Photo courtesy The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Main library, 1920.

In 2016, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County caught wind of a fantastic promotional opportunity.

I don’t remember the exact quote, but this is a paraphrase of a Tweet our library saw that revealed a local man’s big plan.

“My son and I are planning a big adventure. We’re going to try to visit all 41 Cincinnati library branches in one day.  We’ll take a picture at each branch. Wish us luck!”

The father didn’t tag our library. Still, our social media manager found out about the plan by practicing social listening.

What is social listening?

Your library already tracks mentions, shares, comments, and hashtags related to your library. They record and analyze those engagement metrics to figure out the effectiveness of your library’s promotions on social media.

Social listening is a step beyond that.

Social listening is the purposeful search for conversations about your library on social media platforms, both the ones you are using to promote your library and the ones you are not using.

It’s not looking to see how your library’s marketing is landing. Rather, it’s looking to see the conversations that happen about your library between people who may or may not use your library or who may or may not see any marketing from your library.

Imagine if you could eavesdrop on the conversations people are having about your library when you’re not around. What do you think your community would say?

“That children’s librarian is a hoot. His storytimes are fun, even for the adults.”

“I cannot believe I have to create a separate login and password to use some of the library’s free stuff. It’s so frustrating and time-consuming.”

“Big interview on Monday. I could really use some help figuring out what kinds of questions they’ll ask and practicing my answers. There ought to be a service like that at the library.”

These three made-up examples illustrate the valuable information your library can uncover when it practices social listening.  

Social listening will give you a clearer picture of how people feel about your library. You may be able to spot problems before they happen. And you will certainly spot promotional opportunities which you can amplify to connect to more users.

In the case of the father and son Cincinnati Library branch adventure, our marketing staff reached out to the dad. We told him we loved his plan and wanted to follow along. We ended up turning their marathon day-long quest to visit all our branches into a memorable cover story for our quarterly content marketing magazine, Library Links.

Read the story about the Grand Library Adventure

Free social media listening tools

If your library uses a social media scheduling platform, it will have the ability to integrate social listening into your dashboard in some form. Check the help section of the platform for instructions.

There are also free tools to help you with social listening.

Boardreader: This site searches forums, websites, blogs, and messaging boards. Type the name of your library into the search bar to find all the posts mentioning your library. This tool is run by Twitter and lets you monitor live feeds across the platform.

Also, read this post to see how to use Google alerts for social listening as well as catch media mentions of your library. If your library gets media coverage, you may find conversations about your library in the comment section of the story and on the social media pages of the media outlet.

What to monitor with social listening

You’ll want to set up your social listening tools to monitor:

  • Your library’s name and social media handle
  • Common misspellings of your library’s name and social media handle
  • Names of your services, especially branded names, like the name of your bookmobile, your Library of Things, your summer reading program, your storytimes, etc.
  • Common terms associated with libraries like reading, librarian, book drop, etc.
  • The names of senior leaders like your director and board members
  • The names of your branches and locations

Opportunities to gain from social listening

Social listening means you can interact more with your community. Cardholders (and non-cardholders) may talk about your library but not directly tag you. If you are doing social listening, you will still spot those interactions.

You might consider responding. This can create those surprise and delight moments that show that your library cares about its users.

You can also spot problems and trends. If you notice that a lot of community members are posting negative comments about a service, you can elevate that to senior leadership.

Social listening also means you’ll know more about your competitors. If you are “competing” with other organizations in your community or with for-profit companies that provide services similar to your library, you can use social listening to look for opportunities to position your library as a free and better alternative to those competitors.

Finally, social listening can also help you identify library advocates. They might be vocal about their support of the library. You want to connect with these people who already love your library and ask them to speak out for you.

You May Also Want to Read These Posts

New Research on Social Media Use Plus Updates on YouTube and Facebook for Libraries!

How Far in Advance Can I Schedule My Library’s Social Media Posts??

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on the “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on YouTubeTwitter, InstagramGoodreadsand LinkedIn.