AL Live: Social Media – What’s Next?

Panel: Lisa Bunker, Doralyn Rossmann, and Scott W.H. Young

This posting outlines the key discussion points covered by the panel in the ALA Life webinar “Social Media – What’s Next?”

What are the key challenges facing libraries when it comes to social media?

Doralyn: The first challenge is time. The next is finding the people and resources to dedicate to social media. In addition, people are not sure what role social media should play for your organization. It can be a challenge to get all of the people in your organization on the same page.

Lisa: There is a lot of fear, especially in government, about how public social media is. Everyone knows all the disaster stories about social media use and not necessarily the success stories about its power. Moderates a social media group and discovered that people are concerned about keeping up with new channels. People are also concerned about who speaks for the library. This impacts the type of presence and community that you can create.

Scott: The number one challenge is listening. Listening to our community and then responding to what they are saying. Having the personnel time to tune into the community and then keep up with the new platforms for the community. We even encounter language differences. Freshmen coming into universities sometimes speak a different language on social media than we do, so we need to adjust. It is a challenge to listen and adjust constantly.

Social Media Analytics – Now that social media presences are ubiquitous, what do people need to know about how to find the numbers that will help them optimize their presence?

Scott: Analytics are a way to track and measure your activity over social media. It can be used to track engagement and to identify your community. Twitter and Facebook have analytics features. For Facebook analytics occur at the post level. Analytics are a form of assessment.

What is social media analytics? How is it different from assessment?

Doralyn: Assessment takes analytics and tries to make sense of that information. Assessment includes doing some qualitative follow-up interviews with members of the community to find out how people are interacting with your social media posts. You may also include surveys on social media use in your assessment strategy. Getting context helps you determine how to focus your efforts.

Lisa: We have a distributed model with branch pages and service level pages. I train staff and let them do what they do best, which includes talking about their neighbourhood and community. Analytics helps them by letting them know about levels of engagement. Frequency of posting is vital to engagement. Posting once a month isn’t enough. We can use analytics as a teaching tool to help them with their social media practices. I used screen captures to talk about successful posts and nightmare posts to help alieve some of their fears about how social media campaigns work.

Scott: Analytics relationship to assessment is that assessment can include a broad range of approaches and analytics can supplement those approaches. All of this can fit under a social media assessment program. Analytics fit well with other assessment approaches.

Can you tell us about the specific tools that you use for assessment and analysis?

Doralyn: There are a lot of native tools in the platforms that are available (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). We have used other services and have found that some of these can be somewhat intrusive (i.e. they come back and tell you that they are tracking as well). We are using Twitter Cards on a number of our social media pages. If anyone shares the webpage you can find out who is engaging with your content without them naming you. You can then reach out to the people using your content.

How do you build a social media strategy for your staff? How do you allocate staff time for social media work?

Scott: [Speaking to the multiple administrator dilemma] In our organization we have struck a social media committee. We have five staff in our library who are interested in social media and have split up our accounts over three platforms – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – so that staff members have responsibilities over one of these platforms and then strategies are developed together. The team developed a social media guide that included elements such as intended audience, posting frequency, etc. so that there was some transparency over community building efforts. My advice is to find your partners and document your approach.

Lisa: We had a really interesting start with social media. We started with a MySpace page for marketing to teens. Our marketing team wasn’t interested, but library staff took the lead. Their primary purpose was creating community. Because I train staff we created a manual and we focus on participatory exercises and strategy in training rather than looking at the nuts and bolts of interfaces. We really allow our staff to have a lot of autonomy – and they know why we’re on these platforms. The core goal is creating a library focused community and communicating with people who don’t come into the library but still use our services. The goal is to have as warm a relationship with them online as we would if they were visiting us in person.

How do we deal with bad behaviour over social media?

Doralyn: We’ve seen bad behaviour sporadically. I have the impression that some libraries encounter it more than others depending on their number of followers. In terms of things like a bad review, we would be inclined to publicly address what has been said and then also provide the opportunity to continue the conversation offline. We also apologize for any inconvenience that has been caused. It is important to take complaints seriously. I do tend to block spammers and people posting ads on the site. We tend to ignore trolls. We haven’t had any appropriate language.

Lisa: We have community guidelines where we explain to the public what is and isn’t allowed. Basically I welcome the people who are mad at us and who are upset with changes, because social media gives us a chance to respond in public in a way that you can’t if something builds and explodes into talk radio in a place where you can’t respond easily. How frequently you monitor is very important. I recommend finding salaried staff who can monitor and respond in the off hours, so they can nip things in the bud before they snowball and escalate. Our trolls haven’t been persistent. Monitoring is important. Answering in a way that takes into account that you are not just answering the poster but the whole community is important. Be as helpful as you can.

How do you respond from push back from your community over the political tone of your posts?

Lisa: We haven’t had a lot of push back from the public. We have noted that there is a difference between posting about a politician when there is a choice to be made, such as during an election, because this could be seen as coercive. During elections we cannot post about the election or candidates, we can only post information according to our county’s policies.

