Information Overload!!!

How can you avoid information overload in a real-time web/streaming environment? 

Information overload is probably one of the biggest issues to arise with the advent of the “stream” form of blogging and microblogging. As a twitter user, you might follow anywhere from five to hundreds of other users who might update rarely or update multiple times an hour.

So, how on Earth do you keep up with all these posts without getting overwhelmed?

Essentially, there is no “right” answer to this question, but I will discuss a couple of strategies.

Ideally we’d all have the time to read these updates throughout the day as they happen. Smart phones are more popular than ever and can run twitter applications for feed browsing. Twitter itself has developed applications for nearly every device. This allows phone users to keep tabs on their Twitter feed in the palm of their hand, as well as post their own tweets, photos, retweets and links.

Tweetdeck is another application that can be downloaded on a Smartphone or as a desktop application for staying on top of not only your Twitter, but also Facebook feeds. Users are able to use this program to create columns that will show them different things. Twitter allows users to break up their list of followers into groups, such as friends, celebrities, news, etc. So with Tweetdeck, users can have a Facebook column or a column of just Twitter users that they have designated as “friends” instead of every person on their twitter feed.

These methods are best for a personal Twitter user, but for something like a library Twitter I think the best method would be to have multiple people in charge of keeping track of mentions and messages, as well as posting updates. For example, have a few people assigned to monitor it throughout the day, or spend 30 minutes on it every couple of hours.

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Exercise 2: Thoughts on Library Blogs

1. What do you see as the differences between the five blogs I asked you to subscribe to in terms of the type of blog and type of post (genre, length, etc.).

Librarian with the Lead Pipe: Group Blog with seven contributing authors. The posts are substantial in length on varying subjects with the overall goal of improving their communities and exploring new ideas for use in the library field. There seems to be approximately two posts per month.

The Librarian’s Commute: Single author. The blog was started early in her career when she was commuting between a few different jobs, but has evolved into a blog about a librarian figuring out her way in the field and concentrates on topics surrounding libraries, technology, and higher education. Posts are relatively long, a few paragraphs in length.

The Distant Librarian: Single author. Mostly consists of reviews (books, software, electronics, etc), how to’s, and general commentary. Posts are not all that long, but he includes a number of links for reference and further reading. Each post also seems to end with a section of links that are related to the post’s subject called “You Might Also Like.”

Librarian by Day: Single author. Blog seems to be centered around digital and technology services and the digital divide with overall goals of helping libraries find their place and get in tune with the digital age. Author seems to like to keep things on the cutting edge through long, well formatted posts with pictures and links.

David Lee King: Writes about library websites (branding, managing, marketing, etc) and emerging technologies such as video blogging, screen casts, etc. Posts are generally longer in length, but well formatted with pictures and links where appropriate.

 

Librarian with the Lead Pipe and Librarian’s Commute seem the most different of the five blogs. Lead Pipe being a collaborative effort is the most unique, while Librarian’s Commute seems to just be random musings and experiences of a Community College librarian with no specific theme.

Though they vary in post length and style, The Distant Librarian, Librarian by Day and David Lee King are the most similar by focusing primarily on technology related subjects and how they relate to and can improve libraries.

2. What types of posts do you find most appealing to read and why?

I am more drawn to the blogs surrounding technology and how it can be used in the library. I feel that many libraries are definitely lacking in this area and I like reading about new and innovative ways to incorporate technology into a library environment.

I’m also very interested in Teen Services, so I enjoy blogs about Young Adult literature, teen programming and how to serve teens in general. So ultimately, the best blogs would be those that combine my interest in teens with my interest in utilizing technology.

3. What three library blogs did you subscribe to? Please include a 1-3 sentence description of each one.

Sonoma County Library Teenspace Blog: Contains fairly regular posts surrounding new YA literature, book reviews, events, and other things relevant to teens in the Sonoma, CA community.

University Laboratory High School Library Blog: Another teen-centric blog for the library at University Laboratory High School in Illinois. The blog is maintained by the librarian, Francey, and posts surround school and library events and provide a unique look into life in this High School library.

