I’m pulling together my thoughts for a panel on social media* aimed mostly at small libraries with small staffs. If we’re Twitter friends, you’ve seen me asking for libraries on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr who are doing a good job. (OK, I also asked for YouTube, but nobody had suggestions.) If we’re not Twitter friends, here I am.
I did this because “Follow other organizations with similar missions and successful social media” is my first piece of advice, when it comes to best practices. As one of my coworkers has said, rather wryly, “Learning to be hip and fun and whimsical is hard.” Most of us aren’t tremendously creative or funny—we’re all a bit of both, of course, but very few of us have enough of it in us to carry an organizational social media presence alone. That’s OK, because the internet is full of people who are tremendously funny and creative, at least in the aggregate, and social media is all about sharing.
I also suggest following other local organizations and liking/resharing their stuff, as appropriate. Obviously, if a local group is talking about a program or meeting they’re going to have in your library, reshare that, but it’s always good, just generally, to have little public chats with them on whatever social media platform it is, to humanize both organizations at once. Cross-promotion is the best promotion! But even if it’s just something cool that you think will appeal to your patrons, you might consider a retweet or at least a Facebook “like.” I will say that, with the exception of a very popular and Twitter-chatty coffee shop that shares a building with us, my [academic] library won’t friend/follow commercial entities, including library vendors or publishers; but we do follow everything we find related to the two universities we serve, plus a few community organizations.
Third, but just as important as the first two: you need to actually make (and follow) agreed-upon best practices and policies. Part of this tip is do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, in that my organization doesn’t have a social media policy, per se. We have some best practices that we’ve thought very hard about, and that you are welcome to copy and modify for your own library’s use, but … politics and stuff, so no formal policy. It’s OK (for now); Stacia is the one talking about social media policies, for the panel. :) But I’m not alone in the belief that social media best practices are important; Bobbie Studwell at the Ave Maria School of Law Library strongly agrees.
Having agreed-upon best practices, ideally in a “living document” that you can edit as needed, is super important. Otherwise, your social media won’t have a consistent voice/personality and will vary based on who is posting, or, if you’re the only one doing it, by your mood/attention span. You really want to go for consistency. (This is something my organization continues to work on. Also, you’ll note our content is a little sparse, right now; we need to recruit more people for our Social Media Team, and those of us on it need to be better about posting.) A consistent voice makes you more trustworthy and lets your potential followers know what they’re signing up for.
Those are kind of the big three, for libraries. (I could make a whole other post for library associations, but I probably won’t.)
Libraries doing it right**
Here are the links that people shared with me (or I already had), for libraries that are doing a good job on various social media platforms (and you can tell which is my own home platform, can’t you?):
(not a library, but they win at Twitter) https://twitter.com/WstonesOxfordSt
*I spent a bunch of time, 4-5 years ago, getting to know a whole bunch about social media. Many, many hours invested. I read Pew reports and found/followed great library accounts. And then, a couple of years ago, I decided the topic was defunct, nobody wanted to know about it anymore, it was old news. I kept following the accounts I needed to, to keep my organizations’ (yeah, plural, I’m a sucker) social media going, but stopped looking for “the best” and reporting out on the Pew stuff. I’m not sure what it was that made me feel that way, but Ben Bizzle kind of proved otherwise by being wildly popular at 2013 ALA Annual. Oops. (He’s also funnier than I am and better suited to fame. :) So, these are not sour grapes, just regret that I pushed this topic aside too fast and didn’t share more on it, when people were—are—still interested.)
** I deliberately did not include any Alaskan libraries, because I don’t want to call out one library as doing really well and seem to imply that others aren’t. Obviously, if you’re an Alaskan library, it follows from my first two points that you should follow other Alaskan libraries. Lists are linked from this page.