Best practices on social media

The Art of Social Media

We’ve all seen it: the embarrassing gaffe on social media. In the past, only a few people, or a few hundred, would know you screwed up; now people around the world could see and comment.

Should that stop you from being on social media??


 Should the time required to find great accounts to follow stop you?


Should the effort involved in creating good, interesting, useful content for your community stop you?


Instead, you should definitely get on social media, somewhere! Your community members are there. Your professional organizations and leaders in the profession are there. People not in libraries, but doing cool things we might also want to do, are there!

In short: you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn and to share information quickly and easily if you are not there.

So how do you get started?

First, you may want to check in with your parent organization (school, city, university, corporation – whatever) to see if there are any rules you need to follow in setting up accounts. No point in going to all the work of doing a great job at this, just to have it deleted later because you didn’t use the right naming format or something!

What if your organization has no policies or procedures on social media? Great! Go ahead and dive in there! (I’m a big believer in the idea that anything not specifically forbidden is okay!)

We will talk in an upcoming post about some good accounts, to be sure you don’t get too far off track. But in general, your Minnesota Nice skills will carry you through. Don’t feed the trolls, don’t threaten the President, don’t get into big fights with people. There – you have the basics!

Then think about what you have to contribute, and who you want to connect with. Poke around some on different social medias to see how they feel to you. Do you like cool pictures? Do you like quick bursts of information, linked or otherwise? Does the idea of a longer space to share your ideas, or reading longer materials, speak to you? Then you may naturally gravitate to Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook!

Pick out a name, try to keep it similar to your library’s name so you are promoting your identity (brand), and try to keep your name the same (or similar) across different platforms. Make things easy for your community to find you!

When you pick one or two (or more!) platforms for your library, connect them! All of these services know that people use multiple accounts, so set your blog to post to your Facebook account; have your Facebook post to your Twitter; share your Instagram photos on these; and spread your pinning skills from Pinterest all over the place. There will be instructions on each platform for doing this. And, as with anything, if you get stuck check in with us at CMLE Headquarters and we will help you out!

Find some interesting people to follow. Who?

  • Start with people and organizations you already connect with in person. Follow your organization, local schools, the chamber of commerce.
  • Tell people you are online, and ask them to connect to you so you guys can talk in this format.
  • There are dozens (hundreds? maybe!) of library organizations to follow. (Library of Congress! New York Public! The American Library Association!)
  • There are hundreds (thousands? probably!) of library people who are doing literally everything across the profession!
  • Follow your local newspaper, any biggies in your state, and then national and international news sources.
  • As library people, you probably have some authors you like; follow them! Likewise, all the publishing houses are there; check in to see what they are promoting
  • Look at organizations that don’t say “library” but partner with us in our work. Think: Department of Education, State Archives, local history groups, National Institute of Science.
  • And follow some people who are just interesting! You may not be in any sort of science field, but Neil deGrasse Tyson is very entertaining on Twitter. The Minnesota Wild, T-wolves, and Twins are all there. Surfers, hikers – there. State parks – there. Tiffany’s – there. Whatever your interest: they are on social media. Look around!

Social media gives you the chance to just listen to people and to hear new ideas. Don’t feel like you have to be a chatterbox! Listening is an important part of communicating, and you want to be sure you are hearing what your community members are saying.

Share your content! Did you get in a cool new book? Subscribe to a new database (or unsubscribe)? Have a program coming up? A famous author’s birthday? Is someone important making a visit? Do you wish you had M&Ms to snack on during a slow shift? Are screaming kids making you concentrate on your deep breathing? Any of these might be not only appropriate, but also interesting, to share!

Don’t worry about making everything perfect. You will send out Tweets with typos, post programs to Facebook that get cancelled and forget to take them down, mislabel photos. It happens. Just think about this as any other form of communication. Think about your message, aim for clarity. And when in doubt: if you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother, maybe you shouldn’t put it out there for the world to see either.