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Who Are You Online?

Lennea Bower, Alexandra Zealand, Darlene Fichter, Jeff Wisniewski

(L-R) Alexandra Zealand (Arlington VA Public Library), Lennea Bower (Montgomery County MD Library), Darlene Fichter (University of Saskatchewan Library), Jeff Wisniewski (University of Pittsburgh)

Types of Online Accounts

The first part of this session focused on privacy aspects of online accounts and the image they convey. Lennea and Alexandra began by describing types of accounts. Some are parody accounts, where the owners want to have what they say distinguished from their professional writings. Professional accounts tend to be owned by organizations; personal professional accounts are owned by individuals writing about or on behalf of their workplaces.  It is important to recognize that if you post your real name on a social media platform, others can find out who you are, where you work, and connect that with your online personal account. However, this is changing significantly as the platforms update and strengthen their privacy features.

What already exists online consists of items posted by you or with your knowledge, or posts of children and minors. Think about your family if you work in a public setting. What are you posting about them? Will it be there forever? Today’s generation is the first one growing up with social media platforms from birth. When children turn 13, they can get a Facebook page; be aware that they might not like the baby photos posted by their parents.  (The average family posts 973 photos of their kids before they turn 5.)

Do you represent your institution online?  What is important to your community? With whom do you want to connect? Use an acceptable standard of professionalism in your postings; spell correctly, use complete sentences, etc. State your guidelines, and follow your organization’s policy page. (Many organizations have policies governing their employees’ use of social media; a comprehensive directory of many of them is here.) Know your communication goals at the beginning. Here is an example of three organizations’ Twitter pages that follow these principles:

Sample Twitter Pages

Do you have multiple people sharing the same account? Do you have a single voice or multiple voices (sub-voices)? Are the sub-voices official or unofficial? If they are official sub-voices, here are some things to think about:

  • Who do you represent?
  • What is important to the people who follow this account?
  • Who do you want to follow this account?

Hootsuite, is a tool which manages separate accounts and can create separate web browsers for them. Some handheld apps allow for multiple accounts.

One way to keep your personal and professional accounts separate is to use a different monitor for each one so you always know where you are and won’t make a mistake.

A Twitter Wake-Up Call

Darlene and Jeff focused on Twitter and its use in libraries. They emphasized that libraries must be on Twitter and said that it would be irresponsible for your library not to be on Twitter, especially if you are doing a lot of broad communications. When a communications medium becomes so ubiquitous and has immediate live impact on a community, a presence is essential for proactive and reactive reasons. Twitter has hit a tipping point. It is the place where we first learn about things that are happening in the world.  It has become the new news release medium. For example, organizations frequently no longer have press conferences and hope that their message gets passed along by the new media; instead, they have Twitter conferences where they can speak directly to their followers and to a wider online community (including the news media).

Why Twitter now?

  • It is an open platform unlike Facebook.
  • It is searchable and has a conversational search engine.
  •  It breaks the news and is a direct channel to communities, both nationally or regionally.
  • It is an unfiltered discussion medium. Nobody is holding the keys; you can speak directly to your followers.
  • Things announced on Twitter tend to go viral; it is universally on the radar..

Half of Twitter users follow brands or companies. Twitter users are a source for mass influencers. 25% of its users are African Americans (approximately double the average for the US population).

Use Twitter proactively and reactively. You can get a lot of traction from live tweets.  In a reactive mode, use Twitter to fight misinformation and to communicate in a time of crisis or major disaster. Internet hoaxes and misinformation can spread like wildfire online, but using Twitter, you can communicate with the community and clarify what actually occurred.

Do you have guidelines for what happens in a crisis?  (You need to have this conversation if you don’t!) For example, in the recent Freddie Gray crisis in Baltimore, the local library decided to stay open and Tweeted about it.  The Tweets became news; they did not have to wait for a reporter to come and talk to them. Twitter is immediate. It allows you to reach the media to pick up your story. You are not in complete silence. It is also bi-directional; you can hear from your followers.

Don Hawkins

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