A practical guide to using social media in the library

Over 70% of librarians feel social media is important, and 30% post to social media at least once a day.

As a part of our research for Taylor & Francis’ Social Media in the Library White Paper, we held a Twitter party inviting librarians to tell us the one piece of advice they would offer a fellow librarian setting up a new social media account from scratch. We were overwhelmed with the response from over 70 librarians and 260 mentions! We received a whole range of advice, from strategy and planning to tips and tricks.

All the advice listed below is well summarized by the acrostic by Virginia Power, Graduate Tutor in Information Management, University of the West of England, to sum up exactly why social media is so important:

Sharing Views

Optimizing knowledge

Collaborating on projects

Investigating new ideas

Advocacy for your service provision

Learning from others

Making new connections

Enhancing your practice

Debating the future

Inspirational support

An essential tool for your information toolbox

Her one piece of advice: use it.

Things to think about before you post

Social media is incredibly powerful way of building Personal / professional learning networks – so allow time to find people who would be a useful part of that network, who are interested in similar areas to you, or regularly send updates that you find interesting. Then let this network grow over a period of time before you decide if it really is useful to you – you need time to build it before you’ll really see the point in it.”

“My tip for library SM accounts: Spend time thinking about what you’re doing, why and how it will benefit you + your users”

“Take time to plan before you start. Do you want to use social media to connect with users? To announce programs? To share information? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you formulate what, when, and how you venture into social media. And how will you measure your success? Deciding on assessment before you start will make evaluation easier down the road. Will you create benchmarks such as how many followers? How many Likes? How many retweets? Taking some time to think about what you want to do and how you will know if you’re successful will be very beneficial down the road.”

“It is easy to get carried away with various social media outlets and broadcast exciting happenings and news. However, if the needs of your audience is not met, it does more noise than a powerful tool for communication and engagement. This is where having a social media plan that reflects your library’s mission and strategic plan can help.”

What to post and when to do it

“Make a schedule/calendar of things to tweet about”

“Moderation. Make your tweets, posts, and blog entries unique and don’t overwhelm people by doing it too often. I have even unfriended close friends because there was just TMI and it was not that interesting.”

“I think the best advice we have to offer is to have a consistent voice if several people are part of the social media team. Libraries also have to strike a happy balance between posts – users don’t just want to hear the negative messages such as which resources aren’t working, though it is important to report. Promote what’s great about your library – advertise your new resources or help guides. It’s a fantastic opportunity to sell your service. And don’t be afraid to be silly sometimes! Some of the greatest reactions we’ve had to a post was when a member of staff found some old sweets in a drawer and asked people to guess the flavours!”

“I would suggest keeping a Twitter feed updated regularly.”

“The library team can all contribute and a small repository of tweets, blog posts etc, can be kept for posting during those busy times or when someone is on leave, etc. Use Hootsuite or similar software to enable you to write several tweets at once but schedule them to appear separately whenever you wish. See http://blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-schedule-tweets/ for details. For Blog posts with WordPress, try this https://blog.scottsmarketplace.com/scheduling-tweets/ and for Blogger, look at this https://support.google.com/blogger/answer/41456?hl=en

“My advice: post good content to social media often to build a following”

“Tip for libs using SM: have fun! You’re promoting your services & your people so surely this should be enjoyable. Right?”

“Be pertinent, relevant, interesting, thank people for following you”

“The best piece of advice I can give is ‘Think before you post’. We have a tendency to think that tweets et al are more ephemeral than e-mails and that our words will be lost in the clamour of all the posts in tweets / blogs / VLOGs etc in the world and never picked up on, but this is frequently not the case. Words matter – so think first before posting. “

“Our #librarian #socialmedia advice – be active & interactive with users, use >1 platform with pics/vids,be fun & informative”

“My advice = Don’t tweet to a timetable – only tweet when you have something to say.”

“Tweets should entice about services on offer, reflect a sense of calm professionalism & occasional humour.”

“My advice would be that if you are setting up a new social media account for a library service, to always remember that you are posting as that service and not as yourself.”

How to get your posts discovered

“My one piece of advice to librarians using social media is to target one or at the most two different platforms first. It’s important to build an online presence and to develop an audience before expanding to other social media platforms. For example, start by using Twitter and Pinterest to promote your service and the resources/support that you can provide. Interact with your readers, particularly on Twitter and develop connections with other users. When you have a solid readership, then consider moving beyond this but don’t overstretch yourself in the beginning as it will dilute what you are trying to offer and you will find it hard to maintain.”

“Discover other dept Twitter accounts, add them to relevant posts – great for building relationships and spreading your info”

“Use it every day to promote your service and you will soon have followers and regular library visitors”

“#tfsocialmedia tip for new library soc med account: involve & work with yr institution, find the active Tweeters and #share (hashtags good!)”

“Integrate your social media-make sure your blog/FB/Twitter account speak to each other and check, check, check!!”

“Engage with fans and followers is my top tip”

“Do not use it in isolation. Think of it as part of a suite of communication tools at the disposal of the library. Analyse which tool is most appropriate for a given situation and if it is best use in conjunction with another tool.”

Want to know more? Read the Social Media in Library White Paper