Thursday, August 15, 2013

Social Media Platforms -- where is the audience?

This article came across my Linked In news feed today, and obviously a lot of people have read it.  I'm 13 and none of my friends have Facebook  I have been thinking about this for some time, and have asked younger people I know which social media platforms they use.  I know that Facebook is, as this young woman points out, largely used by people her parents' and grandparents' ages.  It is telling that this girl and her friends got Instagram because their parents didn't know about it when it first came out -- clearly obeying the letter, and not the spirit, of their parents' prohibition of Facebook, and Instagram's own terms of service. 

If I had a social media site, I wouldn't post silly people videos

I have college age friends and relatives who use Facebook.  My mentee, who is a senior and applying to library school, says her favorite is Tumblr but she has never seen it used effectively for information or marketing.  She did attend one ALA program that featured Tumblr.  She also uses Facebook and Twitter.  I have a nephew in high school who uses only Twitter;  his younger sister just got Facebook
I know, not a representative sample, but I think a lot of people are using more than one platform. 

The only thing that's really clear is that this market is going to change and evolve just as quickly as everything else in the online / mobile world. What's a library, or other marketing entity, to do?  I actually have an answer for that question, and it's pretty simple -- learn the concepts of social media and social marketing, not the individual platforms. 
There are as many choices as rocks on the beach -- do you have time to find the best one?

As a very young librarian, I went to a seminar on electronic resources.  The speaker gave a great presentation, but the thing I took away from his talk and have used ever since was this.  "There is no way you can learn each resource;  there are too many of them.  What you have to learn is the basic structure, and how to find more specific information if you need it."  He went on to compare some of the features of electronic resources to books, pointing out that, whatever the subject of the book, we would look for the table of contents, the index, and possibly the list of acknowledgements for the information our clients needed.

Since that time, I've used a lot of different library management systems, online course platforms, databases, web sites, electronic books and social media sites.  As I encountered each new system, I figured out how it worked, how to teach other people to use it, and how to best extract the functionality or information needed, either for myself or for my library clients.  I am grateful, often, that I went to that particular class, and so both expected  constant change, and felt prepared to handle it. 

Social media presents the same challenge and is amenable to the same solution.  Do not focus on the platform or the software -- focus on the content, and learn enough about the software or site to know how to use it to your advantage.  Make sure that staff development classes focus on the content and uses more than just on the nuts and bolts, and reward people who use a lot of different platforms and try new ones. 
If you can climb one tree, you can climb any tree (it helps to have claws!)

It would be nice if someone would take on the task of creating a list of this year's hottest social media among whomever we are trying to reach -- a social media Mindset List, if you will.  That would be easier for academic libraries with mostly traditional students, but that type of easy to identify demographic is probably also a thing of the past.  Flexibility and adaptability, and possibly posting the same content in different places, modified to fit the space, is going to be the best approach to social media -- at least for now.

What's your favorite social media site?  Do you use different ones for different groups of people? 

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Fortune Cookie

Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is the best.
Frank Zappa