by Michelle Ralston LTLS Consultant
Facebook is the biggest social networking site. Facebook has over 200 million active users. What surprises most people is that more than two thirds of users are no longer college age or younger. As of January 2009, the fast growing demographic was people 35 years and older. I fall into the group older than college age, but I am not yet 35.
I use Facebook everyday, too many times to count. Personally, I use Facebook for many things, but mostly for personal usage. I can check up on my friends, stay in touch with family, see what’s going on in far away communities, and I can announce what I am doing at any given moment.
I am also a fan of my public library's Facebook site. When the library updates their page, I can see what is going on and stay up on the events happening there. It is also a portal to the library’s information. I like that I can find the phone number or hours without leaving Facebook and going to their website. I was very excited when I found that my library actually had a page. I found out because I saw that one of my friends added the library. This is great for libraries, because the average user has 120 friends and this means free marketing.
MySpace is the second largest social networking site, but it is different than Facebook. It allows more customization of the personal page, and allows a personal blog. I am not a huge fan of MySpace, but some of my friends use only MySpace so I have an account to connect with them. I do not go to MySpace very often, unless I get a message from a friend. My library has a MySpace page but it hasn’t been logged into since Nov 08. To an avid MySpace user, the library is really missing out. I couldn’t find any new MySpace statistics online, but there are still a large number of users. This is another avenue that the library should be using to reach out to people, because their patrons are using it.
There are many other social networking sites, and new ones come and go each day. In my opinion, libraries need to be aware of what is new and what people are using. It would be impossible for a library to have a presence on more than a few sites; however it is important for libraries to research what their patrons are using, because that should be the focus.
One other social networking site that I have read a lot about, is Ning. Ning is a place where you can create a very specific interest group. This could be very helpful for libraries. Libraries could have a teen group, a friends group, a book club, and many other specific groups that Facebook and MySpace can’t facilitate. It is definitely something that libraries should look into.