Social Media: A blessing or curse for librarians and libraries?

Last week I tweeted a link to an infographic which looked at the role of social media in the recruitment process, particularly employer’s use of social media to screen potential candidates.

The tweet got a fairly big response with various attitudes towards the subject matter expressed.

Some felt that social media would take over from CVs, others felt that social media should be outside the realm of the professional and that it was intrusive of employers to ‘google’ employees. However, despite the infographic claiming that 43% of employer’s used social media as a reason NOT to hire versus 19% using as a reason to hire, the majority felt that social media offered opportunities rather than problems as long as people take the right approach.

I suppose the biggest issue in terms of social media is that you might say something inappropriate or offensive or post pictures of yourself that aren’t seen as being professional. Social media is something which has huge potential in terms of showing different sides of yourself to the rest of the world. I think the biggest piece of advice I could give is to decide the audience for each of your social platforms and then consider the implications.

The reasons employers gave for not hiring candidates were:

Inappropriate content posted online

Information about the candidate drinking or doing drugs

Bad mouthing a previous employer

Poor communication skills

Discriminatory comments

Lied about qualifications

Although you might hope that people would be aware enough not to post this kind of content (or lie in the first place) I understand there could be slip-ups when you might say something about a bad day at the office that might FBbe taken the wrong way.  Or, take for example, you are of the opinion that your Facebook is social and for friends and family only, you post pictures and make jokes that taken out of context could be off-putting to a potential employer. Or, perhaps your friends have a tendency to write silly comments or tag you in images. Employers realise people have a life outside of work but if they are looking for reasons NOT to hire then it is probably best that you keep you private life just that, private. There is an easy solution to ensure this does not happen and that is to make your Facebook private. There are plenty of how to guides on doing just that and there is even a feature that lets you see how your Facebook looks to the general public.

Twitter is a tfacebook.twitter button (1)rickier one as people may want to use it as a way to bring their opinions to a bigger audience using hashtags etc. Some keep their Twitter private but change settings in order to get involved in chats and for conferences etc. However, a good rule for Twitter if you don’t want to use privacy settings all the time would be this – if you wouldn’t shout it out in a crowded room filled with a mix of friends, family, employers and strangers, then don’t shout it out on Twitter. Essentially without privacy on Twitter you are talking to the approximately 241 million monthly active users. Any one of those users could be your boss, your colleague, the person you are about to meet at interview. Be smart!

There is the option of using a more anonymous handle and avatar but this means that all the great things you say won’t be attributed to you.

Facebook and Twitter are just two examples I have used because they are the most well known. These and other social media platforms have amazing potential to showcase why you are the perfect candidate. You can highlight your ability and your interest by the things you share and the discussions you are involved in. Being involved on social media also means you know how social media works; more and more libraries and other organisations are using social media for public engagement and engagement with their users, being able to use it well means that you have another skill employers will be able to utilise. On a personal note I have found social media to be extremely beneficial in terms of getting to know other librarians and in keeping up to date with hot topics and trends. I know many solo librarians who feel that it has really enhanced their job by allowing them to be a solo librarian but still have a sense of community and a network to engage with and pose questions to.

Libraries, including my current place of work, have been able to market their services to a wider audience and communicate in a quicker and easier way since they have started using social media. Yes, there has to be policies in place and procedures about how to use the platforms but as far as I can tell the benefits far outweigh any negatives.

Personally I think that libraries have a great opportunity to engage with users about social media. A lot of librarians use social media to network and keep on top of trends and have good knowledge about the area. Libraries could assist researchers in finding and sharing information through social media, perhaps look at the copyright issues that are becoming more of an issue because there is such ease in sharing information, help soon-to-be graduates to make the best of their social media profiles in order to impress potential employers and generally help students to be a little bit smarter when it comes to the big wide world of social media. There has been study after study in recent years about how digital natives aren’t necessarily as digitally savvy as you might think and you just have to have a quick look online to figure that out.

Some libraries have already gotten in on the action:

University of Leicester has information on keeping up to date using social media

University of York has a section on how to become a networked researcher

The LAI HSLG group have a link to a great guide to using Twitter for academics on their website. Created by the LSE Public Policy group but definitely adaptable for libraries.

Queen’s Library, New York have put together a Slideshare for those using social media as part of their job hunt – very relevant to students nearing graduation.

There is huge potential for libraries to get involved. Libraries have already taken the step of using social media to communicate and market so there is every reason they can get involved and help users use social media to its full potential both socially and professionally.

social media

I know a great deal more could be said about social media and its effects on our lives but I hope my thoughts are in some way useful and show how librarians can use social media effectively and without fear that the social will get mixed up with the professional parts of life.

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