Facebook, the dominant social network, will reach 1 billion users by August, according to a recent study by iCrossing, an analyst firm. While most of those users are outside the U.S., 300 million are Americans. And its not just for the young: the largest growing group on Facebook is women, 55 and up.
This is why so many businesses see Facebook as a huge marketing opportunity. But its not just the size of the audience. Its also the ability to cultivate and build large fan bases and to engage personally with customers.
Facebook is a natural fit for public libraries, which can use the network to extend and serve their communities outside the four walls of their buildings.
Its important to realize that Facebook shouldnt simply be a mirror of your Web site. Its really a conversation engine. You can use it to extend library services and build stronger links with your users. While many public library pages are still evolving, there is an enormous potential to extend reading initiatives and job search services. It can also give patrons who are homebound or have difficulty getting to the library to become active participants in the library community.
This short video gives you an introduction to Facebook. In future posts, well discuss how to set up a Facebook page for your library and how to get the conversation going.
If you are unable to view the video, heres a brief summary of how Facebook works.
The first thing that everyone sees when they log on to Facebook is the News Feed. This is a running stream of updates from everyone in your network, and the primary way that you keep up with news from friends, work colleagues, interesting people, brands, businesses, and public institutions.
From a marketing perspective, this is the most important feature on Facebook. Everything that you post on your public librarys Facebook page will appear in your fans News feeds. Remember, this is a dynamic feed, so the oldest items move to the bottom and eventually out of sight, so you want to be posting on a daily basis to stay top of mind.
Fans are extremely important to a Public Librarys Facebook page because they can help spread your news through their networks. To become a fan, a Facebook user must first like your page. When they do, an announcement is automatically sent to their network. In addition, fans can post comments, share your news items, and like individual posts. All of these actions are shared in their networks. And Facebook says the average size of that network is 130 friends.
So, you can imagine the possibilities if you have, say, more than 2200 fans as the Princeton Public Library does. Messages can be spread far and wide, ultimately attracting more people back to your page.
Facebook can be used to share news about the library. Unlike traditional marketing and public relations, announcements on Facebook can be quick to create and send out.
But what you really want is for fans to come to your page and stay awhile. They need to have a strong reason, so expand your postings and give people a reason to talk to you and to each other.
For example, use your status update to ask a question. Or start a book club. Kick it off with a few questions, and encourage people to post answers.
Its important to get conversation going: Facebook is a garden. It needs to be cultivated, but eventually your fan base will become a fully thriving community.