I’m always looking out for new tools that can be used to engage with people and promote libraries and librarians (maybe I should get out more……). The many social networks have certainly provided ample opportunity to do so – particularly Twitter with the ability to search tweets and see what people are saying about libraries and librarians. This is particularly useful if you want to set up a library account and want to engage with people in your area who mention your library in their tweets. Nothing like a bit of proactive engagement, not least because of the benefits that can accrue for both yourself and the user. Replyz is a new tool which can help to take this a little step further.
Essentially, Replyz enables you to search tweets and see what people are saying. So far, so familiar. What makes it interesting for me, however, is its ability to display conversations rather than isolated tweets. This is particularly useful as sometimes these tweets can be missed when completing a normal search. As a result, it presents a great opportunity to engage with people interested in libraries and librarians (or even those that aren’t!) and demonstrate the value of the service and the profession.
As it is a Twitter based tool, you don’t need to set up an account, just log-in with your Twitter account, authorise access and away you go. Once signed in you can start searching and viewing conversations. To view a conversation you simply conduct a search for your chosen topic and, when presented with the results, look for the green speech bubble at the right-hand side of the screen. The number in the speech bubble indicates the number of tweets involved in the conversation so far. Simply click on the speech bubble and you are presented with all the tweets within the conversation (presumably this relies on people replying appropriately on Twitter). So, for example, a search for ‘library’ found the following conversation:
Bizarrely, Replyz currently displays one of my older profile pictures and not my current one (which I have been using for several weeks now). Not sure why this is. Anyway, if you want to contribute to the thread, all you need do is fill in the reply box – there is no need to visit Twitter and tweet from there.
As well as simply responding to conversation, you have a number of other options too. You can follow particular topics and add a feed to this topic to your RSS reader. For example, search for ‘library’ and you are presented with a ‘Follow this topic’ button. Click on that, head to your dashboard on Replyz, click on the ‘Topics I follow’ link and you will be presented with an RSS feed to follow your chosen topics. You can also choose to follow a particular conversation if it is of interest and any conversations that you have taken part in are also stored on the dashboard – useful if other contributors don’t @reply to you on Twitter.
Overall, it looks like quite a handy tool. As well as the features already mentioned you can post anonymously and use up to 500 characters in any message (presumably it only displays 140 on Twitter and then sends you to a link for the other 360). Of course, it is of fairly limited use if your tweets are protected as any attempts to join in the conversation will not be picked up by those that are engaged in it (unless they both follow you of course!). But if your tweets are public, Replyz provides an interesting opportunity to engage in conversation with those curious about libraries (or any other topic to be fair!), interested in the profession or have a general query that an information professional can help with (or a library service if the conversation is about their local library).