Thursday, June 2, 2011

Social Media: A David and Goliath Story

Although this story is not library-related, I believe that libraries everywhere can learn from an event that unfolded on Twitter last week.

On Thursday, May 26, I noticed a tweet that linked: Not cool Urban Outfitters, not cool. The post was one craftwoman’s outcry of having her design co-opted by Urban Outfitters. A huge supporter of farmer’s markets, artisans, and Etsy, I retweeted the message and posted it on Facebook.

In less than 24 hours, this tweet went viral, ie. spread like wildfire, and Urban Outfitters pulled the product from their shelves. The story was even picked up by the Vancouver Sun and celebrity Miley Cyrus. When I logged into my Twitter account on Friday, it was the eighth trending topic on the list. Upon going into that trending topic, I found this post – Anatomy of a Trending Topic – which I think nicely sums up what happened.

Why I am writing about this is because I think that libraries hold the same power as this individual and could, if they needed to, exercise it in the same way. Libraries are grassroots, community-based organizations that have (let’s face it) a small, but devoted group of followers. By particpating in social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, libraries can cultivated loyal followers who can be mobilized and, I think more importantly, informed at a moments notice.

The amazing thing about this story is that all that this person did was spread the word. We write all the time about how important word of mouth is, but social media activism, or "slacktivism" as I have heard it called, can be just as powerful if not much faster. Posting, tweeting, or texting a message about an issue that your library is facing can instantly generate community support and reach individuals beyond those closest to you. Putting your library on Facebook or Twitter anymore is putting your library into the community and nuturing that community for when you need it most.

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