Three Reasons for Libraries to Use Social Media

Does your library have an active Facebook page? I hope so, because 96% of college students use Facebook.

Here are 3 great reasons for your library to jump on the social media bandwagon:

  1. Marketing. Marketing is the primary reason why colleges and universities have adopted social media at an institutional level. Branding and recruiting are serious business. Marketing library sources and services is also serious business, serious educational business. Students need to be given a reason to physically visit the library. Social media provides a convenient avenue for that. What fabulous new books have you acquired? What do your facilities look like? What services does your library offer? How helpful and friendly are your library staff? Of course, the key to effective social media use is to get as many ‘fans’ and ‘followers’ as you can. In the beginning, word of mouth is the most effective way to go about it. After that, things begin to roll. Kudos to those of you already doing this!
  2. Community. Students need to feel a sense of community in order to flourish in the academic environment. Every classroom is a community. Every club is a community. And every department on campus is a community. All are a part of the larger academic community (e.g. college), but all have their own unique community culture. Social media is a wonderful tool for helping to create a sense of community among students, faculty and staff. And not just those on campus, but for those at a distance as well. For your library to create a sense of community through social media, you must use it as a communication tool. Not one-sided communication (that’s what marketing is for). Creating a sense of community requires you to make things personal. Let your students know the daily goings-on in the library: post pictures, ask questions, solicit feedback. Have an active presence. This means frequent postings.
  3. Education. Social media has a lot of potential as an educational tool in the classroom. But for the library as a whole, education with social media means sharing learning resources. That could mean sharing a LibGuide, a tutorial, or search tips for an upcoming assignment. It could also mean hosting a web conference, a Facebook group, or a Twitter chat.

So, which social media tools are the must-haves? In my opinion, at the very least, every library needs to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel. Blogs are great, but should be topic specific (e.g. book reviews, ed tech, info lit, etc…). Scoop.it is also very useful and easy to keep up with (should also be topic specific). On a cautionary note, some academic libraries have adopted Pinterest, but the demographics on that show that it is most popular among 25-34 year-olds and is five times more popular with women than men. So, unless your students are older and mostly female, it’s probably not worth the effort. Instead, you might look at Learnist. It’s a bit like Pinterest, but specifically geared for learning. In addition to images and videos, you can add full web pages and articles. Here’s an example of one I created.

When you consider the powerful influence that social media has in students’ lives, it seems crazy not to take it seriously. In my experience, social media has often been viewed as a side ‘chore,’ relegated to the librarians who are willing to volunteer their time for it. It’s often not a priority, and can fall by the wayside during busy times. I think the future is going to call for social media to be a permanent part of the job description and a task that is as important as reference, instruction and collection development. Maybe it already is in some places. I certainly hope so.

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