Palos Verdes Library District Director’s Blog: The blog of Katherine Gould who is the director of the Palos Verdes Library District. It seems to be just a general blog of whatever she finds interesting. She addresses library issues, things that are relevant to the community, and also personal posts.

4. Based on the blogs you chose, what are some of the characteristics that you think make a library blog successful?

Since content appeals to differently to everyone, I think the main characteristics of a successful blog are more along the lines of visual appeal, formatting, and writing style. People in general are very visual, so if a blog is poorly laid out and looks boring or confusing people will probably be less likely to read it. Posts themselves should also be formatted properly. Posts should be broken up into easily digestible paragraphs or sections, since a wall of text can be incredibly overwhelming. Good formatting also seems to utilize numbered or bulleted lists, and include links and pictures where possible.

And lastly, the writing should be engaging, relevant and interesting. I consider blogs to be less formal and should appeal to the average person. Vernacular and colloquialisms are welcome, if not encouraged. A blog doesn’t necessarily have to follow a certain theme, as long as the author writes his/her posts in an entertaining and easy to read manner.

How Libraries Should Utilize Twitter

How can you envision using Twitter in a library or other information organization? What kinds of tweets do you think patrons want to see via Twitter?

 

For addressing this question about using Twitter in libraries, I can’t help but refer to the blog article “How Your Library May Not Be Using Twitter But Should” from this week’s reading list for class. This blog brought up many great ideas and suggestions for creating an interactive, interesting and engaging Twitter experience for libraries and their patrons.

Essentially, Twitter should be a medium for libraries to share tidbits of information with their patrons and other interested parties. They can tweet about upcoming events, new arrivals, or things that are relevant to the community or current events. But, Twitter is also a great tool for acquiring feedback from patrons and having a personal dialog with them.

The thing that stuck out the most to me was the idea of making the tweets interesting. I think a lot of libraries and businesses might get caught up with their “professional appearance,” and this could definitely hinder them in connecting with their audience. The blog gives the following example tweet: “Shoo bop shoo wadda wadda yippity boom sha boom” at the Greenacres Branch! – followed by a shortened link that leads to information about that branch’s Greasesing-a-long event. Now, anyone who is very familiar with Grease will immediately understand the reference and want to know why it was mentioned, and anyone who doesn’t get the message will likely want to understand what the gibberish means and will click the link anyway. Both reactions get people looking at the event and do so in a fun and interesting way!

The blog also points out that probably the most important thing that libraries can do with Twitter that many likely do not, is interact with their patrons. A library can both respond to their followers’ tweets and retweet their tweets when it is relevant to do so. Also, web tools can be utilized to search twitter users within a certain geographic radius for keywords such as library, or something that might be relevant to an upcoming program to try and find and connect with other local community members who might not know about the library’s presence on Twitter or the programming that would be of interest to them!

Here is an example of a library both doing a great job of creatively promoting their events and interacting with their patrons via Twitter:

In conclusion, I believe patrons want to be engaged and to feel a connection with their community and library and Twitter can be an incredible tool for meeting these needs. Since tweets happen in real time and are constantly being posted, probably the biggest drawback to utilizing Twitter is the time commitment involved, and as I mentioned in last week’s blog, many libraries are often understaffed. I can’t say if there is any one solution to that issue, but I would hope that more branches make utilizing web tools like Twitter a priority and devising a method that works for them!

Exercise 1: Online Reputation and Marketing of Threadless.com

What are people saying about this organization online? What tools are they using to talk about the organization?

I chose to analyze the online effectiveness of the clothing retailer Threadless. Their unique concept involves designs submitted by customers and artists that are then voted on to be made into the t-shirts available for sale on the website. I felt like this company would be a pretty good example of internet branding and marketing since their target demographic is essentially young, hip, avid internet users who would find it important to feel a strong connection to the company and be repeat customers.

As a frequent customer of Threadless myself, I was already familiar with some aspects of their online marketing, such as their Facebook page, Twitter account and Flickr stream. I was also familiar with their weekly Ustream show “Tee Time with Bob and Kristen” which ran from about January through June 2011.

