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(2013) - Library High Tech News, Hot off the Press (8) : "Branding your library through social media"

LHTN vol. 30, iss. 5, May 2013

Hot off the Press! is a column dedicated to new trends and tendencies in information technologies and social networking with a note of the items’ value to technologies in libraries. Also mentioned in the column are new books on topics such as mobile computing, social networking, and even novels with a focus on technology. Also highlighted are some technology blogs, websites, archived webinars, movies with a technology theme, and more.

The main topic of this issue is “Branding your Library through Social Media” which is related to marketing, lobbying, advocacy… I will try to answer to the following question: does technology and in particular social media can help to brand your library and how? This topic is normally used as a crucial topic in companies and firms which want to create their own brands and make them successful. Is it a topic for libraries and librarians? Is it relevant? With the development of social media, each institution tries to build a brand and, in a way, to attract new people and create customer loyalty.  Let’s see first what branding means for private companies, and then, we will give some examples in libraries.

Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits

Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits is a very new book by Debbie Millman (the author) and Rob Walker (foreword) published by Allworth Press in May 2013. Debbie Millman has worked in the design business for over 25 years and is President of the design division at Sterling Brands (http://www.sterlingbrands.com/). She has been there for 16 years and in that time she has worked on the redesign of over 200 global brands.

How is it possible to define a brand? According to Cheryl Swanson, “a brand is a product with a compelling story - a brand offers “quintessential qualities” for which the consumer believes there is absolutely no substitute. Brands are totems. They tell us stories about our place in culture - about where we are and where we’ve been. They also help us figure out where we’re going ».  In Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits each chapter is an extensive dialogue between Debbie Millman, herself a design visionary, and a different leader in the field. By asking questions deeply informed by her own expertise, Millman coaxes prescient answers from twenty-two interview subjects, among them Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters, Seth Godin, and godfather of modern branding Wally Olins. This engaging book is an unprecedented forum on the state of modern branding and how companies and consumers can best understand the behavior behind why we brand and why we buy.

Whether you are in advertising, marketing, an entrepreneur, or just a librarian (!), this is a helpful read. You get a variety of perspectives, with themes that develop their own character, making this an insightful and useful book.



Adapting the branding concept to libraries: @yourlibrary

Few years ago, ALA published an excellent brochure “Creating your library brand. Communicating your relevance and value to your patrons” by Elisabeth Doucett. It gives a branding method for libraries with examples and even exercises. Then, IFLA and ALA propose together a plan for developing libraries branding through the well-known logo @yourlibrary. Here are few steps to follow:

First, target a specific group or audience on the value of libraries giving the following examples:

-          Public Library Outreach to Farmer, in which the Rolling Prairie Library System of Decatur, IL, promoted the agrarian resources available in libraries with "Think outside the barn @your library."
-  ALA has created a website devoted solely to the Kids Campaign with all kinds of tools and activities, with the slogan "So Much To See, So Much To Do @your library."

Secondly, create partnerships to expand message (anything from investing, to magazines, to products, to information): ALA partnered with Walgreens to promote health literacy, and since then, 16,400 public libraries have receive brochures on the new Medicare Drug Discount Card, and 10 libraries have received grants from Walgreens to host healthy literacy seminars with valuable information and resources.

Third, help with government programs: libraries and the campaign can help governments raise awareness and provide support for problems in society. For example, the Campaign worked with the Argentinian government to fight drug addiction.

And finally, utilize the campaign on social networking sites: blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter…



YouTube and branding

On his blog, Tame the web, Michael  Stephens (Assistant Professor in the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University) points out the Richland County Library which uses – like many libraries all around the world - YouYube as a way to brand its name, producing a short movie about the library with librarians interviews and users talks: and users are the best to promote the library with nice and simple words!  Another example is given by the Amsterdam Public Library in Netherlands with Twil (This week in libraries) produced as a TV broadcast. The episode I saw was the 93rd on the 30rd  of March and the guest invited was Amarens Schuurmans, Advisor and Director of Ophis/New Impulse which is a Nederland company helping firms to find their corporate branding (http://www.ophisnewimpulse.nl/home/). During the interview (in English), Amarens explains how to build a unique identity for an institution, emerging what is its core activity, how employees have to integrate this in their mind, and how they can act as a real and active part of the entire institution. She insists on the word which is now broadly used in branding concept, the word “authentic” and she says; “I am always looking for it”. And she adds “Branding can help a lot to comfort libraries in society” which is almost a slogan nowadays…Show more his Show less



