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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Washington State University's Online Social Media Presence

Online Social Media Presence

WSU Libraries have a modest online presence.  The libraries maintain a main homepage, a Facebook page for two separate libraries on the Pullman campus, a Facebook page for the libraries’ Manuscripts Archives & Special Collections (MASC) unit, and a Twitter account.

The number of libraries on the main Pullman campus is seven, however only three have Facebook fan pages.  These pages provide a nice landing space for users seeking them out on this specific social media platform.  There are contact information and building operating hours posted here, as well as links to the library’s homepage.  Posts to the walls of these pages consist of announcements of events, exhibits and updates to library activities and services.

WSU Libraries also have a Twitter account. This account is used to communicate and promote the different library events, displays, and classes hosted by the library.  It is also used to announce new services, such as new databases being added and changes to existing ones.
There are no official blogs maintained by WSU Libraries.  The breadth of library blogs is kept brief with only a couple of progressive librarians having active blogs related to their subject specialties.

Marketing Efforts

By comparing marketing efforts of the WSU Libraries with two best practices online guides one can get a better idea of how WSU Libraries are succeeding at their marketing efforts and where they could use some improvement.  Mashables’ The Facebook Guide Book breaks down how to effectively use Facebook and the elements associated with a successful Facebook fan page.  The Information Tyrannosaur’s article, How to Grow Your Library’s Social Media Presence, suggests eight strategies.  Both were used in critiquing how well WSU Libraries market themselves. 

According to this framework, WSU Libraries are marketing themselves well on specific aspects.  The WSU Libraries’ Twitter account is updated regularly and links to the libraries’ homepage.  The Holland & Terrell Facebook page has the same posts to it as the Twitter account, it is assumed the fan page uses an RSS application to be updated.  These pages succeed at linking to many of WSU Libraries’ different pages, this information can be found in each page’s ‘Info’ application on the left side.  Holland & Terrell Libraries and MASC both have links out to the libraries’ homepage, however Owen Science Library does not.  All three (Holland & Terrell, Owen Science, MASC) have links from the fan landing pages to their respective ‘about’ subpages from the library homepage.  Also, all three (Holland & Terrell, Owen Science, MASC) make use of a geographical location link as part of their ‘info’ application using Bing.  Holland & Terrell Libraries fan page is the only one that links to the libraries’ Libguides.  There is an intuitive creation of resources by libraries when using Facebook fan pages, having another access point to library news and research resources.  In this way the WSU Libraries’ Facebook pages are a success.  They provide valuable contact information, news, and links to library resources.

However, continuing to use the same framework, WSU Libraries have some aspects of their marketing efforts that could use some additional attention.  The Libraries’ Twitter account does not link to Owen Science Library’s or MASC’s fan pages.  Owen Science Library’s Facebook page does not have a link to the libraries’ Libguides.  There does not seem to be user participation on any of the three fan pages, they are devoid of wall posts from users and any type of interaction between users and library employees.  It is unclear if these three pages are targeting the correct demographic for sure, since there is no user feedback or posts to this site.  The implication is that until there is interaction with and participation from users it cannot be said who the target audience is.  

Branding Efforts

Various sources provide a framework on building and managing an organization’s social media brand online and those recommendations prove valuable in critiquing the WSU Libraries’ social media branding management efforts.  Mashable offers tips on building an organization’s online social media brand and for optimizing an organization’s brand on Facebook, both of which are applicable to this analysis.  While both frameworks are not entirely observable, such as the privacy settings or the details of WSU Libraries’ official branding strategy, most of the others are.  

According to the framework mentioned above, WSU Libraries’ branding efforts are effective.  All three WSU Libraries’ Facebook pages are making use of the custom share preview image and have a separate landing page for fans and non-fans.  The MASC page is making use of the vanity url.  Two of the pages are making use of recognizable profile images, Owen uses a picture of the outside of its six-story building and MASC uses a picture of its front doors that bare its name.  The fan pages’ profiles are completely filled out, however there are differences in the overall information being provided, for instance only the MASC fan page provides an email address.  

However, using that same framework there are certain aspects that could use some improvement.  Holland & Terrell and Owen Science Libraries do not make use of the Facebook vanity url.  None of the Facebook pages seem to have a calendar for posting new content to the pages, since posting dates are not in consistent intervals.  Owen Library’s page has not had a new post to its wall since February 23, 2009.  On the other hand, Holland & Terrell Libraries’ fan page wall was updated as recently as March 1, 2011 and is updated more regularly.  Holland & Terrell Libraries’ fan page does not use a recognizable profile image, a picture of the inside of the atrium windows does not have the name of the libraries nor another recognizable characteristic, especially for those who have never visited the library.

