four Twitter accounts at work, and I’d love to hear how you think I could do this better. Maybe this list willl even give you some procedural ideas for your own institution’s efforts.

I mainly monitor and manage Twitter and FriendFeed accounts, so that’s where I focus my efforts. I’m lucky that others have taken on the mantle of managing ALA’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Second Life, and YouTube presences. These are the guidelines I’ve been following for Twitter (I still need to implement most of these on FriendFeed).

  1. My goals for the accounts are to listen, answer questions, interact, and inform.
  2. I follow most public accounts that follow us, as long as its not a spammer, bot, or “social media expert” who has thousands of followers. I don’t have anything against the gurus, but they’re not the audience I want to interact with. It may take me a week to log in and follow all the new folks, but that’s my goal. I’m somewhat passive about this because of the lack of an easy way to handle followers from one source, although right now I’m actively trying to follow any human being who say they’re attending our Midwinter Meeting this week. I do this to make it easier to listen and respond, plus it gives these folks the ability to direct message us.
  3. The exception to rule #2 is that I don’t follow private accounts. I realize some folks make their accounts private to avoid spammers, but I can’t tell those from the folks who truly want their tweets to be private. As an organizational account that multiple staff members might have access to, I don’t want to expose those tweets or set up a situation where someone might accidentally retweet something private.
  4. I try to do more than just click a bookmarklet, so I’ll rephrase content to get it down to 130 characters or somehow add value to the headline of a press release. I try to be human and avoid marketing speak, and I don’t get hung up on capitalization, even though my undergraduate degree is in journalism.
  5. I do my best to shoot for 130 characters to provide for easy retweetability.
  6. Although this doesn’t apply to all organizations, I’m a big believer in the “right of first tweet.” Within ALA, there’s no one “master” Twitter account for the Association as a whole. Instead, every office, division, round table, etc., has its own account. In order to help build the audience for those accounts and give credit, I try to not announce news first that really belongs to other ALA units. Instead, I do my best to retweet their tweets. That doesn’t always happen, but I think it’s their right to have the first shot at it.
  7. Something new I’ve been trying lately is to avoid retweeting someone else’s content immediately after they tweet it, especially if they’ve used a hashtag. Instead, I use HootSuite to schedule the tweet at a different time of day in order to try to reach a different audience that may not have seen the original one. If it was a morning tweet, I’ll schedule the retweet for the afternoon, and vice versa.
  8. I’m currently using bit.ly to shorten URLs so that I can get statistics for how often links are being followed. I also try to use custom bit.ly URLs for links I know I’ll re-use a lot. I fervently wish HootSuite would get rid of the frames on its ow.ly service or at least give URL creators the option to turn them off. Until then, I’ll keep using bit.ly.
  9. I deliberately retweet from individuals, not just other ALA units or organizations. My take on it is that we’re all in this together, and we’re all part of the conversation. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll be retweeting everything posted to the #nopants tag. 😉
  10. Rather than counting the number of followers as a metric, I’ve started tracking conversations. I still haven’t found what I consider to be an optimal way to do this, but for the moment, I’m clipping tweets to a notebook in my Evernote account (I’m on the free service for now) so that I can find them again. Because it’s so difficult to track the term “ALA,” I haven’t found an easy way to report out what’s being said about us, other than by manually writing up an email.
  11. Personally, I have an unlimited text messaging plan (I <3 texting), so I use notify.me to have Twitter mentions sent to my phone via SMS so that I get immediate alerts when someone mentions or directs a tweet to one of the ALA accounts. If you don’t want to go the SMS route, you can have the notifications sent to an email address, instant messaging account, or to a desktop app/widget. And this setup doesn’t necessarily mean I respond right away, especially if I’m out with friends, watching a movie, or if it’s late at night. I’ve worked hard to balance my work and personal lives, and so far it’s working fairly well. But the notice gives me a heads up, and I can then assess the urgency.

Those are the various Twitter issues I’ve thought through so far. Based on some other problems that have come up at work, I have some general advice for other organizations using social sites.

