I've been on Facebook for a little while now--maybe three years? When I was at my last job, in a school library, I didn't friend any of my students, because there was too much personal information on my Facebook page...and it would be, I think, crossing a line. But I use it to keep in touch with friends. It's probably the number one way I communicate with people these days, and I also use it as my photo management tool.
So now that I'm here in my new position, in my new community, I decided to use Facebook as a way to reach out to teens. I set up my new Facebook account at the end of the summer, with one picture and some rudimentary information on it, like my name, where I work, and some innocuous "personal information" that I thought might appeal to teens. (My favorite TV shows, for example--and this isn't made up, they really are my favorites: Gossip Girl, House, Friday Night Lights, Project Runway, The Office.)
I also set up a fan page for my library. For information on how to create a fan page on FB, read this.
And I waited.
Shockingly, nothing happened! No one friended me! Okay, one creepy person did. He had no photo, no information in his profile, and only young women as friends. I actually accepted him as a friend, just to get one more person on my list. Don't worry--he's off now.
When I learned that my FB presence was going to be included in the library's monthly e-newsletter, along with my Twitter, MySpace, and AIM accounts, I realized it would be pretty embarassing for someone to visit my profile and see that I didn't actually have any friends from my community. So I took a plunge. I started friending kids. I included a note; you can do this on FB. The note said something like: "Hi, I'm the teen librarian at the Darien Library and I'm trying to get to know people in Darien. I know you don't know me, so if you don't want to accept me as a friend, I totally understand! But if you do, that would be great."
And it worked! They accepted me. (Well, virtually. In real life is yet to be determined.) My theory is that teens will pretty much accept anyone as a friend, unless they get really creeped out. And I made my profile as friendly and safe as possible. Once I got a couple of friends, I could start friending their friends, without the note, even--because they could see that we had mutual friends, which probably made me a safe bet. Some of them even started friending me first.
Several teens became fans of the page that I'd created. And the great thing about FB fan pages is that they really can be portals for a ton of information and content about your library. You can post photos and videos, list upcoming events (which you can blast out to all of your friends, and get them to RSVP to), post news items, and list basic information, including a link to your library's website and your email address and IM username. You can send messages to all of your fans with the click of a button, too.
Last night, when I put up a poll on our library website. I posted a link to the poll as my status update, which everyone on my friends list can see, and lo and behold, some of them actually clicked the link and answered the poll--one of them even left a comment on it. I've also already gotten a message from one girl who wanted to see if she could create art for the teen room, and several teens who are interested in joining my TAB. Others have told me how excited they are for the new library to open. Hooray! Social networking works!
I'm going to keep adding friends and putting information up, with the hope that I'm reaching kids I might not otherwise.' If you're planning on using FB to network, here are some of my tips:
- Keep your page pretty simple. I have only one application, Music Playlists, which I plan to use as a sort of collection development tool. Overwhelming your page with apps really serves no purpose, as far as I can tell, but leave a comment if you disagree.
- Post a photo of yourself. It makes you much more approachable, because it makes you a real person. I don't have pictures of my family, because that's too personal, but I do have pictures of my pets, because they're cute.
- Start by friending someone you've connected with in person, if you can. I was able to friend a girl who I'd met, which started the ball rolling for me. If you can't, try doing a search for FB communities that are run by teens in your area.
- Be an active user. Update your status. Respond to wall posts. Don't be all adult-y about it. Relax and have fun with FB: it's not a press release. A sample update of mine: "Sarah just got an email from rachel cohn gdskghslghdfs i am so excited!!!"
- If you don't have your own personal FB account, get one. It will help you be more comfortable with the site.
- DON'T friend other libraries, people who don't live in your town, or all your co-workers. It won't help your cause or your credibility. And what's the point? You're not reaching the people you want to reach.
If you have other ideas about how to use your Facebook page to its best advantage, post them in the comments!