New Media and Old Social Skills


Cyberpunk Librarian, photo by Cindi Trainor
from The Backroad Librarian: Generation Next

I am on a project committee with folks who have varying degrees of skill with social media. Varying from no experience to a little bit of experience, that is. When I realized that the subcommittee tasked with creating and maintaining a Facebook page promoting the project either had no interest in it, or did not know what to do with it, I offered to contribute. I am not a social media professional, but I can manage a page, and relate to people (sometimes) and learn more as I go. Since I began contributing a few weeks ago, I’ve brought up our page likes, post reach, and engagement. Engagement went up 3000% the first week I started posting. So something’s working now.

It’s not my intention to criticize anyone or to pretend I know all about using new media. These are observations on what seems to be working now, why I think it’s working, and how we can get even better. Looking back on the recent changes on our Facebook page, I can see how they relate to the principles of “stickiness” (sticks in the memory) we talked about in class. Simple. Unexpected (remarkable in some way). Concrete. Credible. Emotional appeal. Story. more Story.

I really think the principles of plain old social skills are what improved our page. I risk sounding naive for saying that, but there are direct parallels between genuine social skills and the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. principles of stickiness. Before, photos were often posted with no description to tell readers what they were looking at and why it might be relevant. They are CONCRETE elements but they needed CREDIBLE information and a STORY to go along with them. That would allow an audience to trust the source and find something they can relate to EMOTIONALLY. Posting photos with no other information leaves the readers in the dark, as if you started talking to them without introducing yourself and expected them to be interested in you without asking them anything about their own interests. But transferring a general social awareness to social media makes it work so much better.

One example of that is the week of the Boston Marathon. Elsewhere on Facebook, there were sad stories reminding us not to forget the victims. Instead of jumping on that bandwagon, I decided to honor the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon, back in the 1960s, with a photo of her running and a SIMPLE STORY explaining its relevance. This tied in well with our page because our founder, Sadie Kent, was also something of a woman pioneer in her day. It turned out that quite a few (relative to previous images) people liked that UNEXPECTED positive post about the marathon. To build on that interest, I posted a few photos and links about the library in the 1960s throughout that week. They were relatively popular, too. I found some photos online, not from our archives, to post, also. I corresponded with the man who took them. He was happy to let us use his photos and links to his blog. I met him in person, too, to hear some more of his stories. This led to some of his audience liking our page and some of ours liking his blog. Just from the courtesy of expressing my interest in and asking to use his photos, and talking to him about related subjects.

338 people saw that post, which is not bad for a page with only 226 likes so far (up from less than 100 a few weeks ago). You can see that simplicity might be the hardest concept for me to stick to. I may have overshared on details, if not in this post, probably in some others.

In a similar manner, I reached out to other pages and people who might be interested in our content, like the Cape River Heritage museum, the Cape Public Library, my friends who are interested in the history of Cape or who attended Southeast. I’ve shared content from Cape River Heritage Museum’s page, generating more interest in their page and bringing some of their readers to ours. It’s a classic win-win.

My favorite story of building relationships with social media is that of my friend who was preparing a talk on Mark Twain when he learned that Kent Special Collections has two letters by Samuel Clemens to his good friend, Judge Jacob Burroughs of Cape Girardeau. I introduced him to our Special Collections Librarian, who found the letters in an unmarked box after some searching. Randy was thrilled and he gave the library a nod during his talk. He told his audience about the events we have planned next Fall. So we promoted him and he promotes us and people who share common interests find out where they can get their history fix. Social is the important part of social media. It just doesn’t work as well without that element.

My goals are: build our page audience, develop relationships across campus and in the community, generate interest in the library’s history, and promote our current services and next Fall’s events. Other committee members share those goals and weill be posting as the page, as well. Unless we dance around the library in tight skirts and 5″ heels, our content is not likely to go viral, but maybe I/we can make it sticky enough to build up some good will toward the library and greater awareness of what we have to offer. I certainly appreciate the place a lot more since we started this project. It looks like the principles of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. will help a lot with that. And maybe photos like the one at the top, from



3 responses to “New Media and Old Social Skills”

  1. jamesericsentell says :

    I really like how you connect the SUCCES framework to basic social skills. I think you’re onto something there. But how do New Media, like Facebook, “remediate” those social skills, turning them into something different or new? Or do they simply present traditional social skills in a different way without necessarily changing them? See where New Media studies can go!?

  2. marymeant says :

    I’m discovering that New Media by committee is not always a fun project. What to do when someone begins to insist on using all the photos himself? Or constantly has misspellings in his posts? I find this frustrating and embarrassing. I’m hoping that no one outside of our class even knows I’m associated with this facebook page for our project, now. Fortunately, the misspeller who does not play well with others will be gone soon, off to another job and out of our hair.

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