Social networking sites (SNS) are used by approximately 88% of 18- to-29-year-olds, therefore, it comes as no surprise that academic institutions would target their key demographic by tweeting, posting, and sharing. In fact, academic libraries have joined the ranks of their larger institutions by creating their own social media pages to promote library services and resources, but how do we promote student engagement when our followers are bored by the content we post?
According to Mersey, Malthouse, and Calder (2012), engagement is “the collective experiences that readers or viewers have with a media brand” (as cited in Lipschultz, 2018, p. 25). He continues by saying, “reading is an important behavior” in social media, however, users also process “photographs, charts, and other visual communication, such as video” (Lipschultz, 2018, p. 25).
Social media is useful for marketing specialists as it allows the use of a variety of content types, which does not change from audience to audience. Blogs, videos, and graphics perform well for marketing campaigns according to blog editor Raychale from Lyfe Marketing. Blogging performs well for small, independent businesses, while infographics and videos work for a range of demographics but may be less cost-effective if a professional design team is involved. Videos perform well to influence consumers and infographics can allow consumers to visualize the data you are discussing, making it a much more visceral, and therefore memorable, experience.
Table 1- Source: Ascend2, 2017
In Table 1, you will notice a variety of marketing content tools; however, you will also notice that each content delivery method will serve a separate purpose. While this graphic is useful for demonstrating the popularity of each type, you must consider the objective of the post before selecting the method of delivery. For instance, if the purpose of an academic library’s post is to encourage the use of library resources, the best type of content would include infographics or blog posts explaining the library’s services and testimonials from students who found success using those services.
The use of social media allows our academic library to reach students on their level. The majority of our students use social media, meaning we have a high likelihood of garnering student engagement through those sites. The school webpage only receives passive attention when student’s log on to check their grades, do their time entry or look up a department’s phone number with little to no interaction. The library’s social media accounts allow us to interact in real-time with our student body. If someone has a question or a recommendation, we can see it immediately and respond, giving the student a more personalized experience.
One issue that we have discovered is timing. Timing is everything, after all, so we have to determine the best time of day/week to post. We have used Facebook analytics to break down our most active hours in a week. An example of this is below.
Table 2- Source: Frank M. Allara Library, 2018
Judging by Table 2, our posts would receive the most engagement between 9:00 and 10:00 pm, as these are the times when our student body is most active.
We have also studied student reactions based on the type of post: photo, video, and infographic. From this small sampling (over the course of a week and a half) I have come to the realization that memes and gifs perform much better than any other type of content as far as views and likes, however, these are the least likely methods for encouraging material circulation or library service awareness.
Table 3- Source: Frank M. Allara Library, 2018
The use of social media for an academic library can be both challenging and fulfilling. In Table 3, the numbers identify the popularity of a post. As you can see, our most popular post at this time occurred on the first day back from summer break. Our second most popular post occurred two days prior and highlighted one of our book displays.
Information such as how many people viewed an image or liked a post is helpful, but it does not determine the meaningfulness or the outcome of the initial engagement. This graphic does not measure the face-to-face interactions that occur because of the silly gif or crazy image posted to the account. Students are much more willing to engage and interact with library staff when they feel comfortable. Therefore, we post funny memes and silly pictures to build comfort, while simultaneously proving our credibility and trustworthiness by helping them when needed and guiding them when asked. Our students know us by name and they are comfortable enough to laugh and joke with us. They never shy away from asking us questions, and even involve us in their choice of major or in their career research. These situations occur daily and nothing proves our success as a library more than these interactions.
We are currently using our social media accounts to connect to Faculty, students and alumni at the university. We are beginning to shift our “sales pitch” from building comfort and familiarity to focus on encouraging material circulation, library usage, and instructing our students on proper research techniques and critical source analysis. Academic libraries are struggling to remain relevant and many researchers are turning to Google because academic libraries are not living up to their mission. Due to the amount of money we invest in our online resources, we cannot afford to be irrelevant. We must shift our focus to teaching students critical analysis skills and research techniques, but first, we have to get them into the building.
Social media is the first step to getting them inside of the building and comfortable asking for help.
Ascend2 (2017). Content Marketing and Distribution: Survey Summary Report. Ascend2 Research Based Marketing. Retrieved from http://ascend2.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Ascend2-Content-Marketing-and-Distribution-Report-170612.pdf
Frank M. Allara Library. (2018). In Facebook [Academic Library Analytics]. Retrieved August 8, 2018, from https://www.facebook.com/FrankM.AllaraLibrary/
Lipschultz, J.H. (2018). Introduction to social media concepts. In Lipschultz, Social media communication: Concepts, practices, data, law and ethics (1-38). New York, NY: Routledge.
Raychale (2018). Target your customers with these top 10 high-performing types of content marketing. LYFE Marketing. Retrieved from https://www.lyfemarketing.com/blog/types-of-content-marketing/
Smith, A. & Anderson, M. (2018). Social Media Use in 2018. Pew Research Center- internet & Technology. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/