Posted by Brian Kelly on December 13th, 2010
About this Guest Post.
Stephanie Taylor is the Library and Information Officer for The National Autistic Society. She can be contacted at Stephanie.Taylor@nas.org.uk
NAS on Twitter
Our library recently joined the world of Twitter (http://twitter.com/NASInfoCentre). In my quest to find out more about how other librarians are using Twitter I posted a few questions on the LIS-WEB2 Jiscmail list (LIS-WEB2@JISCMAIL.AC.UK). This blog post is based on the summary I posted of the answers I had received.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of feedback – why did my library embark on using Twitter in the first place? The National Autistic Society (NAS) Information Centre for whom I work has three key groups of users: our colleagues at the NAS; professionals outside of the charity who work with adults and children with autism; and students undertaking projects, essays or research on autism. When I joined the NAS in 2003 students often approached us for information by letter. However as use of the Internet and email has developed we receive a large proportion of our enquiries by email or through our website. Conscious of the fact that many people have been embracing web2 technologies in recent years we felt that we too should see if these technologies could play a role in helping us to communicate with potential service users and in helping us to disseminate information. It was not anticipated that we would provide an enquiry service through these means, rather that we could communicate with anyone who may be interested in our service, for example by highlighting our information resources and services.
My idea was to begin with a series of Tweets to coincide with the first term at university. We drew up a schedule of one Tweet per week highlighting a particular resource or service. We also carried out lots of marketing to reach potential ‘followers’ including an email to lecturers and librarians at universities hosting relevant higher education courses; small pieces in a number of relevant magazines and e-newsletters; messages to relevant LIS-LISTS; information in our email signatures and on the cover letter which accompanies our information packs and enquiry responses by post. We attracted and still have a pretty small number of followers (35 to date) though this is steadily growing. Having attended an excellent CILIP course entitled Twitter for Librarians by Phil Bradley (@Philbradley) I had a good basis to confidently begin using Twitter but in the course of using Twitter I had a few questions: chiefly how to monitor mentions of @NASInfoCentre on Twitter; and how to build up followers. I received around a dozen responses from fellow librarians generous with their knowledge, experience and ideas.
Most respondents cited Hootsuite (http://hootsuite.com/) as their tool of choice for monitoring mentions (among other features). Tweetdeck (http://www.tweetdeck.com/) is well-known and another popular tool so I am grateful to David Jenkins (@d_jenkins) for highlighting useful comparisons between Hootsuite and Tweetdeck at http://www.siliconbeachtraining.co.uk/blog/hootsuite-vs-tweetdeck/ and http://sazbean.com/2010/02/04/review-tweetdeck-vs-hootsuite/ Other recommendations were for Socialmention (www.socialmention.com) and Seesmic (http://seesmic.com/). Twitter’s own search was also recommended to me. Thanks to Sue Lawson who emailed me this search term for monitoring mentions. Sue writes “This URL will show you all your Twitter @ mentions http://twitter.com/#search?q=%40manclibraries
Just replace manclibraries with your Twitter username”. A number of respondents suggested using RSS both for monitoring mentions and picking up followers by having a feed of your Tweets on your website. To see this in action you can visit the NAS’s own website at http://www.autism.org.uk/research
In terms of building up followers, the key advice seems to be to understand Twitter as a two-way thing; to think about it as you would building relationships and having conversations in the non-web2 world, i.e. be friendly, sociable, helpful but don’t do all the talking. Follow others, ask and answer questions, retweet other people’s Tweets as appropriate. Try to find a balance between informative and conversational Tweets. Most importantly Tweet lots of interesting and useful things regularly. I’m not sure I’ve achieved this yet but it has been really useful advice. I’ve tried to find a balance between friendly, relaxed but also professional (I am representing the NAS after all). I’ve also written a few extra Tweets in addition to the schedule designed where I’d come across information I thought would be of interest to our followers. This included about a film of a short presentation by Simon Baron-Cohen (a key expert in the field of autism) on the Guardian website; an online autism conference organised by AWARES (an autism charity in Wales); and a link to the occupational therapy database, OTDBASE, that was free for a week. Colleagues also suggested tagging posts; utilising other social platforms e.g. other web2 tools; and to think about marketing. This advice gave me food for thought.
I’m at an early stage in my use of Twitter for my library. Next on my list is to try out Hootsuite; identify others to follow on Twitter (thanks to Sian Aynsley, @QEhealthcareLib who suggested using Twellow: http://www.twellow.com/, the Twitter Yellow Pages for this); and typical librarian to do: to do more reading! The following blog posts were recommended to me: http://musingsaboutlibrarianship.blogspot.com/2010/03/scanning-mentions-of-library-twitter.html
I also want to look at Microblogging and Lifestreaming in Libraries by Robin M. Hastings (ISBN: 9781856047234), part of Facet Publishing’s Tech Set series; and Loudon and Hall (2010). From triviality to business tool: the case of Twitter in library and information services delivery. Business Information Review, 27(3) available at http://www.soc.napier.ac.uk/~hazelh/esis/Loudon_Hall_Twitter.pdf
To see how we are getting on with Twitter you can follow us @NASInfoCentre or email Stephanie.Taylor@nas.org.uk I would particularly like to acknowledge the generosity and helpfulness of fellow librarians on LIS-WEB2 – without them this blog post would never have happened so thank you.