There are seemingly a million Web 2.0 applications out there. You wouldn’t believe how many are popping up daily–just add Mashable to your RSS reader (you’ve got one, right??) to keep up with the latest. Twitter started out as one of the masses, but since 2007 has risen to the top as one of the most popular . Twitter has often been called “microblogging” or even “instant messaging on crack.” Neither one really explains what it is.
I have often told the story of how I got started with Twitter, but I’ll repeat it here. When I first took a look at it in early 2007, I honestly thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of web apps! All it does is ask you to answer the question “What are you doing?” You can answer this question at any time you feel like it. But you’ve only got 140 characters or less. I saw this and thought “What’s the point? Someone, who is wiser than I, told me to stick with it and I’d get it. Because I respected their opinion, I did “stick with it,” although with great reservation. And I’m glad I did…because now I “get it” and I’m here to pass what I learned on to you.
First, and perhaps most importantly, what Twitter can do for you and/or your library is not immediately apparent. It’s not promoted in a way that makes it easy to grasp. But Twitter allows you to send short messages to lots of people at one time–in a way that the end user chooses. Users (or “followers,” in Twitter usage), can choose to receive your “tweets” (messages) either via the Twitter web site, instant messaging, browser plug-ins, desktop applications, RSS or even–hold on to your hats here–cell phones (and this is why there is the 140 character limit on tweets–most cells don’t take more than that). We are increasingly aware that providing information via mobile devices is becoming a required component of web services. Here’s an easy, free way to send info to people who follow you/your library. Maybe they will follow using an RSS feed. Maybe on their cell phones. You’ll never know. But that doesn’t matter; what really matters is that the person has a choice, and that choice includes enough options to not leave even the most gadget-happy behind.
Two libraries are using this to their advantage in Ohio; Cleveland Public Library and Westerville Public Library. You can also check out OPLIN’s Twitter feed or my own. What are libraries doing? Using Twitter for public relations and promotion. Got an event coming up? Remind people using Twitter. Just be sure that you’re promoting your Twitter account outside of Twitter, just like you promote your library’s blog, Flickr account or whatnot. People who want to follow your library will need to have a Twitter account of their own to do so; also easy, also free, and chances are good that you will discover quickly that people are already out there on Twitter who are patrons of your library.
So…what are you doing?
(And here’s the Common Craft video to help out)