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Field Notes from the Digital Prairie

Friday, July 16, 2010

Establishing an Institutional Presence on Goodreads

If there's a mantra for organizations or institutions in social media, it's this: connect with your users where they are. Or, I would add, where you think they'd like to be. That's why at UChicagoLaw, we decided to launch an institutional presence on Goodreads, a social network focused around books. Founded in 2006, Goodreads allows users to keep track of books they've read or would like to read, post reviews and read the reviews of their friends, form book clubs, interact with authors, and more.

Our goal was twofold: to maintain engagement with alumni, and to promote the work of our faculty to the world at large.

We're not sure how many of our alumni are already on Goodreads, but we're pretty sure that a lot of them would like to be if they knew about it. If you're familiar with the University of Chicago, you probably know that most folks affiliated with it are unabashedly geeky about something, be it 12th century Portugese literature or the intricacies of the anatomy of sea slugs of the genus Dunga, and the Law School is no exception (check out our course offerings on subjects like Admiralty Law and Ancient Roman Law if you don't believe me). And along with that geekiness naturally comes a love of books. So while Goodreads remains a niche site, we're fairly certain that it's a niche site that suits our audience well, and confident that we can begin to get them engaged there.

Since Goodreads does not currently have an equivalent of Facebook's Pages (or Public Profiles, or whatever they're calling them this week), building an institutional presence required a little creativity. Here are the steps we took:
  1. Created an account with the username "UChicagoLaw," uploaded avatar photo, filled out info, etc.
  2. Created "shelves" for the categories of books we wanted to highlight, and added books to those shelves; in this case, "Faculty Books" (all books by current faculty); "Faculty New Releases;" "The Illustrious Past" (books written by deceased and former faculty while at the Law School); "Law School Classics;" and "Faculty Recommendations" (based on responses to our annual questionnaire to faculty about what they're currently reading).
  3. Added our faculty members as our "favorite authors."
  4. After adding 50 books to your profile, you can apply to become a "librarian;" this gave us the opportunity edit the author pages for faculty, including adding photos, bios, and blog feeds. You can also add YouTube videos to authors' pages.
That got us to the point that we felt comfortable launching. Plans for the future include reviving a dormant alumni book club using the site, as well has getting some of our faculty involved in Q&A's about their recent works.

We've built it; now we'll see if they come.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

This is an interesting approach and sounds like a good niche that has all sorts of potential (book clubs, perhaps?). I'll be interested in hearing how this works out for you.

On a personal note, a friend invited me to join Goodreads, which I did, but I feel like such a slacker because I don't read as much as she does, so I don't really participate.