Facebook Is It Worth Our Time?

Multiple friends posted this article, “Studay Raises Doubts About Effectiveness of Facebook as Outreach Tool for Academic Libraries” ironically on their Facebook accounts. 

The study, in the current issue of D-Lib Magazine, by Michalis Gerolimos, examined 3,513 posts on the Facebook pages of 20 U.S. academic libraries.  He found that the vast majority of the Facebook posts (91%) did not generate any comments from fans and those posts that did, the comments were primarily from library personnel not faculty or students.

If you look at the Facebook page fan information outside of libraries you will see that the numbers might not be what librarians hope for. According to Sysomos only 23% of Facebook pages has more than 1,000 fans and the average page has 9.5 pieces of fan generated content (photos and video).   These numbers are regular Facebook pages which include celebrities, companies, public figures, and (yes) libraries and educational sites.  So the vast majority of Facebook pages out there have less than 1,000 fans.  That figure seems to fall in line with Gerolimos’ findings.  Only two of the twenty libraries he looked at had more than 1,000 fans. 

Yet most library Facebook pages have very few fan generate content.  Surprisingly most of the content on the walls (including “likes” and comments) were from library staff.  It appears that most libraries are well off the mark for user fan generated content and the content library staff post is either not engaging or irrelevant, such as Fondren Library’s page that posted a close up of a librarian walking to work.

This illustrates my point that I made on my friend’s Facebook page on this article, “ Too many librarians believe just slapping a FB page up will automatically lead to engagement. Successful businesses have entire marketing departments who are trained from birth to engage the customer. We have no such departments.”  Obviously, if we think a picture of a librarian walking is engaging the fans.  Even if we are good at engaging people, or we all of a sudden find some social media marketing wunderkind willing to work on engagement, there is a good chance that people still might not be interested.

While people may chat with each other at the library, its Facebook page is not an online water cooler where users trade ideas, discussions, or simply ask questions.  “Gerolimos found that users were not interested in sharing personal data via the library Facebook pages.” 

In his article Gerolimos cites two papers stating users are more interested in personal communication and interaction rather than educational endeavors.

Pempek et al. (2009) identified the same mentality regarding its use in academia. They found that communicating with friends was the most popular reason to use Facebook and finding help with schoolwork was among the least. In addition, a survey conducted by Valenzuela et al. (2009) recorded that 51.5% of its users do not read or post on groups as part of their daily activities, and 64.3% rarely visit the profiles of groups they have joined. Selwyn (2009) found that only 4% of a total of 68,169 students’ personal wall postings he analyzed were related to education.”

Only 4% of students wrote posts related to education.  Well that doesn’t bode well for the library Facebook pages.  What is even more distressing for all who have Facebook pages is ”78% of people who “like” brands on Facebook like fewer than 10 brands.” (SEO Inc.)  So, competition is a bit rough to be among the 10 liked pages, but it is even more difficult when you learn that some social media pundits believe that more than 80% of fans do NOT return to the fan pages once they have clicked “like.”  YIKES!  Most people are getting their news and interacting from their own newsfeeds. 

This brings up a whole other can of worms.  Facebook does interesting things with their news feeds.  With news feeds, timing is everything.  People in general don’t like to scroll, so you need to know when your users are most likely to login to their Facebook accounts to see your news feed.  Additionally, Facebook treats scheduled posts differently than ones that are unscheduled.  Facebook wants things to be timely, it considers scheduled posts from sites like HootSuite to be less timely therefore less relevant and your post then gets squooshed together with other items in the news feed. 

The good news is that you don’t have post something every freaking day on Facebook to get good engagement.  According to Sysmos, the average wall post (by administrators) is every 15.7 days, and for pages with more than a million fans one wall post is created every 16.1 days. 

 ”Unlike on Twitter, where popularity is correlated with how many times you Tweet, Facebook fan pages tend to be updated only once every 16 days.  And that’s really the big difference between Facebook fans and Twitter followers. On Twitter, you follow someone because you want to hear what they have to say. On Facebook, you fan them just to show your support of affinity.” (TechCrunch)

Librarians have been traditionally talking about the fact they have a Facebook page and how many fans they have, as if by mere fact that somebody slapped up a page they are automatically engaging their users. But really is Facebook really where we should be if we are looking to engage our users?  Given the small number of fans, the poor response rate, and our inability to post something interesting or relevant to our users, perhaps there other things we need to consider focusing on.  We need to be in the business of engaging our users, not building a site where people just fan us to show their support.

Share on Facebook