Getting Started With Social Media For Your Library

I occasionally get emails from people who have seen my more popular posts about library social media including: Four Reasons Libraries Should be on Social Media, How Libraries Can Leverage Twitter, and Six Things Libraries Should Tweet. People who write often want to know how to get started using social media from a library account. I wanted to collect some of the advice that I’ve shared with them into a post for others who may have similar questions.

Whether you’re starting out or just looking to refresh your library social media presence, one of the best resources I’ve found is the Social Media Examiner’s Resource Guide. It gives you a social media marketing industry guide and tons of practical articles on topics like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and blogging. In addition, the popular tech/social media blog Mashable has some solid guides on topics like Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve also found that there are a few important things to remember to make your social media presence effective and fresh without burning yourself out in the process.

Influence and Engagement not Numbers

The two most important questions to ask when starting out (and regularly after that) are “what are my goals for having a social media presence,” and “what am I trying to accomplish?” People often think that having a lot of fans or followers is really important in having a social media presence. This is misguided. What matters in social media is not the quantity of followers, but the quality of the conversations. There are plenty of reasons to be on social media and number of fans/followers can be a helpful metric, but your focus should on user engagement and influence as opposed to becoming popular.

Use a dashboard

Using a social media management dashboard is the best way to stay abreast of conversations and keep your content fresh. You can use free tools like TweetDeck and Hootsuite to manage both Facebook and Twitter and schedule posts. Doing this in a single block can save you time and ensure that you regularly have fresh content being posted. Dashboards also help you to see things like mentions, posts, replies, and saved searches all in one place. These one stop shops will help you you see what people are saying about your library and be a part of that conversation.

Include your users

Talking only about yourself is a quick path to losing the attention of your audience. One of the best ways to get engagement on social media is to make your users a part of the conversation. Our library Twitter account regularly retweets posts from students and other groups on campus. On Facebook we post things like student artwork, and on Twitter we often retweet photos from the library’s third floor.


Use the richness of the medium

When using social media tools it’s important to leverage them to their full potential. A text only post is going to get a lot less engagement than one that is rich either visually or contextually. In Facebook include images in every post. Period. It’s been shown to increase engagement by 120%. On Twitter include links, hashtags, and @mentions. There is a lot you can say in only 140 characters. And depending on your audience there may be other social networks you may want to experiment with such as Pinterest or Tumblr.

“Connections create value” and there is “power in community.” These are rules of the social era that libraries have known for long time. There are now ever increasing ways to create these connections and build community. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a social media presence for their library?

Andy Burkhardt


  1. Yes: “What matters in social media is not the quantity of followers, but the quality of the conversations.”

    It’s like knowing how many people are at the library v. knowing what they’re doing here.

    Also, at our library, we recently started a communicators group (seven people, just over a year now). We decided to make a handbook to inform the voice and purpose of our social media presence. Maybe it’s useful to other libraries (find it at the bottom of the page):

  2. Karen, I love the communications document! It seems like it would be so useful. Have you found that people are following the guidelines in it? Also I think your point about ” knowing how many people are at the library v. knowing what they’re doing here” is really about value and quality. A gate count doesn’t really tell you much besides how many people walked through the door. You need data that is more actionable or stories that go along with those numbers to really understand what’s going on and what people find valuable.

  3. Thanks, Andy! We met with different work groups in the library to talk about the communications handbook and what we’re doing in social spaces. It gave us a chance to talk about why we’re there, invite them to contribute and answer questions. It was great! Also a great preparation for our website redesign, which will use a CMS. Since we’ll have many contributors it helps to get thinking about how to have a unified voice.

    In terms of gate count, couldn’t agree more! It was one of the first posts on our blog!

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