I attended a really interesting session at the Handheld Librarian online conference on managing organisational Twitter accounts. The session, Doing more with less: What to do with your 140 characters, was presented by Donna Ekart from Kansas State University library (@kstatelibraries). As I’ve been using Twitter since 2007 I wasn’t expecting to learn a lot from this session, but I picked up some really useful tips so I’m glad I attended.

Here are Donna’s tips for using Twitter in your library (working right from being new to Twitter to helping organise an institutional account with multiple tweeters):

1. Be a good Twitter student
Try out tweeting on a personal level, follow other accounts to see how people use it (Donna recommends following more than you think you might need to – people in your community, organisations in your community, other librarians and libraries, journalists, celebrities), start tweeting about your interests, add links and pictures, and try lots of tools.

2. Think of Twitter as a two way street
It’s not just a distribution channel, but a communication tool.

3. Utilise searches on Twitter
This can give really interesting insights into your community’s needs without running focus groups/surveys etc. Even if you find negative tweets about your library, you can perhaps offer them an alternative or feed their comments back to management. You can save searches from search.twitter.com – there are a number of really useful search limiters such as ? to look for questions and near: to find tweets near you. K State gained an advocate this way by spotting from their saved search a girl who needed a book for her open book test and managed to get details to her in time; she became a strong advocate of the library frequently retweeting their tweets and talking positively to her followers about the library – what a great story!

4. Assemble a team
It helps to give an institutional account a human element if you have different people from different areas of the library (not just the public services staff) supporting the Twitter account – this will help the account have wider appeal and show the versatility of the library. The team at K State meet just once a semester to plan – the rest is done online.

5. Plan, plan, plan
K State use a wiki to plan their activities (really impressive, I’d strongly recommend checking it out!). They have a rota of different types of content for each day of the week, and each week within the semester has a theme. They aim for around 3 tweets a day; one day of the week tweet, one on the theme for the week, and one general tweet. Each member of the team is assigned a day of the week to ensure at least one tweet per day. Donna commented that this approach really helped to keep it fresh and helped to share the responsibility of tweeting. You’ll notice from the wiki that they also have a number of different types of account for different uses (e.g. one account for publishing tweets, one for reference questions, and one for more informal replies to users) – I’m not so sure how easy this is to manage but it’s an interesting approach.

6. Use Twitter tools
Donna recommends Hootsuite and Tweetdeck due to their features with managing multiple accounts and scheduling tweets (though she did comment that there are others you might prefer). Which tool you use will depend on your library setup and your team’s preferences. In Donna’s case, she uses Hootsuite for institutional tweeting and Tweetdeck for personal tweeting (purely due to fear of tweeting on the wrong account!). As an aside, I tweet for around 5 different accounts and I use Tweetdeck for Chrome.

What not to do!

I love Donna’s bad example of Twitter use that she set up – @NewbieLibrary. This account shows how NOT to tweet:

  • Don’t leave your profile biography blank or neglect to add a photograph
  • Don’t set up your profile and not follow people – you need to engage with your community
  • Don’t ask what people want when you haven’t yet built your community – Twitter is about give and take so you need to offer value first to build a community who trust and value you, then they will be more likely to respond
  • Don’t promote events only minutes before they begin
  • Don’t promote events or resources with no information or relevant links
  • Don’t shamelessly try to get more followers (this isn’t a sign of success!)
  • Don’t waste your followers time by trying to get other to follow you – if you are providing good content your followers will encourage others to join by retweeting and recommending you
  • Don’t leave it weeks between tweets
  • Don’t apologise for not tweeting if you have left it longer than planned

Are you tweeting on behalf of your organisation?

I know many libraries already tweet and lots are considering starting to tweet. I found this really useful, particularly the section on planning – please do check out their planning documents if you manage an institutional account or are considering setting one up.

Do you have any further tips to add (or things to avoid)?

  • This is really interesting! I help run the CILIP NW twitter with another colleague from the committee so I have forwarded this to him. I like the idea of the wiki and having different themed weeks. How do you schedule tweets by the way? I often think of things to tweet about at the same time but want to spread them out really across the day or a few days. 

    • Glad you found it useful Helen 🙂

      I schedule tweets on Hootsuite – follow the step by step guides – you can see the scheduling features from the attached screenshot I just took. I really like the fact that you can set it to email you so you know it has sent the tweet too (which acts as a reminder if you forget what you have set up!).

  • Sarah Wolfenden

    This is great. I tweet for my LRC and often sturggle for appropriate things to tweet about. I particularly like the section on planning and themes.

    Sarah

    • I was really impressed with the themes too – such a great idea for generating content.

  • Really useful tips! I find it a bit of a challenge handing over responsibility for our library Twitter account when I’m away, so some collaborative planning, themes etc could be just the ticket. Love the @NewbieLibrary account 🙂

    • I love the @NewbieLibrary:twitter account too – I’m sure that will be a useful account to reference in future presentations. 

  • Wow, Jo, I think your notes from this session may be better than my outline for the talk! Thanks so much for the great writeup, it’s really interesting to hear how other people respond to our way of doing things.

    • Thank you for sharing your approach – I’m glad I haven’t reported anything inaccurately!

      It’s really great to see so much planning to help staff manage the account whilst still allowing for flexibility and the human approach, you seem to have the balance just right.