I didn't used to think social media timings were important, but increasingly I think it is worth trying to hit times of peak engagement IF you're tweeting or posting something important, particularly when using social media as an organisation rather than just for yourself. If you've put effort into creating useful content, you want as many people to see it as possible.
First of all we have the Social Media Design Sizing Cheat Sheet
The Omnicoreagency.com cheat sheet below shows you exactly how big (to the pixel) the images for each element of your social media profile need to be. This is genuinely useful for organisations on social media, as you can get a huge amount of customer interaction via Twitter and Facebook; the wrong sized image will either be distorted to auto-cropped in your profile or header pics, which undermines how professional you appear. Consistency is important on social media for organisations, but you can't literally use the same image in all circumstances because the dimensions won't be appropriate.
So for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and (both) Google+ users, here's all the info on image sizing you'll ever need...
(Scroll waaaay down to below the infographic to find a tool which will resize your images for you!)
Second of all we have the Social Image Resizer Tool
So perhaps you're convinced that size matters when it comes to social media images - but wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to actually crop your images yourself? All that faffing about and resizing to the exact pixel.
Well step forward the Social Image Resizer Tool - give it your image, then choose from various Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Google and YouTube image sizes and it'll crop your image down to the right proportions.
Finally we have the Optimal Length of (almost) Everything Online Cheat Sheet
This one from Buffer is less definitively useful, but interesting all the same. Which length of Tweet, hashtag, Facebook update, blog headline, email subject line etc gets the most engagement? Glad you asked, right this way:
If you click the image below, you'll be taken to the Student Guide to Social Media. This is an interactive online resource, giving information on various social media platforms, and on tasks you can accomplish using social media - it is aimed primarily at undergraduates but has applications across the board. It is made available under a BY-NC-ND Creative Commons licence: in other words if you think this resource might be of use to YOUR students, feel free to use this, link to this, make it part of your own institution's website, just as long as you credit the creators (the BY part), aren't using it for commercial purposes (the NC part) and use it entirely as it is, in its current state, rather than creating your own version or derivatives (the ND part).
Alternatively, book mark libassets.manchester.ac.uk/social-media-guide/ or click the link to open the resource in a new window.
A Northern collaboration
The resource is the result of a joint project between the Libraries of the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and York, developed over the Summer. Michelle Schneider from Leeds' very successful Skills@Library team approached me about working together on a social media resource for undergraduates - I was extremely pleased she did, because it was something on my list to do anyway.
There's a lot of support out there for postgrads, academics, researchers generally in using social media, but I don't think there's as much for undergraduates. It's an area we're looking to expand at my own institution, and as well as face-to-face workshops I really wanted something that worked as an interactive learning object online, probably made using Articulate / Storyline. Imagine how pleased I was, therefore, when Michelle told me the other collaborators would be Manchester, including Jade Kelsall, who is absolutely brilliant with Articulate! I'd worked with Jade before at Leeds; she provided all the technical expertise to create the Digitisation Toolkit (using the Articulate), one of the parts of the LIFE-Share project I actually enjoyed. Also on the team were Carla Harwood at Leeds, and Sam Aston at Manchester.
So we got together, brainstormed on lots of massive pieces of paper, photographed the paper with our ipads, emailed each other a lot, and came up with a resource which we think will be really useful. I feel quite bad because I was off on paternity leave for a month of this and it took me ages to get back up to speed, so I don't feel like I contributed enough compared to Jade and Michelle who worked tirelessly on this (sorry guys!) but I'm really pleased with the result. It's gone down very well on Twitter, and I was excited to see we've found our way onto a curriculum already:
— Róisín Cassidy (@Roisin_Cassidy) November 5, 2013
How it works
Increasingly as I do more and more teaching, training, and planning, I'm aware that when introducing people to new tools (or trying to help people use existing tools better) you have to give them two different versions of the same core information. The first and obvious thing is how to use a tool - e.g. here's Twitter, here's how you create an account, here's some tips on using it. But this assumes some prior knowledge - what if you don't know why you'd need Twitter? So you also have to present the information in terms of tasks people want to achieve: "I want to boost my professional reputation" is one such task, and Twitter would be among the tools you might recommend to achieve this. The great thing about using Storyline is we can do exactly that - students can explore this resource by tool, or by task, or both.
