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A Case Study in Social Media. A brief overview of the Library: Founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle A subscription library since its inception Now with 1.

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Presentation on theme: "A Case Study in Social Media. A brief overview of the Library: Founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle A subscription library since its inception Now with 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 A Case Study in Social Media

2 A brief overview of the Library: Founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle A subscription library since its inception Now with 1 million books, the majority of which are on open shelving and are borrowable by members Current membership stands at 7,200 Two-thirds of members live in Greater London The remaining one-third of members live throughout the UK and Europe and are serviced by postal loans and electronic resources We need to retain members, continue to recruit new members and raise general awareness of the Library

3 First foray into social media… The Library’s Facebook page was created in late 2009. Conscious of our need to build a stronger online presence, Facebook felt like a low-risk way of beginning to explore how we might use social media platforms. It was clear that institutions comparable to the Library in terms of ethos and sense of tradition – e.g. the Royal Academy, the British Library – were already active in this sphere, and the precedent set by them reassured us that this was a positive and necessary move to make.


5 What Facebook showed us: The Library’s page was interesting and relevant to both members and non- members, meaning that we recruited ‘fans’ from - and were able to interact with - both groups Facebook allowed us to gain greater value from mainstream media coverage: if there was a feature on the Library in a newspaper or magazine and the article was also available online, we could post a link and ensure that the largest possible audience read and engaged with that positive PR Facebook also allowed us to take advantage of media about our members, even if the Library itself was not mentioned, e.g. when a high-profile member gained coverage of his or her new book, we could post articles to our page and highlight the Library’s association with that person and their work Facebook users interacted with us in meaningful ways, allowing us to answer queries and encourage ‘fans’ to take up membership The page was instantly popular, and remains so: almost 1,700 ‘fans’ with an average gain of 15 new followers each week


7 The Library’s next step in social media… The success of our Facebook page demonstrated that social media activity had clear benefits for The London Library in terms of –Profile-raising –Leveraging more traditional forms of media so it reaches the widest possible audience –Strengthening relationships with current members, with a view to maximising member retention –Building relationship with potential members and new supporters It followed that we should be active across more than one social media platform and widen our online activity in general

8 In December 2010, The London Library joined


10 How our Twitter activity differs from what we do on Facebook: We Tweet much more frequently than we post on our Facebook page: London Library Tweets average 5 per day, whereas we post on our Facebook page an average of 5 times per week We use a different institutional voice: more conversational and irreverent, warmer and more personal Twitter lets us share the smaller, behind-the-scenes stories of Library life: we might not post on Facebook to say that one of our conservators has just finished work on repairing a particularly old or interesting binding, but we are likely to Tweet it, perhaps with a photograph of her at work. For this reason, Twitter feels more immediate and intimate Twitter makes it much easier for us to increase our visibility by using hashtags (i.e. #followalibrary, #Bloomsday, #WorldBookNight etc) and hooking into existing memes and popular stories

11 Who are our Twitter followers? User/follower analysis on Twitter is a good deal harder than it is on Facebook, but our followers include: Current Library members (including high-profile ones such as Alex Bellos, Sarah Bakewell, Patrick Ness, Alain de Botton, Daisy Goodwin; which in turn can help us recruit new followers and raise our Twitter profile) Other libraries e.g. New York Public Library, Boston Athenaeum, Harvard Libraries, Regionbibliotek Stockholm, Otago Library, Princeton Public Library & many others Other cultural institutions, e.g. MLA Council, Institute of Historical Research, Poetry International, Modern Humanities Research Association Publishers & other literary entities, e.g. Simon & Schuster, Granta, Foyles, Waterstone’s, World Book Night, National Short Story Week, LRB Bookshop, Pickering & Chatto, New Books Magazine, various literary agents Media/Journalists, e.g. BBC Radio 4 and Radio 2, The Book Show, The Culture Shaw, arts and architecture journalists from Evening Standard, Guardian, Architects’ Journal etc People who love books and reading – many of whom are potential new Library members!

12 Some examples of how we use Twitter Responding to specific queries, from both members and non-members (Do you have this book in your collections? How much is it to join? Do you subscribe to this journal? How can I search your catalogue?) Posting timely ‘housekeeping’ information for members (Don’t forget we’re now open until 9pm on Monday and Tuesday; We have a new staff members; A database has been added to our electronic resources) Correcting misinformation: By searching for the term ‘London Library’, we can see if people have tweeted incorrect things about us (e.g. that our annual subscription is £600, or that you have to be proposed by an existing member in order to join) and put them right in a gentle, friendly way Linking to current media coverage about us and our members (as per Facebook) Participating in memes such as #FridayReads (we post what a staff member is reading each week) Highlighting parts of the collections (e.g. on Bloomsday we tweeted a photograph of all our (many) editions of Ulysses)

13 How have the Library’s experiences with social media shaped our attitudes to online activity? We are more aware now of how much demand there is for the kind of accessibility and interactivity offered by social media: our members, including our ‘older’ members, want us to be online, and they want to be able to talk to us in new ways We can see the need to be able to link different kinds of online activity – we refer Twitter users to our Facebook page, and vice-versa, and we know we need to be active on other platforms, too Social media offers us a precious opportunity to address misperceptions about the Library, i.e. that it is an ‘exclusive’ institution, that we are not open to everyone, that you have to be a famous writer to be a member etc Facebook and Twitter have shown us that all our online activity needs to feel connected, look professional and project a modern, up-to-date impression of The London Library

14 Plans for the future We were aware already of the need to update the Library’s website, but the popularity of our social media activity reinforced our sense that we needed to move this forward swiftly. If Twitter or Facebook users came to a site that felt dated, we would undoing our good work and the effect would be jarring: an institution that feels modern and open in social media needs to have an institutional web presence that echoes those values.



17 What else? Once our new website is finished and live, we will also go live with The London Library Blog – another opportunity to reach new audiences, tell stories about the Library and engage with our existing members. The blog will include daily photographs of the Library, information about specific parts of the collections, stories from the Library’s rich history, guest bloggers, short videos of Library activity and ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpses of what happens in our 15 miles of open bookstacks.

18 ‘Everyone is just telling stories on the Internet, so if you want to succeed in PR, you need to be a storyteller. Take a look at the NYPL’s Tumblr. Conversant with current memeology and drawing on common news hooks (Father's Day, Bloomsday, the library's budget woes), the Tumblr provides a flow of tiny stories from and about their collections. Press releases are no longer where the communications action is.’ Alexis Madrigal, ‘What Big Media Can Learn From The New York Public Library’, The Atlantic June 2011

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