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Social media has exploded in the last decade. Websites like Facebook and Twitter allow for users to easily access information and entertainment, connect to friends and family, and stay informed. In more recent years, social media has expanded to include businesses and corporations. These companies utilize social media as a means of receiving and responding to customer feedback and inquiries. Like businesses and companies, many libraries have also begun to embrace social media as a way of reaching out to local library users.
Facebook in particular has become so popular, “over 51 percent of Americans age 12 and up use Facebook” (Webster, “Facebook Achieves Majority”). Seeing this high number of Facebook users, a large number of libraries have created Facebook pages in order to connect with members of their local community and to promote library events, activities, and projects.
Why do so many libraries choose to use Facebook as their primary promotional tool? There are many reasons other than Facebook being the most popular social media site.
For starters, Facebook has an inviting layout with a reasonable number of features that are easy to use. Users are able to post pictures, write comments or question on the wall, or comment on status updates posted by the library. These accessible features and layout make it easy for users to connect with the library.
As a promotional tool, Facebook offers libraries three valuable principles: engagement, transparency, and exposure (Buono & Kordeliski, 30). Utilizing the highly accessible features and layout, Facebook engages members of the library community by encouraging feedback on status updates, pictures, and shared links.
The informal and open atmosphere of Facebook allows for users to provide feedback without having to worry about spelling, grammar, or articulation.
Using Facebook to promote the library is an effective way of gaining exposure: “If you expose the community to what you do through social media, you get to build support and interest” (Buono & Kordeliski, 31). Having a social media presence also provides transparency, which allows for library users to experience a feeling of inclusivity and trust – important attributes when looking to give the impression of the library as community space.
However, there are many issues and concerns in conjunction with using Facebook as a promotional tool in libraries. The most popular concern is that of privacy; people fear that Facebook will collect personal information and distribute it to third parties who will in turn use it to customize advertisements and inundate users with advertisements both online and through alternative means, such as SMS text messaging and postal mail.
People also worry that their personal information may be accidentally or intentionally leaked. Because of these issues associated with privacy, some individuals refrain from Facebook accounts entirely, thereby eliminating the possibility of viewing and participating on library Facebook pages. One growing trend and solution to increasing privacy concerns is the idea of “mediacy” (Wasike, 12). “With ready access to the social media, many users tend to focus on retrieval and do not always understand the importance of evaluation and maximization of information contained therein” (Wasike, 12).
Teaching library users media literacy would inform them of the risks and benefits associated with having a Facebook account, as well as how to protect their private information, and would provide them with peace of mind. Although social media changes and updates frequently, it is important to keep a finger on the pulse to keep up with the latest trends and continue to promote a feeling of accessibility and community within library Facebook pages.
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