To start off our monthly interviews with Leiden researchers who use social media in their professional life, I’ve asked our own communications advisor, Paula Orme, as our inaugural guest. Paula is responsible for both our internal and external communications and is the person behind the UB Facebook page and one of the three people tweeting for @UBLeiden. Here’s what she has to say about social media.
Why social media?
Ignoring social media is like sticking your head in the sand to ignore change that is going to happen anyway. Already, it has radically changed our way of thinking and working. At the same time platforms are still developing rapidly and serious questions have been raised about copyright and privacy. The social media landscape may therefore be different in the near future, but I am convinced that the basics are here to stay for the long haul: speedy, interactive and transparent communication.
As a university library, we too simply cannot stay behind. An increasing number of researchers uses social media to gather and disseminate data. Students use social media as a search engine. Teachers use social media to share information for lectures or to enable group assignments. If we want to partner up with the university community for education and research, we must understand how they work and what this means for their information literacy and needs - as individual professionals and as an organization.
What value does it add for you?
Information, all sorts of information, both for professional and personal use. Social media directs me to articles, news and cultural agendas. I can see what my family, friends and colleagues are up to. I exchange photos, recipes and tips. I am better informed than ever about communication trends and my friends' wish lists. As for the social media accounts I manage on behalf of Leiden University Libraries, the value lies in the possibility to connect with our followers, to receive feedback (in replies, shares or likes) and to share our own picks with our audience without depending on journalists and other publishing entities.
How does social media work for you?
I use different platforms for different purposes. Twitter helps me to stay up to date in my field of work thanks to links to important articles, visuals, blogs and opinions that are shared. I also use Twitter to be informed of general and local news. I can ask questions in public and get valuable response from interesting people I have never met (and likely never will meet). Facebook mainly helps me to stay in touch with family and friends. I use LinkedIn to keep track of my network and to join professional group discussions. Pinterest is my online memory for recipes, places to visit, things to try and visuals I like. Instagram is my archive for my own attempts in photography, part of which I use for Tumblr. I use Tumblr instead of the traditional weblogs because it is faster, shorter and easier, especially on the go. YouTube is not only great for plain entertainment but also to find all sorts of instructions.
Leiden University Libraries uses Twitter as a news alert or reminder to followers, as a monitor for feedback and to connect to followers. The main aim of the Facebook Page is to share news that did not make it to the website, to show what happens behind the scenes, to get feedback on news items and to ask for opinions or experiences. We keep a YouTube channel with virtual tours and mini lectures about our special collections. From time to time, we try out other platforms to decide their value for the organisation.
Do you have a preferred network?
No, each network has its specific value to me, but I use Facebook and Twitter more frequently (daily) than the rest (weekly).
If you get started, look at other people: what do they do, why does it (not) work? If you appreciate a post, let them know with a like, RT or reply. This is how you initiate conversation. Moreover, you would like to get this feedback from others on your posts too. Do not use different platforms in the same way unless you have thought about it, and be careful with cross posting. What goes well on Twitter does not automatically work for Facebook. Select your platforms carefully: can you use it for your purposes and is your intended audience on this platform?
Use a social media dashboard like Hootsuite to monitor your social media accounts in one view. You can also schedule posts, but apply this with measure. Use ifttt.com to make simple scripts to connect your accounts, for example to receive an alert when someone uses a particular mention in a tweet, or to automatically post an Instagram photo with a particular hashtag to a secondary Tumblr blog. Countless possibilities and easy to set up thanks to predefined sets.