Follow Yourself

April 1, 2013

Do you listen to what customers say online about your library? Oftentimes they’re asking questions or announcing that they’re inside the building. Other times they’re sharing their experiences, both good and bad. But almost all of the time they’re using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to hold these online conversations.

As library professionals, it’s up to us to hear what our customers have to say in order to improve our services, and the best way to do that is via easy-to-use listening tools.

Twitterversal language

To see what Twitter users are saying about your library, visit Twitter Search and click “advanced search.” Enter the words and/or phrases you want to look for. (For example, David might search for “Topeka library.”) Then scroll down to “places” and enter that information (David would enter “Topeka, KS”). What does that do? In David’s case, it searches for Twitter users living in and around Topeka, Kansas, who have recently talked about his library on Twitter, and then it displays those tweets.

To revisit the search later, you have a couple of options: You can save it in Twitter. Or you could use a handy Twitter application like TweetDeck—a desktop-based app that monitors multiple social media accounts in several columns. It’s a handy tool that lets you check LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter posts and searches at a glance.

How about Twitter RSS or email alerts? Twitter dropped support for RSS feeds after March 5. But do not fear! You can still get an RSS feed of a Twitter search by using Topsy. For email, use a tool like TweetBeep, which can send hourly updates to those using its free service.

Alert setup

Use Google Alerts for news stories, websites, and blogs that mention your library. Sign in to your Google account, go to, and type in your search. Under the “deliver to” tab, choose email or feed, which generates either an email alert or an RSS feed that you can subscribe to in your feed reader. Then, whenever someone mentions your library online, you will receive an alert.

Facebook alerts are tricky, because there isn’t a way yet to search public status updates. Nevertheless, you still have a couple of options:

  • Kurrently is a social media search tool that searches Twitter, public Facebook posts, and Google Plus. As far as we can tell, you can’t subscribe to the search.
  • Open Status Search is another great tool that searches public Facebook posts. Again, you can’t subscribe to search alerts, but it’s another option for Facebook searching.

Customer engagement

Once these listening tools are created, you can respond to your customers.

  1. Answer the question. If they have a query—whether they ask the library directly or not—step in and answer it.
  2. Thank them. If they say something good about the library, say thank you.
  3. Respond. What if someone is grumbling about a late fee or the parking lot? If they share wrong information or are confused about a library policy, take the opportunity to correct inaccurate information.
  4. Ignore but share elsewhere if needed. Some things are really good to hear (for example, “I love the library!”) but don’t require a response. You can still share that status update with other staff members. The copy-and-paste function is a wonderful thing.

Once you set up a few listening tools, you can start—and keep—conversations flowing with online and mobile customers in your community and beyond.

DAVID LEE KING is digital branch and services manager for Topeka and Shawnee County (Kans.) Public Library.

MICHAEL PORTER is currently leading the effort of the e-content–centric nonprofit Library Renewal and has worked for more than 20 years as a librarian, presenter, and consultant for libraries.


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