Public Libraries in Smart Cities and Communities Toolbox
In a smart city and community, social media is a unique tool to use. It is a quick and efficient tool to use if you want to reach out to the community in general, but also if you want to specifically target different groups of patrons.
You do not need to invest a lot of time on social media, but it is important that you plan your strategy on these networks if you really want to make an impact. Given that social media are used by several types of organizations, your target population may be already overwhelmed with messages coming from multiple sources. Planning and discussion about why and how to use social media is therefore key.
Why is probably the most important question you need to address. Social media is actually already used by many public libraries, who usually share about library’s programs and services and highlight library collections. It is therefore a marketing tool to raise awareness and communicate about what you are doing.
But social media is also a great way to engage with residents and therefore to increase participation and improve engagement. When deciding on the why, take into account that your library is unique in its contribution to building a smart city/community and that, therefore, defining what your purpose is can help yield tangible results from social media.
Decision on the why will condition the what and the how. Will you use only posts? Will you allow for advertisement? Will you use hashtags? (which we recommend if you want to take your presence on social media to the next level) Will you use specific features such as Facebook Events? Will you communicate about your partners’ events? Will you share the community’s or other organizations’ posts? These are only some of the questions you will need to think about.
Planning your activity on social media also requires making decisions about other important issues. You will have to decide where you want to be. Nowadays, there are multiple social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You need to make sure that you are where your patrons and potential future users are, because you want to be heard and you want to be an active listener of what your community has to say.
In addition, you need to make decisions on who will manage the accounts at your library, on frequency and timing of posts, and on policies about staff participation, patron confidentiality, and acceptable use. You will also need to consider how you will use the information and comments you receive from your current and potential users in your strategies and actions addressed at becoming a key partner in smart city/community development of at reinforcing your contribution.
General resources on social media:
To Engage or Not to Engage? Social Media in Public Libraries: http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2019/01/to-engage-or-not-to-engage-social-media-in-public-libraries/
Engaging with Patrons via Social Media: http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2020/04/engaging-with-patrons-via-social-media/
Staying Social: Why your Library Needs Social Media Policies: http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2019/06/staying-social-why-your-library-needs-social-media-policies/
American Library Association Social Media Guidelines for Public and Academic Libraries: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/socialmediaguidelines
Social Media Guidelines for Library Staff:
Creating a Social Media Policy: What We Did, What We Learned: https://www.infotoday.com/mls/mar13/Breed--Creating-a-Social-Media-Policy.shtml