Aotearoa People's Network

New Zealand public libraries and social media

post by Moata Tamaira

Recently I have been thinking a bit about how public libraries use social media to interact with their patrons and other librarians.

Here at the People’s Network we’ve been using Twitter since 2009 because it allows us to update the status of our network really quickly. And it’s come in handy in earthquakes too.

About a year ago Sally Pewhairangi over at Library Heroes blog did an overview of public libraries to see who had Twitter and Facebook accounts and who had the most followers. As I’ve been thinking about how we might connect with our library partners on social media, I thought I’d follow up on Sally’s survey (with her blessing) to see what’s changed and to get a sense of what the lay of the land is. Sort of a library social media benchmarking exercise of sorts.

So I did a survey of Facebook and Twitter, searching for public library accounts and I compared what I found to the figures from last year. And then I made some graphs because graphs are cool.

Sally’s stats are from 24 June 2011. 2012 figures were collected on 9 July 2012 (except for Wairoa’s Twitter account which only turned up this week *waves*).

Social media use by libraries increasing

Number of library Facebook and Twitter accounts 2011 vs 2012 [graph]

As the graph above shows there’s been a notable increase in the number of public libraries with social media accounts. Twitter accounts increased modestly from 16 to 22 and Facebook use jumped by a third (20 in 2011 to 30 in 2012).

As a result, a sliver thin majority of public libraries now have a social media presence of some kind with 32 of the 63 public library organisations in the country having at least an account set up. Of those, most will have both Facebook and Twitter accounts (20 libraries have followed this double-pronged strategy) while half as many again will have just a Facebook presence. Of those libraries with Twitter accounts only two have opted to have this as their sole social media channel.

Public libraries and social media accounts [graph]

But what about the success of these accounts? It’s hard to judge but there are always the easy things to count like follower numbers or Facebook “likes”. Last year Sally Pewhairangi ranked the libraries according to the number of fans they had. How might these rankings have changed in 2012?

Library rankings - Facebook

In the top three there has been growth but no change to rankings. Christchurch, Palmerston North and Dunedin all had the most Facebook fans last year and this hasn’t changed though Auckland, Hastings and Wellington have all moved up the “league table” significantly. And despite only starting their account in January of this year, Hamilton City Libraries is now in the top 10.

Palmerston North City Library stands out as really "punching above its weight" here as a small city (with a population of less than 80,000**) but with numbers of fans you'd expect to see from the larger centres.

Facebook fan numbers 2011 vs 2012 [graph]

Library rankings - Twitter

However there has been a shake up in the top three on Twitter. Here Auckland has really gained ground acquiring 1368 followers in a year. Last year Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin were the top three, this year Auckland takes out the top slot pushing Christchurch and Wellington into second and third and Dunedin into fourth.

Of note is relative minnow Tararua, rounding out the top five. Servicing a population of less than 18,000** in terms of Twitter, Tararua has the numbers of a much larger organisation.

Twitter follower numbers 2011 vs 2012 [graph]

Facebook vs Twitter

On the whole growth in Twitter follower numbers has been modest compared with that seen on Facebook. For most libraries percentage increases fall in the 35 – 100 percent range for Twitter, whereas with Facebook fans most libraries have seen increases of 80 – 120 percent.

Doing it well

And what can we take from all this? Well, we can certainly see which libraries are continuing to grow their social media “fanbase” and we can ask ourselves what they might be doing right. Having looked at the Twitter and Facebook movers and shakers the commonalities boil down to the following:

Regular posting - Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, regular posting seems to be an important part of gaining and keeping interest. Both Christchurch and Wellington’s Twitter accounts have racked up more than 10,000 tweets and it seems to be working for them.

Relevant content – Library social media accounts tweet and post links to library-related information like library blog posts, author profiles, new titles, and library events sometimes interspersed with topical library resource tie-ins (Higgs-Boson related articles or books for instance) and literary news (book festivals, literary prizes). Though leaning towards the bookish it’s mostly very accessible and things that library users might well be interested in.

Friendly – Tone can be a difficult thing to define but on the whole a relaxed and chatty style seems to work best in the social media context.

It won't happen overnight...

Another thing that we can see from the change in numbers between 2011 and 2012 is that those accounts that were started within the last year for the most part have only gained modest numbers of fans. Hamilton’s zero to 248 Facebook fans in 7 months is actually not typical.

New library accounts are likely to have followers in the dozens rather than the hundreds. Once established however, it’s not unreasonable to expect that a Facebook account might double its fans in a year. Twitter follower numbers overall are growing more slowly probably reflecting the differing levels of popularity between the two platforms. When it comes to social media use in New Zealand, Facebook is king.

There’s a definite trend towards libraries entering the social media arena so it will be interesting to see what happens in the next 12 months.

*Despite not featuring in last year’s rankings South Taranaki’s Facebook page has been in place since July 2010.

**Based on 2006 census data.

Date: 
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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