Managing a library Facebook page

Text by: Chloe, Chris, & Jo

Some folks may question libraries investing their limited resources into supporting a presence on social media. Do a search of the library literature for MySpace, and you will find more than a few articles written back in 2006 and 2007 by librarians exploring the use of the then-leader in the social networking space. While it would be too harsh to say that their work was wasted (they surely learned things that were transferable to later platforms), the concern over spending scarce resources on a single platform is legitimate. Applied to the current landscape, one may ask whether it is worth spending time and effort on building up a library's presence on Facebook, when there is no guarantee that the current leader will eventually be overtaken by another challenger and go the way of MySpace.

Having said that, the latest statistics will be of some comfort to all of the library Facebook page admins out there:

Infographic: Facebook Users Show No Signs of Tiring  | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

There are no signs of the juggernaut slowing down - the number of daily active users continues to grow, and has exceeded 1 billion people worldwide. So for the near future at least, it looks like Facebook should be the focus of social networking outreach by most libraries.

Several of the HKLC coordinators are involved with managing the Facebook pages of their libraries. Below they share a few thoughts about how they organise and create content for their pages.

Chris - Admin, HKBU Facebook Page

We started using Facebook at HKBU relatively early on, back in 2009. It was always been intended to be a place where we can take a less formal tone than our official library announcements. Over the years, we have gotten better at identifying what makes for good Facebook content. Simply re-posting announcements from your library website generally gets very poor results. People respond more to personal and behind-the-scenes looks at library operations. Video content also tends to be more popular.

Facebook has useful tools to help manage your content. The Facebook admins at HKBU tend to be very busy in September, which is just the time when we want a lot of new Facebook content to be posted to attract the new students to like the page. To manage our workload, we prepare a lot of content in advance. These can be scheduled for release months in advance, so we don't have to worry about doing posts in the middle of the peak period for teaching.

Chloe - Admin, HKBU Facebook Page

Chris summed up our Facebook strategy very well. I just want to add two more things:

It takes much more time and effort than you might think to create posts of appropriate content and tone on Facebook. As mentioned by Chris above, simple re-posting of announcements doesn't usually work well. However, it is possible to turn a seemingly "boring" library announcement (e.g. a new library database) into an engaging post if an interesting perspective or angle is taken. Creativity is definitely important in this process, and it could be a very time-consuming process even for a short post!  

Content written in colloquial Cantonese proved to be a big booster for post views. After all, a significant percentage of our students speak Cantonese as their mother tongue. This relates back to the use of informal tone on social networks that was mentioned earlier by Chris, and the use of Cantonese just adds that element of familiarity in the tone. As most of our Library announcements and news are in English, it does take time to "transform" them into Cantonese. I didn't use the word "translate" because often times it is not direct translation of the English, but a post talking about the same thing in Cantonese using a different approach and/or perspective. 

Jo - Admin, CityU Facebook Page

The Facebook page at CityU Library was established in 2010, and I have been managing the page for 2 years. The Facebook page had fallen into disuse in the time before I took over, and so I have been working to revitalize the page and increase the engagement with our followers.

As Chris mentioned above, using Facebook simply as an announcement portal is not the most effective way to utilize the platform, but of course such messages still need to be shared! I tend to follow the Golden Ratio of Social Media Marketing that recommends your messages be 30% original content, 60% curated content and only 10% promotional content (like invitations to events or announcements about new resources). I also make use of Facebook's scheduling feature, combined with a Google Sheets schedule/calendar based on Ashley Chasse's Super Awsome Social Media Content Calendar. Facebook's scheduler is good but I like to have a calendar view so I can get an overall picture of the Facebook posts over the semester. I also pay attention to Facebook's Insights (i.e. statistics) for our page to get an understanding of what type of content is most interesting and engaging to our followers, and keep note of this in my Google sheets calendar. My strategy for the Facebook page in the next 12 months is to develop a "roster" based on my Google sheets calendar to invite other staff and departments in the Library to schedule and share content, thereby broadening the scope and variety of content on our page.

For libraries willing and able to commit a small amount of money to their social media efforts, Facebook advertising can be an effective way to get more engagement going. Jo and Chris are working on an ads-related project, and will share more here on the HKLC blog - watch this space!!