Using social media to build your brand – what we can glean from an academic’s perspective

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a session by Massey University’s Dr Cat Pause on using social media to promote your research.  I follow Cat on several social media platforms, and as someone who talks to academics about social media, I was interested to see what a real live academic  had to say to her peers on the subject. Is my advice on the right track?  I’ve now tweaked my report on her session to give some insights into how practising librarians and those involved in library research may use social media to build their personal brand.

Studying librarianship or interested in evidence based practice? Sign up to This is a bit like LinkedIn but specifically designed for the academic community.  Here you can set yourself up with a profile, add your research papers, and search for other researchers. will also alert you if anyone has come to your page on their search via a Google search. (She did also acknowledge other sites such as Researchgate but didn’t go into those in any detail, so it seems like is her choice here).

Next up was blogging. If you want to blog, Cat made the point that it is important to think about what purpose your blog will serve, and how often you plan to update it. Cat publishes something on the 5th of every month – so she makes a commitment to just blog once a month. She doesn’t subscribe to the view that if you aren’t blogging everyday you are doing it wrong.

Are you engaged in library research? Cat does most of her writing on social media first and this helps her develop her thoughts for her academic output. She does recommend researchers  “keep the good stuff” for their journal articles.

Tumblr was next. I’ve dabbled in this site myself but it doesn’t consistently hold my interest. Cat describes it as a “multimedia twitter” and apparently it is where the cool kids hang out 😉 If you have access to Library Life (is that still restricted to members only?) then check out Donna Robertson’s feature on Tumblr in the 13th August issue. I loved the quote that Tumblr is the “best baby that Twitter and WordPress didn’t know they had” – so great for those who want to do more than tweet, but who don’t want to commit to producing lengthy blog posts. Check out for an example of Tumblr being used by an academic. I know one New Zealand Library uses Tumblr, but are any librarians using it for their library related stuff?

And then of course there is Twitter. Cat talked about how it allows you to participate in conferences that you aren’t at – and plenty of library folk do just that as well. If you are presenting at a conference, you can use set up and synch tweets to go out as you do your presentation. I have to say this is a god send if you are at a conference – being able to retweet the speaker’s tweets is an incredibly handy shortcut. Cat says she probably uses Twitter more for communicating with other academics she doesn’t know, rather than using email – something about it being less threatening I think. She did say it was highly effective for doing something that academics don’t talk about much – and that is “building your brand”. I don’t think this is a thing librarians talk about much either! In the academic world, Inger Mewburn , who is the  @thesiswhispherer  on Twitter is one of the show stopper examples of someone who has done built a personal brand.

There was a brief mention of Facebook – and how you can set up a profile page rather than a personal page to allow people to like you. Check out Linda Bacon’s Facebook page an example in an academic setting.

Cat also has a Youtube channel where she can showcase her media appearances.

Cat’s final advice was that it is important to link your social media sites – so people can find you on different platforms. If you are interested in developing a personal brand on social media, think about whether you should focus on one area – for instance she focuses her on fat issues, rather than her other interests. This avoids diluting your brand.

Is personal brand building important to you as a Librarian? I’d be interested in your comments!

Great post on libraries and social media

If you have any involvement with social media in your library, be sure to check out Nancy Dowd’s post Social Media: Libraries are posting, but is anyone listening?

Some of the points that resonated with me:

1. The importance of having a plan “Without direction, social media content creators can be at risk of working in silos without any strategy to communicate their brand, connect to services, or drive people to the library or its website”

2. Think visually and mix in a little fun with “real” content

3. When it comes to who looks after social media “select people with the right skill set, then provide them with a framework of principles and goals, then let them have fun”




Add your thoughts here… (optional)

Illinois Libraries Matter

byCatherine Bailey

As I’m in the middle of writing my first marketing plan for a library, it seemed perfect to write about my experience. I’ve previously written several marketing plans for shopping malls but this was my first time writing one for a library so I was interested to see how the experience would be different.

One of the first things I realized was that despite having worked under the previous marketing plan for my library, I rarely looked at it. I had diligently worked at and ticked off the marketing activities I had been assigned but I rarely looked at the strategy behind it. And I wondered why?

Like many people in the library world, marketing is just one part of my work. In my library world I have combined marketing with information desk work, adult programming and outreach. Call me double-booked, but I do not have the…

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Signs I like

I think it was Karen Schneider who described library signs as “library graffiti” at the recent LIANZA2012 conference – mind you this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to libraries. Outside the intensive care unit at a hospital I was visiting recently there were about 3 different signs advising you to push the bell and wait!

We’ve been making great efforts to standardise our additional signage here at Massey University Library. Sometimes however it works to step away from your “look”. My colleagues Joanna Wenman and Nicola Harris have devised these roadworks signs to highlight one of our collections that is on the move. They do incorporate a colour from our branding palette but the eye-catching shape and style is a great point of difference, and lends itself to being attached to either our OPACs or major directional signage. I think they work well!

Creating short videos with Animoto

I got to attend a great social media masterclass run by DK at the LIANZA conference last week. One of the things DK showcased was Animoto – which allows you to create short videos using your photos set to music. Great for promotional material on your blog! Here is an example put together by my colleague Judi Kercher:

LIANZA Conference 2012.

I would really like to be able to embed the actual video, but for the life of me I can’t find the embed button – maybe it’s a Chrome thing? I might have to experiment with another browser. Meanwhile here is a pic of DK delivering his keynote at the same conference:


I’m on the #brandlibraries working party – one of the LIANZA’s Strengthening the Profession projects. I couldn’t really not put my hand up for this project, seeing as I have been banging on about libraries and aspects of marketing for a while. However some stressful personal family circumstances made me doubt if I had the energy for this. Well I ended up applying, things have changed family wise and the project is now under way and I am part of the working party. Vye Perrone (Waikato University) is chairing the working party, and other team members are Sandy Green (Masterton Public) and Amanda-Jane McFadden (Tauranga Public).

