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How Libraries Can Be a "Good Hang" on Social Media

Sal Lake County Library Sm Homepage

by Jeff Buydos, Public Relations Coordinator/Social Media Manager, Salt Lake County Library

Be a Good Hang

When I am asked to break down a successful social media engagement strategy to a few words, I choose those four. It’s a simple, yet complex approach that has helped Salt Lake County Library significantly grow our social media following and engagement.

Since September of 2018, the library’s Facebook post engagement has grown by more than 500%. More engagement means increased recognition of programs, resources and events without touching our advertising budget.

How can all libraries ensure their social channels are “good hangs”?

The first step is to clearly understand your target audience. The library’s social media is meant to engage with patrons, NOT library employees! Social media offers opportunities to befriend patrons, providing a vital roadmap of what they like, desire and are pained by. The endgame for this engagement is to increase awareness and appreciation for the library’s brand.

Focusing on promotional posts limits the library’s ability to engage deeply with the public. Instead, libraries should try to be a good hang and seek to understand the day-to-day existence of our patrons and create posts that relate to their interests in compelling ways.

While SLCL obviously considers whether a post reflects our mission statement, we also carefully weigh how well the post will interest our patrons (again, not just librarians) AND give our followers a chance to express themselves. These two considerations, in my opinion, are the most important determining factors in our social media success.

However, libraries do not need to rely on opinion alone to measure the success of social media engagement strategies. Common metrics for measuring engagement include the number of reactions, comments and shares for posts.

To achieve a high engagement rate, consider what it really means to be a good friend. Good friends rarely talk about their own interests. Instead, good friends closely consider what interests other people. For SLCL, this consideration led to the post below:

County Library FB 1

We knew from past posts how much our audience likes cats. Using that info, we created a shared post about shaving cats to look like dinosaurs. While some people were upset by the post, the overwhelming majority found it interesting or humorous. This post generated 2,235 comments, 4,038 reactions and reached more than 137,000 people. Connecting the post back to our programming led to great awareness for our Summer Reading program and helped us closely reflect the values in our mission statement.

Good friends also lead conversation with the intent of listening, rather than responding. We recently created a slide asking our followers about the first thing they would do if they woke up in the morning and found that all books were banned. The post (seen below) generated nearly 1,000 comments after 107 shares. It spawned 358 reactions while reaching more than 39,000 people.

County Library FB 2

Few things will get a reaction like allowing others to talk about themselves. This book-related post works because it strikes a sensitive spot and sparks imagination in so many readers. It allows them to visualize an emotionally challenging scenario, reflect and do what all people ultimately want to do — talk about themselves and offer opinions. We typically follow up on these posts, encouraging further conversation (listening). Don’t forget to follow up — the importance of this extra strep cannot be overstated.

We also have a fairly strict “75/25” policy for our content mix. Seventy-five percent of our content will allow our followers to interact and/or voice an opinion or provide humor or something of interest. These posts include library, book, science or writing-related memes, puns, facts, graphics, polls and questions. The other 25% of our posts are promotional. They include direct links to programs, resources, book lists and events.

Returning to the analogies of friendship and being a good hang, imagine a friend who never does anything for you and is constantly asking you for a favor. No one wants a bad friend like that.

If your social media is full of nothing but promotional content, YOU are being the bad friend.

Finally, never use social media to badmouth a patron, book, service, product or really anything. Criticism instantly puts your audience on defense and attacks their pride, two sure ways to offend and lose followers. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a little humorous or sarcastic when you post, but remember, negativity begets negativity. Remain positive.

Think of your Facebook page and library as a person rather than an organization. Develop a relatable voice or brand for each social media platform that fits your community and followers and keep it consistent on each individual platform. Remember a few simple rules about friendship. Be interested in others. Listen. Encourage them to talk. Prove your value before you ask for a favor. Never say anything mean. Be fun to be around.

In other words, be a good hang.

Jeff Buydos

Jeff Buydos

Public Relations Coordinator/Social Media Manager, Salt Lake County Library

Jeff Buydos is a public relations coordinator/social media manager with Salt Lake County Library, where he develops content and social media and marketing strategies. He spent more than 20 years in the broadcasting and journalism industries before joining the County Library’s marketing team.