Facebook, Libraries, and Post Promotions

If your library has a Facebook page and uses it for outreach, you need to read this article from the Dangerous Minds website. There really isn’t a good quote to pull out the meaning, so take a moment to go and read it. The basics revolve around Facebook monetizing page promotion while simultaneously throttling the amount of people who can see a post from a Facebook page. In short, if you want your page posts to reach your entire audience, you have to pay.

The free ride is over.

I can’t really fault Facebook for making a change like this; their investors want dividends and what drives that is revenue. The amount of things you can do with Facebook for free still makes it valuable for other purposes like keeping in touch with far away family members and friends. It does, however, feel slightly at odds with the ‘power to share’ sentiment from Mark Zuckerberg’s IPO letter seemed to be aiming towards. It reframes it into “I want you to share but only a limited audience will see it unless you pay up” which really doesn’t seem as much of a lofty world-changing dream anymore. 

The basic promise to ensure that all of your followers see a post brings up the old sentiment as to whether that is effective or not. I watch the “Skip this ad in X seconds” counter in the bottom corner of a YouTube video more than the moving pictures of the ads that are attached to the video. I couldn’t tell you what the last couple of companies were because, frankly, I don’t care. It’ll probably be true for the promoted Facebook post at the top of my news feed, especially if it is something that one of my friends or family has “liked”.

Given that some pages have a very local element to them (for example, pretty much every library that has a Facebook page), I’m figuring that promoted posts will end up missing the mark by inserting themselves into feeds of people who aren’t local. The New York Public Library has roughly 70,000 likes, but how many of them are local? Judging from my 45 friends who like the NYPL, it seems to be about 50/50. Is it worthwhile to pay to promote a post when it’s not going the audience you want it to reach (constituents)? What if some of those likes are pushing it into a higher promotion post cost bracket? Given the number of times I’ve seen pleas for people to ‘like’ their libraries page, I think this is a possibility.

Personally, I’m hoping that Facebook considers cutting a price break for non-profits and education related institutions. It’s one thing to charge corporations like Coca Cola and Comcast for post promotion, it’s another when you’re charging the local library. Alternatively, now would be the time to find other online outreach platforms.  

Leaving Las Facebook

From the New Yorker:

Zuckerberg’s business model requires the trust and loyalty of his users so that he can make money from their participation, yet he must simultaneously stretch that trust by driving the site to maximize profits, including by selling users’ personal information. The I.P.O. last week will exacerbate this tension: Facebook’s huge valuation now puts pressure on the company’s strategists to increase its revenue-per-user. That means more ads, more data mining, and more creative thinking about new ways to commercialize the personal, cultural, political, and even revolutionary activity of users.

There is something vaguely dystopian about oppressed peoples in Syria or Iran seeking dignity and liberation inside a corporate sovereign that is, for its part, creating great wealth for its founders and asserting control over its users.

I was off on the day that Facebook had its I.P.O. a week and a half ago so I got to watch some of the market reaction as it unfolded. I also happened to be eating lunch with my father, a retired financial advisor. As we watched the stock price flatten to the opening offer of $38 a share on one of those financial cable networks, he looked at me and said, “They left nothing on the table.” The translation of that statement is this: in making an initial offer, companies and banks want to price a stock so that it goes up initially to show market confidence in the valuation of the company. In order to get that gain, there has to be a value to move towards; like from $34 a share to $38 a share. In pricing it at $38 a share, that’s the same number that the investors thought it should be at. The price didn’t budge because people didn’t feel it was worth more than that. There are many reasons why investors might feel that way, but that’s a whole other post for people with better financial knowledge. The bottom line is that in pricing the shares, the company and the bank ‘left nothing on the table’ for investors to move towards.

As the computer class instructor at my library, I felt that my father’s statement is rather apropos when it comes to the Facebook class I teach. In taking people through the site, I spend the largest portion of my class on the privacy settings as well as giving my students the pros and cons about information sharing on the website. Share to your comfort level, I would tell them as I described how the data that they offer can be used to sell advertising on the site. In light of the new investor pressure, I am considering advising them with the same thing my father said: leave nothing on the table. While I do my best to offer as much information as possible so that people can make their own privacy choices on Facebook, the importance of personal information management has only grown. It’s no longer about what how much you entered into your profile or your current and future updates, but revisiting and revising previous updates and inputs.

Some may interpret this as revisionist personal history; I would opt for calling it timeline curating. I don’t see an issue with a person going back and removing information they no longer want to share with Facebook; it is not actually removing it from existence. While the site encourages you to make it a home for your history, it’s pretty hard to not notice that there is a bottom line that is also in play that utilizes that information. In looking at the sum total of your Facebook profile and timeline, from the first update to the current photo album, it’s still your data that you can remove at any time.[1] While you cannot delete your Facebook account, there is nothing stopping you from stripping it down to the bare essentials: a birthdate and an email address. Leave nothing on the table.

For myself, privacy is a odd library issue these days. There is a push to get libraries on social media to engage and share with their members. Conferences and workshops have speakers tossing out hyperbolic statements like “you must be on [insert social media site here] or your library will [insert dire consequence here]”. They tend to talk about what the library could share and how awesome it would be while sprinkling in some success stories, but then glaze over the nuts-and-bolts portion about how it requires staff time, integration, and an actual organizational strategy and purpose. Using Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest is not for casual outreach because it’s a ‘free’ platform, but something that needs to be maintained and grown over course of months and years. (To steal a phrase from Toby Greenwalt, “Free as in kittens, not as in beer.”) I can’t recall much discussion given to privacy in these cases, so I’d be curious to hear a speaker who addressed this issue head on.

Contrasting this urge to share is the ALA’s own campaign, PrivacyRevolution, complete with its own website and week. There’s even a webpage that offers an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights as it pertains to privacy. On top of that, there are (in general) state statutes regarding confidentiality and disclosure of a library record. Here in New Jersey, a library record can only be disclosed as part of proper operation of the library, a request by the user, or a court subpoena or order.[2] Your state or country’s laws might be different, but I’m guessing that if you are in the United States, it’s probably something similar. The message here is that information inquiry is a private matter that is business of no one else but the individual; that in this age of increased monitoring, it is paramount for libraries and librarians to work to ensure personal privacy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favor of educating people about what happens to the information that they put out online or in person. But it is a odd path to walk when there is an advocacy push to embed ourselves in social media and “go where our users are” while others are raising flags of concern about privacy and offering caution and wariness about our online footprints.

“Tell us what you are reading, but don’t tell us what you are reading.”

In the end, I think that last line of the first paragraph in the quote at the start of this post holds the most truth: as social media sites go public, there will be a push to use personal data in new and possibly not privacy kosher ways. Personally, I’m not overly concerned; people already make their choices as to what they want to keep to themselves and what they want to share. Sure, we have websites loaded with poor choices of the latter, but that seems statistically correct in the broad scheme of things. The best that computer class instructors like myself can do is lay out everything and let the people make their own choices. I’m not planning on leaving Facebook at this juncture; it still serves a purpose and I understand the quid pro quo of what I am getting in exchange for allowing access to my personal information ‘stuff’. Right now, for myself it is about finding those privacy limits and making plans accordingly. And when I do go, I’ll be sure to leave nothing on the table.


[1] I do wonder if deleting something would actually remove it permanently and how much data Facebook collects about information that has been ‘deleted’. I’d really wonder if they’d want to dedicate resources to hanging onto such things, but I wouldn’t put it past any social site these days.

[2] Strangely enough, while the record is protected by statute, there is no librarian-member confidentiality privilege like doctor-patient or lawyer-client. So, while I couldn’t disclose a library record to a law enforcement official without the paperwork, any conversation I had with the member is not legally protected. Library records in New Jersey are defined as any document or record for maintaining control over circulation or public use of library materials. I wonder if anyone has gotten slapped with obstruction of justice for not sharing their conversation with a member.

The Facebook Revolution

From the Washington Post:

[…] Facebook, which celebrates its seventh birthday Friday and has more than a half-billion users worldwide, is not eagerly embracing its role as the insurrectionists’ instrument of choice. Its strategy contrasts with rivals Google and Twitter, which actively helped opposition leaders communicate after the Egyptian government shut down Internet access.

