What is Twitter all about?
Twitter is a micro blogging and social networking service that’s easy to use and best of all — free. It allows members to post short messages that are 140 characters or less to their accounts.
The social element of Twitter allows users to follow each other and monitor each other’s messages. David Lee King suggests to “think of Twitter like a personal IM account that can be shared with everyone.”
In essence, Twitter is a way to communicate and connect with others, but it’s also a great marketing and publicity tool and so much more.
How is Twitter being used?
Twitter is being used by individuals, groups, organizations and companies in many different ways. Most commonly Twitter is used:
- as an information resource
- as a communication platform
- as a self-promotion and publicity tool
- as a sales and marketing tool
Here are a few examples of how Twitter is being used by librarians:
The Barrington Area Library in Illinois has a Teen Zone Twitter account which is primarily used as an information resource for teens. @BALTeenZone tweets updates on book recommendations, events, programs, interesting websites to check out and other related information for teens.
The Ann Arbor District Library (@aadl) uses Twitter mostly to promote their programs and services and also to provide useful information for the library’s patrons.
The undergraduate library at the University of Urbana-Champaign is utilizing Twitter on their website as alerts for students. This has made updating that area of the website that much easier; all a librarian has to do is tweet the message and it is automatically added to the sidebar on the site. Of course, students can also follow @askundergrad with their own Twitter account.
There’s really no wrong way to use Twitter. It has the potential to be extremely effective in many different areas, whether a librarian wants to connect with patrons, offer help and information, promote the library, or all of the above; Twitter is the perfect technology to utilize in the library.
Utilizing Twitter in the Library
One of the reasons Twitter has so much potential is the fact that it has become so widespread. People like using Twitter because it’s easy to use, free and because the messages are short and to the point. Because of the 140 character limit (and by the way, that includes spaces) each tweet is informative and succinct.
Another advantage is that you don’t have to sign up for a Twitter account to view other people’s tweets. In fact I know people who use Twitter only to monitor what is being said, but don’t post anything themselves. So if someone doesn’t want to use it as a communication tool, Twitter can be utilized in a similar way that RSS feeds are being utilized.
Since it plays well with other technologies Twitter can also be used with Google calendar, Delicious, Facebook, Flickr, RSS feeds (using twitterfeed or rss2twitter) and other online services and that the library is utilizing.
In fact, Twitter can be utilized to send out the library newsletter as well as other useful information about upcoming events, new programs, announcements, even simple things like library hours. For example my library has different summer and winter hours and a reminder tweet in the first couple of weeks the change is made would be very helpful.
Twitter can also be used as a reference tool, just like an online chat. And it can be a great way for librarians to share their recommendations for books and web resources, help patrons stay informed about what’s going on in the library and connect with patrons.
Other than improving communication Twitter is a great place to market and promote library services, new books and other library materials, and any other information that would make utilizing library resources easier. Some librarians might even find it useful in outreach or getting feedback from patrons.
It’s not a bad idea for a library to develop multiple Twitter accounts that focus on different audiences and age groups, or different types of information.
The possibilities are endless; libraries can utilize Twitter in many different ways as long as it’s relevant and useful to patrons.
Do You Twitter
Twitter, like any other technology isn’t perfect and it’s not for everyone. Librarians might find some challenges in utilizing it in the library and they have to keep in mind that not everyone will be joining them on Twitter.
In my opinion however, the advantages of using Twitter are important and cannot be overlooked. Any library with an interest in improving communication and marketing should consider trying it out.
Does your library use Twitter? Do you Twitter? What are your thoughts about the technology?