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How to find and create social media content for your library

By Ginna Gauntner Witte, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College | Aug 27, 2013


More and more libraries are using social media to connect with patrons. From Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and YouTube, libraries are opening a wide range of accounts to engage users and market local resources. While library staff must learn the technology and the format behind each social media tool, one of the largest challenges in social media management is generating content.


To keep profiles active, libraries must post updates regularly, an easier task when there is a menu of ideas to choose from. Even once social media accounts are up and running, libraries may experiment with changing the tone or types of posts if patrons aren’t responding as hoped. Again, it’s easier to do so if a collection of possible post types are already prepared and waiting to be deployed. Here are some suggestions for creating a pool of social media content possibilities and for finding new ideas.



Locate peers


One of the simplest ways to gather ideas is to review other examples. To begin, search a specific social media platform for pages and feeds from institutions similar to yours with regard to location or type. For instance, a search for “Cincinnati library” on Facebook will return sites for public libraries, college libraries, professional associations, and library-related organizations in that area. Whether or not these institutions are similar to yours, they might provide examples of local content that would interest your audience. In the same manner, a search for “community college library” in the “Browse categories” section of Twitter will show feeds from libraries, news organizations, professional associations, and individual employees. Although their specific posts may not interest your users, you can view the types of posts they use.


Next, see how users have reacted. How many “likes” or “followers” does the page have? Is anyone commenting or sharing? Is the site owner acknowledging user comments? Once you have found a few sites with posts you like, backtrack (as with citations during research) and find out which organizations or people that site follows for additional ideas.



Identify posts that match your social media goals


Once you’ve located successful peers, scan their social media feeds to generate a list of post types that are applicable to your setting. Consider how your users might interact with these posts. If you are using social media to connect with distance learners, they probably won’t respond to information about new books located physically in the library.


If you are trying to expand your user base, posting staff or event pictures might encourage the photo subjects to share the photos on their own feeds and attract other users to your site. Of course, you may have several goals for your social media accounts and may find that different peer sites provide useful ideas for particular goals.



What to Share
  • local collections
  • outages & closings
  • daily events
  • answers for FAQs
  • new book list
  • student work
  • library stats
  • ads for student positions
  • your professors’ publications
  • lost & found items
  • mini book reviews
  • word of the day
  • photos of the library and neighborhood
And don’t forget to thank followers, reply to comments, and ask and respond to questions!

Create an idea bank and build streams of shareable content


Generating a collection of post types can be an invaluable time saver. After you’ve located peers and identified posts that reflect your goals, consider saving your list as a Google document or adding it to your library’s staff wiki. This way, everyone who posts content can review the list and add suggestions when they encounter new ideas.


While you will most likely post many things that are not included on the list, the list can be helpful when you need to generate content quickly or when new staff cover the social media feeds. Instead of wasting time deciding what to post, you can refer to the list for a quick idea that matches your goals and has been successful in other settings.


Finally, remember that you don’t need to create all of the content you post. A unique aspect of the social media environment is how easily content can be shared. When looking for peer organizations, you may come across posts that would interest your users. Subscribe to these pages (“like” them on Facebook, “follow” them on Twitter, etc.) to create a stream of content in each social media interface that will provide ideas for new post types and give you access to shareable content.


Although libraries are still experimenting with using it effectively, social media is here to stay. Specific tools may change, but the need to generate content in time-efficient ways will continue to challenge time-strapped library staff. Creating an idea bank based on a review of peer feeds is one solution to this challenge.