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How to Create a Social Media Strategy That Actually Works

The most effective, free marketing tactic in the library marketing professional’s toolbox is social media. Personally, I love it. I think it’s fun. And interesting. And despite the trolls, I’ve made some actual friends and professional connections in the social space.

For my library, it’s the easiest way to get our message to the masses. But with so many platforms intended for different audiences, it’s also overwhelming. Should you post on every channel?  What should you post? How often do you have to post? If you work alone, you need to be efficient. You don’t want to spend a lot of time experimenting with social media. You want to know what works, and how to be successful. You need goals.

A few months ago, Marcy Timblin, Public Relations Specialist at East Bonner County Library, sent me this email: You always have such timely, comprehensive advice for getting the most out of social media marketing for libraries. I dream of putting it all together to formulate an amazing social media plan that I can implement – even though I am the “numero uno” social media marketer at my library district.”

I appreciate the vote of confidence. Really, any success in the social media space centers on strategy. A strategy lets you take your library’s overall strategy and use social media to make those goals a reality. But telling you to have a strategy and putting one together are two totally different things.

I am blessed with a social media specialist on my staff. Part of her job is to create and maintain our specific social media strategy. And it’s a big job. We’re a large library system (41 locations, 600,000 cardholders) and we post on multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Tumblr). It takes time to sort out how to make each channel work for us. But we do have a process for creating a strategy. Here is how we do it.

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?

Most platforms now offer analytics (Facebook is best by far) so you can evaluate success. And if your library is using a scheduling platform to manage your social media posts, you can use those analytics. For those libraries posting organically on platforms without the use of scheduling software, there are options for free analytics. Read this blog article to find one that works for you.

In this step, you are looking to replicate past success and trim past failures. You may find a platform you are using that is not working for you. Drop it. You may also discover a platform that is working really well for you. Concentrate your efforts there.

What are your library’s goals for the year? As with everything you do in library marketing, your social media work must be in service of advancing your library’s overall goals. So, get that list in front of you for the next two steps.

Create a mission statement for each social media platform. Look at your library’s goals for the year and what you know about each platform. Then write a one to 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’s an example:

LinkedIn: Discover career advice, business tips, and free resources that will help you succeed at work.

Twitter: Get regular updates on our collection, library events, and the literary and entertainment world.

Instagram: Photos tell the library’s story, one snapshot at a time.

And so on. Once you have created the mission statement for the platforms, you can create a persona for the people who will follow you on that 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.

Experiment with scheduling. Look at your current analytics to see which time of day and day of the week work best for social media posts. Use that as a starting point for deciding when and how often you’ll post. Be consistent with your posts. And set a cadence that you know you can keep up with.

Track metrics and be flexible but not overly reactive. 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.

Never stop researching. 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 the Social Media Examiner Podcast, Social Media Today, Social Media Explorer, and Rebekah Radice.

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 Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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Get Your Twitter in Shape for the New Year!

This post is part of a series on revamping and re-evaluating your library’s social media platforms. At least once a year, you should:

Clarify your library’s social media goals.

Audit the current status of your library’s social media accounts.

Set new social media goals to move your library’s overall strategy forward.

Improve your library’s social media profiles.

Let’s focus on Twitter. The social media platform has made some major changes over the course of the last year and recently increased its character limit from 140 to 280. No matter what you think about that controversial change, it serves as a jumping off point for improving the work you do on Twitter. When a big change like that happens, it’s a good time to re-evaluate how effective a social media platform is in helping you to communicate with your audience. Take a long, hard look at what you’re posting on the platform and consider these points.

280 characters is an opportunity to tell more of your story, incorporate more links, tag followers, and use more hashtags. Twitter feels very impersonal unless you make the effort to reach out to your followers. The longer character count can help you do that. Telling more of your story in a creative way makes your library more interesting to your followers. Adding links can give your followers options about which information they want to pursue–and in turn, gives you more insight into what your followers are really looking for when they read a Tweet. Tag specific followers in Tweets as a way to personally interact and start conversations with your followers. Add hashtags to make sure your Tweets are seen by more people.

