Social media is fast becoming a regular part of our everyday lives. Its online communities carry a strong and influential voice, and there is much to be gained from engaging directly with people through these channels, whether that be to network, promote a product or service, or just stay up to date with the latest news.
Social media presents a good number of opportunities for libraries, but also many challenges. With most social media platforms only having been in existence for less than 10 years, can anyone really claim themselves an expert? How best to navigate the multiple sites and onslaught of information to ensure you achieve the maximum impact from your library’s social media presence?
The research was carried out on a global scale, with over 600 librarians worldwide contributing their ideas, experiences, and opinions on social media use. The online survey in particular provided some very insightful results as to how libraries are currently using social media. Five of the most interesting discoveries made were as follows.
61% of libraries have been using social media for 3 years or more
With such a high percentage of librarians having used social media for more than 3 years, we can make the assumption that social media is reasonably well embedded in library communications.
When questioned through our survey, only 10% of librarians stated they had come to use social media within the past year. So it seems that most have been aware of the potential of social media as a communication tool for some time.
30% post to social media daily
The purpose to which social media is being applied is less clear, but when combined with the fact that 30% are posting on at least a daily basis, it confirms that social media is moving towards a central role in how libraries are communicating with their end users.
25% of libraries have more than 5 individuals updating their social media pages
With regards to who the individuals are behind the messages being posted, the responses to this survey question were more widespread.
While an impressive 25% have a considerable workforce behind their social media pages, with more than 5 individuals updating content, 42% only had one or two individuals managing the output.
Where just one person was managing the account, the individuals were either Head Librarians or Reference Librarians, and so most likely this would be the solo librarian in that department. Conversely, where more than 5 individuals provided output, it is likely that every member of the department posts content in some capacity.
Facebook is the most popular social media channel
A very interesting discovery is the preferred social network highlighted, Facebook, with 58% of librarians stating they used it on a regular basis. Twitter (46% regularly use) and blogging (30% regularly use) were also mentioned as being in significant use, but following on from this other platforms begin to tail off. Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Academia.edu and ResearchGate were all only used by a very small minority of less than 10% of all those questioned.
This is particularly thought-provoking when contrasted with comments received through the focus groups stating that students were increasingly leaving Facebook, as they saw it as a platform for an older generation and less relevant to their communication needs.
One librarian mentioned that “students are searching by image first, text second”, suggesting that visual channels are becoming a preferred means of communication with younger users. Yet, this possible change in the usage of social media is not yet reflected in how libraries are targeting communications.