Blogger Children and Technology Committee

Promoting library programs, Social media is only part of the answer

I’ve been around long enough to remember when my library system decided to centralize their social media accounts. Some of our branches didn’t care, they weren’t on social media anyway. Some of our branches almost held protests. They had branch social media teams which had slowly built up their followers through years of effort. I was on one of those teams. We had a posting schedule, we had gone to trainings, we followed tips about always including a photo and using variety in our types of posts. Having to give up control was really hard.

Cell phone screen showing a Facebook login screen next to scrabble tiles spelling out the words social media.
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Sorry for the long intro, I’ll get the point.

Last year, during the months that our library branches were completely closed—after we had started offering online programs, but before we were able to start curbside delivery—our librarians (no, it wasn’t just me) wanted our social media guidelines to change to meet our new program promotion needs. It was disappointing to have learned the tech skills to create a great online program only to have low participation. I forgot everything I had ever known about social media best practices. I wanted every online program to get multiple social media posts, even if that meant dropping all of the other types of fun content. Luckily, it wasn’t my decision, and a very kind social media coordinator responded to my frustrated (but professionally-worded) e-mail with an invitation for a phone call.

Foreground shows a laptop with a camera attachment on top with a screen showing the camera's view. Background: a children's librarian in a yellow shirt is sitting next to a flannel board read to start recording an online storytime video.
Photo of recording an online storytime courtesy of Salt Lake County Library Marketing Dept.

I forgot everything I had ever known about social media best practices. I wanted every online program to get multiple social media posts.

If you are like me and need a reminder on social media best practices for libraries, here are some tips that were recently shared by Sara Neal, the Salt Lake County Library’s Marketing Manager, with our youth services librarians.

The Basics

Social media companies exist to make a profit not to make the world a better place, unfortunately. So, look for fun content that will reinforce the algorithms used on social media platforms because if we don’t our posts get seen by fewer and fewer eyeballs and we get less and less reach.

Facebook challenge written with white text on a blue background.
Facebook Challenge posted on Salt Lake County Library Facebook page

Can individual branch programs be promoted on social media?

My answer is always a resounding “yes,” but then my team always reminds me the answer is, “yes, sometimes.” There are only so many hours in the day, and there are only so many pieces of content we can share in a week. Questions that we usually ask when determining if a program will get posted or promoted are:

  • Is it fun/entertaining, and something that people will react to? Likes, comments, etc.
  • Can it be paired with other planned entertaining content? We limit our direct event promotion, but if your program can be tied into a local initiative or popular topic we can add it to other types of posts.
  • Is there a promotional budget for the program? If there is, we can do ads or target specific audiences.

Why use hashtags?

People use hashtags to share experiences or organize information. We only have one official hashtag because when someone clicks on a hashtag you want lots of cool things to show up. Nothing is more disappointing than clicking on a hashtag and only having two other photos show up. So, The County Library, along with a lot of other organizations, have moved away from having very specific event hashtags to something more general.

If you are a librarian and you have found some really great books that you want to share on your personal social media account and you want the tag the library, I say do it. I’m a mom and I tag the library any time I have taken my kids to a branch and want to share a photo.

Final thoughts

  • Focus your programs on the needs of your audience.
  • Ask for support. Get help in creating copy and always have someone else check/edit your text.
  • Finally, tell people, tell people, tell people. The most effective marketing method is always word of mouth.

About the author

Tina Bartholoma is a member of the ALSC Children & Technology Committee. She is a Senior Librarian of Outreach and Programming for Salt Lake County Library and has 15 years of experience as a youth services librarian. She recently added an M.Ed., with a focus on instructional design and educational technology, to her MLS.

This blog addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies:  III. Programming Skills, V. Outreach and advocacy and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

One comment

  1. Joanne

    As more people receive vaccinations for COVID-19, public libraries may be able to safely resume or continue their in-person programs for children. How are libraries being respectful of the families who do not want the images of their children posted on social media? Such families do exist. Thank you very much.


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