This post is in response to a specific topic request made by Jane Cowell, who is the Executive Director of Information and Engagement at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Though I have never met her in person, Jane and I “talk” often on Twitter, where she shares my passion for promoting the good work of libraries around the world. Actually, Jane is way more tireless than I am. Also, isn’t she freaking gorgeous?
Recently Jane asked me to talk about social media and libraries; in particular, she wanted to know whether I thought libraries should do social media by committee or take a centralized approach.
My answer: Both. Kind of.
The committee approach to social media is a favorite in the non-profit world. There are countless articles online about forming and maintaining a social media committee on nonprofit websites. Reading those articles, and talking to people who work in my library, I realize that this committee-based mentality has two origins. One is workload. The social media landscape is crowded and the work to keep content flowing in all channels is an all-consuming business. There’s just too much work for most libraries to get it all done, and done well, with one person. But the committee approach is also an effort to ensure fairness and equality… to give all the stakeholders a voice. That’s a valid reason to do social media by committee.
But there are some clear disadvantages to this approach. And if you’re already shaking your head in disagreement, and feel tempted to click away, please read to the end because, at my library, we have managed to find a good way to make a centralized approach work while building team buy-in and I’ll share it with you!
First, let me lay out the problems with the committee approach. My three concerns are:
Your brand voice gets lost. When multiple people are posting on social media for the same library, each post will be infused with a different vocabulary, tone, and feel. Your library needs a standard focus on strategy and vocabulary. When the social media accounts are handled by a centralized person or department, particularly if that department is marketing, the library’s voice is consistent. You use the same words, you have the same conversational tone with your readers, and each post is connected to the library’s mission, vision, and values. The centralized department can make sure each post supports the overall strategy of the library.
The security of your accounts is at risk. The more people who have access to your social media accounts, the more you risk that one of those accounts will be compromised. I know we all trust our coworkers (or at least I hope you do!). But when multiple people are accessing multiple accounts (and saving multiple passwords on multiple computers), the chances that a compromise will happen increases. Keeping your social media centralized reduces this risk.
You risk more mistakes. The more people who post, the more chances that a word will be misspelled, that a date will be wrong, that the information in the post will be incorrect, or that redundant posts will happen. Assigning one central person to handle all social media accounts means that person can act as an editor, reading each post in the scheduler before it goes out, checking to make sure links work and images aren’t broken, and keeping track of promotions so the same event or service isn’t mentioned three times in one day.
There is a way to mix a centralized and committee approach to social media and this is how we handle social media at my library. Create a social media team of contributors who submit post ideas to a centralized social media coordinator. The coordinator is empowered to change or reject the posts submitted by the contributor team and is responsible for taking the contributions and putting them into the scheduler. The coordinator should also be in constant communications with the contributors to foster an open working relationship with them and to share everything he or she knows about the current social media landscape.
My library recruits staff member at each of our 40 branch locations to contribute ideas to us. These contributors are not social media specialists–most are trained librarians who have only ever used social media for personal reasons. My social media specialist visits one branch every week. She goes there to recruit new contributors and talk to the current members about trends in social media. She helps them craft better posts and gives them tips on taking photos of branch displays, events, and more. And she shares the marketing department’s social media strategy with the contributors so they can create posts that support our mission. The contributors know we might not use every post they suggest but the more we work with them to share best practices and improve their social media savvy, the better the posts have become.
I feel strongly that this hybrid approach is the best way to meld both mindsets, safeguard the security of your accounts, get varied and interesting content to post to your social media accounts, and stay connected with your staff and readers.
More help with library social media
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