Social Media and Information Retrieval

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how information is retrieved from social media applications. Given the sheer volume of information that’s being produced even as I type this post, it can feel overwhelming even to keep up with the relatively small number of blogs and feeds I follow daily. One of the issues is that, while I might find something interesting, I may not have a context or need for that particular piece of information at the moment, and it quickly disappears from view. Given the explosion of search tools for managing social media, I suspect I’m not the only one with this problem. Being able to retrieve things at point of need is becoming increasingly essential, and increasingly difficult. I recently took a more in-depth look at the search engine Social Mention, but there are tons of these tools out there, like Who’s Talkin, Technorati, and Samepoint. Do you use any of these tools? What are your favourites?


Using Social Media to Gain Feedback

Feedback is an incredibly valuable source of information for libraries. Librarians collect all kinds of statistics, utilise polls and other surveys, and request feedback on programs.

One of the issues involved in using social media tools in libraries is knowing how effective they are. With many tools, we can gain a sense of this through looking at usership: how many Twitter followers does the library account have? How many facebook fans? How many blog readers?

Yet there are also other aspects to gaining useful feedback. Part of the value of social media is allowing two-way communication between libraries and their users. Libraries control the ways through which users can communicate with the library, so part of the goal of using social media can be to create ways for users to respond to and interact with the library. For example, users can:

  • Respond to or re-Tweet items using Twitter
  • Write on the library’s facebook page or “like” items
  • Comment directly on items in the library’s website
  • Create tags for items in the library’s catalogue to demonstrate how they view the collection
  • Collaborate with librarians on wikis
  • Create videos, such is in the University of Toronto’s I Love The Library contest

In these ways, libraries can listen to users as well as speak to them. Dean mentioned many other possibilities in his recent post on collaboration.

However, social media tools can also be a great way of learning how users feel about specific tools and about the library in general. This is something that is fairly widely discussed in the marketing world, and something that libraries can definitely tap into.

This doesn’t have to be something that takes up a large amount of time – RSS feeds make it easy to set up alerts or aggregate content mentioning the library. Some good tools for doing this (via Chris Brogan) include Technorati, Google Blogsearch, the Twitter search feature, link checkers, or Crazy Egg. Google Alerts, Feedstitch, and Topsy are also possibilities.

How do you listen to your users?