28 Jan 2019

MAKING AN IMPACT WITH YOUR LIBRARY'S SOCIAL MEDIA - a short summary of the #conultd event

Guest post from Louise O'Shea.  Louise is a Senior Library Assistant within Reader Services at the University of Limerick. Louise manages the library’s Instagram page and regularly contributes to the Glucksman Library's other Social Media platforms. 
Louise manages both the Every Seat Counts desk clearing campaign and The ARC (automated storage and retrieval system), the first of its kind onsite in a library setting, in Europe! 
Louise has presented on The ARC at the CONUL Conference and Innovation Day, and regularly presents to visiting groups. 
Louise is responsible for the employment of students and recognises their importance within successful library campaigns.


CONUL’s Training & Development Group in conjunction with CONUL’s Communications & Outreach Group devised a 1-day training programme called Making an Impact with your Library’s Social Media. The course was delivered by Cian Corbett in UCC on January 25th and was aimed at staff involved with or interested in the potential of social media to enhance their library services and users’ experiences.

The event saw over 50 delegates from Irish libraries spend a day in UCC Library’s Creative Zone in the Boole Library, discussing the impact social media can have for libraries. 

The trainer’s opening gambit of the day discovered that about half the group LOVE Social Media but a handful also admitted to HATING it, citing reasons such as it being a “time thief” and it being a highly  critical environment where even a misplaced comma can get you unwelcome criticism online.

In the first of the day’s group activities attendees were asked to list WHY brands use social media. An interesting discussion ensued, with a nice prize for the winning table. The benefits of Social Media Marketing were shown in one of Cian’s slides and it is not difficult to translate each of these to a library setting:

From Presentation


  • Increasing exposure by having an online presence in the same places as your audiences/customers i.e. on one of the contemporary student networks 
  • Drive more traffic to your services e.g. your library website or LibGuides by generating awareness and visibility 
  • Developing loyal fans by building a rapport with your clients and regularly talking to them on social media so that when you need to ask students’ opinion on something they are more likely to ‘know who you are’
  • Learn what your audience is interested in or wants to know more about by having a presence on a network where they want to chat 
  • You can generate leads for your business i.e. get a student to attend one of your workshops by pushing your messages out to them regularly 
  • Improve your search rankings by appearing on a range of platforms 
  • Grow opportunities for collaboration with academics by relaying interesting library projects on your social networks 
  • Put out your library views on topics relevant to your audience, placing you in an informed position relating to important matters
  • Improve sales of the things that your library sells e.g. the Cite it Right guide to referencing that UL Library sells in the library
  • Instead of a print-based (expensive) marketing campaign consider targeting your message to key audiences using a much cheaper social media marketing campaign.

The day was split in to four distinct sessions, each one dealing with a different social media platform. We began with Facebook, which owns WhatsApp and Instagram and the worlds top Social / Messaging platform.

From Presentation

The key takeaway from the Facebook session was the difference between paid versus organic content.

Only about 2% of your content will be seen by your followers unless you choose to do some form of paid advertising. Cian likened this to going in to an almost empty room to deliver your message. Many of the audience were stunned with this stat, our colleagues in the National Library of Ireland have done some paid advertising on Facebook and have seen some positive results from that. In addition to having a paid element to your Facebook advertising, Cian also told us that we need to create ‘thumb stopping’ content so that people will actually be entertained, educated or inspired, by library posts. About 14% of people have ad blockers enabled and this is partly because of the standard of content that appears on social media and the irritant that it poses for users. We are competing for the attention of busy people so our content has to be compelling and must either MOVE our viewer, TEACH them something new or REWARD them in some way.

From Presentation

Cian cited New York Public Library as a good example of how to use Facebook well for driving footfall to their library through their events. Their use of high quality imagery is also very good.

This brought us nicely to the highly visual Instagram platform. Photos have to be of good quality and as Cian pointed out, a photo should be able to talk for itself.  You should experiment with different Instagram formats, such as adding multiple pictures you can scroll across like a panorama; creating Stories or be brave and give IGTV a go and consider doing polls to engage your users. You can use Buffer to prepare an Instagram story in advance, and it’s free    Try putting borders on your photos to make them better.  The Regram App allows you to share pictures seen on other IG posts but be sure to ask permission first and credit the creator.  Cian highlighted some wonderful posts on the British Library Instagram page. It is well worth a follow. 

When talking about Twitter Cian provided a comparative description between Facebook and Twitter Facebook are the people you know, Twitter are the people you’d like to know. Most people use Twitter because they’re looking for something to talk about, Twitter is the 'Now Network'.   News breaks and spreads really quickly on Twitter making it an invaluable current affairs source. Twitter is also a very valuable research tool; for searching, problem solving and generating new business by getting new followers. It is also a useful way of gauging ‘sentiment’ - seeing what people like/dislike about you.

A question that Cian is frequently asked is how do I grow my Twitter followers? Here are some tips:

  • Follow people, they will follow you back – balance your ratio of followers 60/40
  • Get involved in conversations by looking up hashtags around a conversation 
  • Do a Retweet and Follow competition on Twitter – gets you exposure and new followers. 

Cian recommended that libraries emulate the @UofGlasgow on their Twitter feed where they are currently doing ‘reactive content’ around the film Mary Queen of Scots. He commented also that their use of Emojis was good too, semiotics being a great visual method of communicating. The lifetime of a Tweet is about 90 minutes; so if your resources allow it you could tweet once every 90 minutes to continuously appear in people’s newsfeeds. Anyone that finds themselves tight for resources to do social media work should consider using Buffer or one of the productivity tools; e.g. Hootsuite, that will allow you to schedule content in advance. 

The final platform that Cian address was Snapchat.  Snapchat is ephemeral, of the moment, content that disappears soon after being posted. Snapchat began as a youth movement and continues to be the most heavily used social network in Ireland by young people, perhaps because their parents don’t use it. While other social networks are used with sound turned off, Snapchat users consume content with the sound on. Snapchat is a closed network with over 150m daily users sending 9,000 snaps per second!

If your library is fortunate enough to have students or staff or if you have a regular Snapchat user, ask them to show you how to use it or read up on becomeablogger.com to find out more about Snapchatting. UL Library and Maynooth University are both using Snapchat to communicate with students.

The closing part of the day was all about how people define their vision for social media; devising a Social Media Strategy. Decide your overarching goal i.e. let your users know that the library is a place of refuge instead of telling them about the opening hours all the time. Add in an emotional element to your content. Cian recommended we marry our online metrics with your offline ones; see if your social media campaigns increase visitors to the building.  Cian advocated for setting ambitious goals for your library’s social media.

The trainer gave a comprehensive overview of the social media landscape and provided easy to use take-home guidelines. Having completed this 1-day course, attendees should have enough information to allow them to devise social media plans for their own libraries. Cian asserted that the days of free social media are finished for advertising and reaching the correct audiences with our messages so in order to have impact he recommended careful use of a marketing budget to boost specific campaigns and have a team, don’t rely on one person fulfilling your library's Social Media requirements.  If you are thinking of paying for advertising, it’s worth remembering that Twitter can be more expensive compared to Facebook or Instagram.

And finally, Cian recommended writing a tone of voice document for your institutional Twitter account and if your institution has a set of guidelines or a policy for social media you should use or adapt these.

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