We've also included case studies (some video, some not) and I'm indebted to my colleague in the Career's Service at York, Chris Millson, for providing a lot of really useful information about both tools and tasks and sourcing case studies...
The resource is, deliberately, very straightforward. We stripped out everything non-essential to give students easily digestible, bite-sized introductions to the various things they might want to use these tools for (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Slideshare, Google+, Academia.edu, blogs etc). It's also relatively informal without attempting to be in any way cool or streetwise. I've showed it to some of my students in info skills classes already and it's gone down very positively; I think even students who are very au fait with web 2.0 tools still appreciate some guidance on how to meld the social with the academic and the professional.
So, check out the Students Guide to Social Media, tell us what you think, and if you'd like to steal it, feel free.
Things move a lot faster in library-land than people outside the profession would ever imagine - approaches, trends, philosophies and pedagogies all shift on an on-going basis. For this reason, the fact that something didn't work 2 or 3 years ago is really not a good enough reason not to try it now (and by the same token, the fact that something DID work 3 years ago isn't enough of a reason to keep doing it - we have to make sure it's still working in today's landscape).
This happens a lot though - someone new comes into an organisation and says 'why don't we try such and such?' and the reply is 'oh we already did that; it didn't work' and that's the end of it. In effect, a policy has been built off the back of one experience - and that experience may not be representative anymore, because things change, and people change.
This is particularly true in the web 2.0 landscape, where individuals' attitudes to interacting with organisations and businesses changes all the time. A Library may run a trial and the conclusion 'our users don't want to be friends with a Library on Facebook' emerges. If this trial took place in 2012 then it is entirely valid; don't waste your time and effort on a Facebook presence. If the trial happened in 2009, it's almost entirely without worth! That is SO long ago as to need re-visiting before a decision can be made on whether or not Facebook is a good idea - web 2.0 years are like dog years, so a 2009 Facebook study is the equivalent of a 1990 Library Management System study. :)
So, if you come across something that has already been tried, and you think the landscape has shifted sufficiently to try it again, don't take no for an answer! It may be that it doesn't work this time either, or it might be a huge triumph - either way, your Library's policy will be based on something current, and will be more likely to reflect the needs of your users...
p.s I was in a Lean methodology training session the other day, which is what inspired me to finish this post which has lain in my drafts folder for a couple of months. It turns out a lot of Lean principles are things I've been thinking about for a while, including the business of not just doing things one way because they've always been done that way, and not trying anything new because it has been tried once before in the distant past. Lean puts it in terms of the five whys - asking why (or more likely, 'yeah, but WHY though?') enough times to actually get to the root cause of something. Heidi Fraser-Krauss who led the session gave an example of a hospital who asked their staff to sign into a book when they rode their bikes into work. No one knew why, it had apparently ever been thus. The bike-book went back as far as the 40s and was, it turned out, something to do with rationing during the war... So it just goes to show, some processes need a quick currency-check to see if they're still needed. Eliminate waste.
We're being asked to take on so many new functions as part of the changing role of the Information Professional - if we don't make sure we also lose anything non-essential, we'll eventually run out of steam...
“…a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…” - Herbert Simon
This is part II of a pair of posts on Information Professionals as Sherpas. You can read Part I in isolation here.
I've written before about the ever increasing mountain of information. Specifically, my point about Sherpas relates to this quote, from this post:
"We’re all aware of the very real danger that libraries could become redundant, with users being able to do their own research, unassisted, and entirely online (hence the phrase you often hear bandied about, that ‘we’re all librarians now’). Who needs a library when you can find everything yourself? The answer to that may be that you need a library as a gateway to information with integrity. The current information-seeking behaviour of our users is simply not fit for purpose for searching on the kind of staggering scale we’ll be dealing with in the near future. You can easily type a key word into a search engine and get a million hits – what we professionals of information can do for you is sort the wheat from the chaff on an epic scale. We can rule out the majority of those hits on the basis of dubious authorship, or validity, or context, or even just quality. And we can provide access to those materials which are legitimate for our users (and must brand this information accordingly, so our users understand the role the library has played in assessing it). These are roles which will become more and more important as the amount of digital information becomes more and more vast. Imagine the available data as an almost random stream of sentences, arranged without rhyme or reason across a hundred pages. You might find a sentence or two which is really useful, but overall the effort required to search through it all would be overwhelming. What the Information Professional can do, is arrange the sentences into paragraphs, the paragraphs into chapters, and provide you with a Contents page, an introduction and an index. More and more, that will become an invaluable service in the Information Economy in which we live."
Edit: Good to see Agnostic, Maybe writing along similarish lines!
There is already evidence that users want some kind of guidance, that simply typing stuff into Google isn't working any more. When Facebook purchased FriendFeed, Mashable posted this interesting article about 'the new search war'. The article suggests that with its 250 million registered users (and that figure is up to 400 million now, according to Facebook's own stats), Facebook has always been in a position to lead the way in Social Search - the web search method that determines the relevance of search results by considering the interactions or contributions of users - and that now this could come to fruition. The same article also links to a blog post from Paul Buchheit (creator of Gmail, among other things), from way back in 2008, in which Buchheit anticipates the power of 'human link data' and suggests it could one day become more useful than 'web link data'.
I already use human link data, in the form of delicious and blogs, and in real-time with Twitter, to get information. Particularly with more qualitative information, I prefer the opinions and advice of my network of peers than just asking Google's non-human algorithms to provide me with information I can trust. There are efforts to formalise this process, such as the search-engine Aardvark,which 'connects users live with friends or friends-of-friends who are able to answer their questions'. The wikipedia article on Social Searchis slightly dated in that it mentions Aardvark, but not the fact that Aardvark was acquired by Google last month, as Google seeks to even the odds with Facebook in the search-war... The recently launched Google Buzz is also an effort to tap into this side of using one's social and professional network as a knowledge pool.
Facebook looks well placed to win this war, which sucks for me as I hate Facebook and want no part of it. But getting relevant information from a network of real people exploits mobile technology a lot better than algorithm-based computing power does, and in any case, look at how Facebook is grabbing people's internet-attention more and more while Google is declining slightly:
So, all of this points towards a move to more qualified information - information provided by someone you trust to give you the good stuff, rather than an anonymous piece of mathematics proffering you its results. And as I've said before, just as solicitors are the experts in legal matters, we Information Professionals need to position ourselves as the experts in information. The Information Professional has a valuable role to play. In a comment on a blog post about the #echolib debate, Gareth Osler suggested "How about a personal librarians friend on Facebook, someone who could answer questions, and maybe even offer timely advice on information" - which makes sense in this context. It needn't be one individual or one institution who provided that service - in the same way that asking your network for help relies on a number of them definitely being online at any given time, so you could have a network of information professionals, not formally organised, who all contribute to the 'friend' role whenever they are online. Might be interesting to try, and it might increase awareness of what we can do to help people.
Interestingly, there is some argument that the Information Professional could play this role without the platform of the library itself. In response to my entry to the LISNews Essay Contest, a comment entitled We need librarians more than ever; libraries, not so much was left by T. Scott. He argues (and this post is getting long so I've heavily edited this):
Libraries are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. They were built by librarians in order to fulfill our role in society -- to facilitate the connection between people and recorded knowledge for the whole vast range of reasons that this is important to people -- education, entertainment, self-improvement, science, art, religion, fun.... In the print world, building libraries as we have come to know them was the best way to do that. In the digital world it probably isn't.
We need to quit wasting time trying to figure out what the "role of the library" is in the digital age. Who cares? The library is just a tool. We know, if we stop to reflect, what the role of the librarian is -- as I said above, it's to connect people to recorded knowledge. It's the same role that we've always had.
There is an incredible future within our grasp -- but it's a future where our focus needs to be on librarians, not libraries.
Now I'm not convinced about the logistics of information professionals surviving beyond libraries - the issues of lack of collection, lack of funding and budget, lack of actual physical space to engage with people, all seem to point to difficulties there. But it is interesting to consider that in the digital age, the information Sherpa could exist without being tied to the dying building. Naturally I hope the buildings don't die, but I do think that the role of the Information Professional is less dependant on the library than it ever has been before.
- thewikiman P.S - I've just added a temporary page to this website about an upcoming event I'm presenting at. I'm afraid this events is only for CILIP members in the Yorkshire & Humberside region (ironic really seeing as the presentation is about escaping the echo-chamber...) so I don't want to do a proper blog post about it that'll clutter up peoples' Google Readers. But if you're interested you can click on the other pages on this blog link on the right, or just click here instead.