I get to present workshops and courses fairly often, especially on social media-related topics (when you write books about a subject, people generally want you to talk about that subject). One question that has come up repeatedly from attendees is the question of having separate social media accounts for separate physical locations. Or, sometimes, it’s not a question at all, but rather a statement as if it is the most normal thing in the world.
In either case, it makes me cringe.
For a moment, let’s talk about why this even happens in libraries. Typically, it has its roots in two different issues (and possibly a combination of the two):
- Libraries are very cognizant of the idea of hyperlocal collection development…and rightly so. A library needs to serve its local community’s needs. The problem is that this philosophy doesn’t translate to social media, which is not collection development, but rather a close cousin of marketing and community relations. Which means that social media is part of a library’s branding efforts. A library system, no matter how many branches it has, has only one brand. (Remember, an organization’s brand is not just it’s logo, but all of it’s marketing efforts and user experiences as well!).
- Sometimes, this problem comes from a less idealistic philosophy and from a much more territorial one. In some systems, local branches may want to almost appear autonomous from the rest of the system and/or want to control its message. This is an obvious personnel issue but, aside from that, it further dilutes the library’s brand.
In addition to the major marketing problem that individual branch accounts present, it also has great potential to confuse or even annoy patrons. I happen to use several branches of one of my local systems. Which do I follow on Facebook or Twitter? In my case: none. I gave up. I don’t have time to follow multiple branches; I can barely keep up with my actual friends, let alone multiple locations of one organization.
One phrase I use consistently is:
One organization. One brand. One voice.
Intellectually, I think people generally get that. But there is always at least one or two that don’t want to give up the local control, even if its in the best interest of the library. One question that often follows this is along the lines of “Well, then how do we promote our branch stuff?” That question actually makes it clear to me where the disconnect is! If you’re in a multi-branch system, it’s likely not your job to promote your branch’s “stuff.” That’s often the decision of someone who’s job is often described as public relations or marketing. You don’t have to like that, or the person doing that job. But it’s still their job. (I can guess I just made some people kind of angry, right?)
Agree? Disagree? Post in the comments!
Also published on Medium.