Businesses, companies, and organizations worldwide are realizing that social media can play a huge role in how they conduct business and how they can better provide customer service. The online world never sleeps and people have come to enjoy the 24/7 access to the world that social media has provided them. Organizations that you may normally not associate with social media are now diving in to test the waters. One example of this is your local library. Libraries can be found posting, snapping, tweeting, and sharing all sorts of things to their patrons online.
This raises several questions. How much of a presence on social media should a library have? Should they be on all platforms or choose a select few? With constantly changing platforms how can a library stay informed and up to date with the technology and platform updates?
I recently read a journal article that raised a question that fits in nicely with this discussion.
Should We Be Teaching Social Media to Students Enrolled in MLS Programs?
Social media has the potential to be an amazing tool for libraries. It can provide free advertising, marketing, publicity, advocacy, and customer service. It is also a double edged sword at times. When used correctly it has many benefits; yet when left unattended or mismanaged there canoe quite a few disadvantages. Many people don’t have the comfort level on specific platforms or realize the investment of time that goes into running a well maintained social media platform.
This is where training in social media can benefit a student planning on a career in a library or information organization.
Simons, Ocepek, and Barker (2016) created a survey in order to gain insight to the following questions:
the tasks that an information professional who does social media work performs on a daily basis; the tools and skills he or she draws upon to complete these tasks; how educational background and professional development contribute to being able to do the job; and advice for integrating social media into an MSIS curriculum.
This post isn’t going to be a journal review. I’ll provide the citation below so that you can read the findings. I would rather share my thoughts on the topic as a whole and list some of my thoughts and experiences.
In my opinion, yes, schools should be teaching social media. To take it a step further, I think it would be wonderful if library systems (I work in a public library so I often use them as my frame of reference) taught workshops on social media.
What would an ideal course in social media look like if I were designing it? It would teach the main platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) where you often see libraries. The basics would be covered: the jargon of the platform, how to post, how to respond, and how to follow people. Content curation ideas would also be addressed.
Many times employees and staff feel that they don’t have the time to maintain their social media presence. The course I have in mind would also teach people to use social media scheduling tools, many of which are free. A few options that one can use for this purpose are Hootsuite and Buffer. These tools would make creating a social media presence and creating content something that can be done in one sitting and last for a period of weeks or even months. These are not a fix it and forget it tool though. Social media accounts still need to be managed and reviewed so that patrons’ comments and questions can be monitored and answered.
Another feature I would teach people is how to create graphics to be used with posts on social media accounts. Do you have to be a Photoshop wizard to do this or invest lots of money? Not at all! Canva and Pic Monkey allow users to create beautiful graphics and edit photos for free. Graphics like the one below created on Canva can be posted on social media platforms to increase program attendance.
I believe that people avoid the unfamiliar. Not everyone is personally on social media and they are unaware of the benefits of using this tool to further the reach of their library. With some teaching and hands on experience they may begin to see the advantages of integrating social media into their daily life in the library. Sharing the responsibility among a few people that can maintain the library’s voice would help in a few ways. Not only are you dividing the time needed to maintain the presence but you also have the advantage of tapping into a few different people’s creativity. This can be a fine line though. The library needs to have a unified voice and persona so at the start that voice and persona needs to be identified.
Are you a library employee? An MLS student? Do you see the benefits of using social media in a library setting? More importantly, would you know how to use social media in a library? Would a course such as the one I envision be beneficial?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!
Simons, R. r., Ocepek, M. m., & Barker, L. l. (2016). Teaching Tweeting: Recommendations for Teaching Social Media Work in LIS and MSIS Programs. Journal Of Education For Library & Information Science, 57(1), 21-30.