What this post is NOT, and what it IS:
I’m not a social media expert, and this post won’t help you become one.
However, I will share my experiences with using social media to network and engage with the library profession.
I am not here to tell you how to get more followers for you or your institution’s accounts.
I want you to focus on finding others to engage with.
I am not here to tell you what to post or what to avoid posting.
I will urge you to be intentional.
I am simply encouraging those who are wanting to step outside their social media comfort zones in an effort to help them find their professional community.
Defining your Presence
Whether you already have an account set up or are just starting off, I recommend you take a moment to define your online presence. Be intentional. Decide what the scope of your account will be. Is it strictly professional or will it represent you in all areas of your online world? Also make sure your username, profile, and any images match this scope that you are intentionally defining.
Use the platforms that make sense for you and those you wish to connect with. Each social media platform has its strengths. The best way to find the platforms that work best for you is to explore the platform and see who and what is out there. Professionally, I have found that Twitter matches my needs the most. However, there are some really interesting library communities to engage with that can be found on Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and even Pinterest.
Finding Your People
I’m starting to accept that my recurring fantasy of dropping off all social media won’t (and shouldn’t) ever happen. I get news & perspectives from Twitter that I can’t get elsewhere, and my professional community is here. There are also friends I’d never connect with otherwise.
— Nicole Gustavsen (@referencebird) December 4, 2017
Look for people you actually know first. This can be a great starting point. You can start to look at who these people follow, and grow your network by following them. You can also follow your professional heroes! Then look for people who are engaging in the online conversations that you want to be a part of, and follow these people.
Being a Part of the Conversation
Look at the hashtags that are part of the conversations you are interested in. Following these hashtags is a great way to find others who are interested in the same conversations that you are. You will surely find more people to follow and more hashtags to enjoy.
Look into and consider joining live chats. This is a great way to get engaged in discussions. Tweet Deck can be a great tool when you are trying to keep up with a fast paced live twitter chat.
Even if you can’t attend a conference, you can often participate in the conversation online. Follow the conference hashtag. Many times presenters will tweet out links to their materials. For larger conferences there are even hashtags for those who can’t make it like #ALAleftbehind.
Follow professional accounts including conference, committee, and institutional accounts that you are a part of or interested in. These can be great sources for knowing what is going on in the profession including calls for proposals and deadline reminders.
Don’t be afraid to engage with the online community. The more you engage with it, the more likely it is to engage with you!
Avoiding Echo Chambers
As you are choosing who to follow, just a reminder to spread the love around. It is okay to follow accounts that think differently than you do. I recommend following a nice diverse array of viewpoints. You’ll learn something new and be glad that you did.
Don’t be afraid! Whether you are dipping your toe into the shallow kiddie pool or doing a cannonball into the deep end, “your people” are waiting for you to join in on the conversation!
If you have other ideas to share for those of us just getting started in libraryland, perhaps a great hashtag you love to follow – join in on the conversation in the comments or find me on twitter @librarymedlin!
Chance Medlin is the Program Assistant for Learning and Outreach at Texas A&M University. He is completing his Master of Information program at Rutgers University in the Summer of 2018. His research interests include critical librarianship, users experience, and information literacy. You can find more information at chancethelibrarian.com.