ocial media is one of the best ways to reach a wide audience in this digital day and age. There are plenty of examples of fantastic feeds being run by librarians, but how can you replicate their success? We asked Claire Pickering, librarian at Wakefield Libraries in the UK, to share her top 10 tips:
1. Define the audience for your site and play to it
We deliberately themed our social media offering from the beginning, setting up a blog, Facebook, and Twitter. When you have an established audience, however, you may find that the channel has developed an audience different to that you first envisaged, so sometimes you need to alter your focus slightly. We imagined starting off with that our blog would be for readers, our Facebook would be for family events, and our Twitter would be for news, advertising events and online resources, but in fact it’s developed and crossed over in a way we couldn’t have imagined.
2. Don’t overstretch yourself
It’s incredibly tempting to add more channels and not be able to do justice to them. We’ve considered Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, and Instagram, and probably will add these in future, but have not gone for a new channel yet as we’ve got enough going on with the present channels, and our staff have taken longer than expected to get used to them.
3. Keep your web 1.0 offering up-to-date
Using our new channels has magnified just how bad our static website was in many respects. Our ‘What’s On’ feature and website information were not concise or timely enough. We have spent time fixing this, so now feel that we can link back to our web 1.0 offering without being embarrassed by it!
4. Manage your channels using a dashboard
There are many freebie content aggregators out there, like Hootsuite, or TweetDeck, to help you manage your content and see it all in one place. They ensure you are getting timely notifications of messages and other interactions. Social media is another communication channel for customers to contact you as well, so you have to be listening as well.
5. Use the full potential of social media
Social media channels allow us to not only advertise events and raise awareness of the wide range of information and services we offer, but also to share best practice with others and talk to our peers by liking and commenting. They also allow us to encourage other services and local groups, to fulfill our role as a community signpost by re-blogging or re-tweeting content and directing our customers to other sources, and to get feedback from others through comments and questions. All these functions fit in directly with the library information tradition.
6. Schedule content to save time and brain power
Coax newbie colleagues into contributing to social media channels (and beat your Friday pm brain drain) with pre-made content that builds confidence and combats Twitter fatigue. I have used our regular library events timetable of story-times etc. and created a list of pre-prepared tweets for every day of the week. That way, if either a colleague is short of confidence or my brain has given up on me, I have a handy pre-made list of things I can post that will help promote the service. We also make sure we use the pre-made Tweets and Facebook posts sent by suppliers, e.g. Oxford University Press and W.F. Howes, to promote up to the minute content.
7. Increase your followers with retweets and interactions
Bringing peers and suppliers into social media conversations can draw upon their follow count to help increase your own. We’ve done this by making a list of all our suppliers and their twitter handles, especially of all the big brand names on Zinio for Libraries, and we’ve followed them in our feed. That way when Marie Claire tweets their new edition it’s a timely reminder that we can promote new content on our feed and cheekily add their handle. We also take note of big name authors and use their handles when promoting new stock. If you are complimentary you can sometimes get an RT which brings in new followers. We recently got an RT and thanks from Jeffrey Archer for a display one of our libraries had put on, which increased staff morale to no end.
8. Seize the zeitgeist and piggyback big campaigns to get more exposure
Most big events that occur in the library year, including the Summer Reading Challenge and Adult Learners’ Week, and publisher promotions like Roald Dahl 100, Shakespeare 500, and World Book Day, have a social media element. It’s a good way to show your followers that you are on the pulse (and indeed still have one).
9. Allow partners to use your channels
You’d be surprised how much this is valued by them and it costs you nothing. Encourage a local author, poet, or reader group to post a guest blog or review, or let a family history society do a Twitter takeover to answer genealogy questions. It’s great community engagement and means less thinking up tweets for you!
10. Have fun on your social media feed
If you can have fun and be creative, you will help break down the negative perception of public libraries that has built up in the last few years, and also act as a disruptive influence by providing beacons of quality online information in a sea of internet flotsam. Join me in positioning libraries a bit closer to the stream of modern media so that we can benefit from its lush waters, and maybe get some more borrowers to notice we are still here doing our thing…only this time with added memes.
And if you ever doubt that anyone is listening to your social media channels, witness Orkney Library and their award-winning feed.