The Silicon Valley giant, whether it likes it or not, has been thrust like never before into a sensitive global political moment that pits the company’s need for an open Internet against concerns that autocratic regimes could limit use of the site or shut it down altogether.

The article is a great read about the company that wants everyone to use their own identity, the dissidents of the world using it to network, and the regimes trying to gather up information through the site. It reinforces the importance of social media as a platform that can have a greater purpose than a place to play Farmville. To me, it also rekindles the notion that one of the most powerful connections in the world is the ability to share ideas. Facebook certainly streamlines that option and brings the world a tiny bit closer than it was before.

It also makes me wonder why libraryland isn’t using it for specific calls for change. Off the top of my head: ebook lending, copyright & patent law revisions, and maybe even putting a school librarian in every school. It might seem silly to some, but an active and highly populated Facebook group can have some clout. Hell, it can even topple governments.

Not bad for a site that has a “Like” button.

(h/t: Alexis Madrigal)

Selling Myself. Literally. Part III

I am  overdue for an update on ongoing experiment. This screenshot is a good starting point for it.

Click to embiggen

This is a snapshot of the advertising performance from the beginning up to today. With the change of the audience targeting on December 9th, everything changes. The number of social impressions (ads that run with “X likes this” where X is a friend), the number of clicks (self explanatory), and the number of conversions (people who end up choosing to ‘like’) have risen significantly. So, for the same number of ads, there is a distinctive difference in the results across the board. In focusing on people who ‘like’ the American Library Association, it looks like I’m reaching a more receptive audience.

Now, even with this improvement, the numbers are still relatively small. It’s nice to see a positive change but it’s not very compelling for a continued campaign. However, as this is just a way to test it out and for my own curiosity, it’s still a pretty cheap expense for some hands on experience.

I may fiddle with the ad once more to see if I can improve the numbers. I don’t know if I would change the target interest or like but maybe try to tighten the wording on the ad itself or change the picture. If anything, I think this will be my middle ongoing post about it. The next post will be a complete rundown of the results plus all the data I’ve gotten from it.

Selling Myself. Literally. Ctd.

Over the course of a week since I started a Facebook ad for my Facebook Page, I’ve been watching the ad campaign unfold and seeing how it has been doing. These are my results from when the ad started to when I tweaked it on December 8th.


For such large numbers, it’s so easy to dismiss its actual impact. I think Facebook ads are a lot like Google ads now; they are things that you gloss over while you are on your way to other parts of the screen. My original targeting for the ad was for people who like or have an interest in “libraries” or “librarians”. In mulling it over, that’s not the audience I’m trying to reach which is why I’m not getting the clicks I’m looking for. I wanted to get fellow librarians and I thought about how to narrow it down.

In talking with another librarian about Facebook ads, an inspiration struck me: I’m looking for people who ‘like’ the American Library Association. Chances are pretty good that they are going to be librarians themselves or have an interest in the library world. In reworking the ad, the potential number audience rocketed downwards to roughly 13,000. Excellent. I downwardly adjusted my maximum bid from the suggested one since it was a much smaller audience and based on what the average CPM (cost per impression) runs. So, the ad campaign is much more focused and cheaper than before. But how will it do for yielding results?

The early data is that I’ve gotten the same number of clicks in one day that I got in the first two. I can see that there are a greater number of clicks happening because a friend is shown as having ‘liked’ me. Most excellent! Now I just need to let this new ad stretch its legs over the weekend and see how it does. I have a feeling that the refocus of interests is where it is at; but I do wonder if there are other interests that I should be looking to include in order to reach other library professional who may not ‘like’ the ALA. I’ll have to look for other likes or interests that might be viable ad terms.

It’s certainly something to think about over the next couple of days, but this ad campaign has been a good and fun experiment. And cheap to boot, as indicated above in the graphic; $10 is a bargain for this hands-on lesson, in my estimation. So, we’ll see where it stands next week!

The Unbearable “Like”ness of Being

Check one!

