April 26, 2017

“They retweeted me once - it was quite exciting!”

Using Twitter in Information Services

By Joanne Casey, Senior Content Producer

In September 2009, I was leading a small communications team for IT Services, and I'd had my own Twitter account for 9 months. As a team we were reviewing our approach to communication and saw that other university services were starting to use Twitter, so we decided to create an account for IT Services. We saw it as a new way to keep people informed of new services, alert them to any downtime, and raise awareness of security issues - phishing attacks and the like. We seethed inwardly when an occasional colleague gleefully dismissed Twitter to our customers, even as we tried to promote it (“I'd never use that”), and eventually we seethed outwardly too, which seemed to put a stop to it…

Managing Twitter

In 2011, the Library, Archives, and IT Services converged to become Information Services, and my communications team gained an extra member and became the Communications and Marketing team for all three services. The Library also had a Twitter feed, which had been operating since September 2010. At this point the Library had limited resource available for marketing activities, so the account was run by a group of interested people from different teams. This didn't always work well - with no defined responsibility for the account, some queries went unanswered, and the posting rates on the account varied hugely from day to day. As part of a review of relationship management activities, responsibility for the Library twitter feed was passed to us in the Communications and Marketing team, leaving us with two Twitter feeds to play with.

(As an aside, it's worth noting that this semi-outsourced style of working may not have been the best choice for our Twitter feed, but can be very effective in other contexts, so shouldn't be dismissed; our Instagram account is populated by eager photographers from different Library groups, and as such offers a broader picture - pun intended - of our resources.)

Fairly naturally, we fell into different voices for the two accounts; what we had to say on the IT account (downtimes, phishing alerts, new services) wasn't as easy to have fun with as the more varied topics on the Library account. Inevitably, we often retweeted from the 'other' account, and yes, we started talking to ourselves…

In the early days, we took a fairly concerted approach to building followers; we announced the Twitter feeds in newsletters, news items on our websites, and via the student union newsletter - the latter was especially successful. We added our Twitter name to printed materials, and included it in our email signatures, and colleagues were encouraged to do the same. Nowadays, people expect us to have Twitter so we don't have to work so hard at promoting it. Our focus is very much on user engagement, and we try to respond to all tweets, including negative ones; it's an opportunity to improve someone's experience, and turn around their perception of our service. When we engage with our users, whether it's with a well-chosen gif, a light-hearted reply, or supplying exactly the right information, we get more interaction which in turn helps to build our following. Any tweets with a feedback element are favourited and pulled into our monthly feedback report.

In 2014, the Library Twitter feed was nominated for an award from our Student Union, and were awarded Highly Commended in the Unsung Heroes of Non-Academic Staff category. Nominations were made by two of our student followers, who commented on the speed and humour of our responses, with one of them adding “they retweeted me once and it was quite exciting”. It was a very proud moment, with the added joy of champagne at the award ceremony.

Just an extension of the help desk? 

We were clear from the offset, that we wouldn't be the digital wing of the IT Support Office or the Library help Desk. Our Twitter bios explain that we offer 'news and updates'. However, while it's easy to set your own parameters and guidelines for how the Twitter account will be used, but not so easy to persuade your followers to work within them. And that's understandable - if my supermarket make an error with my delivery, then tweeting them is quick and easy, and the same is true for anyone with a question or comment for us. In addition, Twitter acts as an early warning system; this is easiest to see with the IT feed where users alerting us to issues with wifi can be as quick as our own alerts, but it's there on the Library account too, letting us gauge the thermostat, both actual (“It's too hot in Fairhurst”) and metaphorical (“Why are there so many A level students in the Library? We need seats!”).

Knowing its value

One way and another, we spend quite a bit of time working on our social media, and it's a key part of our communication approach, so it's important to evaluate its success. We use Twitter analytics, to assess engagements and impressions, and we use Google analytics to examine the traffic to our websites. But on a day to day basis, just getting a feel for it works pretty well too.

Learning from others

We didn't know when we set up these accounts how they would develop.Twitter is all about sharing and learning; we've learnt from those around us, and grown in response to our followers. We follow and retweet other accounts in the University and the city, and we also follow lots of library accounts - they're often funny and interesting (and we can steal their good ideas). Particular favourites are Liverpool Uni Library and Warwick Uni Library and, like everyone else, we have just a hint of a crush on the Orkney Library Twitter account.

April 19, 2017

Northern Collaboration User Experience (UX) Learning Exchange 2017

 By Robynne Eller, Assistant Librarian

“What people say, what people do, 
and what they say they do are entirely different things”

- Margaret Mead

The Northern Collaboration UX Exchange took place at the University of Huddersfield's state-of-the-art archive facility at the Heritage Quay. The choice of venue offered the perfect setting for a creative day of discussion and the chance to showcase a selection of what some Northern universities have been up to in terms of their approach to UX in their libraries.

#NCLXUX - Review of the day:

A wide range of UX topics were covered during the Learning Exchange, presentations given by speakers from institutions across the north of England. The day was introduced by UX expert, Andy Priestner, who reiterated the benefits of UX in university libraries, as well as breaking down the barriers of users who believe they are “Not good at libraries".

Some of the topics from other speakers surrounded usability issues of library websites, UX for distance learners, to the use of ethnographic studies used to observe user behaviour and use of space in academic libraries. Some of the talks given on the day can be found on Slideshare, which offers a snapshot of some of the themes and projects discussed. Storify was also used to show all Twitter feeds during the event, which were buzzing throughout the day!
Using social media to keep the UX conversations going!

A major theme that ran through the talks, was how ethnographic survey methods, specifically attitudinal surveys and behavioural mapping was used, in order to help understand users at a deeper level. For instance, at Teesside University, behavioural and cognitive mapping (as well as a Twitter photo competition!) helped inform how library furniture was used, showing furniture was being used in somewhat different ways by users than originally envisaged!

Communicating with users using social media: Teesside’s photo competition

It was also great to see that most of the universities were communicating with users through means of a “graffiti” or “feedback” wall, which have proved to be very responsive and positive in all cases where it has been utilised. Insights from the Open University were also quite useful in terms of their outreach to users who would access their services remotely, rather than visiting their library in person. From all the presentations given, it was clear that even smallest of UX changes held a significant impact for users and one of the key messages in achieving such changes is to not fear failure.