  • Did you know that the person who creates a Facebook page can never be removed? Never, ever, ever, ever plus a day. The only way is to delete the person’s account, which an organization can’t do if it’s a personal account. So be careful about who creates your organization’s page(s), because you’ll never be able to remove that person as an admin. You can add other admins, but you can’t remove the original creator. Add my voice to the chorus of frustrated users who wish Facebook would change this policy yesterday.
  • Be very careful when you’re setting up your bit.ly links. If you accidentally paste in the wrong URL (which I’ve done), you can’t go back and change it. Ever, as in ever plus a day. If you mess up a custom URL, you’ll never be able to get it back. Ever. Did I mention ever?
  • And speaking of bit.ly, if you haven’t already done this, you might want to go grab the most obvious custom bit.ly URLs for your organization so that someone else doesn’t use/steal/hijack them. Especially if you want a short and easy way to point to your own site on Twitter and get statistics for number of clicks. You can decide if you want to do this on other URL shortening services, too.

So those are some quick thoughts that have been swimming around in my head. I’d love to hear your thoughts about how I can do this better, and what you’d like to see from the ALA accounts I run.


September 15, 2009

How Librarians Helped Get Out the Vote… in 1952

I love serendipity. While I was preparing for my ACPL Library Camp presentation about libraries and civic engagement, I saw a post on the Civic Engagement blog in which Nancy Kranich pointed to a fascinating article on the topic.

“Promoting Citizenship: How Librarians Helped Get Out the Vote in the 1952 Presidential Election,” Libraries & the Cultural Record 43 no1 1-28 2008 (Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be online in its entirety, but you can get the full text through Gale’s Academic OneFile.)

I think this fascinating article pinpoints the moment in time when libraries became known for providing high-quality, accurate, authentic information about all sides of an issue. Its certainly the point at which libraries became outlets for information about voting. In a fascinating look back, author Jean Preers chronicles the efforts made to civically engage Americans and increase voter turnout in the 1948 and 1952 elections.

It starts with an initiative by the American Heritage Foundation in 1947, which results in the booklet Good Citizen: The Rights and Duties of an American, a conference, and the Freedom Train, an actual train that traveled across the country exhibiting “original documents that that established the nation’s democratic tradition, from the Bill of Rights to the Emancipation Proclamation.” The booklet is a wonderful artifact – I highly recommend it as a historical snapshot, and thankfully it’s available on the Internet Archive, thanks to the University of Florida’s George A. Smathers Libraries.

Good Citizen: The Rights and Duties of an American

During this time, the American Library Association (disclaimer: my employer, although I wasn’t even born back then) “undertook its own program to promote the discussion of current issues in public libraries. This was a direction long-favored by its Executive Director Carl Milam, and, as part of its “Four Year Goals” in 1948, ALA had initiated a program called Great Issues, which urged librarians to highlight such topics as U.S.-Russian relations, civil rights, and world government in their collections and programs.”

Librarians started creating bibliographies for these topics and encouraged community organizations to form reading and discussion groups around them.

“Ruth Retzen, chair of ALA’s Adult Education Board, saw this as an opportunity for libraries to take the lead in their communities, directing their programs towards wider circulation of pertinent information: ‘Let us make our libraries active community centers for the spread of reliable information on all sides of this vital issue and for the encouragement of free discussion and action.’ “

Unfortunately, none of these efforts really succeeded, and voter turnout for the 1948 election was “surprisingly low.” To celebrate its 75th anniversary in 1951, ALA changed direction and used a $150,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to help libraries implement reading and discussion groups themselves. [Ironically, “this nationwide adult education program began in the fall of 1951 just as National Library Day observance in Phliadelphia on October 4 effectively concluded the seventy-fifth anniversary celebration.” All Philadelphia libraries are currently set to close on October 2, 2009, unless the Pennsylvania Legislature acts to save them.]

As ALA began to ramp up its program, the AHF continued to work on increasing voter turnout for the 1952 election. The folks behind the AHF program realized that guilting people into voting wasn’t working (and wasn’t likely to start working anytime soon), so they also changed direction to simply “provide adequate information and materials to implement the will of the people.” An enhanced focus on civic and nonprofit organizations brought ALA and libraries into the effort as the central source citizens could go to in order to find unbiased information. ALA agreed, in part because this meant the AHF and other organizations would promote this new role and encourage their members to seek out libraries specifically for unbiased information that could then be used to register local voters. According to Preers, this is also when libraries take on the mantle of library adult education, another new role.

