Best and Not So Best Practices…

A summary follows of one of the slate of marketing programs at the October ILA Conference, so that library staff who were not able to attend the program can learn about some of the program highlights.

The Best and Not-So-Best Practices in Social Media panel featured Bill Pardue, Arlington Heights Memorial Library; Heather Beverley, Cook Memorial Library; Sarah Sagmoen, University of Illinois – Springfield; and Veronica de Fazio, Plainfield Public Library.

Pardue began by noting that the Best Practices Committee has recently conducted a survey in which libraries were asked about their social media experience.  Results of the survey will be discussed in an upcoming ILA Reporter article.

Pardue reported the most successful libraries and the least successful libraries were often pursuing the same social media strategies.  Successful libraries differed by having:  1) clear plans; 2) set goals; and 3) designated staff who were responsible for maintaining the social media presence on a regular basis.  Also, the most successful libraries had a ratio of equal parts library-specific content like announcements of library programming, merely “fun” posts like funny photos of cats and dogs or comments on sports teams, and a third part news about authors, publishing, and promoting reading, such as asking “What are you reading?”  (Pardue volunteered that Arlington Heights devotes 30% of posts to library news, 30% to industry news, and 30% to “fun stuff.”)  Less successful libraries didn’t have clear goals or plans for measuring their success.

Heather Beverley next spoke about the experiences of Cook Memorial Library’s social media program.  Cook has Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads accounts, and use Hootsuite to organize their posts; they plan to start an Instagram account next.

Beverley explained that Cook’s social media goal is to provide posts that are engaging, approachable, and fun, and that the Library, through social media, has a role in the daily lives of their patrons.  Key to their social media success is using “photos, photos, photos,” articles and interesting links.

At Cook, social media is carried out by a committee, with staff drawn together representing different departments; staff have different specialties.  The committee primarily communicates via email and meets every 3-4 months.  At Cook, staff analyzed the results and made changes in strategy based on that feedback.

Beverley was asked “How do you know you’re successful?”  She explained that success in social media communication is often hard to evaluate.  Social media is full of “lurkers” who read posts but don’t comment.  But one important measure of success Cook staff have noticed is that when they post pictures of events, the event will be much better attended the next time it’s offered.

The next speaker, Sarah Sagmoen of the University of Illinois at Springfield, explained that her library served 5000 students, faculty and staff, and had Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Foursquare accounts managed  by two staff members.

The Library’s goal is to engage the Library’s very diverse audience with most of its focus on students.

During the first two years, the social media managers sought to let people know “who we are” on Facebook and Twitter.  They tried to have a link, photo or article accompany every post.  Most people read posts without otherwise responding (such as by “liking” a post, retweeting, sharing or commenting).

All that changed when they began the “What we’re wearing” series.  It started when, quite accidentally, two librarians wore the same outfit.  It seemed like a fun idea to post a photo.  People loved it!  This ongoing feature changed the social media equation and led to much more engagement.  Now people come  into the library to talk about dressing.

Since it’s hard to make students really understand what it is that librarians do, especially in the medium of social media, this wonderful feature has succeeded in engaging students and in making the librarians seem to be nice, likable people.

Veronica de Fazio of the Plainfield Public Library District, has over 2,000 fans on Facebook.  There the teen librarian has connected with teen patrons.  His greatest success was the “Wall of Art” post:  when he offered space for teens to hang their art in the library, the space he offered was filled within three days.

Social media is part of public relations work of creating a positive perception of the library within the community.

Elizabeth Neill is a current member and former co-chair of the ILA Marketing Committee. She is extremely active in advocating for Illinois libraries and loves to talk with people to determine how libraries can serve their communities better.

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One Response to Best and Not So Best Practices…

  1. A post-script: In the latter part of the program, attendees were broken up into small groups where we talked about the role of social media in libraries – in my group, we said that social media presented an “engaging face” to the community. One of the folks in my group began that discussion, however, by pointing out that libraries should be finding out what their communities need and filling those needs. That’s true (in my view) but these are true somewhat different (but related) things. I like to say find a need, fill it, and then make sure everybody knows about it. Social media is part of making sure that everybody knows about it; it is communication that occurs within the context of a kind of relationship, just as getting a reading recommendation from a Circ clerk occurs in the context of getting your books checked out.

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