Social Networking

As with last week’s topic (on social media policy), I am particularly intrigued with how social networks operate – specifically in relation to how these applications can facilitate and foster online communities.

I may have related this anecdote in a past post, but it seems worth repeating.  While at my last co-op with the Kingston Public Library, I was allowed to do a little video purchasing for the online Overdrive application.  After some time at the task, I was discussing with my supervisor possible strategies to drive patron circulation and participation.  I floated ideas, such as online forums, through Facebook or even within the KFPL website.  My supervisor then revealed that attempts were made in the past, but a consistent community was always elusive.

I was reminded of this exchange during a thread within Edmodo.  Prof. Neal posted an article that suggested creating meaningful (in regards to generating sales through online participation) is challenging, even for the most successful brands.  This article and subsequent discussion reinforced some suspicions that many (most) organizations are not utilizing social media effectively enough.  But how can they?  KFPL tried it, but could not generate enough meaningful interest.  Was it too soon?

Katharine L provided the example of how her undergrad university used Facebook effectively: a lot of student activity was generated when the university offered options for students to suggest how social media could be used effectively.  Contests and prizes were also offered as incentives.  This got me thinking: perhaps we want to have all the answers – to social media’s effectiveness – immediately.  We want the online community RIGHT NOW.  And we want this community to engage at a level that nurtures itself.

But perhaps – as the KFPL found – it is still a little soon.  Not too soon to try, but too soon to receive real meaningful progress.  Perhaps, at the library level at least (thankfully ensuring a financial or sales return is not part of the equation), social media could be used to discover how social media could be best effective.  This sounds circular, I realize, but perhaps we need help from our communities, if we wish to best engage these communities.   Especially as social media applications and options increase in number.

With this increase in the number of social media these days, I considered two applications for which I am not a participant: Pinterest and Reddit.   Pinterest is receiving a lot of attention these days.  Indeed, many of the people I follow in Twitter, now are urging followers to also connect with them there.  Unfortunately, my request to Pinterest is still pending review.  Apparently there is a waiting list.  Certainly, not being able to engage (quickly – what is the point to a waiting list?  Should I be patient?  How patient?) might be a factor on how seriously I take this application.

I have been a lurker – please see the post on lurkers in our shared Edmodo page – on Reddit for a few years now.  Joining it was very easy.  I also wrote about Reddit for a different post; anyone who has yet to visit the site, it is worth some exploring.  While on the surface it may seem like a simple aggregation site – it does serve this function – there is a remarkable sense of community.  Members offer excellent advice to each.  They set up online secret santa gift exchanges.  Meaningful discourses on just about anything are constantly occurring.  The community is worldwide (with a significant Canadian level of involvement).

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