Three men working to sort books brought via conveyor belt in the 1960s.
Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

This is the third installment in my series on social media best practices for libraries in 2023.

These posts include best practices for the following platforms:

TikTok for libraries

I wrote my first post about TikTok in April 2021. At that time, I was honestly on the fence about whether it made sense for libraries to try to maintain an active presence on the platform. Many libraries just didn’t have the staff time to commit to creating engaging, short-form video content.

But times have changed. Here are the stats to consider from

  • TikTok use has grown 45 percent, with more than a billion people around the world now counting as monthly active users. That’s nearly as many users as Instagram and more users than Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter.
  • In the United States, there are more than 138 million active users.
  • 62 percent of TikTok users are aged 10-29 years old.
  • The average TikTok user spends 95 minutes a day (!) on the platform. In the U.S., users spend about 46 minutes a day on the app. It is the social media network that users in the U.S. are most active on.
  • The average TikTok user opens the app 8 times a day.

Here is the most important stat. I’m highlighting it because it’s so astonishing.

Google’s own internal data shows that nearly half of all audience members ages 10 to 25 years old use TikTok for search, instead of Google!

So my opinion has changed. If your library has the time, energy, and creativity, now may be the moment to head to TikTok, especially given what’s going on with Twitter.

The TikTok algorithm for 2023

TikTok users have two ways to view their feeds. They can toggle between Following, which shows them content from the accounts they follow, and For You, which shows content based on an algorithm.

Here are the ranking signals TikTok uses to decide who sees your videos on the For You page.

  • Previous user activity: Users will see videos based on what they have liked and shared previously. The algorithm also the accounts they follow and the videos they themselves have created into consideration. That means if a user has shown interest in the content you are posting on TikTok, they are more likely to see your videos.
  • Video content: TikTok takes a number of components into account when deciding who to share your videos with, including how long the video is, the hashtags you use and whether you use captions, sounds, and creative elements like stickers.
  • Device settings: To optimize performance, TikTok will look to see what kind of device is being used to view the app, as well as the language preference and the country in which the user currently resides.

Here are four ways to get the best organic reach for your library’s TikTok videos in 2023.

Use a TikTok Pro Account.

A Pro account will signal to TikTok that you are serious about creating engaging content on their app. And it gives your library access to Analytics, which are essential for success on the app. Plus, it’s free!

To set up a Pro account:

  • Open the Privacy and Settings tab on your profile page.
  • Select Manage My Account.
  • Select Switch to Pro Account and follow the steps.

Strategically choose your hashtags.

Hashtags play a significant role in your library’s engagement success on TikTok. Users who watch or create a video with a specific hashtag will be more likely to see videos that use that hashtag in the future.

If you have a Pro account, you can use the Creative Hub to find popular hashtags that relate to your content. To do that:

  • Click on your Profile.
  • Select the three-line menu in the upper-right-hand corner.
  • Select Business Suite.
  • Select Creative Hub.
  • Select Hashtag.

My 1st Escape Room: Disney! Aimed for ages 5-9. While it’s a fun game, it’s a great opportunity to practice critical thinking skills, teamwork, communication, and problem solving! #library #librarytiktok #librariesoftiktok #escaperoom

♬ Disney-style fanfare-style BGM – harryfaoki
Check out the hashtags used in this incredibly engaging TikTok from Fowlerville District Library.

Keep your videos on the shorter side.

TikTok increased the maximum video length this year from 3 minutes to ten minutes. But that does not mean you need to post videos that long.

At the moment, data suggest that shorter videos, typically less than 60 seconds long, lead to maximum engagement. The For You algorithm rewards videos watched from start to finish. That’s a lot easier to accomplish when your library videos are short!

Short videos will also help your library staff to focus more on creativity. And it will make it easy to create TikTok content at the rate that the platform requires.

An 8-second video from Sierra Madre Public Library that got high engagement numbers.

However, this is not a hard and fast rule. Case in point: the Greenwich Library posted a three-minute video that got more than 12,000 views. If you have the time and energy, experiment!

The Greenwich Library got more than 12,000 videos for this 3-minute video.

Focus on TikTok as a brand awareness tool

A few months ago, I shared news of a Nearby feed feature that was in testing by TikTok. This feed was supposed to show you content from creators in your area. When I checked recently, I discovered the TikTok help page explaining the Nearby feed was been taken down.

So, the TikTok algorithm does not take the location of your library into account when it shows your content to followers. That means many of your most engaged followers may live outside your service area. Your library may have a huge, highly engaged TikTok following without any measurable marketing results.

Don’t try promoting programs, services, or specific collection items on your TikTok. Instead, consider your library’s TikTok content as part of your overall brand awareness strategy. Be fun, smart, and engaging. Use your videos to educate the public about what a modern library looks like.

Direct promotional TikToks will not be an effective use of your time. And they could be suppressed by the algorithm because TikTok would want you to buy an ad or boosted post to do that.

Comsewogue Public Library created a TikTok to address this popular library stereotype.

How often and when to post on TikTok

TikTok recommends you post at least once a day, including weekends, for optimum performance. They will give your library more reach if you are supplying the platform with fresh, daily content. That’s something you’ll need to seriously consider as you are deciding whether TikTok works best for your library.

How much text should be in a TikTok caption?

TikTok recently increased its caption length to 2,200 characters, the same as Instagram. However, you don’t have to use all those characters. And since this change is so new, there is no data yet to determine if the increased characters have had an effect, either negatively or positively, on engagement.

Most TikTok users are accustomed to glancing at the video’s title and the text captions already within the video. For most library TikTok videos, the best use of time will be spent on creating the video, not on writing the caption.

TikTok video best practices

TikTok videos must always be sized 1,080 x 1,920 pixels which is a 9:16 aspect ratio.

Videos should be uploaded natively to TikTok. Don’t download your library’s previously created videos on Reels or YouTube Shorts and try to upload them to TikTok. TikTok will notice the coding from those videos and will suppress your reach.

If your video has a watermark, including a TikTok watermark, it will not be allowed to be shown. That means you cannot repost past TikTok videos.

If you want to save time by cross-posting, edit those videos in an app like ClipsInShot, or iMovie. Then upload the video to TikTok.

Make certain you add sound to your TikTok videos. TikTok specifically says it will suppress videos that do not contain any audio.

Videos need to be high resolution.

Measuring success on TikTok

If you have a Pro account, you’ll find analytics for your library’s TikTok account under the Analytics area of your account options.

There you can see weekly and monthly video views, profile views, likes, comments, and shares, average play time, and whether your videos were seen in the Follow or For You feeds.

Bonus tip: Don’t worry about your follower count. Seriously.

At this time, TikTok does not put any algorithm weight into the number of followers your library account has. If your library is posting on TikTok, focus your energy solely on creating shorter, engaging content that will appeal to the For You page algorithm.

More Advice

Instagram Adds Automated Captions, Facebook Expands Reels, and TikTok Goes Long: The Top Social Media Headlines for Libraries

I Spent 3 Hours in a Room Full of Curious and Committed Library Staff: Here Are the 4 Things I Learned From Them!

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