Social Media Policies and Assessment

I should confess that I am more interested in managing the more human elements to technology, than with technology itself.  I always attempt to locate, somewhere within (perhaps deep, deep within) myself some Richard version that takes easily to new technology.  Sadly, it is a struggle.  But happily – I really got into this week’s readings.  Policy development?  Bring it!

I was first intrigued with the idea, suggested in the Lauby article, that everyone within any organization now operates as a “spokesperson”.  Perhaps a few of us in the class have been in a situation where we had to redirect public or press inquiries to designated company individuals.  Here’s a small example:  I remember – as a supervisor with HMV – there was an issue of leaving front doors open during hot, summer days.  Stores wanted doors open to welcome passing patrons, but hot days equate heavy energy consumption.  My management at the time was insistent that we ignore suggestions that it may be irresponsible to blow a/c into the sidewalk.  Many local papers were making the rounds to stores with open door.  Considering that most of the staff did not sympathize with the company, we were distinctly told that we should not answer any press question.  There was a certain amount of (reasonable) distrust that there was staff buy-in on this issue.  Of course, now with Twitter, how can this kind of thing be controlled / managed?

I find the concept of “buy-in” compelling.  During the last years of my HMV tenue, I found much of my staff facing difficulties fitting into new paradigms.  I struggled as well.  (This is not intended as an indictment of the company – difficult times out there for music retail).  As representatives of an organization, however, we did not entirely buy-in into the company’s message.  As the staff continued to feel at odds with the company (and vice versa), buy-in deteriorated until most of the staff left or was pushed out.

I witnessed buy-in failure at HMV and wonder on the stakes when we bring social media into the equation.  Many of the other articles we read this week, suggested means to address this challenge.  Certainly transparency, respect and accuracy aid in getting a large amount of people on any kind of message.  The articles hint that the stakes are high, as we add social media to the equation.  I have no trouble imagining how difficult managing disconnected HMV staff would have been, had many of them engaged – beyond disgruntled Facebook posts – more in social media.  Buy-in may be important, but how to achieve it seems elusive.  The articles suggest we need to consider it at all levels: hiring, training etc. Social media will become much more than a subset of the work (no matter where we work) but rather an irreplaceable component.


This week’s readings and lessons made me recall my Information Visualization class, from my third term.  With apologies to my classmates in that class, those who have taken it before or might be taking it now, I would like to offer a brief definition: information visualization seeks to understand how data information can be represented visually, to better impart knowledge or understanding.  There are all kinds of sites that deal with information visualization. 

  • InfoVis is an collaborative wiki on all things Information Visualization:
  • This is a cool blog that focuses on aesthetics.
  • Here’s the Wikipedia entry for the subject.

There is a clear connection between information visualization concepts “non-text content” and “mashups”.   As Lesson 5 noted, a good example of non-text content is Google Maps.  Maps are easy, excellent examples that offer data information (like physical location etc) in pictoral or visual form. 

What I love about this week lesson is how mashups bring social media and online collaboration into the equation.  Adding information to the Google Map application is a terrific idea (and as an aside – Library’s combining their locations with Google seems like an obvious, almost quaint idea;  it is interesting how some of these concepts seem more second nature by now). 

I liked how Fichter relates mashup to an overall online ecosystem.  She describes a rich, fertile open-source environment, where data creaters and users work together, mixing up online material.  I am particularly intrigued with how libraries can work with patrons on catalogue presentation and accessibility.  I wonder if libraries can engage clients enough, to the point that clients are creating meaningful online library content, along with library staff.  I briefly discussed this in my previous post (as well as in the comments); it is a topic I find especially interesting.


Wikis and other collaborative tools.

I find the use of wikis to be a fascinating subject.  Obviously, applications like Twitter and Facebook are helpful in disseminating messages, but the collaborative element inherent in wikis takes social media to a much higher level – particularly within the library world.  As the provided Farkas article noted, as libraries work to become physical community and neighbourhood hubs, wikis might work to develop online communities between libraries and their patrons.

Indeed, while I was on co-op with the Kingston Public Library, I was privileged with the opportunity to do a little visual purchasing the Overdrive, the library’s online collection.  Circulation numbers, for the online material, is small but growing.  One of my thoughts to drive circulation was for the library to develop an online forum for electronic borrowers to discuss titles they’ve seen or hope to borrow.   If patrons are borrowing material online already, how difficult would it be to generate a more meaningful discourse?  Attempts were made to develop online communities in the past, but met with little success.  Admittedly, these attempts were prior to electronic books and tablets.

I wonder if the popularity in tablets and other mobile devices will drive an increase in online participation?  As we become more engaged – if only because our online access and presence becomes more consistent (constant?) – will we be more likely to collaborate with the sites we visit?  In Kingston, I wondered if more people borrowed electronic resources (and rarely set foot within the physical confines of the library), would these people be more likely to interact online with the library?  I suspect that broader communities are only now ready to be built.