Figure out what kind of Tweets get the most interaction and set a goal to create similar Tweets more often. If your followers are keen on curated content like booklists, author interviews, or memes, give them more of that kind of content. Many libraries feel their Twitter feeds are exclusively a way to promote their own library and its services but you risk losing the trust of your followers if you self-promote too much. Remember the rule of thumb for posts is three pieces of curated, valuable content which are not necessarily generated by your library for every one Tweet directly promoting a library service or event. We want to drive home the point that your library is an information hub, not just a place to find books.

Vary your visuals. If you have used photos or graphics in your Tweets (and you should, as they are proven to improve Tweet performance), try adding in GIFs and videos for increased variety. Your followers will take notice and interact!

Take advantage of trending hashtags. Make it part of your library’s Twitter social media strategy to regularly check for trending hashtags and to find a literary way to use them. For instance, you can start easy with #WednesdayWisdom, #TBT (Throwback Thursday), and #FridayFeeling. Of course, I hardly think I need to warn you to stay away from political or potentially controversial trending hashtags. Use the fun or informative trending Tweets and leave the heated hashtags for the rest of Twitter to fight over.

Tweet important stuff more than once. I’ve found this point is the most difficult to convey to people who don’t spend a lot of time on Twitter but here’s why repeat Tweets should be part of your strategy. When you tweet about an event or service just once, it’s like writing your promotion on a balloon and releasing it into the air. You hope someone sees it, but most people aren’t constantly scanning the sky for floating objects. But if you released a bunch of balloons with your promotion written on them, the chances your audience would see it would increase. If you’re promoting something really important, you should Tweet it multiple times at varying times of day and on varying days of the week to make sure the message is seen.

Here are some more resources to increase the effectiveness of your library’s Twitter account.

Simple guide to using Twitter analytics.

More ideas for the 280-character Tweet format.

A free template for creating a social media strategy.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Three Secrets to Delight People with Your Library’s Instagram

So, Instagram is a thing. A REALLY BIG THING.

700 million active users each month.

400 million active users each day.

250 million active users of Instagram stories each day.

4.5 billion photo likes each day.

59% of internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 and 33% of internet users between the ages of 30 and 49 use Instagram.*

In the crowd of millions who use and love Instagram, there are tons of library lovers, particularly in the younger demographic. There is huge potential for libraries on this platform. I’m not saying you should ignore other social media platforms and switch all your focus to Instagram. But libraries aren’t using it enough, and that’s a missed opportunity. We should focus more on Instagram!

I really love the Cincinnati library account but I cannot take any credit for it. It’s managed by two people in our marketing department–our social media specialist and our assistant, who happens to have a great eye for art and photography. Our staff talks about our social media platforms, our strategy, and goals once a month and we are always looking for ways to improve. We’ve used these three easy tips on our Instagram to improve our posts and get more engagement and they work. Now I’m sharing them with you so you can have success too.

Start using Instagram stories. At our library, we noticed that organic engagement of our regular Instagram posts is tied to our use of Instagram stories. The more we use Stories, the more people see our regular Instagram posts. We have noticed that you don’t have to use Stories every day, but you do have to use it a few times a week to see better results in your organic posts. And it is a chance for you to exercise your creativity!

If you use Snapchat, you’ll be able to jump in and create Instagram stories right away–it works nearly the same way. If you’re new to stories, start small and be positive. Stories are a chance for you to be creative. Think of something you’d like to tell your customers and break it down into three or four sections. You can even plot out your idea using a storyboard or an outline to help you save time when you start shooting. An easy story idea is the journey of a book from the stacks into the hands of a cardholder.  Shoot the book being taken off the shelf, rolling on a cart, going through the processing line, and then popping up on the holds shelf. How about a behind-the-scenes look at your drive-thru window? Or a peek at how your materials and selections department buys a book? There are so many interesting stories at your library and most of them can be broken down into three or four pieces of interesting video.

Don’t use your stories feed to talk directly to your audience… in other words, don’t post headshot after headshot of someone talking into the camera about something library related. Instagram is not the place for talking heads. The audience wants feel-good, “the world is a beautiful place” stories. Focus on showing your customers what makes your library and its workers and customers beautiful and different.