There’s something very weird about setting up a Facebook Page for yourself. It’s an exercise in ego and self-consciousness all at once as you look to add details to make it interesting yet silence the small voice of rejection in the back of your head. As inspired by the picture above, it’s a little bit of the social politics of high school.

This creation is part “mission of mercy” to my Facebook friends, part my own branding and centralizing publicity, and part springboard for some projects I have kicking around in my head. I’ve been writing a lot more, the projects I’m working on are starting to get bigger, and I try to cram all of this into my News feed. When I was posting two or three times a day recently, all I could think was, “Ugh, my family and non-librarian friends are going to kill me for oversharing. And probably the library people will too.” So, in setting up this Facebook Page, I’m moving that content out to its own space. It should make it easier to keep personal and professional items separate from each other.

As my thoughts turn towards my own publicity and branding, a Facebook Page is currently a decent landing spot for such things until I get the energy and inclination to set up my own website. There is certainly an appeal to the inner narcissist, but Facebook does make sharing pretty easy for publicizing projects, presentations, and other things that I’d like to let people know about. So this page is more of my “official feed” from the various output sources that I use. Right now, it’s just this blog and the A View from Your Desk Tumblr (which is still looking for more pictures, so submit one today!), but I’ll see how that works out.

The last aspect is probably the most important to me at the moment. December is going to be a big month for me with some things coming out that I’ll talk more about later. In looking down the line, I’m excited to be working with my good friend Julie Strange on a new joint blog concept; we are hoping to have that active and posting in January if the details work out to our satisfaction.  (Nothing wrong with being picky if you are going to put your name on it.) I’m also kicking around some ideas for a newsletter which would be distributed exclusively through the Facebook Page. (Facebook gives you the option of sending messages to people who “Like” your page; this newsletter would take advantage of that tool.) And, to complete the list of teasers, I have a ton of notes down for an advocacy project that I’d really like to undertake. In doing so, I’d like to take advantage of some of the tools and resources that are available to me on Facebook in order to expand the reach of these projects.

I hope to see you on my Facebook Page. Now, I’m off to determine the implications of whether I should “Like” myself or not. As they say, Freud would have a field day.

[Facebook] Deals or No Deals?

From Techland:

[W]ith Facebook’s announcement today of Facebook Deals, that’s beginning to change. In a press conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg rolled out an impressive roster of merchants willing to play along with Facebook’s Places. Check into the Gap and earn a free pair of jeans. Check into North Face and earn $1 for the National Park Foundation. Not only that, Facebook has removed much of the friction from the process. It’s a few simple clicks from walking into a store and earning a deal through Facebook.

I’ll be honest: after using Foursquare a handful of times, I got very bored with it. It might have been that I didn’t have anyone in the area to compete against, that I didn’t go out a lot, that it was a pain to remind myself to check-in, there was no reward for any check-ins, or any number of reasons that keep conjuring in my brain. I dropped it after a couple of weeks of inconstant use.

With this announcement, Facebook is poised to steal the thunder from Foursquare for location based interactions. They’ve taken the idea to the next level in terms of rewarding all people (not just mayors) for visits and given a greater number of incentives for using a location based application.

Although, let’s be honest with ourselves here. Facebook is not an entity that comes to mind when you think of “privacy protection”. They’ve had their own issues with privacy, but a service like this does beg the question: what are you willing to give up to get a benefit? If I can check-in on Facebook Deals to get a free appetizer at a restaurant or a discount on a pair of shoes, is this snapshot of my shopping habits worth the trade in goods or services? In other words, how does the quid pro quo work for the end user?

Furthermore, is there something that we as libraries can do to capitalize on something like Facebook Deals? David Lee King wrote a post about using Foursquare with libraries back in January. Is there something we could offer patrons for checking in at the library? Off the top of my head, some random things come to mind: an extra item over the limit (like DVDs), jump ahead on a hold’s list, giveaways (show this and get a free book for your kid, for example), fine or overdue waiving, or home delivery of materials. (Disclaimer: I said random things, not things that would work perfectly or always make sense.) 

Could Facebook Deals be a big deal for libraries?