I’m constantly reading articles and research about how to keep libraries relevant and the most popular conclusion is that they need to better market their services and resources. Hmm, what could libraries use to connect to patrons? Today, the answer is so simple … social networking! Services like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest make library marketing so easy and are very effective. Still, there are so many libraries that have yet to connect to their community via a social network.
How often to you visit your library webpage? If you’re not a librarian, it’s probably under a few times a month. While at any time in the day, 1 out of 13 people in the world are on Facebook. It only makes sense for a library, or any other organization to create a Facebook page to advertise services. Are patrons going to pay attention to everything a library posts? Probably not. But, it is much more likely that a patron will check their Facebook newsfeed and see a program is happening than finding out about the program on the official library website.
I manage the Collins Library, a residence hall library, at Indiana University. Since 2008, the library has maintained a Facebook page and it’s been essential to promoting the organization. I like to use it to advertise new arrivals, closing announcements, post photos of displays and decorations, and receive input from patrons. Facebook also has a handy tool called Insights, which compiles statistics on how often the page was accessed, which posts were “liked” and if the post was shared. It even creates a simple graph to illustrate the information.
Facebook also keeps demographic information about each person that “likes” the page.
I find these types of statistics very fascinating. Many of these types of facts and figures are not the most useful for my residence hall library because it is so specialized and only meant to be used by students living in the dormitories. But, for a larger public or academic library, these statistics are gold. There are very few resources that allow libraries to specifically see who their patrons are and how they respond to different marketing techniques. Facebook even has a feature which allows you to export the data to an Excel spreadsheet.
In order for the Facebook page to be successful, it has to be maintained. This includes posting on a regular basis, with pictures and media. I like to post a new arrivals list with a link to a movie trailer, or eye catching photo. The statistics prove that more people look at posts with media included. The page itself also needs to be advertised. I plastered our library with signage about our Facebook page and have encourage staff to mention it to people. Patrons will always love free things, so making bookmarks, pens, or food advertising it also works very well.
I have not created a Twitter account for my residence hall library, but the IU Libraries have created one to highlight services and pages. I find their Twitter account very useful as a reminder tool for upcoming programs and events. Even though I work at an IU Library, I still learn about new pages or resources from the feed.
As Pinterest has taken off, libraries have noticed and are using it to promote their services. LibraryJournal just published an article about how libraries use Pinterest and examples of successful pages. Pinterest can also be integrated into Facebook. Socialmediaexaminer.com has created 26 tips for using Pinterest to promote a business, but most of the tips can be applicable to a library. I will definitely be exploring this tool and brainstorming how I can use it at one of my places of employment.
So, to keep it simple, libraries must utilize these services to reach patrons. Social networking is here to stay and libraries or any other organization need to realize this before it’s too late.