Social media is definitely a driving force for many companies and that includes libraries. Tons of libraries use social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with and engage their patrons as well as market their events and new materials they have. According to Library Journal’s Survey on Public Library Marketing Methods and Best Practices, 86 percent of libraries said they were using social media. The top two social media platforms used by libraries were Facebook (99 percent) and Twitter (56 percent) (Dowd, 2013). Depending on the size and/or audience of the library, social media can either be a good thing or a hindrance.
Many larger libraries may be able to utilize social media to their benefit because they already have a large audience, so it may be easier for them to engage with their patrons. Also, larger libraries who have bigger budgets may be able to hire marketing managers who can handle their accounts, and they can use their social media skills to help the library increase its engagement with patrons. However, using social media can also be a hindrance and not needed for some libraries. For instance, if libraries tend to have an older audience who don’t use social media, then of course it will be harder for them to gain a following.
Facebook is one social media source that libraries tend to use the most and that makes sense as it is considered the most popular social media site, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. The original intended audience for Facebook used to be college students 18-25, but since its inception, the audience has grown to include high school students and adults past the age of 35. Libraries and other information agencies can use Facebook for a number of things such as:
- Advertising events in order to showcase their library
- Sending out event invitations
- Reporting news
- Highlighting their services and resources
- Keeping in touch with their customers
- Reaching new customers, performing outreach
- Speaking the language of their customers
- Educating users
- Promoting and assessing library functions, through surveys and focus groups
- Repackaging information (Facebook and social networking)
This social media tool helps libraries to build bigger audiences and gain more support for the library as well as stay in touch with patrons. However, there are some negative aspects to using the networking tool. Libraries have to be careful about what they post to their account and be sure not to post any libelous comments. Also, Facebook is often under fire for not sufficiently protecting the privacy of their users. In addition anything posted on Facebook, subsequently belongs to them and they can re-use it any way they wish (Facebook and social networking).
Instagram is another social media tool that libraries can use to their advantage. The intended audience for Instagram is ages 16-35, and in libraries this tool is used to engage with library patrons, connect with other libraries and organizations, and advertise/market events in library from a visual perspective. Some of the advantages of Instagram is that it gives the library patrons more of a visual perspective of the library’s marketing of stories and events and it can attract people easier than if they are just reading a status or post. On the downside, since Instagram is still fairly new, it has not attracted a wider range of age groups and is mainly used by younger people, so it may not help libraries to put all their work into building an Instagram following when their demographic may be older.
Overall, Facebook seems to be the winner when it comes to gaining a larger following, so I believe this is a core resource libraries should be using to connect with their audience. It doesn’t take long to post at least a few messages everyday to a library’s account, and this could be done by staff members who have a better understanding of how to engage with the community. Also, maintaining an up-to-date user friendly website is another important tool that all libraries should be using to stay connected with their patrons and update them on the latest information about the library. Websites are looked at by people all over the world, so if the library has a great, mobile friendly, and interesting site, then they can easily gain more followers and essentially build connections with other libraries and organizations.
Based off the information I have learned about social media in libraries, I would encourage my local library to hold classes about social media for older patrons who may not be familiar with it. That way, they could possibly attract more people to their social media accounts and engage more of their patrons who may not necessarily utilize Facebook or Twitter to their advantage. I would even volunteer to teach the class at the library to help increase their social media engagement.
Dowd, N. (2013, May 7). Social Media: Libraries are Posting, but is anyone listening. Retrieved from Library Journal: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/05/marketing/social-media-libraries-are-posting-but-is-anyone-listening/
Facebook and social networking. (2015). Retrieved from 23thingsuk: https://23thingsuk.wordpress.com/thing-3-facebook-and-social-networking/