To further analyze their internet presence I consulted reputation monitoring websites such as How Sociable and Keotag. Through these websites I discovered more great attempts at reaching out through the screen to their customers such as the world wide Threadless Meetup day, July 28, 2011 organized through Meetup.com and their Vimeo channel.

 

I also browsed the Threadless Facebook fan page and used previously mentioned reputation monitoring websites, and a Twitter scanner called Backtweets, in order to get an idea of what people and customers are saying about Threadless on their own.  The vast majority of the comments that I found were positive and involved people posting about their favorite tees or posting pictures of them in their favorite tees as well as spreading excitement about sales.

Is the organization responding to these people through social media? If so, how effective do you think they are?

Threadless seems to be very prompt at responding the questions posed via Facebook and Twitter. This dedication illustrates their respect for and connection with their customers. They wouldn’t have t-shirts to sell without users submitting designs and other customers voting on them. Being open and accessible is really the least they can do, and they seem to go above and beyond.

Here is an example from their Facebook page of how quick they are to respond to inquiries:

What social media tools is the organization using to proactively communicate with their user base (rather than just responding)? How effective do you think they are in building relationships and engaging their customers online?

According to How Sociable, Threadless has a “visibility score” of 807, and appear to be most active on the websites where the company has a large presence such as, Facebook, Vimeo, Flickr, Twitter, and Meetup. A similar competitor, TeeFury has much less web visibility with a score of only 283. While their score is miniscule compared to a large company like Google with a score of 24,997, they also appeal to a smaller audience but clearly have a dedicated fan base.

Threadless seems to care strongly about their relationship with their customers, and take their online presence very seriously. On Facebook and Twitter, they interact with their customers by posting interesting statuses and building enthusiasm for their events and sales. Also, while they broadcast the last episode of “Tee Time with Bob and Kristen” on Ustream back in June 2011, it is a perfect example of the kind of relationship they strive for with their customers. The interactive webcast aired live on Ustream, hosted by Threadless employees Bob and Kristen. They would interact with the users who tuned in and chatted with them on the Ustream chat window. Bob and Kristen would announce Threadless news, tell stories and jokes, and also ask trivia questions. Trivia winners won the opportunity to spin a prize wheel for free shirts, gift cards, and other Threadless merchandise.

View the last episode of “Tee Time”

Overall, Threadless is a friendly and accessible company with a quality product.

Library Branding Online: Is it even happening?

This blog addresses the following questions:

How effectively do you think most libraries are in building a strong, consistent brand online and what should librarians be doing to manage their library’s brand?

Of the libraries I’ve encountered, visited and researched, they all seem to have established at least somewhat of an online presence but beyond their own website they seem to be lacking in cultivating an online community. It seems that the library systems as a whole try to build a brand and maintain their online presence through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, but I personally feel that more should be done on a local level with each specific branch in order to connect them to their immediate community and patrons.

In early 2011, I took a trip to Los Angeles to explore some of the Los Angeles Public Libraries and was pleased to find signs in many of the branches that I visited encouraging patrons to follow the library on Twitter, or “like” them on Facebook. I was excited to see that they were encouraging an online community for patrons to stay connected even when they leave the library building. Upon a little further research of my local San Diego County Library system I discovered that they also maintain a Twitter and a Facebook account and a blog outlining things that are “Hot Right Now” in a YouTube video series.


While this method is great for notifying the library system’s users of events and happenings at all branches within the system, the branches are spread out over something like a 50 mile radius. For this reason, most patrons likely have their one local branch that they visit primarily and it would be useful for each branch to expand their relationship with these patrons to the internet. Though, this may not currently be a feasible option since many of the branches are understaffed and there simply isn’t the spare man power to manage an online community alongside the day to day operations of the branch, I hope that someday if funding becomes available that this can be implemented.

If it is made possible, I would like to see librarians interacting with their patrons over Twitter and Facebook. Perhaps running a blog where librarians and patrons can contribute book reviews, or have open dialogs about what they are reading. Librarians can also use reputation monitoring services to see what patrons are saying about the library, either good or bad. If there is bad feedback on the internet, the librarian can reach out to the dissatisfied party as a means of diffusing the situation and hopefully creating a more positive view of the library overall in doing so by showing that they respect their patrons and care about their opinions.