New Marketing Trends

Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits and Libraries

The M Word helps librarians learn about marketing trends and ideas.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Social Media Cards: A 2.0 Type of Business Card

I met Erin Maassen at the presentation I gave for the North Suburban Library Association last month. Erin is the Public Relations and Marketing Specialist for the Winnetka-Northfield Public Library District and is doing a terrific marketing job. She was gracious enough to write this guest post for us. I hope you enjoy. Since this is Erin's first post, it would be great if you left her some feedback. -Nancy

True story: A man pulls up beside a woman and parks his Harley. He hands her a box, filled with luscious, hand-dipped chocolate strawberries. Yum.

The woman, Juli, is a reference librarian. She’s at the library’s booth at the Village of Winnetka’s annual sidewalk sale. The man on the Harley is a library patron, thrilled Juli was able to help him find what he was looking for. Not surprisingly, this does not phase Juli; she’s on a first-name basis with most of the town, knows who likes to read mysteries, who just became a grandmother for the first time, and that the library needs to order more Egyptian travel books because everyone in town is going there for spring break.

You probably know someone just like Juli, because librarians are great at establishing relationships. Talking to patrons, figuring out what they like, helping them find exactly what they need—not a problem. But when it comes to social media, librarians struggle. There should be a policy, a schedule, someone assigned to tweet/facebook/wave for the library—right?
Not quite. The online librarian-patron relationship should be an extension of interpersonal communication. After all, the whole purpose behind social media is to aid in relationships.
Am I saying your library shouldn’t have a Facebook fan page or a Twitter account? Absolutely not. In fact, if you don’t have one now, why not? Online communities are growing, and your library needs a presence on those sites.

But let me ask you this: who do you listen to? An institution or a person you know? Without even realizing it, we ask our friends where they bought their car, if they know a good babysitter, and who cut their hair. Social media serves as a place to enhance our relationships. Since we’ve already established trust-worthy relationships with our patrons inside the library, it’s only natural that we use social media enhance our relationships with patrons virtually.
Enter social media cards, an official sounding title for a simple invention. The size of the business card, the two-sided card is printed in-house. Each side represents a different brand: the librarian as a person and the library as an institution.

The first side contains the librarian’s personal social media sites, along with the librarian’s name, title, email address, and a picture. The picture is the librarian’s personal logo; it should match the picture used on social media sites and be readily identifiable. The second side mirrors the first side, replacing the librarian’s stats with the library’s logo and social media addresses.

Quality versus Quantity
Here’s the thing: I only made cards for staff members who asked for them. And, the staff members were allowed to tailor what information was included on their cards. If someone only wanted their Twitter account and email addresses, fine. If someone else wanted their Facebook page, Goodreads username, Twitter account, email address, blog, and personal website, that was fine too. It was more important to me to make sure the social media cards were given to staff members who were excited about social media and comfortable sharing their opinions, rather than forcing the entire staff to take part in the promotion.

So what?

A handful of staff members are now armed with social media cards and use them like business cards. Remember Juli? If a patron likes a book Juli recommends, she can now give that person a social media card and invites them to follow her Twitter account for reviews of other books. She can also pass the cards out at Chamber meetings or over lunch with friends. And, unlike the library’s “official” social media pages, Juli isn’t limited to “official” tweets; she can write her thoughts, follow her favorite patrons, or even echo the library’s “official” messages with her opinion. And, it’s paying off. People trust Juli. When Juli tweets about a book she liked or a program she’s looking forward to, the library gets calls about the program and sees a spike in hold notices for titles Juli tweets about. Not only has Juli enhanced her relationships with those patrons, on another level she’s also enhanced the patron’s experience with the library.

Erin Maassen is the Public Relations and Marketing Specialist for the Winnetka-Northfield Public Library District in Illinois. As the official voice for the library, you can follow her on Twitter @WinnLib, on, or at


Unknown said...

Very interesting post. I'm in a similar position and I was curious how you manage this.
Do you give free reign for a library associate to post whatever they want? Has anyone posted anything damaging to the brand, directly or indirectly? What would you do if someone did post something offensive?
Thanks for the post.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

this is a great blog - i run a marketing blog for authors and will be sure to add you to my blogroll! :)

Kenley Neufeld said...

I made a similar card for myself recently. It's fun.

Social Media Business Card

Unknown said...

On the lines of what Jamie asked, are the accounts their personal accounts, or are they "professional" accounts? I know that some of the comments that my coworkers post, while are by no means offensive, don't exactly shine our institution in the best light.

Erin said...

The accounts are personal, and some of the staff members do use the privacy settings in social networking sites (like Facebook) to limit who sees what content. We have not had an issue with damaging posts, directly or indirectly.

Darren Draper said...

Excellent idea and great post. Thanks for sharing!

Heather Braum said...

Thanks for this great post. I'm going to have to make a similar card for myself.

We are running a statewide 23 Things program in Kansas, and this week's lesson is on online communities. How fitting with your article. I shared it tonight on our discussion listserv. Several people have been discussing how they use online communities to network with fellow librarians, friends, and family (mostly the latter two still), and your article gave me the opening to ask who has been engaging their patrons online through Facebook, online comments on a library website or other means. Check out our program.

Andrea Johnson said...

A very interesting idea. Thanks for the post!

Braves fan said...

I wonder if anyone reads library blogs. I would like to see statistics on usage. I guess I am kind of skeptical even though I have seen some great library blogs.

Nancy Dowd said...

Great comments!

Re Braves Fan- Measuring Social media is a little different than traditional metrics because you really have to evaluate your results to your original goals. Readership of a blog is one thing but when you set out your goals you have to make sure that you know what outcomes you want. The beauty of social media is that you can target a small niche group to increase the usage of special collections or go big and look for increased attendance through FB events.

This blog is targeted to marketers rather than the public. Not only do we look at the number of readers but we are also looking at whether there any influencers that are sharing what we say with their audiences [reposts, links, retweets, shares, etc.] Hope that helps. :-)

BTW - Did you see Erin's post was listed in AL Direct? Very cool. -Nancy

Anonymous said...

What a great idea! This makes so much more sense than traditional business cards for most librarians, and I can see using this in my school library as a way for students and teachers to have all the library info in one place, as well as serve as a business card in general.

Brandon said...

I love the idea of social media trading cards. I recently got some that include a QR code to link to my card online, loving them!

business card scanner said...

The awareness of Social Media cards is increasing day by day. if you are in the marketing business you should set an example and be the first to do one for your self. Great post !