Saturday, December 12, 2015

Getting social, media




Just recently a white paper was released by Taylor and Francis on "Use of social media by the library: current practices and future opportunities" which focused on the use of social media in a cross section of libraries across the world.

As I was preparing for a presentation on Social Media in school libraries, I wanted to see if the results would be the same for the school libraries specifically.

I first had to read the white paper carefully and read into the results and figure out the questions required to procure similar information - reverse engineering of sorts.

The survey I conducted was only over about 24 hours with 78 responses from a number of different schools internationally. This achieved the goal of giving me a snapshot of was happening and why. Some of the results are reproduced below with a brief commentary, the full analytics of the responses can be found at the following link Social media in schools snapshot. 97% of the respondents used social media for personal use.

Do you use social media in your library?


The columns who do not use social media were related to elementary schools and through schools. Those who used social media the most were middle, high school and through schools. More through schools were using social media than were not.

If you do not use social media in your library, what are the reasons?


There were many varied reasons as to why libraries were not using social media. The reasons I found most interesting were that there was no interest from colleagues, and the schools did not permit the use of social media for one reason or another. This suggests that schools are still not willing to acknowledge this form of communication as legitimate, or they are fearful or they simply do not know how to manage it. This question was not asked in the Francis & Taylor survey, but it was one which I felt needed to be there for school libraries as in many cases there is an entity beyond the library which makes decisions for them.

What social media platforms are you using?


You can see in the diagram that Facebook and Twitter are being used the most, with many others coming in close behind. I am sure with a larger sample, even more platforms would have been mentioned. It was acknowledged that each of these platforms, or channels can serve a different purpose. This use of Facebook and Twitter correlates directly with the Francis and Taylor study along with a number of other channels being experimented with.

How often are you posting?


The Francis and Taylor paper quoted the Riza Ayu and Abrizah 2011 study which found that libraries that updated their status daily had the highest user engagement (likes and follows). Interestingly from the chart above, most school libraries do not post very often. Does this mean they are not having the user engagement they could have if they posted more often? This post on the Sum all blog by Mark Uzunian gives guidance on how often one should be posting on different channels to harness the optimal user engagement.

Why are you using Social media?


The reasons for school libraries to use social media are similar to those found in the Francis and Taylor survey, with the most common reason to promote library activities and services. Something I had not considered was using social media as part of research activities.

Do you have a plan or a policy for your social media use?


This was the biggest shock to me. 90% of the libraries surveyed who are using social media do not have a plan or policy in place. Is this because they had never really thought about needing a plan or policy, or they didn't think it was necessary or they just set up accounts without really knowing what they were doing or without any real ideas but felt they needed to be using it? This figure was much higher than the Francis and Taylor finding of 70% without a plan or policy. In many cases postings were ad hoc and random.


Who are you targeting with your social media channel?

Having an audience in mind is imperative for good use of social media, and each social media channel will cater to a different audience. 30% of respondents acknowledged this. Parents and students were the main targets for social media, with school staff a very low priority.


Do you consider the timing of your postings?



The timing of postings is crucial to engaging your audience. If you post or schedule a post in the middle of the day when your target audience of students is unable to access social media at school, you may find the response is not as good as right after school when students are making their way home. This infographic from Quicksprout gives some ideas on the best times to post across different channels, but again it depends on your target audience and when they access their accounts.

The three main advantages of using social media in the library were identified as being 

  1. Fast dissemination of information 
  2. Increased awareness and use of the library
  3. Increased engagement and interaction with community
The three greatest challenges identified were 
  1. Time to find items to post
  2. Remembering to update and post
  3. Level of interest from staff
In 73% of respondents who use social media, only one person 
is responsible for making updates.

Promotion of the library social media channels is mainly done 
through, word of mouth, the school website and the Library 
OPAC front page.

The main types of information being posted are in the following table : 

There were varying answers to the question - How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your social media programme? with many indicating that they actually hadn't done any evaluation of the effectiveness, and other mentioned subjective measures such as likes and comments.  No respondents mentioned specifically looking at the analytics as a source of measurement. 


There are also aggregated analytics channels such as Buffer, Sum All, Followerwonk - more can be found for specific channels at this link from Bufferapp. 

Overall, I think the school library social media snapshot captured similar results to the Francis & Taylor survey with both showing that the use of social media has taken hold in libraries, but in many cases without a plan of action or without specific goals or purposes. The use of social media in school libraries is still in the developing stages.

The next step is to understand and apply how to make a plan and policies for social media in your school library, just like there is a policy for collection development and everything else you do.  

I think I may need to redo this research on a larger scale over a longer time period to gain more than a snapshot.

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