Doralyn: We’ve struggled with this a bit with our twitter account. We have brought this issue up with our committee. We have to think about our motivations behind what we’re sharing over social media. Are we posting or re-tweeting something based on our opinions as an individual or as a representative of the library? Stop and think through the other side of an issue before posting it. Be aware that your postings need to be adapted to your local environment.

Scott: Since we are individual humans representing library entities we need to be aware of where we end and the library begins and make sure that we are speaking in the voice of the library.

What is your policy regarding resources that require a log-in?

Scott: We try to promote our licensed content as we would other content. Most of our users are students who would have access to this content.

Doralyn: We’ve had a couple of questions from people who want to have access to license / password protected content. In most cases members of the public do have the option to access these electronic resources in person in the library. We also try to come up with lists of alternative resources for people who aren’t currently registered in the university.

What’s the best way to explain to our boards the time involved in doing social media?

Lisa: I have real life examples to point to. We are adjusting to a huge change in that all of our libraries are now hourly instead of salaried, so they can no longer monitor social media off the clock. We are looking at how other branch staff are really efficient in making time for social media and are learning from them. Some of this is scheduling things based on day of the week (e.g. Monday check this…)

Doralyn: The majority of the people in our communities are in social media in some way, so why wouldn’t we be there? Using social media provides an opportunity to change how people think about libraries. You should document the things that you are doing. Have that assessment evidence from analytics and conversations with your community to support your case for social media. We’ve tried to show that we’re having real interactions with users over social media, so they see that it’s part of our overall effort rather than an activity in isolation. I also think that having more than one staff person involved with social media is helpful. Time is a challenge. You may have to decide to focus on only one social media platform and work on doing that platform well.

Scott: We try to ground our social media efforts in a sense of community and this is a concept that really resonates throughout libraries. If we connect that sense of community to outcomes, going where our community is, this can help us to build a case for social media. We need to be there advocating for our resources and connecting with the people we want to use our resources and services. We have cases where we can show increased use of resources connected to social media. Connecting with other measures that matter to our administration helps to make the case for social media use.

Are there privacy concerns to using social media at library events?

Lisa: The State of Arizona has very strict rules about identifying people who use the library. We have to get written consent from everyone who is identifiable in an image before we post that image on social media or on the website. Every locality has different rules that they have to operate under. You have to be sensitive to people’s privacy, because you don’t know if someone is being stalked or doesn’t want to be on the web in any way. Getting people’s consent is very important.

Doralyn: Sometimes I’ve seen parts of the library that are signed to indicate that this event / section of the library is going to be photographed for social media.

Lisa: Whenever we have a photographer visiting our library we give out red wrist bands to people who do not consent to be photographed.

Does anyone use Facebook ads for their library?

Scott: We’re done some research around the question of using Facebook advertising and we’ve found that if it’s really targeted it can be effective to a point. So our recommendation would be to choose certain times of the year when you have new people coming into your community, such as the beginning of a school semester. This can be a good way to reach new members of a campus community. But be careful not to spend too much money. A modest budget can have some good impact. We’ve experimented with boosted posts in the past (paying $5 and having an individual post boosted in Facebook newsfeeds). I’ve just seen some research that show that boosting posts and then following up individually with those who respond to the boosted post is a promising way to build community. This is a way to get your post into new newsfeeds. It serves as an introduction. It can be useful if it is targeted.

Lisa: I look with envy at libraries that can advertise. We finally have money in next year’s budget for advertising. We’ve done everything that we can without a budget. Ads are just so powerful, especially on Facebook, where the targeting is so excellent. The cost is also quite low compared to other types of ads. Use analytics to check where your money is best spent.

Doralyn: Social media ads are such a moving target. The behaviour is going to change again, so you have to revisit how things are going and not assume that things that have worked well will continue to work well in the future.

How frequently should you post on social media?

Doralyn: It depends a bit on your platform. I would suggest getting your own accounts on social media that you’re interested so you can get a sense of how people behave on those platforms. You’ll find that in Instagram people tend to post once a day or so. Things like analytics will also tell you what times of day people tend to interact with your posts and plan your posts for peak times of day. I’ve found that posts between 5-7pm get very little interaction with students. Post to every account that you have at least once a day.

Lisa: I read an article by a business writing about social media and they recommended playing to your strengths. Go to where your staff is strong and work with those areas. Look at reports from organizations like Pew and see what platforms are used by different communities. Use the platforms that your target audience uses. Also consider logistics such as the ability to archive posts, whether your staff have access to mobile devices, how accounts are administered, etc. Understand the ecosystem of the social media tool before the library dives in. Think about the possibilities based on how people already use the tool.

Scott: In social media everything is changing all the time. This makes best practices tricky to pin down. The best practice is really to tune in and respond to what you’re seeing. You may have a really active community that requires multiple posts per day. Be flexible based on what you’re seeing.

Featured image by Jason Howie


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