BONUS TIP: I’m a big fan of redistribution of content–who has time to shoot video more than once? Save each section of your Instagram story on your camera roll and then upload them to a folder on your desktop as soon as you get back to your desk. You can use a simple editing tool (here’s a great list of free video editors) and put together a longer piece to post later on YouTube, Facebook, or your own library website.

Really research your hashtags. Many library marketers feel lost when it comes to hashtags or they don’t spend enough time thinking about them. But they are the one tool that will help people who don’t know you’re on Instagram to find you. They’ll also help your avid fans see more of your posts.  My favorite free hashtag research tool is Hashtagify. The easiest way for me to explain how it works is to show you an example. I did a search of Jane Austen and got this great graphic, which shows me all the top related hashtags I can use in a post about my favorite classic author.

 

I would suggest that you keep the number of hashtags you use to five or less. The less cluttered your caption is, the more engagement you’ll get. You should also check each hashtag before you use it to get a sense of how “crowded” it is. I like mixing my hashtags up with a few popular and a few rarely used ones. This helps increase the chances that someone will be able to find your photo!

Think through your caption. There’s no right or wrong length. You can take up to 2200 characters so if you have something really fascinating to say or a big announcement to make, you don’t have to limit yourself. You really need to focus on providing context about the photo. It’s okay to write out your caption before you post if it helps you to think through the process. Stay within your library’s brand voice and use conversational words, not library industry language. You should also experiment with emoji’s, which help to communicate the mood or feeling of the photo and are eye-catching!  And if you’re talking about a follower or another organization in your caption, be sure to tag them for extra reach and engagement.

Do not use a call to action in your caption every time you post… I think doing that makes you seem pushy. But sometimes it makes sense, like in this recent post by my library for National Library Card Sign-up month.

Have you seen a library account doing great things on Instagram? Are you really proud of what your library has done on Instagram? Let me know about them in the comments section for a future post! For more inspiration, I found this in my research for this article. 12 Must follow Library Instagram Accounts.

*Thanks to Omnicore for these stats. See more here.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

Three Questions You Need to Ask to Make a Powerful Pinterest Profile

Confession: I am a Pinterest junkie. I’ve loved the platform since its infancy. When it debuted in March of 2010, I scored an invite to join from a journalist friend (at that time, you needed an invitation) and it was love at first Pin. Not only is the user-experience friendly, it became an easy place to find ideas and inspiration for all sorts of projects, hobbies, and interests. It’s true that Pinterest really is more of a search engine than a social media platform. When I need a recipe or have to make a craft (hello Solar Eclipse viewers!) I turn to Pinterest. I was so enamored that one of my first blog posts is about using Pinterest for library marketing, which looks really quaint now!

Fast forward seven years, and Pinterest is a major platform for a number of libraries. They are embracing it as a way to drive traffic to their collection and share information. They are reaching audiences that might not necessarily be regular library users.

Pinterest is a highly valuable place for your library to market. When we started strategically pinning, our library had about 2,000 followers. Four years later, we’re now at more than 10,000 followers and each month, the platform drives 25 to 50 percent of the traffic we get to our website. Sometimes it surges over 50 percent to be the highest source of traffic from any social media platform we use. It really is powerful!

When you find success with a social media platform, it’s easy to become complacent and to think that, because it’s working, you must have it all figured out! But at least once a year, I revamp my thoughts about Pinterest and update our approach to posting. So should you! But how do you re-think and update your strategy? Here are the three questions to ask as you update your profile to get the best library marketing results from your Pinterest account.

Ask yourself: Does our profile attract the right audience?

Take a close look at your profile. What are you using for your profile pic? If you have a bold logo, you can use that as your profile pic to drive brand awareness. Otherwise, pick a photo with one clear focal point that aligns with your brand–a book, a small child smiling, or your building if you only have one location. The profile photo area is quite small so make sure the photo you pick isn’t busy. Put your website URL underneath and add a link to your webpage. There is a short area where you can add a description. Right now my library has our mission statement in that line but I am planning to change it to be more keyword friendly… something like “Find books, music, movies, and book-themed crafts and food” to help drive more traffic in Pinterest’s keyword-friendly search optimization strategy.

Ask yourself: Is our library using SEO strategy to make sure our Pins are seen by book lovers?

