Library employee examining newspapers, circa 1926. Photo courtesy 	
Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library.

I may be addicted to Instagram.

The social media platform is my favorite place to scroll and post.

It’s fun. It’s heartwarming. It’s filled with great content. It’s inspiring and beautiful.

I follow a lot of libraries on Instagram. They are doing a great job, sharing user-generated content, promoting their collection, highlighting their patrons and volunteers, and using humor and cute stuffed puppies to drive engagement.

Instagram is super popular right now, especially with people under the age of 34. That’s a key demographic for library marketers.

According to Web Hosting Rating, 60 percent of users log in daily, and more than half of those people log in more than once a day. Best of all, the average U.S.-based Instagram user spends a whopping 53 minutes a day on the app. (That’s me! 🙋)

If your library posts to Instagram, it’s time to take it up a notch. To drive your engagement stats, there are two things you can do.

Instagram takeovers and Instagram highlights are an easy way to get more reach on your Instagram account.

Instagram takeover

An Instagram takeover is when you arrange for a partner organization, library department, senior leader, or fan to take over your account for a day or during a special event.

A takeover will expose your library to a new audience of potential followers. It will also give your library external credibility.

A takeover can be done without giving your takeover partner the password to your account.

  • Ask your takeover partner to save each individual story slide to their camera roll.
  • Next, they’ll email the slides to your library.
  • Then, you’ll upload them, one by one, to your Instagram story.

Before you agree to a takeover, be sure to establish some guidelines.

  • Be specific about what you want in terms of content and number of slides.
  • Set a deadline.
  • Put all of that in writing. 

Here’s a template you can use to set up the guidelines for your own library’s Instagram takeover.

My former library did an Instagram takeover with a nearby library system, with whom we had a reciprocal lending agreement. It gave each participating library access to a new audience. And people loved it! Each story got an average of 605 views.

Patrick Kinsella, Library Communications Coordinator for the library at the University of Salford in Manchester had even more success with his Instagram takeover success story.

He said, “As our Library is in the final stage of a £6.2 million redevelopment, we decided to run a campaign to promote our study spaces outside our main library. We have five main study spaces outside of Clifford Whitworth, our main library, that could give students a place to study and help make up for the reduction in space in Clifford Whitworth.”

“We also decided to take over our university’s main Instagram account to give their followers a tour of what lies beyond Clifford Whitworth. Followers were also invited to send pictures of themselves studying outside Clifford Whitworth in exchange for £5 worth of printer credits.”

“The Instagram story was viewed over 1,200 times and 14 students sent us pictures of themselves studying outside Clifford Whitworth. The cross-promotion of our Instagram account @salfordunilibrary through the story also gained us more than 20 new followers. The user-generated content that we received also allowed us to build a Twitter campaign displaying their images.”

Instagram highlights

Highlights are custom containers for similarly themed Instagram stories. After you add content to your story, you can choose to highlight that content by saving it to one of these containers.

Unlike regular Instagram stories, which disappear after 24 hours, highlights live on your Instagram profile forever, or until you delete them.

Cherry Hill Public Library uses highlights to save important Instagram stories.

Highlights showcase the best of your previous Instagram content to new followers. And they create an archive of content, especially those stories that contain “evergreen” content that never expires and is always relevant. Instagram highlights are a great place to save library FAQs, book reviews, tutorials, and other wide-ranging topics.

To create a highlight from an active Instagram story:

  • View the story.
  • Click on “Highlight” in the bottom tool bar.
  • Click on the plus icon to create a new highlight container or add to a highlight container you have already created.
  • Click on “Add”. You’re done!

You can add photos or videos to each of your highlight containers any time you want. There is no limit to how many photos and videos each highlight container can hold.

Screen capture showing the Instagram highlights for Springville Library.
Springville Library uses highlights, and they’ve created icon-based covers for each container.

You can change the title of your highlights containers at any time. Just open the highlight, and then tap on the name of the highlight container in the upper left-hand corner. You’ll be given the option to edit.

Share your tips for library Instagram success! Click on the Feedback button to tell me about what you’re doing on Instagram. I’ll share your tips with others on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

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Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain