Why Connecting on a Digital Scale is Essential for Community Engagement
Social media brings connectivity to an entirely new level: businesses, organizations, and people can engage globally through posts, discussion threads, comments, polls, and more. As digital media expands, so does the opportunity to grow audiences through social media platforms, which has become an essential part of generating engagement for organizations and the communities they serve. The idea of community is no longer limited to physical spaces, and with the growing accessibility and gratification of connecting on a variety of digital platforms, libraries need to be proactive. So, why should libraries take advantage of active social media platforms? Setting connectivity and engagement aside, libraries can learn a lot from tracking social metrics. A prime example being gaining insight into your audiences, your socials can answer questions like: Who are they? What do they like? What content do they interact with the most? What questions do they have for us? When are they online?
Understanding your audience directly helps shape the content you create and share with your community, and working towards catering to those interests will benefit your engagement levels in the long run! Getting a lot of “likes” can be great, but it’s important to keep in mind that that shouldn’t be your primary goal for operating social media channels. Social media is one of the most direct and efficient ways to communicate with your patrons online, so informing them about your library services,events, and opportunities should be the main focus.
Each Platform Tells a Different Story
While a plethora of new media outlets exist, it’s important to start with the basics. Understanding what each primary social media platform is for will help your organization with connectivity and boost your organic engagement tremendously.
Facebook is for storytelling and taking headcounts. Your library can focus on posting about community news, updates for upcoming events, and getting ideas for books that your patrons want to see on your shelves!
Twitter is a great platform for world news and sparking conversations. It is here that brief announcements can be made and questions can be asked. Retweets, tags, and supporting other accounts on Twitter are effective for patrons and other media users looking for immediate information and quick responses.
Visual aesthetics are everything nowadays, and with the creation of “Bookstagram,” Instagram is an essential platform for libraries. People who are scrolling through their newsfeeds are immediately attracted to intriguing imagery, which is why posting photos of your library, staff, books, and events are strong concepts to keep in mind.
Feeling adventurous, or want to appeal to your younger audiences? Libraries have been carving their own corner into the TikTok market with items such as live streams and fun videos to keep their followers engaged.
When you combine effective social media networking with consistent metric tracking, these digital platforms provide important feedback about the relationship patrons have with their libraries as well as the library itself. Libraries can understand what their audiences need, what they like about the work they do, and what they want to see more of. The next step? Determining how your library will excel on these platforms.
The Five W's: Who, What, Where, When, and Why
Nationwide, libraries take a wide range of approaches when it comes to social media accounts and their maintenance. Despite the differences and needs of each organization, there are five thoughts that all libraries should be implementing into their social media management: who, what, where, when, and why. Creating a coherent path for any and all social media efforts will not only make management easier, but it will also be less stressful.
WHO is managing your accounts?
Defining guidelines for public social media accounts is important, particularly because libraries are public entities. The American Library Association provides insight on digital media policy considerations: Who will monitor the accounts? How often will posts be scheduled? What are the parameters? Being as clear as possible with your library staff (via handbook, reference guide, etc.) on who can generate content or manage a digital platform will be effective. Based on your library’s initiatives and needs, best practices can differ. However, a standard example for successful social media accounts is to have a library administration email. Having a designated email account associated with each platform will maintain the professional boundary between work and personal use.
WHAT is your library promoting?
Again, the actions you will take in regard to social media will vary depending on your library and its specific needs, but asking yourself “what” your socials will be promoting is important. Questions can range from the following: Do you want to increase program attendance? Bring more community members to the library? Be a platform for advocacy issues? Regardless of the focus, having a cohesive theme and voice for your platforms will boost credibility and patron retention.
WHERE is your library promoting?
Techsoup reported that the platform of choice for many libraries is Facebook, and is closely followed behind by Twitter and Instagram. However, it’s still critical to consider what audiences your social channels are aiming to reach. As previously mentioned, each digital platform has a different use, which is why it’s necessary to understand where your potential demographic is looking to access certain information. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that 68% of adults were active on Facebook, while 72% were on Youtube. Additionally, they reported a 90% crossover rate that Facebook users were also present on Twitter. For teens and young adults, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok are considered to be more effective.
WHEN will your be posting to your library’s social media accounts?
Recognize the amount of time you will need to dedicate to your library’s social media accounts. While social media maintenance and engagement can consume a lot of time, it’s important to have realistic hours to prevent the library social channels from getting stretched too thin. Additionally, the time of day in which you or your staff are posting content is imperative based on each platform. Social Media Data put together a compilation of statistics that showcases the best times to post to social channels as of 2021. Based on their findings, here is a refined list of high traffic/engagement times on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok:
WHY are you posting on social media?
Every library is uniquely their own and is a direct reflection of the community which it serves. Social media platforms are simply another facet of your library: the tone, voice, content, and aesthetic are all equally as important. Determining the “why” of your social media platforms will assist your library’s marketing tactics to effectively engage with the community you’re aiming to reach.
