This is the first in a six-part series on social media best practices for libraries in 2021. I’m researching the most up-to-date tips for posting on the six platforms most often used for promotions by libraries: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.
Facebook for libraries
Facebook is still the most popular social media platform in the world. The platform has more than 2.6 billion monthly active users worldwide and is the third-most visited website, outranked only by Google and YouTube. In the United States, 74 percent of adults who have a Facebook account visit the site at least once a day.
In my experience, of all the social media platforms, libraries are most likely to focus their limited resources on Facebook. They use it to promote their services and collection. And when the pandemic hit, libraries started to use Facebook live to deliver programs to their community.
The Facebook algorithm for 2021
The Facebook algorithm currently ranks the posts each user sees in the order that they’re likely to enjoy them, based on a variety of factors. These factors are called ranking signals.
Ranking signals fall into three major categories: who a user typically interacts with, the type of media in the post (for instance, does the post contain video, a static image, a gif, etc.), and the popularity of the post.
The popularity of this photo posted by the Clifton Park Halfmoon Public Library helped to boost its organic reach beyond the library’s expectations.
Ranking signals have been used by Facebook since mid-2019. But the major change happening for library users this year is that Facebook is giving them more control over their feeds.
That means your followers can make an active decision about the kinds of content they like and dislike on Facebook. Here are three ways to put the algorithm to work for your library.
Get followers to comment on your posts.
Rather than simply asking people to take an action, like putting a book on hold, your library must focus in 2021 on starting conversations with followers.
For instance, post about a new book coming into your collection, include a link to place a hold, then ask people to recommend another book to their fellow readers. Or, once a week, ask a question that does not include any direct promotion of your library resources, as Delaware County District Library did.
Your goal is to get that comment section going. The more your followers interact with your posts, the more popular your entire suite of Facebook content will be.
Post longer videos natively to Facebook.
The great news for libraries now doing virtual programs on Facebook is this: Facebook will reward you with more organic reach if you regularly post videos that are longer than three minutes.
But you won’t get that reward if you post your video to YouTube and then share the YouTube link on Facebook. YouTube and Facebook are competitors. You’ll need to upload your video natively to Facebook in order to get the most reach.
Live video is still preferred by the Facebook algorithm. Facebook live video gets an average of six times more engagement than on-demand video. Go live on Facebook regularly to help boost engagement for your page. If you’ve never gone live on social media, here’s a 15-minute training video I put together on how to do a live social media event.
Here’s the exception to the long video rule: If the video you post is short but incredibly engaging, you’ll still get great organic reach. That’s what happened for the Mansfield Richland County Public Library when they created this two minute video about handling materials in a pandemic.
Ask followers to prioritize your library’s content in their newsfeeds.
You can help make sure your fans see what you post by prompting them to check the “Favorites” preference. This simple step will let the algorithm know that your posts are important to them.
To do that, your followers should click on the three dots in the top bar of your library’s Facebook page. They’ll get a pop-up menu. Then, they’ll click on the top selection in the pop-up menu, “Follow Settings.”
Next, tell your followers to check on the circle by “Favorites”. They might also want to turn on notifications for various types of posts like “Live Video.” Finally, make sure your followers click on the “update” button to make sure their selections stick.
Create a short video to explain how your followers can adjust their settings to see more of your content. Then, put a link to the video in your email newsletters and other marketing pieces as well as on Facebook. Schedule a reminder in your social media calendar to periodically to make sure your audience remembers to rank your content as their first choice.
Hashtags are back.
When Facebook first launched, users posted with hashtags. Then engagement dipped, so their use declined. But now, hashtags are back!
Place your hashtags either at the very beginning of your post or at the very end of your post, like people do on Instagram. Go back into Facebook posts from the past and add hashtags to see if you can re-boost organic reach of posts that contain evergreen content (content that is not tied to a date or a time-specific event).
Connect Facebook stories to Instagram stories.
The stories section on Facebook is gaining in popularity and libraries can use this to boost engagement of their overall Facebook pages.
Normally, I would not recommend posting the same content on two different social media platforms. But Facebook stories is the exception.
I think it makes sense for libraries to connect their Instagram stories with their Facebook stories and post the same content on both for maximum reach. Audiences for stories on these two platforms appear to still be vastly different, so you won’t suffer the repercussions of cross posting that you would in the normal Facebook feed.
You can adjust the setting on your Instagram stories to simultaneously share the same content on Facebook stories automatically. Here are the instructions.
How often and when to post on Facebook
The latest stats show that one post per day on Facebook is best. In fact, studies show that engagement drops by as much has 50 percent for pages that post more than once a day.
Deciding what time of day and day of the week to post is as simple as checking the insights on your library’s Facebook page. Post when you notice your followers are engaging most often with your content. Your community will let you know when they want to see your content!
How much text should be in a Facebook post?
The character limit for posts on Facebooks is a whopping 63,206 characters! But studies show that posts between 40 and 110 characters receive higher engagement. So less is more. Engagement rates go down as more text is added to a post.
Facebook image best practices
At the Library Advocacy and Funding Conference in September, I attended a session led by representatives of Facebook and Instagram. They recommend you mix visuals to increase engagement.
On one post, you should put a nice big square image with your text. On another, add a carousel of several images. On a third, embed a short video. The variety of visuals will keep your audience interested in what you say and improve your reach.
The recommended upload size for a static image on Facebook is 1200 x 630 pixels. If you work in aspect ratios, Facebook recommends your feed images be 1:1.
If you’re doing a carousel of several images, Facebook says you should make sure they are all the same size and aspect ratio.
Measuring success on Facebook
The metrics of your library’s Facebook page can be viewed by anyone who is an admin on the page. If your library uses Business Suite or Creator Studio, you can find your insights there. You can also click the Insights tab in the menu bar across the top of your Facebook Page.
Facebook Insights shows you the full stats behind your posts, your fans, and your reach. You can take a deeper dive into your posts to get a look at the reach and engagement. Keep an eye on what types of posts your followers like and duplicate these types of posts as much as possible.
You can also set up a list of Pages to Watch, which gives you information on the performance of other Facebook pages. I really love this feature! If you notice another page is consistently seeing success, you can look to see what they’re doing… and replicate it.
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