Public Libraries and Social Media - 2013 update
by Moata Tamaira
Last year I surveyed the New Zealand public library social media landscape*, grabbing some data around follower numbers and creating rankings in an effort to see to what degree libraries were operating in the social media sphere.
That post was based on one that Sally Peiwhairangi had written the year before**. I love a nice graph and social media continues to be an area that public libraries are interested in utilising so I thought I’d follow up last year’s stats with a 2013 update. Have there been any noticeable changes? Can we detect any trends?
Naturally this involved finding and looking at a LOT of library SM accounts. In doing so I encountered a few things that made me think that my extensive time spent on Twitter and Facebook (I practically live there) might mean I had valuable tips to share, and so I’ve included a few of these at the end of the post. They’re suggestions only but they might be useful to someone who doesn’t spend their life glued to a laptop like I do (someone who occasionally goes outdoors, or has other interests and hobbies, for instance).
But first, how about some graphs?
Sally’s data was collected on 24 June 2011 and data from last year was collected on 9 July 2012. This year’s data was collected on 18 July 2013.
Growth in use of Social Media
There’s been a more or less steady increase in the number of libraries joining Twitter and Facebook over the last few years. Of the 63 public libraries in New Zealand, 39 of them now have a Facebook presence of some kind and 29 have a Twitter account.
2013 finds a third of libraries are without a Facebook or Twitter account placing them firmly in the minority. Last year things were a bit more level with 49% of libraries choosing not to engage with social media and 51% having a presence on either one or both those social networks. In 2013 most libraries who do use social media are still taking a double-pronged approach by having a foot in each of the Twitter and Facebook camps. Amongst public libraries 41% now use both media.
Will all libraries eventually have at least a Facebook page? In public libraries a lot comes down to resourcing so it may not be an option for some, but the majority now do and I wouldn’t be surprised if that increased to 50 or so in the next year based on current trends though it might plateau a bit from there. Only time will tell.
In terms of where New Zealanders’ social media preferences lie, a 2012 survey showed that popularity of social networking sites broke down thusly - 76% on Facebook, 29% LinkedIn, 19% Twitter, 13% Google Plus and 8% Pinterest. The survey found that 20% didn’t use any social networking sites.
This survey showed that use of Twitter had increased from 12% to 19%. There’s also been a steady increase in the number of libraries using Twitter. With just under half of public libraries now having a Twitter account there’s still plenty of room for this to grow in the future but my suspicion is that the comparative lack of popularity of Twitter as compared to Facebook means not all libraries will consider this the best bang for their buck in terms of social media.
I took a speculative look at Pinterest as I know of several libraries that use this however I hit a wall in that I found it difficult to search specifically for New Zealand public library though my general impression is that New Zealand libraries aren’t using this to anywhere near the same degree as Facebook and Twitter.
The only libraries that I’m aware of that have Pinterest pages are:
Update: I've just been informed via Facebook that Central Hawke's Bay also have a Pinterest http://pinterest.com/chblibraries/
According to the survey quoted above, Google+ is more popular than Pinterest with Kiwis though I haven’t included it in this year’s survey. If it continues to be popular it might be something to look at next year. As for LinkedIn, though it’s possible to have a Company Page when I did a search I couldn’t find any public libraries that had one.
The increase in the number of libraries with a Facebook presence means that there’s been some shuffling in terms of the rankings as new pages grab a spot.
Both Horowhenua and Napier have gone from zero to respectable numbers within a year, with 415 and 309 fans apiece.
Cruising up the rankings are Hamilton and Central Hawke’s Bay. A newcomer last year, Hamilton has jumped from 9th to 7th this year while CHB has jumped 3 spaces up from 13th to 9th.
Christchurch retains its top spot while showing good growth, adding 1467 page likes in the last year, but the real star in this regard is New Plymouth which leaps from 5th last year to 2nd in 2013, bumping Palmerston North into 3rd in the process. The New Plymouth Puke Ariki page has gained an impressive 1836 fans since last year.