As I said, Pinterest is mainly a search engine. The way it works is through keyword optimization. It trolls keywords in the Pin title and description and matches Pins with specific keywords to users–think Google but on steroids. So that means that every word in your Pin is valuable.

To make sure this feature is working in your library’s favor, take the time to do a full Pin audit. First, look at your boards. Are your boards providing value for your cardholders, or are they just there because someone in senior leadership wanted extra publicity for an initiative? Clean out any board that doesn’t give a specific, actionable value to your cardholders.

Next, go through and look at your boards individually. Update the names and descriptions to use keywords that will get picked up by Pinterest’s SEO. For instance, I love having book quotes in our board descriptions but it’s not serving us well on the SEO side, so we are in the process of changing all the board descriptions to take advantage of full keyword search potential. We might even rename some of our boards to maximize the chance that our Pins will get seen.

Next, go through each Pin on every board, making sure every link worked. Any Pins with dead links must be deleted. Next, replace the url’s of the remaining Pins to drive traffic to your website when applicable. For example, if you have re-pinned a book from someone else’s feed, replace the URL with a link to the book in your collection, so that anyone interested in the book can place a hold right from your Pin.  For each Pin, re-think the description section and make sure you are using words that will be picked up by Pinterest’s search engine and found by the right users.

Ask yourself: How can I use the content my followers are Pinning to my library’s advantage?

Re-pinning your followers content, when relevant, is an amazing way to grow your own audience and to make your followers feel special. Our staff will go through the boards of a few of our followers every day, picking content we think will resonate with the rest of the audience, and re-pinning it to our boards, fixing links and keywords to make them work to our advantage and to drive traffic to our website when relevant. We also pick one Pin each day to highlight on other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, thereby giving a shout out to our Pinterest followers and creating a relationship of sharing and spreading awareness of our presence on Pinterest.

Bonus tip: Pin books from your collection. Every. Single. Day.

In particular, focus on new books. Pinterest users love to find out about new books using the site and libraries are perfectly positioned to give that information. Every day, we go through the New Arrivals feed on our website and find the books that already have a holds lists… that’s clear proof that there is a demand for that books. We then Pin those books onto our New Books board. One note: make sure the book cover you Pin is as big as possible. If you have Overdrive, you can use their website to find large covers for most books. The bigger the cover, the more successful the Pin will be.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

Why Did People Go Crazy Over This Social Media Post?

Sometimes, luck shines on the hardworking marketer and all the stars align to hand you an unexpected victory.

This happened to my library recently.  One of our branches held a stuffed animal sleepover. I’m guessing someone in your library system has done this before–it’s a pretty popular program.  Kids drop off their stuffed animals at the library branch for an overnight stay and branch staff stage activities for the stuffed animals and take photos so the kid can see their little friends having fun at the library. This particular branch passed all the photos on to our Marketing Department and we put them up in a Flickr album for easy distribution. We posted a link to that album on our Facebook page.

And then the public went nuts. We had a ton of engagement, turning this into one of the most successful social media posts of the year so far, with more than 17,000 in organic reach, more than 1,000 post clicks and 431 likes and shares!

I asked out library’s social media specialist, Adam Baker, to help me dissect the post in hopes that we all can learn something from it.

Tell me about why you decided to go with the format you used–Flickr album link on Facebook? Did you put it on other social media sites?

I’ve found, in general, Flickr links work well for a large amount of photos. Uploading the photos and creating a Flickr album allows me to generate a link I can share across all social platforms. Plus, a Flickr link has built-in metadata that produces an attractive preview on the page. That automatic preview gives the user an experience native to the platform it’s shared on. Users can easily click directly into the Flickr slide show from the preview. It’s just a nice way to keep photos organized, and the fact it’s so user-friendly on the sharing side, makes it a double win.

What kind of response did you predict you would get?

This stuffed animal sleepover event is an annual event at one of our branches. I’ve shared the photos via social media for three years in a row now. They’ve always been relatively successful because it’s something different and interesting. But I never expected the response we got from the Facebook post this year.

Why do you think the post was so popular with our followers?

