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Laura’s truths about social media

(In case you missed the memo, a lot of folks have replace the label “Web 2.0′ with “social media.”  Probably a better, more descriptive label in my opinion. )

I’ve been around the social media block a few times.  I was using Twitter long before it hit the mainstream.  I’ve experimented with bunches of obscure social applications.  I’ve done a lot of presentations about social media and libraries.  I’ve talked about the cool end of this stuff, and occasionally I’ve even gotten to talk about what’s not so cool.  Today, I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned along the way. (And I bet you already know most or all of these, too.)

  • Social media is WORK. Yes, it can be fun and productive and useful.  Some days, all of those flowery adjectives are the frosting, not the cake. Even I get tired of social apps!  You will, too.  It takes time and effort to get to the point where social media pays off.
  • Social media makes you BETTER at work.  Anyone who looks at you funny while you’re twittering, updating your Facebook status, editing a YouTube video or attending a meeting in Second Life needs to catch a ride on the Clue Bus.  People who can function effectively in the social media arena are  likely to be inherently more flexible and productive than your average employee.  These things left the geek world long ago and have integrated themselves into the mainstream.
  • Consistency counts. Everyone knows of the library or person who started a blog, only to have it fizzle and die within a few months or so.  Once you make the decision to dive in start blogging, tweeting, etc., remember that the return on your investment is far off and you have to earn readers and followers.  When you take a few weeks off, so do your readers….permanently, usually.
  • Social media is not for everyone. There is a tendency to evangelize about the wonders of various social media apps.  Somehow, all of us got along without them a decade ago, and some folks are still doing just fine.   However, if you work in a library, all bets are off.  It used to be common practice for librarians to read newspapers, to keep current for their patrons. (Maybe it still is?)  This isn’t different.  In what other profession is it acceptable not to keep up?*
  • Not everyone needs every social app. My mother-in-law uses IM and Skype.  But she doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter or anything else.  She uses what works for her.  Same goes for libraries.  Invest time and effort into those things that work for your library.  Your library doesn’t have videos on YouTube?  It’s OK.  Really.
  • Social media is ephemeral. This one in particular can drive all of us nuts.  This stuff changes all the time.  Today, it’s Twitter.  Next month, who knows?  (Just don’t forget the Hype Curve. )  This is part of the reason that social media can make for better employees–people who use these things know that they can change/go down/be redesigned from minute to minute and therefore, have to be very adaptable.  Who doesn’t want adaptable employees?  But it still can make us crazy.  We complain, we move on and keep using it.
  • Sometimes, it’s too much. The amount of user-generated content coming from the various apps and services can be absolutely overwhelming.   Learn to weed followers, friends, even services, just like you might weed any other collection.

What other “truths” about social media can you think of?  Share in the comments!

*I didn’t make up that last sentence, I read it somewhere recently, but I couldn’t remember where.  If YOU know, please let me know so I can attribute it appropriately!