The University of Southern California is very well known for its athletic department and the hefty price tag of tuition. When I tell people I did my undergraduate courses at USC, they don’t ask what I studied. Instead they ask, “Did you go to the football games?” and “Whoa, how much money did that set you back?” I chose to do my library marketing critique on USC because I see these things as interesting obstacles for the libraries to overcome. As we will see, it is quite the challenge.

USC makes use of three social networking platforms:
Libwire, the USC Libraries Blog

Libwire has at least two blog postings per week; however, some of these posts show up in my RSS reader repeated two to four times. Many of these posts are about what is going on at the libraries: talks, changed hours, special collections, upcoming classes, etc. Sometimes there will be a blog post about something new and exciting that the library is doing, such as this post on the library’s new presence on Blackboard.

One very interesting thing USC Libraries are doing with their RSS feed is a series they call, “Inside the USC Libraries” where they take turns exploring one of the many subject libraries and/or special collections that are on campus. The one on the Music Library is especially intriguing, as it discusses the importance of physical holdings in a music library versus digital holdings that are taking over many of the other libraries.

A very clever thing that USC Libraries are doing with their RSS feed is something they call, “Twitter Tuesdays.” “Twitter Tuesday is a weekly feature that looks back at the USC Libraries’ conversations in the Twitterverse.” As you can see here, it is not simply a listing of USC Libraries tweets and @ mentions, but before the displayed conversations, the person (or persons) who write the blog give some sort of context for the Tweets. This is very helpful for those who don’t want to click around and try to follow strings of conversation as well as for people who don’t follow @USCLibraries on Twitter, but want to access the information. Twitter Tuesdays is a recap of things of note, not a list of all Tweets and ReTweets.

USCLibraries is fairly active on Twitter. The Twitter Tuesdays mentioned above wouldn’t be possible if staff weren’t so responsive on Twitter. I’m surprised that there are under 1,800 followers on Twitter, given that the undergraduate population is around 13,000 students. Then again, that seems to be quite a bit as USC Libraries only has a small box with the Twitter feed on the library website, a page which one needs to search for intentionally on the homepage. USC Libraries are also interactive with ReTweeting, not just sending out Tweets that link back to USC, but there are some ReTweets via @ALALibrary and @NatGeoSociety.

While USC Libraries seem to be doing good things with their Libwire blog and @USCLibraries on Twitter, they are coming up quite short on Facebook. There are only 127 people who “Like” USC Libraries and though they have their wall open for people to post, there are no posts by anyone except for USC Libraries. Many of the things posted on the Facebook are images and facts (e.g. “This day in history) that have been culled from one of USC Libraries archival collections. There are no attempts at interaction, no open questions posted to their fan base, and it seems as though there are one to two postings per day. To their defense, it looks as though there was no staff member or members responsible for the Facebook upkeep. There is a large void between April 2010 and August 2010. Perhaps they feel the summer school students and graduate students are uninterested? I’m sure they would get a lot more “Likes” on Facebook if there were a link from the library webpage; however, there are only links to the blog RSS feed and the Twitter feed. The Facebook seems like it is picking up steam, but it is definitely a work in progress.

I used Social Mention with the terms USC Libraries, USCLibraries (no space), and USC librar* (wildcard). The majority of returns on my queries have a neutral tone but then again, a majority of the returns on my queries are from USC Libraries themselves. As for their branding efforts, it’s very hard to separate USC the libraries from USC the school/athletic powerhouse. While I know firsthand the rich amount of resources to be found in the libraries, I think their online social networking outreach does not accurately represent all of the amazing things that are available.

If the library were to hire me as their social media marketing consultant, I would have a number of suggestions. First of all, it’s all about visibility. There need to be more links to the Twitter and Facebook. I would recommend having some specific people (perhaps even budgeting for a couple full-time staff members) assigned to handle posting to the social media and having a schedule that represents the minimum amount of posts per medium per week. I would have these same people start doing outreach. Start finding current students and alumni and suggest they “Like” USC Libraries on Facebook or that they follow the Twitter feed. I also have some suggestions for content. Though I really like some of what USC Libraries are doing, such as Twitter Tuesday, I find a lot of the postings to be conservative to the point of being uninteresting. I don’t think that transparency is appropriate for this type of library, but they have a wealth of creativity in their student body. If there are student organizations on social media, start looking at what they are doing and Repost or ReTweet with added links to how these things can connect to what is available from USC Libraries. Don’t just interact with people who mention USC Libraries first. Be more proactive. Also, use social media to receive feedback on collections and services. Post surveys and ask open questions. A majority of USC Libraries’ posts/Tweets are unidirectional and I believe they would only benefit from becoming more multi-directional as well as showing how multifaceted the USC Library services and collections truly are.