I won’t be blogging about every aspect of the working party – that won’t be appropriate as the project is LIANZA’s and there are reporting requirements back to LIANZA Council. But at the moment I’m considering what branding is, and thinking about what it is we might exactly need to achieve.

The project aim is to “Create a strong, unified library “brand” aimed at decision makers, which spell out the economic and social value of libraries in New Zealand”

So let’s have a look at what some of my favourite library marketing gurus have to say on the subject.

In The Accidental Library Marketer, Kathy Dempsey (p. 125) says:

Branding is another important aspect to consider as you look at your overall marketing picture. That’s really about developing the “personality” of your product and service. How do you want people to see you? What characteristics should come to mind when people think of you?

In The Library Marketing Toolkit, Ned Potter (p. 37-38) writes:

Branding is the:

 process of creating a recognizable product or service – building an identity which people understand – and marketing it as distinct from potential competitors.

(For libraries these are bookshops, the internet and other institutions people can invest time in).

The brand … is the sum total of everyone’s perceptions about what you do. It is the way people feel about your library, the way people describe your library to others. Clearly branding as a marketing practise is an attempt to influence this as favourably as possible. But the brand is in the eye of the beholder – in the eyes of the users and non-users of your library – so you can never fully control it .. To put it a simpler way, a brand exists in the way people feel about something; branding is an attempt to make these feelings positive

He also writes – and these aspects are key (p. 39,)

Ultimately the aim of an organization’s branding and visual identity is not just to give a good impression, but to help people position that organization within their lifestyle. It helps people make a decision as to whether something is “for them” or not … Branding doesn’t just increase use of the library by attracting new customers, it also increases the amount of use by existing customers, and influences those decision makers who hold the purse strings for library finance

Libraries are already a strong brand – and to most people, that brand means books. A recent US study* indicated that this association was only getting stronger – in 2010 75% of American’s associated libraries with books, which was up from 69% in 2005.

In his post on The Physics of Your Library Brand, Steve Matthews points out:

There are few brands in the world bigger than LIBRARY. Library is generic – they are all the same, they are interchangeable, they all function the same, look and smell the same as far as the public perception is concerned. LIBRARY is one of the biggest brands ever developed. It took centuries to create the LIBRARY brand – BOOK. It will not be replaced easily or quickly – “the bigger a brand, the more difficult it is to reposition it”

However strong brands don’t always survive. Libraries have been fighting threats to our brand for almost as long as I have been in the profession (and that is a few years now!).

But as Steve Matthews asks:

How can the library re-invent itself and change its brand to survive in the 21st Century technology and information marketplace? How can we apply physics to library marketing in order to move the library’s position in the marketplace?

One of his recommendations is:

On a national level, library associations must conduct marketing campaigns that change the LIBRARY brand to something other than BOOK

So we do already have a brand, the question is probably are we wanting to reposition it?

And for this project – is it necessary to reposition the library brand in order to meet the primary outcome of the project which is “libraries are recognised as core to a healthy and prosperous New Zealand” ?  You could say it isn’t, but you could also argue that this is an ideal opportunity to attempt to do so!

Or should we focus more on a publicity/public relations campaign. And if that is the case what about the information about the “economic and social value libraries in New Zealand”? Presumably any campaign is going to need to have this information – so where will it come from? Are the advocacy pages on the LIANZA website developed well enough to draw upon?

We have an interesting challenge ahead! (see pg. 38)

Demystifying Marketing definitions

Definitions in the field of marketing can be rather confusing – many terms are used interchangeably. For instance people can talk about marketing when more correctly they are talking about advertising. These definitions from Kathy Dempsey’s book – The accidental library marketer (2009, p. 16-17) – are useful for demystifying some of the terminology:

Marketing is taking steps to move goods from producers to consumers. It’s determining what people want, delivering it, evaluating consumer satisfaction, and then periodically updating that whole process.

Public relations is a planned, long-term communication program (via various media) with a goal of convincing the public to have good will toward something. It’s helping people to think well of an organization, product or concept.

Publicity is sending a message via official channels such as news releases, newsletters and press conferences.

Promotion is furthering the growth or development of a product or service. It’s not just aiming toward good will; it’s encouraging people to use the product or service by telling those people how it would benefit them.

Advertising is calling attention to something through paid announcements.

Branding is a process with dual objectives: 1) establishing a strong link between a company and its logo/typeface/picture or name/phrase and 2) developing the “personality” of your product and service, establishing the characteristics that should come to mind when people think of you. Branding helps build loyalty.

Advocacy is getting people who have good opinions of your organization to speak others on its behalf, to convince other people of its value. 

Stare at these definitions long enough and I think that even they start to get a bit blurry around the edges 😉

It is worth considering that in a marketing framework, advertising, promotion public relations and publicity are part of the marketing communications mix – which according to Kotler and Keller in  A framework for marketing management (2009, p. 256)  is:

 the means by which firms attempt to inform, persuade and remind consumers – directly or indirectly – about the products and brands they sell. They represent the “voice” of the company and brand and are a good way to establish a dialogue and build relationships with consumers”.

The other parts of the marketing communications mix are events, direct marketing, interactive marketing, word-of-mouth marketing and personal selling.

Because these elements that make up the marketing communications mix are the parts of marketing that we usually see, it tends to dominate our view of what marketing actually is.

And just to add to any confusion, I was chatting to a colleague at work about where public relations fitted into marketing – i.e. it’s a component of marketing.  Well apparently according to public relations theory, marketing is a subset of public relations!