Every library is fighting a battle for the attention of cardholders on social media. And it feels like we are losing.

Most library marketers see the entire picture of social media and are intimated. There are so many platforms, so many possibilities, and so many obstacles. Social media, frankly, is mind-blowing. And when you feel overwhelmed or unprepared, your first instinct is to do nothing. Or to keep doing what you have been doing, because it feels safe.

In 2020, I want you to get a little uncomfortable with social media. I believe in you! My friends, we can wrangle this thing. We’ll approach it methodically, rationally, and with a spirit of experimentation.

For the next four weeks, we’ll go through the process of preparing your library’s social media for 2020, step by step. This post will go through the major points to get ready for a new year of social media, plus some tips for keeping sane in the process. The next three weeks, I’ll share the latest info and tips on the major social media platforms where most libraries should focus their social strategy: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest. And we’ll touch on those platforms that are “outliers” like Snapchat, Tumblr, and TikTok. Plus I’ll share examples of the libraries and brands that are doing great work on each platform.  If you were at the social media talk at the Library Marketing and Communications Conference, this series of posts is everything you heard in the talk PLUS all the stuff I didn’t have time to say!

First thing’s first: define your strategy.

A strategy is an absolute necessity if you expect to have any social media success. A strategy lets you take your library’s overall strategy and use social media to make those goals a reality.

Step 1: Consider what you already know. Go through each of the social media platforms that your library already uses. Look at the analytics for those platforms. How are people using the platform? Which kinds of posts do they respond to?

I want to stress that it is not your job to change the demographics of the people who are interacting with your library on each platform. That’s the work of the platform creators. Your job is to give the existing audience content that will compel them to engage with you and that will establish or solidify their personal connection to your library.

Step 2: Consider your library’s goals for 2020.  As with everything you do in library marketing, your social media work must be in service of advancing your library’s overall goals.

Step 3: Create a mission statement for each social media platform. With your library’s goals for the year and what you know about each platform in hand, write a one or two sentence mission statement for each of the social media platforms, lining up your library’s goals with the current audience for that platform. This mission statement should be something your staff and your cardholders will understand. Here is an example from my library from 2019.

Once you have created mission statements for the platforms, you can create a persona to represent a typical follower for each platform. The mission statement and persona will help you visualize your audience every time you post. You’ll be able to connect with them because you’ll know who they are, and what they expect from you. It will also help you be more focused with your posts, especially if you are a one-person social media shop.

Stop worrying about your follower count.

Please stop focusing on follower counts. All the major social media platforms run on an algorithm. That means that they decide which posts get shown to what people. You can have tens of thousands of followers and very low engagement, or a few followers and very high engagement. Follower count means nothing. The most important thing is that you are posting stuff that is compelling and getting people to interact with you. That’s the only thing you have control over, and that’s where you should focus your energy.

Social media is an experiment. Nothing lasts forever and no one dies.

I considered putting that headline in red because it’s so important to remember. We take ourselves pretty seriously in the library world. We have to… our work helps the community in profound ways. But this is one area where I want you to be a little less serious and remember the half-life of a social media post is your friend.

The half-life of a social media post is the point at which your post has received 50 percent of all the attention it’s going to get – likes, comments, shares, etc. – a figure that varies depending on which medium you’re using to post it and the size of the audience it’s being shared with. Here are the half-life figures for posts on the major platforms.

Everything changes fast on social, which is a blessing and a curse. Lean into the blessing part. It’s true that companies do make serious mistakes on social but my guess is that most of my readers are cautious enough and smart enough to stay out of trouble.

Post on the platforms that work for your audience and forget the rest.

Consider how much time your library is willing to invest on social media. My library posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest because each of those platforms aligns with some portion of our library’s overall strategy. But I am not going to lie to you: that’s a lot of work. I’m lucky to have several staffers who work together to post. And it’s still really hard for us to keep up.

Smaller libraries will want to concentrate on the platform or platforms that will give their library the most benefit. Quality is better than quantity. It’s okay to post on just one platform!

There is no right or wrong time to post on social media.

It used to be that there were guidelines about what times of day to post to get the most engagement. But that was back when posts were served to followers chronologically. With the algorithm model, that’s no longer the case. There are certain times of the day when social media engagement is highest, but there is no way to make sure your library’s content is getting in front of eyeballs during those high traffic times.

What you can and should do is set a consistent and reliable cadence for your posts. Based on our experience at my library, here’s what I recommend as a starting point:
Facebook: No more than twice a day
LinkedIn: Once or twice a day
Instagram stories: At least once a day
Instagram feed: Two to three times a week
Twitter: As much as you want, plus retweets and responses. On Twitter, you should repeat tweets at intervals. The feed is a moving target and unless someone is scrolling through at the exact moment your tweet goes out, they’ll miss it. Users rarely go to a page to see a library’s full schedule of Tweets!
Pinterest: Several organic Pins each day (something created by you and leading to your library’s website) plus as many curated Pins as you need to stay aligned with your strategy.

Keep a cool head. But not too cool.

It takes time to achieve your library goals using any kind of marketing. The exception is social media. That’s because the platforms themselves are transforming and changing at a rapid and unpredictable rate. Algorithm adjustments and new features can throw off your strategy.

Here’s my general rule: keep an eye on changes in the social media landscape. When a big change occurs, like when Facebook changes its algorithm, sit tight for a while. Give it a month at least and see how the platform’s change affects your reach. Watch to see how your audience reacts. Watch to see how other brands adjust based on the change. Then, if you see your reach is changing negatively or positively, make the adjustment. Don’t wait until your strategy cycle (six-12 months maximum) is over to make your change. You’ll lose months of audience reach if you wait.

You must be open to constant learning

Because it’s a moving target, marketers have to make a solid commitment to keeping up on the trends. If you have to physically block out time in your schedule to read the latest social media news each week, do it.

I follow a couple of websites and podcasts religiously to keep up on social media trends. Of all the marketing tactics, that’s the one that takes the most personal learning upkeep! I rely on:

Buffer Blog

Social Media Examiner

Social Media Today

Social Media Explorer

Rebekah Radice

Check the Upcoming Events page for a list of webinars and conferences where I’ll be next. Let’s connect! Plus, subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.