It truly is a thought-provoking article (there’s a lot more to it, so you really should read the whole thing), and it highlights one of the themes that’s resonated with me personally during the last 12-18 months, that when we talk about how the library “used to be,” we have to be very specific about which era we’re referring to. As I’ve noted in the past about gaming, children’s services are a relatively recent addition to libraries, as are fiction, multimedia, and even public access (see my brief post about D. W. Krummel’s The Seven Stages of Librarianship for more about this).

More importantly, it helps show how proactive civic engagement is not a new role for 21st century libraries. We’ve done this before – successfully – and we can do it again – successfully – if we focus on specific areas. For example, studies show that gaming in libraries could include civic engagement experiences. I’m also interested in the “Great Issues” program to offer the library as a portal to civic discourse around many of the “great” issues that aren’t easily accessible to the average person. Privacy, digital identity, online reputation, media literacies, transparent government… there’s a wide range of topics that need addressing.

The question is can librarians (and not just public librarians) still provide this type of service? I question if there’s anyone else who can.


8:29 am Comments (3)

March 5, 2009

PCMA Presentation: Embracing Free Technology in a Global Recession

Today I was part of a panel session about Web 2.0 tools for the GMC/PCMA

Greg Fine – Association Forum

showed some of their Association Professionals throughout History video
showed the map of online communities from 2007 (“gulf of youtube”)
social media is about building community, and Greg likes this visual because it shows there are actual places and you can’t just aimlessly wander around
– it lets you leverage existing networks
– it allows us to easily create and share information with one another (as associations, we’re about associating)
– allows this to happen in an instantaneous way
– on a platform that people are comfortable with
so if we as organizations leverage these platforms, we make it easier for our members to find us and interact with us
– it allows you to evangelize your members and your customers

there are generational distinctions – generally accepted distinctions
uses acceptable footwear for men on day one of their new job as way to distinguish between them
greatest generation – wingtips
Xers – black lace-up, but moved to the boat shoe
Millennials/GenY – tennis shoes
Gamers – flip-flops
can’t talk to a flip-flop from a wingtip perspective
even the tennis show crowd may not totally get the flip-flop one
also have the 80-20-1 rule
80% of people who are on the internet only look/lurk and don’t engage
20% of the 80% actively engage (read RSS, have a Facebook page)
1% of that 20% are active users of social media online (blog, post to Wikipedia, etc.)
EXCEPT for the gamers, where the numbers are reversed
only 1% are not active online, etc.

the #1 rule is that the organization totally loses control in this environment
if someone wants to say something bad about you, they don’t need your site/platform to do it
so embrace it
do you use free or proprietary and build your own?
Greg is a big believer in free
– free
– proprietary usually means separate authentication scheme and people have password fatigue now
– do you have an open or closed system (can anyone be a member or is it a member benefit)

Association Forum makes everything open because if you care enough to join, maybe you’ll eventually become a member
there’s no right or wrong, but you need to be deliberate about what you’re going to do

set reasonable expectations
mentioned a case where a group thought they’d failed because they only had 1,200 people on their Facebook page
but they only had 10,000 members total!

you cannot think like you – you have to think like your audience
just because you don’t use it doesn’t mean others shouldn’t
others may create these sites (like a Facebook page) for you if you don’t do it
you have to integrate it with traditional methods
you don’t just do one thing in isolation – f2f, email newsletters, etc. are still valid
taken all together, it makes it all more valuable

it’s like a football experience – it’s the future of the association experience
the audience in the stadium are the members, who paid admission
within that audience are different levels (box seats versus bleachers)
over time, our experiences inside the stadium may be more valuable than just being a member

some tools:
– Facebook
– Forum Effect (blogging)

Flickr – an online picture sharing site that lets you tag images
showed pictures tagged with ASAE
user-generated content (pictures from attendees)
everybody has a cell phone these days, and these phones have cameras
35,000 pictures were posted from a conference when they asked people to take a few and then they had a download station

YouTube – videos
when someone comes in to present now, they do a “5 questions with xxxx speaker” video
total time investment per video is one hour, including the interview
they also allow the person to use the video, too

