Libraries & Social Media: Facebook (Part 1)

If you do social media for your library and are not a member of this Facebook group, you better correct that. It’s a great place to share ideas and articles and discuss social media in libraries. I try to check in regularly, even though I am more of a twitter and tumblr user personally.

A few weeks months ago, someone asked, “Is there anyone here with the Lawrence Public Library? You’ve built a FB page with great reach, especially given the size of your community. Do you have any tips to share?”

Well, I’m on the social media team at LPL, but the real steward of our Facebook page is Jenny, our Children’s Librarian. And I’d have to say that Rachel, who used to work at LPL and then went to JoCo and now works for Book Riot, and Susan, who was our marketing director and is now the director at Chapel Hill, are a big reason that LPL has such a robust social media presence today. Jeni, our current marketing guru, and Kristin, our adult programs and events librarian are a big part of success, too.

While I contribute to Facebook, these are by no means all *my* ideas and philosophies (and of course, while I am a part of the team, the opinions presented here are just my own, blah, blah disclaimer blah). But I’m the one with a blog, so here’s what I have to say about the success of our Facebook page.

Behind the Scenes: How Our Social Media Team Handles Facebook

One Captain at the Helm, Many Sailors on Board

Having multiple contributors is key. There is no way I could do three fun, engaging, informative Facebook pages a day (and you know, do my regular work). I mean, I feel like when I have one good post a week, I am killing it. Jenny went on leave for a while this year, and she scheduled out TONS of content to keep us afloat during her time away from work. I know we’re all relieved she’s back.

So my advice: designate a leader but have a handful of people to bounce ideas off of and who feel comfortable offering suggestions, filling in, and helping generate good content. At least this is what works for us. In fact, we’re really open to ALL staff sending us interesting ideas or links to share across social media.

The four social media team leaders all come from different departments, which also helps. We have marketing, adult programs, a children’s librarian, and I work closely with teen services even though I’m technically part of collection development. We all work together, but we’re spread throughout the library so we draw from all our areas of the library for generating post ideas. It helps keep our content balanced.

Get Organized

The way it works: Jenny usually sends out a weekly email saying here’s our plan for the week, and reminds everyone of their time lot. It’s not the end of the world if one slot gets missed, but it’s nice to have a routine. We’ve experimented with different time slots, and have determined the best times each day to post to reach maximum engagement with our followers. You just have to test schedules and observe trends over time to determine this. We don’t enforce it rigidly, just use it as a guideline. We try to post 2-3 times every day, but no more than 5-8 on a busy day. That’s what works for us. Your community will determine what works bets for your library. While we do schedule posts out in advance using the organic schedule function within Facebook, we also leave room for spontaneous, timely posts.

Authenticity + Personality + Trust = Voice

It’s good to have a coherent voice for the library, and you have to know your boundaries as far as content, tone, etc. But it’s easy to get burnt out, and it’s also easy for your voice to take on a “corporate” or “brand” tone, which can turn people off. People want to engage with authentic and personable content, not sanitized and overly formal content. I know I’ve talked to people at other libraries who are frustrated about the centralized control of social media in the administration or marketing departments, and I sympathize. In my opinion, that is the worst way to go about social media. It’s the people who are at the front lines working with patrons that usually have the best instincts for the type of content that will most interest, inform, and inspire the people libraries serve.

Yeah, we’re professionals, but we’re also real people. A big key to our success with social media at LPL is that we let that show. Our director trusts the four of us to run the show and allows us the space to experiment. (Seriously. Our director actually said to the board of directors “with the recent passing of Colonel Meow, there’s really a vacuum in the world of internet cats, and we could fill that role”  when we put a cat on the board of directors to make announcements on social media).

And the bottom line is: we are all users of social media. Throwing these responsibilities into the laps of people who don’t understand the way different platforms work and don’t have the motivation to learn is going to be detrimental to your goals.

Failure IS an Option 

To figure out what works best for your community, you’re going to have to experiment, think outside of the box, and try new things. That means your going to have some posts that are duds. It’s okay. Really. You learn from these mistakes, but you have to be able to take chances. Last December, we spent hours (on and off the clock) and had the help of a wonderful volunteer (Mister BS) creating a video showing cats acting out Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” We were sure it was going to be an internet sensation. It was mostly a flop. It was an ambitious project, and we weren’t able to execute it exactly as we had envisioned. But we learned about making videos, how the timing of posts effects reach and engagement, etc. In the end, it was okay.

Find Out What Works in Your Community + Be a Part of Your Community

Lawrence is a liberal college town in Kansas with a population just under 100,000. What works in our community isn’t going to translate into success for every library in terms of content, frequency of posts, and the tone. Look at other successful non-library pages in your community. Do you have an awesome local record store that shares great content? Does the arts center get killer engagement? What are they doing? Can you work together to make social media in your community awesome and informative?

I’d also encourage anyone who does library social media to connect with the others in their local community who do social media as part of their jobs. In Lawrence, we have a Social Media Club that is part of a national network. Find one in your area, or start a new chapter!

Inform, Entertain, Inspire

In addition to informing our patrons about programs and services our library offers, we also endeavor to entertain and inspire them.  What entertains and inspires people is diverse and eclectic. This is where variety comes in. Find the balance between these three goals—informing, entertaining, and inspiring—and go from there. Need a place to start? In my next post, I’ll share some ideas on what has worked for us.

Honestly, I’ve seen libraries who are putting awesome content on social media but don’t seem to get our level of engagement. It’s hard to pinpoint what they are doing “wrong.” Often, I’m surprised at the level of interaction a post will get or at how little engagement one will receive. I don’t think there is any one recipe for success, but for those who have asked about our “secret” or “tips and tricks”, this is our general approach and philosophy.


How do you organize the social media team at your library? What are your successes or struggles?

3 thoughts on “Libraries & Social Media: Facebook (Part 1)

  1. Such a reasonable post! When most companies/organizations get involved in social media, it’s laughable. But it sounds like you guys have the right approach. “People want to engage with authentic and personable content, not sanitized and overly formal content” couldn’t be more true.
    I was always impressed with my library’s Africana Library Facebook page. They post lots of photos & interesting, unique stuff, and they don’t have that cringeworthy “100% positive” tone that you see undermining so many public outreach attempts.

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