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5 ways for your library to Fail at Twitter

Twitter has finally hit the mainstream (If Oprah isn’t the mainstream, then I don’t know what is).  So we’re finally seeing more and more public libraries putting their feet into the Twitterstream.  This is generally a good thing; however, I am also seeing more and more libraries just dipping in their toes without really understanding what direction the water flows or which bathing suit to wear.

(Ok, enough with the water analogies.  Let’s face it:  some libraries are not using Twitter to its fullest or are making errors that will prevent them from actually reaping the benefits of the work they may be putting in. )

In order of importance, from least to most important, here are my top 5 ways that public libraries are failing at Twitter:

  • Failing to use current terminology. I was caught out on this one myself recently; thankfully, it was in an email and not in an actual tweet where people could see it.  But the verb form is “to tweet,” not “to twitter.”  Using the wrong term is like putting a big pic of your library online with the word “newbie” scribbled across it.
  • Failing to post a picture. Not posting a pic/logo/icon/avatar/gravatar/picture/something is not only a newbie error, it is a sure way to ensure that your library doesn’t engender any trust.  Use your library’s logo not just to lend credibility to the account, but to emphasize your comprehensive branding efforts (because your library has those, right?)
  • Failing to actually link to the Twitter account when promoting it. Your library’s account on Twitter has a special URL you can use to send people there directly.  The syntax is “http://www.twitter.com/YOUR_USER_NAME_HERE”  Be sure to use it and not just tell people on your web site that you have a Twitter account.   Chances are, nobody is going to go looking for your Twitter account later.  Give them a direct link.
  • Failing to follow back. No, your library doesn’t have to follow everyone back.  But if you can identify that someone is from your service area, at the very least follow THEM back.  It’s a courtesy.  Not following anyone back is a clear sign to potential followers of your library that you’re not on Twitter for the right reason (see the next point).
  • Failing to engage in conversation. This is the most important thing about Twitter.  Twitter is a two-way application.  It’s not just a matter of shouting into the ethernet void.  Viewing Twitter as only a broadcast service is not only failing to utilize Twitter properly, but is a virtual slap in the face to the people who follow you.  Nobody wants to talk to a wall!  Almost certainly, they want to ask you/your library questions or make commentary.  They will assume that is why you’re on Twitter–not just to make announcements, but to interact with them.  Learn about using the @ symbol in replies and talk to your followers.

There are 4 comments

  1. And this should go without saying: if you’re a public library, don’t protect your updates. (CincyLibrary)

  2. Don’t forget only following other librarians or libraries. That’s just as ridiculous as when libraries do that on Facebook or Myspace. What’s the point–just making it an exclusive “Library people only” club?

  3. Both good points, Don and Twitterfan; obviously, there are more than 5 ways for a library to fail at Twitter!

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