Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What I Have Learned About Facebook

Now that I have experimented with a library group page on Facebook, I have reached several conclusions:

1) For an organization like a library, Facebook intends for you to create a page rather than a group. Many thanks to Michelle Spomer from Azusa Pacific University for her advice on this subject. (Michelle is also responsible for organizing the Facebook group for Theological Librarians.) Groups are very closely tied to your personal account and activities; pages, which seem to have originally been designed to promote musicians, allow for a more "professional" presentation of your organization that is linked to a very limited personal profile that can for the most part be kept private.

2) There is real, live tech support available if you have the patience to work your way through to a link where you can send Facebook a request for support. Kieran from User Operations at Facebook emailed me the following: "These Pages are distinct presences, separate from user profiles, and optimized for an organization's needs to communicate, distribute information/content, engage their fans, and capture new audiences virally through their fans' recommendations to their friends. Facebook Pages are designed to be a media rich, valuable presence for any artist, business, or brand."

3) Unless you have programming skills and a server to support your programs, there is not a whole lot that you can do with your library page . . . yet. There are a number of libraries that have created search widgets for Facebook to allow direct querying of their online catalogs, but they also have access to servers on which to load and run those widgets. WorldCat has created an application to allow searching of WorldCat.org from Facebook; there are a number of Meebo apps for enabling a chat window -- here's a link to one.

4) Searching in Facebook for applications to add to your page is a cumbersome process at best. You are better off if you can find direct links to applications that others recommend (like the links in item 3 above). The Library 2.0 Interest Group and FacebookAppsForLibraries are two groups where you can find links to some creative and interesting applications. Though both of these groups are so large with so many hundreds of postings and discussion topics that sifting through them to find good links is still a time-consuming process.

5) Facebook itself is still very much a work in progress. I have experienced everything from intermittent browser crashes in both IE and FireFox, to updates that do not appear for half an hour, to search results that disappear and reappear as you repeat searches. And there are many n00bs like myself cluttering up the landscape with tentative and irregular offerings. In short, you need a lot of time to search, sift, and experiment.

I have not published my library page yet; that is another advantage of pages vs. groups -- you can build your page over time and wait until you are ready to make it public. When I do publish it, I'll let you know.

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