Social media is forming an increasingly central part of how we all communicate. 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 reach journal readers, to network with colleagues, or even just to keep up to date with friends and family.
With most social media channels only having been in existence for less than ten years, can any of us claim to be an expert? How can we best navigate all that social media has to offer in such a fast-paced and evolving digital climate? Is it really worth all the time and resource to set up and manage an active social media account?
Taylor & Francis sought to address some of these questions by conducting research into how the library community is currently using and applying social media. Libraries have been particularly prevalent in their uptake of social media, and use it as a key medium for engaging with their users. As such, it is an issue close to the heart of how libraries are evolving and Taylor & Francis wanted to help benchmark current use and provide best-practice recommendations to help navigate what the future may bring.
The research conducted was on a global scale – over 600 librarians worldwide contributed their thoughts, suggestions, and experiences through focus groups, telephone interviews, an online survey, and a Twitter party. All the research was then compiled into a white paper, which has now been published online and is available to download for free.
We were fascinated by the case studies and ideas shared, and while they focused on a library setting, there was much which can be generally applied to any social media account. We heard ideas for promoting social media channels, such as generating new followers through becoming involved with national celebrations, as shown by LibrariesWest’s involvement in National Libraries Day through to using Instagram to connect with younger audiences at Roesch Library. We also made some very interesting discoveries through the online survey, including:
- 61% of libraries have been using social media for three years or more
- 30% post to social media daily
- Facebook is the most popular channel, with 58% of librarians using it regularly
- 75% of libraries schedule posts ad hoc, with no social media policy or plan in place
These statistics would indicate that social media use, in the libraries we surveyed at least, is generally still at an early experimental stage with no clear emerging trend coming through. As can be seen from these figures, very few libraries are implementing a policy to manage their social media output, and while Facebook is the most popular channel currently used, feedback from our focus groups would suggest that younger audiences are increasingly switching off from this platform and looking to more visual channels, such as Instagram and Pinterest, instead. This leads to many questions as to where social media use may develop in the future, and we see the white paper as being just a start to that discussion. A planned web-based resource to be released over coming months will focus further on specific themes, and help investigate some of these issues raised.
The white paper can be accessed online for free, along with accompanying top-level data, infographic visualizations of key findings, video presentations, and more. See here for more details.