| By Gracelyn Andi Graham |
It’s more important than ever before for libraries to find ways to engage with their users and keep people actively reading and learning. This is partly a general statement, in that it has become increasingly important to preserve the value and appeal of libraries, particularly for young people. However, it’s doubly true in light of the pandemic. Today, fighting the good fight for libraries means coordinating with educators and making digital tools available for both in-person and distance-learning students. Above all else, it’s a means of achieving “equity of access,” such that all students and library users can enjoy learning materials.
While this is an excellent and valuable notion, it can be difficult for libraries to achieve. Particularly given the remote conditions so many are now operating in, fostering regular engagement with students and other learners is a challenge. That’s why we want to talk about how libraries can make use of social media. With the right expertise and the right goals and strategies, tools in this category can go a long way toward bringing about engagement with library users.
The first step is to consult with or hire a professional who is educated in matters related to social media engagement. Thanks largely to online classes that are more flexible in catering to those seeking an “in” with emerging career paths, there are actually quite a lot of social media professionals in today’s job market. Of the countless students pursuing online communications degrees, many have trained specifically for work in social and digital media management as well as general communications and marketing strategy. Hiring or consulting someone with this background can help people running modern libraries gain valuable insights about social media engagement. They’ll be able to reach out to users via proven, professional strategies.
Another factor that library operators should consider when exploring social media engagement is that it’s important to entertain and inform—not just bother. For a lot of institutions without busy marketing operations, it may at first seem adequate to simply tweet out occasional updates or bland self-promotion. But the truth is, that’s usually not enough to bring about meaningful engagement. Furthermore, libraries using clever tweets and innovative Instagram strategies are having success entertaining and reaching their audiences. Some are even leaning on the concept of “Insta novels” to generate attention, essentially digitizing miniature versions of classic books via social media. Whatever the specific strategy though, libraries will be more likely to hook and attract users if they’re fun and interesting on social media—which isn’t as much of a given as some might expect.
Last but not least, we recommend that libraries who want to pursue social media engagement strategies make use of marketing materials that help to simplify library use (particularly in digital-only situations). A library social account that reminds users about in-person practices, pitches new or classic books, and generally provides entertainment is one thing, but an account that also provides information about—and access to—tools that directly facilitate browsing and engagement is more practical. A library with these kinds of digital tools or web applications in place should deploy them through social media.
All things considered, these strategies can make a real difference! Particularly now, when activity and engagement are harder than ever, reaching out via social media is an excellent way to stay connected with users, and potentially gain new users and increase long-term interest in the library.