Thought for Food Blog

5 Ways Librarians Can Use Social Media Effectively

Librarians guide to social media | IFIS Publishing

Shhh… Socialise! This is a library!

As a librarian, using social media effectively can seem a real challenge. But with almost 1.8 billion social media users worldwide – approximately a quarter of our global population – social feeds offer a unique and valuable channel for university libraries to not only reach their users, but also expand their audience.

By now you’ve likely spent an evening activating your Facebook and Twitter channels; perhaps you’re partial to Twitter’s 140-character brevity, maybe you favour Facebook’s comprehensive features – yet, remaining relevant to your intended audience requires knowing the ins and outs of the social space.

In this blog post we’re going to discuss five tried and tested ways you can use social media to increase the engagement of your intended audience, promote your latest acquisitions, and entice students back into the bibliothèque.

Shall we get started?

1. Ask for Suggestions

With university libraries under increasingly stringent budgets, renewing and establishing subscriptions often requires extensive consultation with faculty and staff, either in person or via online forms (e.g. the University of Manchester, Michigan State University, and the University of Leicester). In this vein, one thing you might try is consulting with the student body for resource suggestions.


Here you can use your social media pages as a platform from which you might gauge whether any resources are needed, which tools are working well, and if library areas, such as IT suites, require re-organisation or additions.

By engaging with students, you evoke a sense of co-responsibility and community across campus, which may just attract those valuable likes and followers.

2. Use Tailored and Targeted Promotions

In addition to the increasing number of Open Access resources available, libraries subscribe to various academic journals, databases, and e-resources, such as our very own FSTA®.

To make the most of your collections, you might employ your social media pages for inexpensive advertisements and promotions. An example of the type of messaging we would recommend for our database is available here.


By name-dropping university course titles, such as in the case above where the library has tweeted directly to the relevant department, and by relating these adverts to topical events (e.g. workshops, as shown below), these marketing activities can help bolster user awareness, ensuring a more valuable investment of university resources.


3. Capture Interest Using Variety

The recent exponential increase in people’s social media and mobile technology use has likely contributed greatly to the decrease in our average attention span – which now stands at a mere eight seconds. It’s therefore more important than ever for the content companies and libraries post to be concise, written in the language of its viewers, and varied in format.


Here are two things you could try to ensure variety and interest in your social media posts:

i) Use a combination of images, videos, and text, perhaps in conjunction with weekly themes: such as Photo Fridays, a Quote of the Week, Throwback Thursdays (#tbt), and #FoodieFridays

Many universities are home to magnificent library buildings, which means they’re the perfect subject for a quick photo –and what better place than a library to stumble upon an enticing quote?

Harry Potter inspired exhibit on display at MSU Main Library NOW through October 31st! Find it on the 2nd floor, west...

Posted by MSU Libraries on Thursday, 13 August 2015


ii) Share pictures or even host exhibitions of unusual resources and artefacts within the library walls, promoting these displays across Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

These displays can be highly effective as, in addition to attracting traffic from passing students and faculty, they may even grab the attention of local media representatives and student newspapers.


4. Advertise Faculty Work

The recurring theme throughout this post has been to use your assets, whether those assets are people and their suggestions; resources and their subject specificity; or buildings and their photogenic exteriors. In tip number four, we’re going to look at the role faculty members can play.

In 2012, there were approximately 1.9 million STM articles published by academics in peer-reviewed journals. With such a prolific host of researchers, combined with the increasing number of electronic journals, some analysts have reported that fewer journals and articles are being cited and only the more recent developments – from a select few individuals – are being built upon.

In other words, a lot of research is falling by the wayside!


So, what are you to do about this? One suggestion for how you might use social media effectively here is by promoting the work of your researchers, either with original posts, or by retweeting from companies (perhaps IFIS Publishing?) who already post their studies.

Faculty are likely to appreciate your promotional efforts in encouraging library users to read and share the university’s research output. This engagement can thereby have the added benefit of increasing the visibility of the library’s online activity among faculty, helping to promote the availability of resources among key influencers.

"I always recommend that faculty and students doing serious research in food science use FSTA®, to ensure a thorough search of the literature of the field and to take advantage of the specialized vocabulary that has been created to enhance precision."
- Anita Ezzo, Food Science & Tech Librarian, Michigan State University. Learn more.

5. Collaborate with Student Societies

Almost every university hosts a number of student societies, a students’ union, and a student newspaper – these are all great wells to tap into as a social media-savvy librarian.


The university football team has an upcoming game? Why not show your support? The English society is hosting reading groups or creative writing sessions? You can help publicise them! 

By collaborating with student groups and events, you can help ensure that the library remains directly relevant to prospective graduates on a more personal level than yet another academic institution. 


Promoting these upcoming events also integrates the library into the student world – and hopefully the students into the library world. What’s more, students are more likely to mention, and thereby advertise, the library on their social media pages and other platforms if such a communal interplay exists both on and off campus.

And finally, good luck!

We hope that these five key ways to use your social media pages prove effective but, as with all social media users, it’s important to remember to regularly monitor your analytics across Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

By reviewing what works for you and what posts gain the most traction, you can tailor your content to your university’s needs and, more broadly, its ethos or culture.

And if that doesn’t work, then be sure to remind your students just how much they need you… 


We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the libraries and associations here contained for kindly granting their permission to feature these social media posts. Each post represents a fantastic use of the social sphere, employing key strategies and tactics to maximise audience and offer content of real value, rendering each a privilege to read. Many thanks!

Related posts:

Predatory Publishing: Investigating Researchers’ Knowledge & Attitudes

Literature Search Best Practise Guide

The IFIS Expert Guide to Journal Publishing

Image Credit: Foundry via

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