I come from a TV news background. I remember in journalism school our professors teaching us what makes something newsworthy. I use many of those factors when picking good social media content. One of the reasons something is newsworthy is if it is a novelty. The stuffed animal sleepover definitely falls into that category. It’s original, even a bit unusual. I think that’s the reason these photos always perform well. I think the reason it was such a hit for us this year was due to the fact we had an extra unusual photo featured as the album cover. The stuffed animals are sitting around in a circle. One Facebook fan commented it looked like they were conducting a séance. The user meant it in jest — but it goes to show you it made people do a double take. Anytime you have content that makes people stop mindlessly scrolling through all the noise online and actually click, you’ve got a winner.

How surprised were you at the response?

I was very surprised it did so well. It was our most successful post that month and one of our best posts ever. I am pleasantly surprised that a post we’ve done very similarly for three years paid off in a big way this time around.

Did the response lead you to think about changing the way you format or program future social media posts?

I think it reinforced what I already knew. You have to be a little outside the box to get noticed. It’s a good reminder to experiment and have fun. You never know when that one silly post is going to be a game changer.

The lesson here? You never know what kind of social media post is going to resonate with your audience!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Four Ways to Fire Up Your Social Media And Create Super Library Fans!

I see a new trend on social media for libraries and I’m loving it! More libraries are reducing the number of Tweets they send promoting programs and they’re doing more curating and advocating for the library industry. I think that’s great! It adds depth to the character of your library, it helps your cardholders to see that you are more than just an endless horn of promotion, bombarding them with things that don’t relate to them, and it means the promotions you do put on social media get more attention simply because there is less noise. So good job you!

Now it’s time to take the next step. My prediction: libraries will become savvier about using social media to turn their current cardholders into fans. The industry will begin to realize the importance of keeping cardholders active library users and balance that newfound realization with the ongoing campaign to sign up new cardholders. We’ll start creating super customers who will advocate on our behalf. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Here’s how we’ll do it.

Listen to your cardholders. Whoever monitors your social media needs to set aside time to listen to monitor your social media platforms for comments. Respond as soon as you can, even to positive comments. You should also create a database for logging comments, both positive and negative, so you don’t have to rely on your own memory to keep track of the complaints and compliments you receive. You can use that database to create future promotions, highlighting services your cardholders show a love for and addressing concerns with upper management and within your marketing. You’ll also stumble across great customer service stories that you can market in your print publication or on your blog. Listening is critical and I cannot stress the importance of working time into your day, every hour if you can, to do a quick check of your social channels for comments.

Show some extra love to your current cheerleaders. You likely can think of two to three people (maybe more!)  who consistently post their praises of your library system on social media. If you haven’t already, reach out to those brand advocates and offer them something special–a gift bag from your Friends shop, a behind-the-scenes tour of the library, a special collector’s edition library card, etc. They’ll post about that positive exchange and do some marketing for you! Later, you can go back to those cheerleaders and ask for feedback on marketing or library initiatives, or give them a sneak peek of things you’re working on in the future to gauge the reaction of the larger audience to your efforts.

Create an editorial calendar for your social channels. Schedule content to appear on a consistent basis. Remember “Must-See TV”? You can do that with social. People love it… and they’ll eagerly await the appearance of quality content on social when you set up a reliably consistent posting schedule. Create a call to action that’s easy to fulfill and share.

Track, track, track. None of these actions are worth any effort if you don’t track the results. You’ll learn what works–so you can repeat it–and what doesn’t, so you can drop it!  You’ll be amazed at how valuable the data is when you track, and I promise it only takes a few moments. My favorite tracking method is Google Analytics URL builder. Learn how to use it here.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

Social Media Research and What It Means for Libraries


The Language of Flowers by Leslie George Dunlop, 1885
The Language of Flowers by Leslie George Dunlop, 1885

I’ve been mulling over a fascinating bit of research just released by the Pew Research Center. It focuses on the use of social media platforms by adults. There are some big findings for library content marketers.

1. Use of all social media platforms is on the rise, though Facebook continues to be the dominant social media platform across all age groups. 70% of those polled engage with Facebook daily… that’s a huge number. Yet, the number of new Facebook users has slowed while other social media platforms are seeing growth in use. Here’s another relevant content marketing fact: 65% of Facebook users frequently or sometimes share, post, or comment on Facebook. They’re not just reading or viewing content. Engagement is good!

