Social media is, well, cruel. Yet it is also benevolent, often leaving me confused and curled in the fetal position on my living room floor whenever I approach the topic. Look, I’ve got Facebook, sure, and I have Tumblr. I even have a LinkedIn, but it hasn’t been touched in years. And at one point I signed up for Instagram in a wine-induced state of euphoria, determined to reach out to my fellow man, but the username and password are long gone along with the wine.
What I’m trying to say is that I use social media, but I don’t use it well, which is why I was excited LISSO (Library & Information Science Student Organization) hosted a Social Media Workshop February 10th. Meredith Hines-Dochterman from Iowa City Public Library, Sara Pitcher from Coralville Public Library, Connor Hood from the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio, Lindsay Moen from Special Collections, and Jennifer Teitle from the Graduate Development Department all gave their time to help lost souls like myself get a better grip on something that is becoming a more vital tool for librarians.
So in true social media form, I’ve compiled a list of 10 things I took away from the event in the hopes that my newly acquired wisdom will pass onto you, or anyone else suckered into reading this.
1. You better have a game plan before you put on your game face
If you are like me, putting together a game plan is the most tedious part of a project. When it comes to social media, however, it is essential. With so much information being pumped into the different social media channels, having a well thought out strategy could be what keeps all your hard work from flopping. Sara Pitcher of the Coralville Public Library explained that planning for her “Dalek Invasion” event started at least a month before anything appeared online. You may want to just jump into the social media pool, but trust me, it’s best that you first figure out how you are going to jump.
2. Read the news and stay up on trends
By staying on top of trends, you’ll be sure to post things that people care about or might find interesting. Connor Hood, who works for the Studio, was the one to really stress this point, and says that it is important especially for a medium like Twitter. You’ve seen Facebook’s “trending” feature on their page, and that is always a good place to start. But you know, reading the actual news is also a good way to stay in touch.
3. Be sure you’re telling the story of your library
If you are using social media for your library, remember that you are creating a giant narration of what your library is to the public. Instagram, for example, is like one big picture book with your library as the protagonist. So be sure that what you are posting, in whatever medium, tells the goals and accomplishments of your library. (And remember, everyone likes a happy story).
4. Keep it up, keep posting!
Remember, social media is a jerk and will forget about you if you don’t keep saying something. If you want your posts to show up in feeds or get any kind of traction, you have to keep on posting. Lindsay Moen at Special Collections posts 5-7 times a week on Instagram. Iowa City Public Library tries to get 4 posts a week on Twitter. And that is just for your library. If you are using social media to create your own professional image, Jennifer Teitle recommends doing at least one thing to reach out on LinkedIn a day and spending at least 20-30 minutes on Twitter each week.
5. Always take pictures, even when you don’t post them right away
Content creation is exhausting. Heck, I’m exhausted just typing about it, but it has to be done. One thing to help with this is to have a queue of pictures on your phone or camera ready to go, just in case brilliance doesn’t strike you one day. Lindsay Moen’s camera on her phone is almost nothing but pictures she has taken around Special Collections, just in case. And Meredith Hines-Dochterman from Iowa City Public Library calls them “evergreen” pictures because they are not time sensitive and can be shared at anytime.
6. Use LinkedIn to connect with people who have the job you want
This advice comes from Jennifer Teitle who is a LinkedIn success. She suggests finding people who have the job you wish to have in the near future, reaching out to them, and seeing how they have shaped their LinkedIn profile or Twitter account. Use them as a guide, which also ties into my next point…
7. Get a little personal on LinkedIn, but not like creepy personal
Adding personal touches to your LinkedIn connections is what will set you apart from the others. As Jennifer Teitle puts it, “you are planting the seeds” for future opportunities. When you ask to connect with someone, sending them a personal message with an invitation to connect. Saying something like “It was great to meet you at the ILA conference. I would love to hear more about your ideas on maker spaces,” can make a huge impact. You can even use it to send someone a congratulations on a new job. It’s like sending someone a personal card to show that you care about their progress. And who knows, those personal connections that you continue to make might come back to help you one day.
8. Sometimes Twitter won’t work for you
And sometimes Instagram won’t work for you, and sometimes…well, you get the point. Certain mediums will work great for some libraries, but maybe not for yours. Don’t be afraid to test out new social media sites, and it’s okay to (dare I say) fail. Iowa City Public Library tried to have a podcast, and guess what, it didn’t really work, but they just moved on. The best thing to do is to be aware of your audience. If you have a younger crowd, Instagram will probably work better than if you have an older crowd who are loyal to Facebook. But also be aware of your story. For example, if you share a lot of links like Connor Hood at the Studio, Twitter is going to get your message out better than Instagram.
9. It doesn’t have to be a solo mission
It’s very likely that you could be the only person assigned to a social media campaign at your library, but that doesn’t mean it has to be solo work. For one, everyone on the panel was more than willing to be a guide and help with any questions or confusion I might have on my own social media campaign. Regarding the actual execution of social media, try inviting patrons to help take photos, or find inspiration from the roles and interests of your fellow coworkers. Also, collaborating with other groups outside the library by mentioning them in your posts or retweeting/sharing their information is also a great way to foster relationships and get your message out to a larger audience. Don’t be a sad, lonely sack; it’s called social for a reason!
10. Have fun with it! Or people won’t care
Seriously, if you are not having fun, it’s going to show in the work you produce. Social media is a jerk, yes, but it is also supposed to be fun. Be silly, let your imagination soar, and show social media who is boss.
And there you have it: my knowledge on social media for libraries and social media for library professionals all wrapped up in a tiny bundle. Thanks for making it to the end.
[Elizabeth Riordan, SLIS graduate student at the University of Iowa]
[*A video of the full workshop can be found here.]