Besides these aspects that show a need for improvement, it should be said that WSU Libraries have a solid brand.  After searching Social Mention, Google Blog Search, Keotag, and other various social monitoring sites I could not find one negative mention.  The contents found were posts and tweets by librarians and other university employees regarding future events and exhibits.  This shows a large degree of consistency in the libraries’ brand.  

It should also be mentioned that there is a Facebook group page named People Scared of the Holland Library with 37 group members.  It is an amusing page and it does not seem to have a very serious tone.  Although the Associate Dean did make a very positive post to the group page’s wall announcing a new PA system installation that should mitigate anyone being locked in the building, as one user proclaimed they endured one evening.  There were few posts after that one, the most recent post was made September 19, 2008.  The lack of posts to this site would suggest the libraries have overcome the ‘scariness’.

When compared to a handful of other libraries with Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts the WSU Libraries’ branding efforts are consistent and similar to those of Wellesley College, Hennepin County Public, and UNC Davis libraries.  The same can be said for their Twitter account, which is used in the same way as UNC Davis library.

Summary & Suggestions

Largely WSU Libraries manage their brand well.  This is evident because it has not been hijacked by fans, a competitor, or otherwise mismanaged.  Additionally, there are no looming catastrophes on the horizon with regard to the libraries’ branding efforts. 

If I were hired by the WSU Libraries as a social media marketing consultant I would suggest the following activities to strengthen their brand and their marketing efforts:

  • Develop an official social media marketing strategy.  This will add more consistency to the libraries’ efforts and prepare those involved with its management for how to react to branding and marketing problems in the future, if there should be any.  This would also address the ambiguity associated with what demographic group the libraries are marketing to.  A wonderful resource to get the libraries started is the social media policy tool by the rtraction company.
  • The Facebook fan pages for Owen Science and Holland & Terrell Libraries should make use of vanity urls.  This will make finding their sites easier to remember.
  • Develop a calendar for posting status updates to all the pages to help make the pages more ‘sticky’ and generate return users.  This will help with the infrequency of postings on some of the fan pages and keep the content fresh.
  • Holland & Terrell Libraries should use a much more recognizable image, even an image with the name of the library would be better than a picture of the atrium windows.
  • Add another Twitter account to the libraries’ pantheon of social media efforts for Owen Science Library.  This could be fed into its fan page for optimization and would create additional content for the page that is lacking at this time.
  • Add the same applications to all the Facebook fan pages for a more consistent marketing effort. Users may want the option of searching the library catalog from Owen Science Library’s or MASC’s fan pages instead of only the Holland & Terrell library fan page.
  • Through a developed strategy, create ways to interact with users more and create social connections.  Examples of this are creating participation through trivia questions that involve using library resources, where the prize could be an ‘I love my library’ or ‘I got this t-shirt from doing research at the library’ t-shirt.
  • Add a link to the libraries’ instant messaging and email reference services on each of the fan landing pages.  These are perfect places for users to discover online reference services.
  • Advertise all of the libraries’ social media platform activities in the physical library and on campus.  This could be done with flyers and posters using library display cases and spaces and other campus locations.
It should be said that all of these efforts assume the WSU Libraries have the resources and time to embark down this path.  Also, this is assuming the libraries’ administration is willing and enthusiastic to grow the libraries’ social media presence, where they see a strong future in these types of endeavors.  The suggestions made here take time and resources to plan and implement, which could prove to be precarious given the financial status of the state and the perceived value of the libraries within the various communities they serve.  Having a clear vision of the library brand and how its marketing efforts should be implemented can only help to strengthen the libraries’ positions within those communities, developing greater support and visibility for its efforts, and resulting in a greater likelihood of its survival and overall relevance.


  1. You make a good suggestion with "Add the same applications to all the Facebook fan pages for a more consistent marketing effort." I wonder if the different Facebook pages were created by different staff members? If so, they should collaborate and establish some consistency across the Facebook pages.

    Also, I like the t-shirt idea! I wish the library I worked for sold merchandise. I would proudly wear a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of my local library.

  2. Thank you for your comments, Dave P. Yes, if multiple librarians are managing different aspects of their efforts, then they should definitely coordinate their efforts. I agree.

    Me too, I would wear my libraries' t-shirts if they had them!