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#NoFilter: Social Media Planning for the Library

notebook pencil othmer library reading room

The #NoFilter series explores some of the challenges and concerns that accompany a library’s use of social media. In my January 2017 post, I discussed the importance of generating thoughtful and diverse social media content in order to attract users and stimulate discussion of the library’s materials and services.

Part and parcel of the content generation process is planning. Wouldn’t it be great if social media wasn’t something the library had to think about in depth? If all of the content for various platforms could just be created on the fly, a content generation process seamlessly integrated into every staff member’s workflow? It’s a beautiful idea and it does happen this way at times. For example, you are walking through your library and you come across some stunning afternoon light pouring through a window. You take out your phone, snap a picture, and share it on Instagram or another platform. Done!

chairs furniture reading room othmer library philadelphia
Photo taken while shelving in the Othmer Library’s Reading Room, Philadelphia, PA

However, the reality is that there are time constraints on library staff. Social media is often just one more task heaped onto a staff member’s already full plate. Spontaneous social media content isn’t always possible. To ensure that social media is carried out in a meaningful way and on a regular basis, a balance must be struck between it and the other requirements of one’s position. Hence the need for planning not only the topics of posts, but also who is responsible for such posts.

In my library (the Othmer Library of Chemical History), social media planning takes the following form: our team of seven meets once a month  to discuss content for the coming month. This meeting generally takes 30 minutes, on rare occasions an hour. We come to the table with historical dates (for us, it’s mostly dates pertaining to the history of science field), famous birthdays, fun days such as Record Store Day, and holidays. We also discuss campaigns such as #ColorOurCollections as well as general themes like Women’s History Month (March) or National Cookie Month (October). We discuss what we have in our collections that relates to these days and themes. Team members then volunteer to create content for particular days. We keep track of all these elements (content ideas, post-meeting brainstorming about these ideas, and those responsible for creating posts) using Trello, an online project management tool. I will delve into all of the details of our Trello boards in a future post.

As a result, we are able to produce social media content consistently and in a way that isn’t taxing on staff.

Less stress through planning = Happy staff who are enthusiastic about contributing to the library’s social media efforts = Fun and varied content for users to engage with online.

What does social media planning look like in your library? Share your experience in the comments below!