Facebook and Branding

Bubble Room is a blog written by Alison Circle, a marketing professional under the employ of both the Columbus Metropolitan Library and Library Journal. In yesterday’s 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.

When we talk about using social media in libraries, it’s important to remember who are the benefactors. Putting aside the inadvertently condescending nature of the passage above, I find myself wishing Alison had written a much more thorough evaluation. The original question is an interesting one and deserves examination. However, the post addresses Facebook’s value solely to the library’s brand and does so only cursorily. It fails to explore the utility of localized Facebook pages in two ways: their value to the brand and their value to the user.

I’m willing to entertain an argument for the boilerplate philosophy of the brand. That methodology is part of what makes the corporate world go round. It’s what allows Anheuser-Busch to continue to tell us their product is the best product for everyone. Yet, for the most part, libraries don’t have a product. As many say, the library is its own product. And in systems where needs and expectations differ from branch to branch, a library may not be able to be all things to everyone, but it should certainly address diversity. Can a Facebook page using a “Locations” tab accomplish this? Branch pages for the Columbus Metropolitan Library would suggest the ability is limited. They offer hours, a map, the manager’s name, and a link to the library’s event calendar. Functional? Sure. Offering users an interactive, community-specific Facebook presence? Not so much. A well-branded library is a well-connected library–one that goes to where the users are and makes itself at home. It’s local. It’s hyperlocal. It gives its branches the keys to the neighborhood.

A regular Bubble Room reader, I can tell you that Alison’s thoughts on branding and marketing would be invaluable to any librarian. Yet, when it comes to limiting Facebook to a branding tool and denying users a participatory relationship, it’s easy to remember I’m reading the sentiments of a marketer–not a librarian.

 

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About Steven V. Kaszynski
librarian, editor, contributor

11 Responses to Facebook and Branding

  1. Toby says:

    Well put, Steven. Whether you’re working as a librarian or a marketer, you can’t forget that all-important question of who your audience is. This is especially important when considering social media spaces – places where the value comes just as much from user-to-user interaction as it comes from organization-to-user.
    The library’s physical space isn’t one-size-fits-all. If someone told us that we should merge the reference desks and the children’s desk, we’d look at them like they’re from another planet. Having a unified message would be fine if Facebook and its ilk were unidirectional broadcast tools. But if we want them to be service desks, and dynamic platforms for community involvement, it’s far better to have distinct spaces for each audience.

  2. Thanks for checking in, Toby. I can’t seem to convince myself that branch-autonomous Facebook pages would pose a threat to a library’s brand. On the contrary, it’s always been my sense that hyperlocality offers numerous strategies and options for pushing services and pushing your brand. A proactive and localized Facebook presence seems to have a fighting chance of serving that purpose.

  3. Garrett says:

    Thanks for responding to Allison’s post, Steven. Your points are valid. What attracted me to the strategy Allison outlines is that I’m starting from scratch, with two libraries. I’d like to keep things simple. Larger library systems with more discrete units and constituencies will see it differently. Thanks also for commenting on Allison’s previous post about the Facebook adoption by public libraries, good to see a greater number, while at the same time I wonder about the kinds of use and interaction from these sites. I haven’t looked at the OCLC report in too much depth, does it go into this at all?

    • Thank you, Garrett. I still haven’t found time to give that report a close read. If it’s not middle school algebra occupying my time, it’s meiosis and cell differentiation. Perhaps you can keep us posted regarding your libraries’ foray into Facebook. Cheers.

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  6. Carol C. says:

    We have a main library and 11 branches, and each branch has its own Facebook page. Within Main Library , the reference, local history, children’s and teens departments also have their own pages. We’re spread over two counties, and many of our patrons feel almost possessive about their local branch. Facebook is really about conversations, and who better to have a conversation with than someone you already know and trust? it’s part of my job to follow all the separate pages and know what’s happening on them, but we trust our staff to have these conversations, just as trust them in face-to-face conversations at the circulation desk.

    • Thanks, Carol. It seems a primary reason libraries are limiting or disallowing Facebook interaction is a lack of trust. It’s an unfortunate circumstance and makes some grim suggestions about relationships and recruiting criteria.

    • Gwen says:

      Carol C. What is the name of the library?

  7. Joe Grobelny says:

    i think the real problem with facebook is that it brands anything as facebook first, and whatever it actually is second. i think it’s a way to open a channel to parts of one’s community, but it’s power comes from the homogonizing blueness.

    i also contend that it works better once they know who is behind the institution. i normally don’t follow something on FB unless i’m already interested and FB can help facilitate my interest. as a result, it’s more retention than recruitment.

    • I know what you mean, Joe, and if user retention is the overwhelming result, then Facebook has served a useful purpose. What excites me about libraries using Facebook at all is that it actually works. While many institutions have yet to make significant connections via Facebook, there is enough evidence to suggest that they can make it work. Many small libraries have hundreds, even thousands, of followers. How? I suspect it’s due in part to a cultural connection that already exists. Some libraries have already been able to embed themselves in the minds and hearts of their communities and now use social media to aid retention and to reach further–to be digitally interactive, to be more publicly available and, simultaneously, to be in a user’s personal space.

      The librarians who’ve made these connections are a tremendous resource for jumpstarting a social media campaign. And they’re just a phone call away.

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