Ten tips for embedding social media good practice in your everyday public library work…

My thanks to Claire Pickering of Wakefield Libraries for the following tips, first presented at the Oxford University Press in September 2016:


  1. Define the audience for your site and play to it – we deliberately themed our social media offering from the beginning, blog, facebook and twitter, when you have got an established audience however, you may find that the channel has developed an audience different than that you first envisaged, so sometimes you need to alter your focus slightly. We imagined to start off with that our blog would be for readers, our facebook would be for family events and our twitter would be for news and advertising events and online resources, but in actual fact its developed and crossed over in a way we couldn’t have imagined.
  2. Don’t overstretch yourself – its incredibly tempting to add more channels and not be able to do justice to them, we’ve considered pinterest, tumblr, flickr and Instagram, and probably will do in future but have not gone for a new channel yet as we’ve enough on doing the present channels, our staff have taken longer than expected to get used to them.
  3. Don’t neglect your web 1.0 offering. Using our new channels has magnified just how bad our static website was in many respects. Our what’s on feature and website information were not concise or timely enough, we have spent time fixing this so now feel that we can link back to our web 1.0 offer without being embarrassed by it!
  4. Manage your channels using a dashboard – like hootsuite, or tweetdeck, there are many freebie content aggregators out there to help you manage your content and see it all in one place. This makes sure you are getting timely notifications of when you need to interact with people. Social media is another communication channel for customers to contact you as well as a showcase for your wares, so you have to be listening as well.
  5. Use the full potential of social media -Social media channels allow us to advertise what events we are doing as a service, raise awareness of the wide range of information and services we offer through pushing links to ourselves, but also allows us to share best practice with others and talk to our peers by liking and commenting to encourage other services and local groups, to signpost our customers to other sources to fulfil our role as a community signpost by re-blogging or retweeting content we have gathered and get feedback from others by allowing our customers to comment and ask questions of us. Social media channels are a reflection of all these functions and its all a part of the conversation, and it all fits in directly with the library information tradition.
  6. Coax newbie colleagues into contributing to social media channels (and beat your Friday pm brain drain) with pre-made content to build confidence/combat twitter fatigue. I have used our regular library events timetable of storytimes etc. and created a list of pre-prepared tweets for every day of the week. That way, if either a colleague is short of confidence or my brain has given up on me I have a handy pre-made list of things I can post that will help promote the service. We also make sure we use the pre-made tweets/FB posts sent by suppliers, e.g. Oxford, WF Howes to promote up to the minute content which saves time and brain power.
  7. Draw peers and suppliers into the conversation to take advantage of their address books to increase your following. We’ve done this by making a list of all our suppliers and their twitter handles, and especially of all the big brand names on Zinio for libraries for example, and we’ve followed them all in our feed, so when Marie Claire tweets their new edition, it’s a timely reminder that we can promote new content on our feed and cheekily add their handle. We also take note for big name authors and use their handles when promoting new stock and if you are complimentary you can sometimes get a RT which brings in new followers, we recently got an RT and thanks from Jeffrey Archer for a display one of our libraries had put on – it increased staff morale no end.
  8. Seize the zeitgeist and piggyback big campaigns to get more exposure. Most big events that occur in the library year, Summer reading challenge, adult learners week, and publisher promotions, Roald Dahl 100, Shakespeare 500, World Book have a social media element, and it’s a good way to show your followers that you are on the pulse (and indeed still have one)
  9. Allow partners to use your channels as an additional offer to them – you’d be surprised how much this is valued by them and costs us nothing. Encourage a local author/poet or reader group to post a guest blog/review, let a family history society do a twitter takeover to answer genealogy questions. Its great community engagement and less thinking up tweets for you!
  10. Have fun on your social media feed – and thus you will help break down the mental barriers to public library perception that have built up in the last few years and also act as a disruptive influence by providing beacons of quality online information in a sea of internet flotsam. Join me in positioning libraries a bit closer to the stream of modern media that we may benefit from its lush waters, and maybe get some more borrowers to notice we are still here doing our thing… only this time with added memes J

And if you ever doubt that anyone is listening to your social media channels, witness Orkney Library and their award-winning feed, http://www.cilips.org.uk/news/2015/5/18/orkney-library-wins-library-of-the-year-award.html .

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