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Social media analytics in an imperfect world

Ellen Forsyth, State Library of New South Wales



Social media statistics are a fluid area. We propose presenting a workshop exploring the strategy of measuring social media, with specific case studies.  What are the statistics which count? Are all ‘likes’ equal? Data will be from State Library of NSW Public Library Services use of social media and the NSW Readers’ Advisory Working Group’s Twitter-based reading group.


The State Library has a few public library related social media channels, with a well-defined audience of NSW public libraries. We have been encouraging the use of the hashtag #nswpubliclibraries. The twitter reading group focuses on a different theme each month and people tweet about what they are reading, watching or playing using the relevant hashtags (#rwpchat and the hashtag for that month’s theme, eg: #retroread). On the last Tuesday of each month there is a discussion on twitter of reading relating to the theme for that month which is then captured on Storify. Data from both of these streams are captured and evaluated and used in planning.


Efforts to evaluate the effectiveness and the reach of these online conversations are not straightforward. One of the main barriers to measuring a Twitter-based initiative is that the tools, which are readily available to assist with the analysis of a particular set of activities change. The tools adopted for this initiative quantify hashtag use differently, and there are significant variations in the number of Tweets recorded as contributing to a particular discussion. This workshop explores the reliability of such tools (including Archivist, TAGS explorer and Eventifier). The analysis of hashtags is vital for recording both the current performance, and the continued growth, of the reading group. There will also be some exploration of the effectiveness of the Twitter reading group’s blog and the posts that support each month’s theme (views, comments and sharing of posts) and the associated Pinterest account which has been established to support the various reading themes (analytics and benefits of collaborative pinning). Some of the same tools are being used by Public Library Services, and the different results will be explored.


Although social media has been around for several years, there are still questions about how the data is analysed, as was demonstrated in the recent academic work Twitter and society edited by Karen Weller et al. The different analytics tools present different results and allow the data to be seen and accessed in diverse ways.


The workshop and paper will have practitioner focused discussion of social media analytics.  The authors will explore some of the possible meanings and look at what indicative conclusions can be drawn. We will be showing how the data from two different kinds of accounts may be interpreted, any influences on planning, and how not all likes and follows are equal. We will be discussing the importance of evaluation of social media use, and how we need to be at the edge of thinking and planning to be effective in how we use and evaluation social media within libraries.

Paper link

Presentation link

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