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Howard County Library Social Media Strategy

Howard County Library
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Innovation Leader: Dennis Wood, Web Communications Specialist, dennis.wood@hclibrary.org

Problem Statement

Develop a comprehensive social media strategy that engages Howard County Library's (HCL) customers and promotes its philosophy of self-directed education, research assistance and instruction, and instructive and enlightening experiences. As involvement in the social web continues to increase, it is critical that the Library not only develop a presence but also actively participate.

Innovation

With the number of social media sites expanding exponentially, HCL began by focusing on four that would maximize engagement and visibility. With more than 400 million users worldwide – fifty percent of whom log in at least once a day, establishing a fan page on Facebook was an obvious choice. Our fan page (facebook.com/HoCoLibrary) promotes our classes and events, links to videos on YouTube, displays photos, links to our readers' advisory blog, and engages customers. HCL also created a special Facebook fan page just for teens, which is maintained by our teen specialists. Next, we established a Twitter account (twitter.com/HoCo_Library) to communicate with the Library's main demographic group, adults 25-49. Using Mediafunnel, staff from all departments and all branches were invited to submit tweets, which the PR department approves, schedules, and posts. We linked our Facebook and Twitter accounts to maximize the number of people reached, minimize workload, and maintain consistency. An increasing number of HCL-produced videos made a YouTube channel (youtube.com/howardcountylibrary) a necessity. Not only does YouTube free up space on HCL servers, it also maximizes exposure for HCL's featured initiatives and events. We began posting content exclusively to YouTube and Facebook last fall, with the creation of a monthly interview series, “Do You Know?”. Authors, elected officials, and local celebrities are asked the same ten questions, based on the Proust Questionnaire. Lastly, HCL posts photographs of events to its Flickr (flickr.com/photos/26211546@N03/) page. To date, HCL has uploaded more than 1,600 photos. All four sites work together and separately with HCL's web site. While HCL's web site is one-way communication (Library to customers), Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr enable customers to contribute and create their own conversations among their friends and with Library staff.

Progress

We discovered that our presence on these social media sites not only informed our current and potential customers about HCL, but also sparked conversations among customers and staff about likes, dislikes, needs, and wants. We also have become involved in discussions about books, classes, seminars, events, and other information relevant to customers. Over the course of the past nine months, our Facebook page has increased seven fold to more than 1,300 fans, one of the highest in the state of Maryland. Customers are joining us on Facebook for conversations about books, questions about our collection, contests, and more. In addition, Facebook and Twitter were instrumental in keeping everyone informed during the February 2010 snowstorms:

“You all are #1. Thanks, and especially thanks for the excellent communication here and (Facebook) on Twitter. It makes a difference.” “The movies, toys and books we borrowed last week are keeping us happy this week. Thank you!”
Twitter followers have increased by almost ten times in the same period. Our followers not only ask us questions on Twitter, but also pass our Tweets along to their followers: HopkinsHowardC RT @HoCo_Library: Free, walk-in blood pressure screening & monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital. 3:30-5:30p. 3/01, Glenwood.
Authors post messages to HCL and our customers: mary_russell@HoCo_Library That does please me. Give all your Mystery Book Club members my warmest regards. I do hope they will enjoy my other memoirs.
We have solved our customer’s problems: ZenStormNow *that's* twitter service, @HoCo_Library! Desk noted the problem as a tech walked by. Resolved inside 10 min :-)
Our Flickr page displays more than 1,600 images of HCL classes, seminars and special events, and our YouTube channel contains 37 videos.
While we currently maintain an active presence on four social media sites, HCL continues to research new ways use the power of the social web to engage customers.