Ten Tips to Keep Your Library Relevant on Social Media
Taking the previous points into consideration, we have listed OEDb’s (Online Education Database) top ten tips for libraries to keep in mind when thinking about social media marketing strategies below. These tips—combined with the five w’s— will get your library on track towards successful and highly engaged digital media accounts.
- Start small with big goals
While most social media platforms are easily accessible and ready to use, that doesn’t mean you should sign up for every single outlet. Our advice? Choose one major platform such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and build a strong following before continuing to grow your digital presence. It’s much more effective to focus on one (or even a couple) of platforms and be successful in your efforts than to be undistinguished on many.
2. Don’t be afraid to combine content creation with content curation
Original content for blogs, tweets, Facebook statuses, or even #doingit for the ‘gram is great, but it’s only beneficial once your platforms have some credibility. By curating and linking your posts to other individuals or organizations’ content, your library will do a couple of things: It will offer readers a chance to access recommended sources as well as give your accounts the chance to network with the original content creator from which you are pulling from. Not only will this give your social channels a beneficial edge that builds reliability, but it will also allow other professional accounts the chance to link information from your original posts in the future. Forbes also lists Four Reasons Why Content Curation Has Gone Mainstream and is a great read for those interested in using this tactic with their social media platforms.
3. Create consistent and connected social media channels that showcase your library’s brand
Avid social media users are heavily dependent on the consistency and reliability of the channels they follow, which is why your library will want to focus on creating a consistent presence. What does this mean? Visuals are everything. Your library’s logo, color scheme, and overall tone should be universally cohesive across all of your digital platforms. This way, prospective visitors and patrons won’t have to second guess if your profile or account is real. Another tip— be sure to connect your library’s website and/or blog to all of your social media channels. Cross connectivity is essential for successful media outlets and increases your digital exposure to users all across the interweb.
4. Be a part of the conversation
Generating discussion builds community. By being diligent and effectively communicating with your patrons online, your library can further its community engagement on a digital scale. For example, if someone leaves a comment or asks a question on your Facebook post, interact! If another Twitter account retweets your post, tag them to say thanks! If you’re aware of your library’s online community, more prospective audiences will want to check out your platforms.
5. Promote your community events
An easy and effective way to market your library from a digital perspective is to let your community know about all of your upcoming events. Use descriptive hashtags that are specific to your library and the events you’re hosting (#checkusout #thislibrarylikestoparty #libraryevents #communityevents). Encourage your followers to attend your events through engaging posts and livestreams. If your patrons are at an event, give them a hashtag to use if they post to their personal social media!
6. Visuals are everything
Taking advantage of newer, visually-conceptive apps such as Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok are becoming increasingly popular for younger audiences. Once your library has established itself on one of the more predominant platforms, these visual media outlets are definitely worth the time. Visual aesthetics can offer libraries unique opportunities to showcase their resources, events, staff, and guest speakers. Applications such as Pinterest are great for creating books boards, showcasing educational videos, and highlighting special collections.
7. Featuring patrons builds community and customer retention
Spotlighting patrons enjoying events and services provided by their local library shows support and appreciation. Whether it’s on a Facebook feed, Instagram story, or LinkedIn post, showing patrons that they are valued only increases customer retention and engagement.
8. Make sure these media outlets are offering value to your library
Giving patrons a reason to subscribe, follow, or tune-in to a live stream is half of the battle when it comes to effective social media and digital marketing strategy. By establishing a channel that offers relevant information and content curation, library’s are providing something useful to their audience demographic, which is the key to generating followers and building online engagement.
9. Make your location known
Despite social media being entirely online, patrons and active users are still needing to know where their community spots are located! Take advantage of location by providing an address or Google Maps link in any social media account bio.
10. Keep patrons engaged with contests and challenges
Everyone loves a good contest, especially when it comes to loyal library patrons! Many social media platforms have opportunities for organizations such as libraries to offer incentives to their followers. For example, if a library has a book of the month (or book of the week for avid readers), challenging patrons to capture a selfie with that title in hand, library accounts can generate discussion and engagement by asking patrons to post those selfies to their personal accounts and tag their username with a hashtag relevant to the book. If a library is hosting a community event and offers registration on their Facebook page, patrons who sign up through the Facebook link will get a free swag bag upon arrival to that particular event.
Looking for more ways to boost your library’s social media presence? Check out these additional resources for further tips and guidelines on building engagement:
- American Library Association’s Social Media Guidelines for Public and Academic Libraries
- Social Media Data’s Best Times to Post on Social Media in 2021
- OEDb’s Top Ten Social Media Marketing Tips for Libraries
- Forbes Top Four Reasons Why Content Curation Has Gone Mainstream
- American Libraries: How Libraries Are Using Social Media
- Public Libraries News: Public Libraries and Social Media
- GWI’s Social Media Trends 2021 Report