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UKeiG CPD Group: Better social media for libraries: Twitter, blogs and Instagram

By Gillian Mackenzie, on 22 October 2019

Along with the LaSS library team, I help to maintain our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and social media is probably our main method for outreach at the moment. Also, I am part of the communications team for Astrea, the UCL network for women in Professional Services, and being a somewhat tentative user of social media myself, I felt it would really benefit my various work roles to learn more about using social media more effectively. So, I recently attended a course on Better social media for libraries at CILIP.

The course was practical and fun, and I came away with lots of ideas and things I want to try out. LaSS has a reasonably healthy following on Facebook, and we’ve recently run a successful series of ‘Meet the Team’ profiles, introducing the LaSS team to our library users. Our Twitter account is less established,  but as the course focused mainly on using Twitter, attending made me feel more confident about trying new things with the LaSS account. In particular, seeing examples of fun things that other libraries, museums and archives have successfully carried out on Twitter was quite inspiring (see Museum Wars, Orkney library using a Twitter thread to tell a story, and the viral ‘absolute unit’ post).

Over the course of the day, we also discussed social media strategies, analytics, and scheduling. The trainer proposed “1 in 4” guidelines for Twitter activity, structuring and varying Twitter activity as follows: a reply; 1 in 4 Tweets directly about the organisation; a link to something useful; and a ReTweet. The course highlighted the importance of developing a strategy of what you want to convey on social media, advised against just broadcasting (but rather interacting on social media), and also not simply Tweeting about the library every time.

Using analytics can help you to identify which posts were most popular with your audience, and what times they are most active, which can help you to plan your social media output more effectively. Creating a social media calendar was recommended, along with using free versions of software such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to schedule posts.  Planning posts in advance means you don’t have to be constantly coming up with new ideas – you can do things in bulk, as a team, and schedule content to be published at an appropriate time.

The course emphasized that linking your social media marketing with other marketing helps both, so we need to make sure we are joining up all of our marketing at LaSS. For example, we have monthly ‘library hacks’ posters (featuring timely, handy hints about using the library) that we put up around LaSS, and we will start putting these up on social media too. We could link these together with a unique hashtag on Twitter too, to make them easier to find (e.g. University of York have used #UoYtips to tag all of their library tips on Twitter).

We also discussed the importance of using images on social media, and part of the course looked at creating images for this purpose. Canva was recommended to create images with the right dimensions for whichever social media network you use (i.e. they have free templates for Facebook and Twitter posts), as well as options to create a variety of other content, such as posters, logos and presentations (in other words, Canva can be a useful tool beyond simply creating images for social media).

It’s also useful to have an image to accompany a blog post, as it makes it more engaging for your readers (apparently). Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo while I attended the course, but I’ve included one I made earlier on Photofunia (a non-subscription, fun website where you can edit photos online for free in a matter of seconds resulting in high quality photo collages).

Image of LaSS Library and Lavender, our library cat, created using Photofunia

Towards the end of the course, we also briefly covered Instagram, which is something we’ve been considering getting at LaSS.  I know a few UCL Libraries are already using Instagram (e.g. IOA, SOP, Main, IOE, and Special Collections), and I am keen to have a go with LaSS too, even more so having attended this social media course. Instagram isn’t a news feed in the same way as Twitter, so it can be used as and when to show off collections, buildings and library staff! Also, Instagram Stories are perfect for covering one-off, on-the-day events we hold in and around the library.

The final 3 social media tips from the course were to be creative, be brave, and to be joined up. I think we’ve made a good start on doing this at LaSS (it’s pretty brave to post a ‘meet the team’ profile about yourself!), and I think we can definitely build on that in the future too.

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