Social networks: Progress report

A mere 16 days ago, I posted “Still around, not posting much,” noting what I was doing rather than blogging–namely “Phase 1.5″ of the research for my book on public libraries in social networks.

I aimed to finish phase 1.5–cleaning up the saved tweets and wall updates and characterizing them–while I was still 65. At that point, I thought I’d be ready to do a quick pass for “extra” libraries (libraries where someone sent me comments for the book, where the library isn’t in one of the 25 surveyed states) and start preparing metrics and actually working on the book. Somewhere in there, I’d also do a hardnosed edit on already-written material for the October 2011 Cites & Insights and probably publish it.

Yes and no

Yes, I did finish Phase 1.5 by September 14, 2011, the day I turned 66.

No, I wasn’t ready to start preparing metrics and actually working on the book (that is, start writing text).

What happened in the middle: One of those who sent me info was Susan Mark, Statistics Librarian at the Wyoming State Library. Wyoming has very few reporting library agencies, and Mark had a list of those with Facebook pages. It’s one of the 25 states.

And my list didn’t match hers. Not even close.

So, after some digging around, I found that the problem was libraries with no obvious Facebook link on their websites (or at least on the home pages), and where the Facebook page itself didn’t show up high enough in a Bing search result (I was checking 15 or 20 pages). By using my brain and Ctrl-f (and Google, although I don’t think that made the big difference), I was able to check the first 100 results…and add in the missing libraries.

While it would be perfectly reasonable to focus on Twitter and Facebook uses that are linked from library home pages, I knew that I already had a fair number that weren’t–and thought it might be worthwhile seeing how many more I was missing. I took the first 100 (of 1,500+) remaining libraries and retested–just searching on Google and looking for a Facebook page in the first 100 results–figuring that if I found 5 or fewer, I’d just let it be.

I didn’t find 5 or fewer.

So I’ve now retested all 1,500+ libraries. Since I already knew these didn’t have obvious FB links on the home pages, I just worked with Google and the browser’s Find function. (There are so many fewer Twitter accounts, and they’re so much harder to find, that I didn’t bother.)

The results? Instead of 841 sets of Facebook updates and 370 sets of tweets (336 with both), I now have 1,158 set of Facebook updates, 381 sets of tweets (the extras mostly coming from the 19 “extra” libraries)–and 346 with both.

I just finished cleaning up and characterizing those updates and tweets this morning. So I’m now roughly where I expected to be last Wednesday—but with a whole bunch more libraries involved and some interesting new data.

By the way, it’s still true that, as far as I can determine, most public libraries (in the half of the country I tested) do not have either general-purpose Facebook or Twitter accounts (excluding teen departments), but “most” is a narrow figure: 1,231 libraries didn’t show either one, while 1,194 showed one or the other. (That number includes the Extra 19, all of which have one or the other–it would be 1,212 to 1,175 otherwise.)

You will find pages on Facebook for most public libraries, but hundreds of those pages are “community pages” that were neither created by the library nor have anything to do with them.

How many libraries are active on Facebook or Twitter? That depends on your definition of “active.” I’ll get into that more in the book and possibly in posts later on (or even in Cites & Insights if there’s too much blather to include in a relatively short book that’s mostly about what libraries do well).. Just to offer two data points:

  • 86 of the libraries with Facebook accounts (having at least one Like and at least one post–I didn’t include accounts that don’t meet those fairly minimal criteria) have averaged less than one post per month. Notably, 66 of those 86 lack obvious FB links on the library websites; I’m guessing most of them are fully abandoned. Another 75 have averaged less than two posts per month, but for a very small library that may be entirely appropriate…
  • 108 libraries have fewer than one Like per 1,000 residents.

Now on to metrics and some writing…noting that I’ll be doing a second research pass roughly one quarter after the first one (within a day or two either way), adding more new accounts and updating other figures. For Twitter, that means I can get reasonably accurate rates of activity–and for both, I’ll include a “freshness” measure for the most recent update or tweet, so that I can offer a reasonably sound basis for “active” or not.

In passing, I’ll note that marking up the updates has left me even more admiring the extent to which many very small public libraries serve their communities well with minimal resources. I always had such admiration, but it’s stronger. (It’s also a little remote: I’ve never lived in a town with a public library/system serving fewer than 50,000 people.)

So: Lots more blogging? Probably not. Did the C&I receive the intense editorial scrutiny I’d planned? Well…you be the judge.

 

One Response to “Social networks: Progress report”

  1. Wally Grotophorst Says:

    This doesn’t precisely your definition of “active 0n tweeter” but our library supports a twitter aggregation service for the university:

    http://tweet.gmu.edu

    We put in a plug for the library at the bottom of each page.


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