Researching Usability

Twitter Use Among UK Libraries (Part 1)

Posted on: April 9, 2010

As mentioned in a previous blog, a review of how libraries are currently engaging with Web 2.0 was proposed as part of the ongoing research for Workpackage 2. This is not currently top priority for the project which means the blogs will be published over a period of time. However, this first part of the review introduces the data gathering method and some of the current theory of attitudes towards Twitter.

MinXuan Lee  wrote about the 5 Stages of Twitter Acceptance in her side-show, ‘How Twitter Changed My Life’. She effectively describes the range of behaviours typically displayed by people to represent their experience of Twitter. Each stage, Denial, Presence, Dumping, Conversing, and Microblogging, map attitudes towards Twitter before using it, through to its use for ‘true microblogging’.  Users can often identify with these stages at some point during their experience. Rightly or wrongly, some users may only aspire to ‘dumping’ and not have the desire to ‘converse’ or write a microblog. This review hopes to find out what stage of acceptance Twitter libraries are currently at. Furthermore, the findings will suggest which libraries are more successful on Twitter and the reasons behind it. This will provide other libraries with an idea on how to get the best from Twitter and ensure that it meets their needs.

Information was gathered on a random sample of libraries with existing Twitter accounts. The accounts were predominantly provided through the Libraries and Web 2.0 Wiki and CILIP’s Twitter Libraries List. Thirty libraries were selected which had their own dedicated Twitter accounts. Any accounts which served a wider audience such as a council were not included. Data was gathered on each library using tweetstats.com between 22nd and 26th March 2010. Using this tool in addition to Twitter it was possible to gathering the following information:

  • Number of followers
  • Number following
  • Number of lists user’s have created
  • Number of tweets to date
  • Does the library retweet content created by others?
  • Does the library reply to tweets?
  • What Twitter clients does the library use to create tweets (in order of use)?
  • Date joined Twitter (month/year)
  • Does the library have a Facebook page?
  • Does the library have a Flikr page?
  • Does the library have any other social media accounts, if so what?
  • Does the library have their own blog or news feed with comment facility?

The initial data was gathered and placed on the UX2 wiki page for everyone to access.

A number of questions arose while conducting the research which will be discussed in future blog posts. More questions will hopefully be added as they arise:

  • Do libraries advertise their Twitter account (and other social media pages) elsewhere e.g on the library website?
  • If libraries have few followers, is there a reason for this? If so what?
  • What are the most popular Twitter clients used among libraries?
  • Is the level of engagement among libraries related to the type of twitter client they use?
  • To what extent do libraries ‘Converse’ using Twitter?
  • Which level of ‘Twitter Acceptance’ are most libraries aligned to?
  • What should libraries do if they want to engage more with people on Twitter?

Some initial findings are that many libraries are using Twitter mainly as a broadcast medium and less as a microblogging medium. Also that a high number of libraries are still using Twitter.com to communicate and not 3rd party client managers.

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