A network for new and aspiring library professionals
The first speaker of the day was Sarah Mallen from the University of Manchester’s Careers Service. Sarah spoke about how useful social media is for reaching a defined audience of students and highlighting the importance of the Careers Service. From her experience, many students are unaware the service exists so her team are aiming to reach students early on with the help of social media. The Careers Service has several Facebook groups for each school as well as a blog and Twitter account. In terms of engagement, there is some activity in groups, but overall interaction is low as students on Facebook are passive users. On the flip side, they have a large following on Twitter but this audience is hard to account for. Sarah spoke about how Twitter is more popular, especially with faculty staff, but she questioned whether their followers were the target audience.
The Careers Service had a social media review in 2015/16. The result of this was streamlining the Facebook groups, removing some and replacing them with staff personal accounts and staff taking over the Twitter account for a day each with themed tweets. Recommendations included:
Sarah spoke about some of the challenges her team faced, which many people in the room could relate to, such as how social media can be time consuming and how difference in opinions can cause disharmony. However, Sarah also spoke about the benefits of a large team by training people in social media who are interested and keen as this gives a breadth of expertise and to remember that ‘many hands make light work’.
Next to present was Michelle Bond, faculty librarian from Liverpool Hope University, on how to implement a social media framework. Michelle explained that they chose to name it a framework rather than a policy or strategy because it is less formal and instead provides guidelines that are less prescriptive. This framework covered a defined audience, goals, tone, content, staffing and gave the social media channels purpose and organisation. With the help of the framework, Twitter followers rose from 100 to 500 but again, Michelle stressed that it is hard to tell how many are from the target audience. Similar issues occurred including the challenge of getting everyone on the same page and developing a consistent tone on the social media channels. Michelle suggested providing a list of potential topics to tweet about. Another good suggestion was to post content multiple times to increase its exposure, as not everyone will have seen the message the first time it was posted.
The final point made by Michelle was, are Facebook and Twitter where our target audience are? Times have changed, 18-21 year olds are now predominantly on Instagram and Snapchat. Therefore, academic libraries need to adapt and explore new social media channels so they are in line with where their target audience is. This was something that I completely agreed with having presented about the benefits of using Instagram at the NLPN OPEN event. I found it very exciting hear other library professionals discuss new opportunities of engagement such as Instagram and Snapchat.
The last speaker of the event was Tom Mason, Social Media Coordinator at the University of Manchester, who gave great insight into the fundamentals of strategy and analytics for social media. Tom’s first point was that libraries tend to focus too much on channels rather than social media as a marketing tool itself where users can reply. However, students today are leaning towards more closed networks such as YikYak and Snapchat, which makes it more difficult to create content and reach these users. Tom explained that the University of Manchester joined Snapchat 8 months ago as this platform gets the most engagement from current and prospective students by offering exclusive content different from the other channels. There is potential to invite others to post to the main University Snapchat account in the form of “Snapchat takeover”. This, in my opinion, would be the best way for libraries to engage on Snapchat; using it to promote key library marketing events such as welcome campaigns on a main University Snapchat account.
Tom advised evaluating previous content to see what has been successful as well as looking at the competition for new ideas. For example, are photos or videos getting more engagement than plain tweets? For managing content, Tom advised using a content calendar for each month based on events and campaigns so you can easily see what messages will be posted. Tom briefly explained using Bright Pod, a project management tool that is used by different departments at the University of Manchester to share each other’s events and then plan social media content.
In terms of finding content, Tom suggested posting external news using resources such as Twitter Moments and Storify to share collated posts from events or use live streaming which is becoming more popular. Hootsuite was described as the best platform for delivery in terms of managing multiple social media accounts and scheduling posts. To close his talk, Tom made some very valid points saying that we should not do social media just for the sake of it. It is important to invest in one platform at a time and question how it will help you engage with students. Do not be afraid to close down platforms if they are not working, they are not a lifelong commitment. Finally, do not be afraid to experiment. If a post does not get much engagement, people will not notice and it will eventually disappear off your timeline anyway, so be inventive and try new ideas.
Overall, this was a very insightful event and I really enjoyed being able to discuss how other library professionals use social media. I particularly enjoyed working in small groups to draft our own social media frameworks using a template (see image below). This encouraged discussion around challenges faced and shared goals. The day gave myself and others confidence that there is no right or wrong approach when it comes to social media, it is best to start with a ‘trial and error’ approach and be as inventive as possible to see what works for your library and its target audience.