Are you are having trouble getting an official approval for your social media activities? Then this is for you. It’s mostly about Twitter but it could be extended to other social media.
#1 You can trust me
Whoever you talk to about social media in your corporate communications department, trust is going to be an issue. There is an old saying in public relations (PR) that a reputation takes years to build and seconds to lose. Corporate communications have to avoid the PR disasters that are avoidable and manage the ones that aren’t. For them social media that they don’t control is a risk to the organisation’s reputation. If you have to ask permission then you have to convince them you can be trusted.
What to do? Well, you could start by explaining the limits of your ambition. It’s about libraries and the things that libraries do. Nothing else. Point out that you know where your Trusts social media policy is on the Intranet and you have read it. Don’t forget to mention that you are familiar with the norms of behaviour in using social media as a professional communication tool and that you have read some of the NHS guides on this topic. There are quite a few of these. Stress your professional approach to managing your libraries reputation. You both have a shared interest in using social media responsibly. In other words, not just trust me but I can be trusted because …
#2 What social media do they already use?
Does your organisation use any social media? Do they have a Facebook page or Twitter account? Do they use it imaginatively and frequently? One of the barriers to using social media is going to be the experience within your organisation. If it is limited then you may have to do some groundwork explaining the benefits and applications of say a Twitter account. You might be in the position to be a change agent for social media in your organisation. If there is extensive experience in using social media then you may have to investigate why you can’t have a Twitter account.
#3 Are you competing with corporate branding?
Your organisation will have strategies for PR, branding and corporate communication. They may not share these widely so you might not know when you are at risk of crossing the boundary between library social media activity and corporate social media. That’s why it’s probably good to run your plans by other people. You can help yourself by taking a few simple precautions. Probably good idea not to use the NHS Logo. Consult the NHS Branding Guidelines if you do. Your organisation will have similar branding guidelines for its logo, strap line and visual identity. LQAF requires that healthcare libraries have a distinct identity. So if you haven’t already you might develop your own brand identity that you control directly and use that.
#4 Use good examples
If your going to use an example of social media to convince managers of your case, choose carefully. There are some basic criteria. It should be busy, look good and be something like the account you aspire to create. Health care library social media activities are developing some distinctive characteristics. Perhaps scope for research here. They range from the quirky and self referential to the relentlessly information giving and points in between.
#5 There are good reasons for using social media
This one perhaps should be higher up, but you need to get over the trust / fear / risk issues. Anyway you could try these fairly well worn arguments …
#5.1 Everyone’s doing it
Health care professionals like any other group use social media for professional purposes, to communicate and to find information. The NHS uses social media and so do all its related agencies and organisations. You have to be in the conversation to join in, or at least to contribute to the evidence base that informs it.
#5.2 Social media is good for you
Social media fits in with the language of outreach and engagement. It reaches out to remote users. Literally if you have users at remote or outlying sites but also to users who may be unable or unwilling to visit the physical library.
#5.3 It’s efficient and effective
For the majority of university educated health care professionals who make up our user community using social media is normal. Not only is it more effective than paper it saves money on printing, copying and distribution costs!
#5.4 It’s not an either or choice
The language of enhancement and additionality is probably better than that revolution and change. Choosing to add a social media capability to your health care library is additional to the service not a takeover. The idea that you are extending the range of your communication with users through social media is a good one. Less white heat, more a gentle warming.
#5.5 The future is (mostly) digital
Sitting discussing social media in a library surrounded by printed books might be a bit of a hard sell to the digitally cautious communications manager. They will be gazing nostalgically at the print that surrounds them while you are trying to convince them of the value of the digital. There might be some ground work to do on the extent of digital information in the modern library/information landscape to provide some context. Handing out a printed list of useful website addresses might point out the contradiction nicely.
#6 The pilot test strategy
Nothing is, forever. The pilot test strategy is a bit like perpetual beta. Set up something that has a short, but extendable operational life. That gives everyone the opportunity to bail out if it goes wrong. It won’t, but you have the opportunity. It also gives some wiggle room for senior managers if they feel they need it. So you want to run a social media pilot … that should be fine.
If you have a sure fire argument or suggestion to help colleagues make their case why not leave it as a a comment.
NWAS LKS is supported by the Health Care Libraries Unit [ HCLU ].