LinkedIn and Facebook
don’t upload your member list to a third-party site to require people who join are members, because this is a violation of your members’ privacy
let anyone become a member on your page
takes five minutes to set this stuff up

strategy is important!
when you’re thinking about all of this
Association Forum uses these sites as guideposts to help people get to the Forum website

Brad Lewis – Professional Convention Management Association

“luxury expenditures” – travel
is in the media countering these negative perceptions and the distinctions between legitimate travel and these types of excesses

PCMA uses:
– Facebook
– Flickr
– LinkedIn
– blog on TypePad
– YouTube

goals for PCMA:
– want to be where their members are
– need to participate in the current technologies
– facilitate connections
– create member engagement, retention
– brand experience; how can your members interact with you?
– enhanced exposure for events, programs, products, and services
– create added value
– learn something new every day

their most successful site is LinkedIn
recommend to their chapters that they create sites, too
you do lose some control

PCMA has 6,000 members and more than 1,000 have joined the LinkedIn group
PCMA posts new content there and posts event news
no hard sells there
eases people into participation in the organization
present jobs, speaker info
most of the room was already on LinkedIn
from an association standpoint, your members can already do a multitude of things there (and on these other sites)
one sign-on
try to make your name the sign across platforms
want the full name and the acronym because you don’t know what people will search on

monitoring and control:
– wild west; just need to accept that because you can’t prevent it
– PCMA does delete some stuff like direct sales solicitations
– does take a staff commitment, regardless of which department is assigned to monitor
– think about how you’re fostering and feeding the community, too; that’s why you want to choose which sites are best for you and your members

PCMA doesn’t mind when people say a session was horrible, because it gives them feedback

take action:
– work with marketing to create a group, work with membership to update it
– if you’re not monitoring what’s happening, your competition probably is
– monitor for referral requests (“who knows of a good xxxx company?”), even if you don’t answer back
Brad encourages third party responses

what it’s for:
– networking with colleagues
– get updates
– ask questions
– gain insights
– share ideas

what it’s not for:
– soliciting (it’s like using the wrong fork at dinner)
– direct promotion

average age of a PCMA member is 47
one of the young kids at a table didn’t know what LinkedIn was – “facebook for old people”

Facebook
– target market segmentation
– students (announce scholarships, internships, communication with PCMA student staff)
– create event
– discussion boards (students were voluntarily making recommendations to others about joining PCMA)

Flickr
– annual meeting (linked from communications, photos for dailies, member engagement even if they can’t attend)
– social networking centered around photos
– share photos within groups and tags

TypePad blog
– new PCMA Chairman John Folks’ blog
– puts face on leadership
– way for leadership to connect with members and get feedback
– start conversations among colleagues

YouTube
– PCMA has a YouTube channel
– some leadership hasn’t wanted to be on YouTube
– only have a few select videos but it’s a good way to put a face on the organization and tell stories

proprietary systems
– PCMA did purchase an expensive product for “PCMA Connect”
– can trial on free before you try proprietary
– had bells and whistles but was a separate destination

Learnings
– conversation happens organically
– hot topics are anonymity, reluctance to speak your mind, general best has been more social (New Year’s resolutions)
be relevant to the people who connect with you

philosophies and conclusions
– your member profile will determine which platform works best for you
– leadership acceptance, need some buy-in
– certainly trial this stuff
these are just new assets in the arsenal, and they’re even free
– important to engage in relevant business of today

Jenny Levine (me)

here are my slides (12MB, PDF)


10:19 pm Comments Off on PCMA Presentation: Embracing Free Technology in a Global Recession

February 27, 2009

Twitter on ALA and Some Advice

Going into ALA’s Midwinter Meeting last month, I knew Twitter was going to play a much more prominent role than it had in the past. It’s been used heavily at other librarian conferences, but usually in a more social way or as commentary on content during the event. However, Midwinter is a different beast, as it’s primarily a business meeting for the Association, so I wondered how much of that work would happen on Twitter this time around.

Most of the people on ALA’s staff, like most people anywhere, have never heard of Twitter, let alone used it, so I wanted to give them a heads up in case it came up in meetings or in conversations. A couple of years ago, the IT department at ALA implemented monthly update meetings open to all staff, and since we had one scheduled right before Midwinter, I took advantage of the opportunity to highlight Twitter, what it is, and how a few units are using it.