With Twitter the newer accounts haven’t created much change in the overall rankings with new accounts entering pretty much at the bottom of the field overtaking only the “orphan” accounts (which is how I think of any account that hasn’t been used much in the last year) or the handful of locked accounts that need the account holder’s permission for you to see their tweets.
Still, there has been movement in the top of the rankings with Wellington bumping Christchurch into 3rd place. Auckland remains in the top spot gaining an enviable 1461 new followers. As impressive as this number is, it’s on par with their growth in the last couple of years. Similarly Christchurch’s numbers have grown at a fairly steady rate since 2011 but it’s Wellington that’s shown an unexpected growth spurt. In last year’s stats their follower numbers had increased by 463. This year the number is 1361. That’s quite a noticeable jump, so well done to whomever is at Wellington’s Twitter helm.
In 6th place last year Palmerston North has overtaken Tararua sneaking into the top five.
Social media suggestions
All of the following are based my own preferences and should be treated as such.
Managing dual accounts
A tweet is a tweet. A status update is a status update. You ignore the difference between these two things at your peril.
Many social media applications let you manage both Twitter and Facebook updates from the same place (I sometimes use Hootsuite for this purpose). That’s very handy and means that you can simultaneously update both at the same time but... if that update is over 140 characters what Twitter users will see is a truncated message so the “killing two birds with one stone approach” can be problematic.
Another thing to bear in mind is that Facebook streams are generally quite visual; lots of pictures and images. Twitter streams are predominantly text. So when posting an update it pays to play to the strengths of the medium you’re using.
That doesn’t mean you can’t post textual updates on Facebook or that you shouldn’t tweet images, only that you should consider what will work best when deciding what (and how) to post.
Broadcast only is a lost opportunity
This seems more of an issue on Twitter than Facebook but sometimes you’ll find an account where all of the updates are promotional and there are no interactions with other users. If you don’t realise that this is the approach that’s been taken it can be very frustrating to say a cheery "hello" to that account or ask them a question and get no response. I find it really off-putting actually.
This sometimes comes about as a result of the person running the account really only being interested in Facebook and using an app to automatically post updates to Twitter as well, using it purely as an additional promotional channel. The reason they don’t answer you is that they’re not actually “on Twitter”, they’re mainly on Facebook.
My personal feeling is that if you’re going to have a Twitter account then you should be monitoring it otherwise you’re losing opportunities to connect with your customers.
Aim for brevity
Technically the limit of characters allowed in a Facebook status update is 60,000 but just because you can write an update that is a novella doesn’t mean that you should.
If you find you’re doing a whole book review in a status update, you might want to consider putting that content on a library blog instead (where it will be much more findable), writing a punchy status update that will make people want to read it, and then just linking to it.
When I see large chunks of text in my Facebook feed I scroll past them or read only the first sentence and I suspect I’m not the only one.
As mentioned above when at all possible tweets should stay within the 140 character limit. Sometimes this means rewriting a tweet a few times before posting it but in my opinion it’s worth it.
Claim your vanity URL
A lot of libraries haven’t claimed a vanity URL for their page. Doing so is really easy and the benefit is you get a URL to your Facebook page that doesn’t have a huge string of numbers in it and is actually something you could promote to your customers. For instance, the APNK Facebook page address is https://www.facebook.com/PeoplesNetwork. Your page only needs upwards of 25 likes to enable this feature and pretty much all the of the library pages I saw had at least this many.
There are instructions on claiming a Facebook vanity URL available and the process is pretty straightforward.
Unlock your account
Amongst my Twitter wanderings I found a small number of libraries with locked accounts, ie accounts which other users can’t interact with or see the tweets of without the account manager’s permission.
These accounts rarely have more than a dozen followers and even if you do get allowed access to the tweets, there’s usually not much going on. If the purpose of social media is to connect with other people then this approach doesn’t achieve that goal very well.
I can well understand why individuals might want to have a locked account (for privacy) but struggle to see what a public organisation would get out of it. If you only want a select group of people to read your messages then there are probably other media that work better for that purpose.
Nobody has to ask to enter a public library so it seems odd to have to ask permission in order to communicate with one.
*New Zealand Public Libraries and Social Media - July 2012
**Social Media Supporters of Individual Public Libraries - July 2011