2. Half of young adults use Instagram. The platform also saw growth in use in every demographic group. And here’s another key finding: half of Instagram users are on the platform every day.

3. Twitter saw a drop in daily use from 2013.

4. Pinterest use is mainly confined to women–no surprise there–but the platform saw a significant increase in the number of older users and a jump of five percent in the number of men engaging on the site. So, that’s something to think about!

5. Half of online adults frequent more than one social media site on a regular basis.

The study breaks down the users for each social media platform by demographics, which you can compare with your cardholders to get a rough estimate of where your audience is prone to hang out.

But there are two problems with this study. It doesn’t talk at all about how social media users are interacting with brands. And it has no statistics for YouTube use. We keep hearing about how video will be the big craze in 2015 for content marketers and billions of hours of video are uploaded and consumed by millions of people every day… so I admit it amazes me that YouTube use wasn’t part of the survey. But the survey can help libraries begin on the path of creating a strategy for their social media use.

So here’s my confession: Until last week, my library did not have a documented social media strategy! We basically were posting on all platforms and trying to be all things to all people. It’s like feeding a monster who never quite likes what you have on the plate. It’s exhausting and our resources are already stretched. It wasn’t working to the extent that I would have liked. So, we decided to make a plan– to define who we are and what we wanted to do on each social media platform. You can too! Here are my tips, derived from months of research and weeks of discussions with my team.

Ask yourselves:

1. What is going on right now? Start tracking your customer’s use of your social media platforms. Try not to focus on “likes”, “follows”, or “fans.” The more important metrics are engagement-oriented. Are your posts starting conversations in the comments? Are your posts being shared? Are your posts generating clicks to your website, blog, or collection software that you can link to activity like increased holds, blog views, or program attendance increases? My co-workers create a weekly report with a list of the most successful posts and the engagement rates for each. It takes just a few minutes to read through but the data helps everyone to have a clear, concrete idea of what works and what doesn’t. Whenever we do a specific push to a part of our collection, we gather “before” and “after” statistics to track the number of holds or check-outs on that item within a 24 hour period of the post going public.

2. What is your competition doing? Start following the accounts of local bookstores, museums, Redbox, Netflix, and Amazon. Follow other libraries of similar size. Pay attention to their post successes and failures. Learn from them.

3. Which social media platforms will bring us the most benefit? If you are a small library system and your staff is limited, you’ll want to focus your energies on the places where you’ll get the most benefit. That many mean you ditch Twitter and Pinterest and just post to Facebook and Instagram. There are a lot of for-profit brands who have actually started closing down their Facebook pages because of the hit they’ve taken with the new algorithm. I can totally see the logic in that although I don’t agree with the idea of shutting down completely. I think your library should at least maintain a minimal presence on each social media platform, for no other reason than to keep trolls from taking your name and using your brand inappropriately. Stake your claim and maybe you’ll use the page later… we all know how much the social media landscape changes over time. In the meantime, post only to the platforms that give you the most benefit.

4. Create a strategy chart. My staff listed each social network, then defined a mission, tactics, and goals. We tried to make sure that the goal for each social media platform helped to support the library’s overall strategic mission. For instance, we are using Twitter to share information about our collection in order to help increase buzz and circulation. We set a metric for success, which involves engagements and tracking the number of holds and checkouts of the items we promote. Defining your goals, even in the most simple and basic ways, will help drive all the decisions you make in social media. And having a defined way of measuring success will give you some benchmarks and means that, in the future, you can make better use of your time by concentrating your efforts on the things that work!

5. Re-evaluate and adjust. Set a regular meeting to talk about each platform, how you are meeting (or not meeting) your goals and readjust your strategy as necessary.

Here’s the biggest thing all libraries need to remember: Social media is fluid. Platforms are constantly changing the rules for brands. It’s important to think of your strategy as a guide, not as set-in-stone and unmovable. When algorithms change, you’ll need to realign to keep working toward your goals within the new confines. But with a defined strategy, you’ll be able to chart a course for success and demonstrate how your efforts are making a difference for your system.

Share stories of your library system’s social media successes and failures in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!

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