Harnessing the power of social media

Clare Brown previews the 2015 MmIT Conference which focuses on the role of library and information professionals in leading social media matters in their organisations.

Library and Information Services across many sectors are using social media in increasingly inventive ways. The successful ones have clear, well-defined objectives stating what they want to achieve, whilst delivering confident messages across different platforms to internal and external users.  

The MmIT conference, 'With Power Comes Great Responsibility – How librarians can Harness the Power of Social Media for the Benefit of its Users', had its genesis in the fascinating papers presented at the January 2015 AGM. As we discovered, information professionals are uniquely placed to assist and advise our organisations on social media matters, as well as take the lead in promoting our own services online. It is now – or should be – an established part of our role.

This conference is a perfect opportunity to take stock, both collectively as the knowledge industry, and separately in our own workplaces. Some presentations are based on original research investigating how social media is instrumental in building relationships between the information service and users, with emphasis on measurement and monitoring. The various case studies, findings and recommendations will be useful not only to academic researchers, but practitioners and subject specialists across all industries.  

The AGM speakers were predominantly academic based but they rightly generated interest from other sectors. This has been reflected in the conference programme, which sees a number of case studies from health and legal. The academic case studies stress interdepartmental communication, from IT departments, business development, to student engagement. All of the issues and topics raised can be translated into commercial, scientific, and public spheres of work. 

If your organisation is looking to capitalise on the social media phenomenon, it is important to have a co-ordinated effort and get a solid policy or framework in place. It may be that your organisation has been experimenting with various platforms and wants to consolidate initiatives. One case study sets out to demonstrate that a reworked framework setting out aims, objectives and staffing has re-energised and re-focused their social media presence. Wherever you are, sessions like this will encourage delegates to discuss the importance of focus and maintaining staff engagement. 

Statistics are key. Measuring the impact of a social media presence is crucial. Companies appoint PR consultants to ensure that interviews, articles, blogposts reach the widest possible audience. But what can we do to measure impact? The information profession should take ownership of altmetrics because we are perfectly placed to do so. We are excellent at supporting, reviewing and filtering information. We have excellent social media skills and can provide impartial advice.  

Altmetrics take figures from various sources, such as social media, Google, online databases etc., and combine them to score the reach of an individual. Social media can make the invisible researcher/lawyer/student/librarian visible. For instance micro/blogging is vital; a regular blogger will appear prominently in Google searches and be presented as the 'go to expert'. Their work will have an immediate societal impact, and funders/employers will be impressed by their profile. 

Many courses and conferences promise insight into social media and then descend into a sales pitch, with very little practical knowledge being imparted. This conference has been organised by library and information professionals for library and information professionals, with sessions by library and information professionals. Whether you want cutting edge research with which to experiment, or tried and tested methods to put into immediate practice, we can assure you of a real exchange of useful, practical information. We hope to see you in Sheffield in September.

For more information on the conference, visit the website.

Clare Brown is Library & Information Manager at Collyer Bristow LLP.