And then we all headed to Denver.

And wow did Twitter play a big part. Kenley Neufeld sums it up pretty well, and even notes how fun the experience was. If you had asked me, I wouldn’t have predicted that four councilors would tweet from the floor during council sessions, thereby providing an effective, real-time transcript of what was happening. Even beyond that, though, I got to participate in meetings I wasn’t physically at (from within other meetings), as did people who weren’t even in Denver. And good things came from all of it (including a helpful guide for what *not* to do).

So when we got back, I decided to do a presentation at the February ITTS Update meeting about Twitter on ALA. Not ALA on Twitter, but Twitter’s effect on the Association and the story of Midwinter that Twitter produced. Luckily, many of the people who tweet about us have a sense of humor, so there were some good laughs in the screenshots, especially about our content management system (Collage). So thank you to everyone who publicly tweeted about us in January, especially at Midwinter, because you helped me illustrate a moment in time when something changed for ALA. I definitely think communication and conferences will never be the same for our organization, and I’m fascinated to see where this all leads.

The only problem with doing these two talks for staff is that I’m so buried in work on launching ALA Connect that I don’t have time to do any training right now. Earlier this month, Timothy Vollmer, an ALA employee at our Washington Office tweeted, “in horrible ironic moment, U.S. Congress is moving faster than ALA.”

For the last month, that’s how I’ve felt at ALA. Units are moving faster than I can, and several have started new Twitter accounts. On the one hand, huzzah! On the other hand, they’re flying a little blind (so please cut them a little slack while they get their Twitter sea legs).

Since I really don’t have time to do training right now, I wanted to pull together a few resources to point my co-workers to until we can do something more formal. I’m also including some explanations for how I track ALA on Twitter in case others want to try these strategies, too.

Since I think it could be useful to others, I’m posting the list here, rather than just sending the information out in an email to staff. If you have additional suggestions, please include them in the comments.

  1. Make sure you read up on some of the best practices for using Twitter. There are many out there, such as Twitter 101: 8 Tips to Get Started on Twitter and How to Succeed at Twitter. At bare minimum, make sure you add an avatar and fill out the bio section, including a link back to your website.
     
  2. I use Twitter personally, and I use the ALAannual and ALAmw accounts for work. It’s not easy to track two accounts throughout the day. So here’s the routine I’ve established to this point.
    1. First thing in the morning, I search Twitter for references to ALA. If it’s something I can respond to, I do. If it’s not something in my area (IT), I pass along the information.
    2. I use TweetDeck to try to track my Twitterstream throughout the day. It’s easily the best tool I’ve found for two reasons. First, it lets me set up different groups of people I’m following, so I’ve set up a group showing all the ALA Twitter accounts and another of friends I want to track more closely. Second, it lets me do a search within groups by filtering for a term. So a couple of times a day, I’ll filter everyone I’m following for the term “ALA.” I can usually get a heads up about anything major just by doing this. At the end of the day, I do another search of Twitter just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. ALA staff, if you want to try TweetDeck, I think ITTS will have to install it for you, so contact us to request an install. There’s also a helpful video explaining How to Tweetdeck Like a Pro.
       
  3. I have a NetVibes page set up to track ALA as a term across multiple sites. For example, the Twitter search appears here, although I don’t find it as easy to scan as the list on the Twitter site or in TweetDeck. But I also have RSS feeds from news sites and FriendFeed displaying on this one page, so it can be handy for a quick scan. ALA staff, if you want help setting up something like this for yourself, please let me know.
     
  4. If you have a blog or other useful, not overwhelming RSS feed, use TwitterFeed to automatically have notifications of new items sent to Twitter.
     
  5. If you’re not using TweetDeck to automatically shorten URLs, you can use TinyURL or is.gd. A URL like http://www.ala.org/heading/subheading/anotherheading/anothersubheading/title/index.cfm should *never* appear in a tweet.
     

As I was getting ready to hit the “publish” button, I saw Phil Bradley’s post about CILIP and Twitter (or lack thereof). It made me realize how far ALA has come, and how lucky I am to work in an environment where I’m allowed to experiment in these spaces and help integrate them into the Association. I live in a really special place right now, both professionally and personally, and I don’t take that for granted.