Social media and branding

Crowdsourcing is certainly one of the most interesting and powerful social media tool used by libraries or archives. The main idea of crowdsourcing – which is the key of its success – is “the practice of obtaining services or ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers “(in Merriam-Webster Dictionary cited by Wikipedia). Some large institutions have rapidly understood what they can do with such a tool: one of the most famous example is the New York Public Library with more than 3,000 photos being made available on the NYPL Flickr page, to include only images for which no copyright restrictions are known to exist. People can tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images. Another example of a user participation to knowledge is recently given through the French version of Wikipedia: a photography of an unknown painting showing an important minister of King Louis the 14th (of France) was put by a descendant of him: until now, no one knew there was an existing portrait of this famous historical people.

Different strategies do exist to solicit the interaction of users in participating to library’s work or activity, but let’s have a look to private companies which give good examples. The first is a competition directly initiated by a company through a site that the brand makes available, this is the case of Heineken with Ideasbrewery.com. By this means, the company benefits from a direct link with the participants and its visibility, and Heineken could revisit its packaging. The Lego company managed to engage its young users by offering them to realize models of their imagination and gained more than 10,000 supporters on one project. Dell was one of the pioneers in launching platforms of crowdsourcing for more than 5 years, and integrates constantly users to the development of new products. Its last platform is Ideastorm.com with the following slogan “Ideastorm can help take your idea and turn it into reality”. In May 2013, over 18,876 ideas were submitted, 740,863 votes, 97,790 comments. 531 ideas implemented.

Apart from crowdsourcing, another initiative – criticized too but interesting in our overview – is the archiving of Twitter by the same Library of Congress… In a blog post on the Library of Congress’ site, Gayle Osterberg, the Library’s Director of Communications, wrote that once the April 2010 agreement between the Library and Twitter to archive the public tweets from the service’s origins in 2006 had been signed, work began in earnest on how best to achieve that aim. “The Library’s first objectives were to acquire and preserve the 2006-10 archive,” Osterberg wrote, “to establish a secure, sustainable process for receiving and preserving a daily, ongoing stream of tweets through the present day; and to create a structure for organizing the entire archive by date.” One thing that makes Twitter so powerful is its use of a standard “language”: hashtags. Any hashtagged tweet is automatically linked to every other tweet that shares the same tag. This allows for consistent dialogue and measurement. Systematically using hashtags on the Twitter account of the library can be a good way to promote the library and to build little by little the library brand.


Selecting the best tool(s) to reflect the overall library brand

After crowdsourcing, tagging, hashtagging, YouTube or Twitter, speaking of social media and branding goes directly to Facebook, LinkedIn and so on. Of course, now, most of the libraries all around the world have created their own official page or create their account, it is not new.

Alison Circle, a marketing professional under the employ of both the Columbus Metropolitan Library and Library Journal (see her résumé and ideas about libraries and marketing at : http://www.libraryjournal.com/csp/cms/sites/LJ/LJInPrint/MoversAndShakers/profiles2011/moversandshakersCircle.csp) In a recent post, Alison briefly points to several reasons library systems should commit to a single Facebook page, rather than create individualized pages for each of the system’s branches. Her reasons plead for consistency: “How will it be possible that each branch page reflects the overall library brand? You’ll have different messages, different voice, different strategic focus. This is confusing to customers”.

To go further with the discussion and to conclude this Hot off the press! column, in order to build a brand, a library must think of it accordingly to its own strategy for the best communication and then select the best tool reflecting the overall library brand. It is certainly a better and useful solution to choose one or two social media for the branding, than being present on all of them. For sure, communication technology tools offer now a large range of possibilities and can be very helpful for branding your library. The question is to find the right and adequate social media tool for the library.

JP Accart



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