Definition of social networking sites

'Pure' social networking sites, such as Facebook and Myspace, exist primarily to connect people and enable communication. All function on the same basic principle - users have individual pages or profiles, which they link to those of their friends.

Facebook is potentially the most useful site for Oxford. A 2008 survey showed that 92% of freshers have Facebook accounts, and Facebook was originally designed to connect university students. It also offers built-in and additional features which can be used by organisations.



How can libraries use Facebook?

Set up a page or a group, which users can join or link to.

Pages and groups do essentially the same things - both allow you to include information and contact details, add photos and other content, create events that you can invite your members to, and have a 'wall' (for comments) and discussion boards. The main difference is that pages allow a 'corporate identity', whereas groups need to be set up by an existing Facebook user. Groups also seem to be focused on promoting discussion between members, whereas pages seem more information oriented. The main advantage of pages is that you can see usage statistics and also add applications.

Jen Wray at the EFL developed a SOLO widget which libraries can use on their Facebook pages. Instructions for adding the widget and the code you need can be found elsewhere in the wiki.

Develop library-related applications which users can add to their profiles

For example:

Developing applications on Facebook requires some technical expertise, so perhaps is less appropriate for individual libraries. Information on Facebook for developers can be found here.

Library-related applications also don't seem to be very well used, but whether this is a lack of promotion or a lack of desire on the part of users is unclear.

Advantages and disadvantages of Facebook

Facebook is very well used and fast becoming the social communication method of choice for a large proportion of our readers. Its localised structure makes it particularly good for individual libraries to use, where their readers feel a sense of ownership. It is probably less suitable for the Bodleian Libraries/Oxford-wide things - anything wider-scale would need to be promoted from the local level up, ie, not just creating an event, but linking it with a local group. Facebook is still geared very much towards fun and social interaction, but increasingly this is blurring as more serious applications and groups are being added. Possibly the biggest disadvantage of Facebook is its closed nature - in order to see anything you have to be registered, so passive use by non-members is difficult, unlike many other social sites. However, Facebook pages are open at least for basic information.

Further information