Hack Social Media

Social media can be an excellent way to promote and market library services and resources. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook open up opportunities to engage in conversation with patrons, increase library visibility on college campuses, and provide creative ways to tell important stories.

Social media has incredible potential—but it can be overwhelming to manage. It can be easy to “burn out,” especially if social media planning and management is just one task on your long to-do list. Yes, I speak from experience!

In a recent search for social media outreach inspiration, I came across an invaluable gem in the recently-published Library Outreach Casebook, edited by Ryan L. Sittler and Terra J. Rogerson. Chapter Six, “Actively Engaging with Patrons on Social Media” by Kelley Cotter and Sara Baron contains social media outreach strategies, tips for design consistency, and helpful examples of how to respond to comments and concerns on various platforms.

Cotter and Baron’s chapter reinvigorated my own commitment to the social media platforms I manage for the Oscar Rennebohm Library at Edgewood College. In the hope of passing this inspiration on to another fledgling social media manager, I’ll sprinkle Cotter and Baron’s suggestions with my own experience and give you three tips for maximizing your social media presence.

1. Use the Right Tools

Work smarter, not harder. Cotter and Baron suggest using tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to easily keep track of conversations mentioning your library. TweetDeck can also be an excellent way to schedule posts in advance—an absolute must for the busy librarian/librarian-in-training!

To schedule Instagram posts in advance, I personally use Later. It’s helpful to see each week plotted out, and easy to plan even further in advance. Later also includes an option to save hashtags for re-use, making it easy to ensure your posts are findable on Instagram.

2. Consistency

Branding was one big area I knew I was lacking. While too much uniformity might be boring, branding can transform a slightly eccentric page into a recognizable presence. But how do we achieve this?

Cotter and Baron suggest using templates, colors, and fonts to create a recognizable brand (again: work smarter, not harder!). For college/university libraries, this might mean using university colors.

After brainstorming how to make Cotter and Baron’s advice work for my library, I designed several templates that used consistent colors and could be easily modified to create a series of posts throughout the school year.

Screenshot of the Oscar Rennebohm Library's Instagram page. The post reads "Spotlight on new books" and feature three books that were newly acquired by the library.
Canva is the perfect tool to create templates that are easily updated with new images. Use Canva to create a series you can feature on your social media pages.
Screenshot of the Oscar Rennebohm Library's Instagram page. The post reads "Spotlight on staff picks" and features two images of books that library staff recently read and enjoyed.
Using Edgewood College’s signature colors in these templates identifies the library with college community.

3. Presentation

How will you present your library? How do you want to be perceived? Friendly? Helpful? What tone will you use to achieve this? Will you be informal? Fun? Use emojis? Cotter and Baron remind readers that social media is an excellent medium to show off the personality of the library and its librarians.


I highly recommend picking up the Library Outreach Casebook and giving Cotter and Baron’s chapter a thorough read. And, in the spirit of learning from our colleagues and peers, I’ll leave you with a question:

What are your best tips for social media outreach?

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