Using Social Media to Advocate for Libraries

When you’re putting together an advocacy program for your library, using social media is crucial—it’s one of the easiest ways to reach targeted audiences in or-der to build your base of support and a simple, cost-effective way to reach advocates where they al-ready are. Just about every library has a website and, at least, a Facebook page. Most also use Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and/or Instagram. It’s all about deciding which market you want to reach.

Social media is straightforward and allows you to create, post, and share content that is imperative to your advocacy effort. One of the best things about nearly any social media platform is that setting up a basic page is free. The second best thing is that advertising and targeting are effortless and inexpensive. Third, you can create library advocates while they are sitting their living rooms or offices.

According to 2015 statistics, Facebook has a 46.5 percent market share of social media users, YouTube is at 21 percent, and Twitter at 4.5 percent. If you want to reach adults, Facebook is key. If you want to reach people who like to watch videos, You-Tube is your best platform. For young moms, Pinterest works best. If you want to reach teens, it’s all about Instagram. Twitter is for news junkies and those who like their information and notes at 140 characters or less.

Getting Social
One of the first steps is establishing your page. A library Facebook page is not the same as a personal account. You must, however, have a personal account to set up a page for your advocacy effort. Click on the pull-down menu on the left side of your personal Facebook page, then choose “create a page.”  You’ll be walked through the rest.

The next step in social media advocacy is to determine who you want to reach. The first level is voters—anyone 18 or older. The next is voters who value the library. That could be young moms or dads (age 25–40), retired adults (over 55), families, and working adults (35–55). Knowing whom you’re targeting with specific messages will help you boost posts to specific audiences.

Next, designate one or two folks from your advocacy team to coordinate social media efforts. They should be enthusiastic library supporters as well as savvy social media users. They should know how to work the social media outlets and how best to take advantage of them. They should also be well versed in the advocacy campaign and its messaging and programs such as Adobe Spark that enable you to design great looking graphics for your posts.

 One you’ve figured out which platforms you’ll use—I suggest Facebook and YouTube as the base—then it’s time to develop a social media calendar based on your campaign calendar. Figure out which messages will be promoted each week to support your advocacy efforts. Also, make sure that the Facebook page is not identified as “Acme Public Library” but something like “Acme Residents for Our Library.”

Strategic use of text, images, and videos is paramount to cut-ting through the message clutter and getting yours to stick. Text should be comprehensible and to the point. The images and/or graphics should generate an emotional response and enable people to feel connected to the advocacy strategy. You want to get them to like your page.

Employ graphics that are engaging and attractive. Create videos to support your campaign. For a short campaign that focuses on getting a local village board to approve a bond for a building (without going to the voters), we built the Facebook page Scarsdale Parents for an Improved Library. We used pictures of cute kids enjoying themselves at library pro-grams and schematic drawings for the proposed improvements. We posted the content of every bulk email sent out and created a video of graphics we used (a tool available on Facebook).

Once your posts or videos are done, spend a little money and boost them. Boosts are incredibly effective, reaching a targeted audience for a limited amount of time for a specific amount of money. Note that you can only boost posts or videos from a page, not from your personal account.

Just click on the boost button, and you’ll land on an interface that lets you set the geographic reach (your zip code or the name of your town), the gender and age of the people you want to reach, the time frame, and the budget. You can spend as little as $50 to connect with a specific audience for three days.

When you boost a post on Facebook, you can also boost the same post on Instagram if you have a page on that platform. You don’t need to advertise from YouTube—you can link your You-Tube page to your Facebook page or upload videos directly onto Facebook.

Whatever you do, don’t forget that social media isn’t just for fun—it’s a vital portion of your library’s advocacy plan. 

For more information on how you can use social media for your library advocacy campaign, contact Libby Post, President/CEO of Communication Services