How Non-Profits Use Social Media: Interview with Denise Murray from Woodridge Public Library
There are plenty of articles, blog, and books written about how to use social media for business. Heck, even we write about social media from time to time.
But when it comes to non-profit organizations, the same rules about attracting customers don’t apply.
So when I noticed that my local library had an incredible social media presence, I wanted to figure out why they deemed social media so important, and what kind of results they were getting. So I interviewed Denise Murray, the Digital Services Librarian at the Woodridge Public Library.
What inspired you to create social media accounts for the library?
I took a class on Library 2.0 (web 2.0 concepts applied to libraries) in library school. I was already using various social networks personally but I was really inspired by all the ways we could connect with our users online. So many people are online using Facebook and other sites so it makes sense for the library to be there as well.
At first I just wanted us to be where people could contact us and keep us on their radar. But now it’s also about sharing with them and seeing what they’re into. Social networks like Pinterest and Instagram let us connect with people in a totally different way than they would in the library or through Facebook. We can reach people who might not be coming in to the library or think we’re boring or out of touch. And it lets us have fun!
It’s important to be where our users are so they can reach us. I get questions through Facebook from people because they’re already on the site and it’s easier for them to talk to us there rather than call, email, or come in. Though most of the people who talk to us on FB are regular users I frequently see in the building.
How much interaction do you receive on these platforms?
Not as much as I’d like. The most interaction we get is through Facebook. I post daily during the week and we get a couple of likes on our posts, but I only get a comment or two a week. Occasionally something will spark conversation or more comments.
I thought Twitter was a dud for us but I keep hearing from people who saw something on Twitter. We have a few patrons who talk to us through Twitter, too. But it’s pretty infrequent.
With which network have you had the most success?
Facebook. Lots more fans/followers and interaction there.
One of the library’s Facebook posts.
How much time do you spend on social media each day?
Personally or professionally?
Facebook is our main social media presence and if I’m at a computer, I’m logged onto Facebook. If I’m at work I have the library’s page up and will occasionally check my own newsfeed for interesting stuff. When I’m not at work, I keep an eye on the library’s page but I’m frequently checking my own news feed.
I check the library’s Twitter account once or twice a day when I’m at work. There’s not as much activity there. I get email notifications if anyone mentions us.
I’ll check the library’s Pinterest account at least once a day. It’s become my go-to when things are slow. I’ll repin things from accounts we’re following. When I see something online that I think would be fun, I’ll pin it. I pin things from our book blog and tend to do that every other week after a few new posts have been made.
When a job opens up, I post it on LinkedIn and I’ll stop in to add new things or when I’m working on a LinkedIn program as well.
We have a Google+ account but it’s so dead that it doesn’t get checked often.
And I look at other social media sites to see if I want to get the library on them, if I want to do a program about it, or just be able to answer questions about them.
Do you monitor mentions of the library on social networks? If so, how do you reply to them?
Yes. I respond to anyone that mentions us on Twitter with a reply. A few times someone has mentioned us in photos on Twitter and I’ll respond with a comment.
We’ve been mentioned once that I know of on Instagram and I responded through Twitter. [Editor's note: I think that was me! See tweet below. ]
If the mention is good or neutral, I want to respond so they know someone is out there and as a way to thank them for thinking of us. If the mention is negative, I definitely want to respond so we can try to fix the situation.
Do you use social media more to educate or engage?
Educate. People seem to want to know what’s going on, what’s available, and what’s new more than they want to have conversations with the library. I would love to get more engagement from our users.
How has social media affected the library’s event planning?
I don’t think it has. We announce programs and things like closings and cancellations and our users have found that very helpful. But social networking is another channel for us and it’s our print newsletter that we focus on and plan around.
What effect has your social media presence had on day-to-day operations/visitation?
I don’t think anyone is forgoing the library because they’re getting what they need through our social media presence (it could be that they’re getting what they need as downloadable e-books or audiobooks from us, but that’s another topic). People tell us all the time that they saw something we posted online when they come in. And people will tell us they didn’t know about something until they saw it on Facebook or Twitter. So I think we get a few more visits because of social media. I think we’re creating a more positive image among some users who haven’t come in for years, or even ever, judging from the comments I’ve gotten from some younger people.
How do you get the word out about your social accounts and encourage community members to follow you on these accounts?
We posted a banner in the library after we set up our Facebook page. We advertise Facebook, Twitter, and our blog on a marquee in our lobby. We have links to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Flickr on our homepage. We mention Facebook in our print newsletter occasionally and have the Facebook and Twitter logos on the back of the newsletter. I’ve run a few ads on Facebook. The newsletter mentions and ads get the most new followers.
The library belongs to a group Pinterest board with hundreds of other libraries and librarians!
Why do you think it’s important for non-profits to be on social media?
The people we want to reach–our users and supporters–are already there. We can reach them quickly and easily by using the same social networks they do. Social media also lets us share information that they’ll be interested in, but is either too small to be in a form of communication we’d have to pay for (like our newsletter) or is time-sensitive. We can create more good will which will lead to more support or use or whatever it is we’re looking for.
The informal nature of social media lets us have fun with other fans and show a side of ourselves that isn’t often seen: that we like to laugh, can have fun, and are approachable. It also allows us to be there when people have questions or things they want to share with us. And the fact that the majority of our social media use is free doesn’t hurt either.
Anything else you would like to tell me?
I’ve read a lot of marketing books, blogs, articles, and guides dealing with social media and have dismissed most of them because they’re aimed at the for-profit sector. When the goal is getting customers, then there’s almost no use for me as someone who works for a public library, has limited or no budget, and wants something much more nebulous than dollars from people. There have been a few books about social media in libraries now, and some blogs and groups focus on it. I’ve gotten much more use from those.
Lately I’ve seen more marketing books and articles that focus on building relationships and that’s a great thing. I love seeing social media used, well, socially and to encourage relationships and not push product or blind brand loyalty. If you want to appeal to non-profits, I think focusing on those relationships is the way to go. Though we do have to know about the tools that for-profits use since we’re essentially competing with them for time and space on most social networks. Most of us need help understanding things like how Facebook determines who sees which posts and what we can do to get more eyes without having to pay.
Takeaways from the Woodridge Public Library:
- Know your limitations. You don’t need to be on every single social network. Keeping tabs on the available options is good, but running yourself down by trying to maintain an active presence on each isn’t.
- Reach out to your fans. A simple reply on Twitter can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
- Stay up-to-date. You might not need to know the latest customer-grabbing tactic, but knowing about the different social media tools can help with your own accounts.
- Don’t give up. The engagement you’d like may not be there, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t listening. Ask users, supporters, and staff if they actively look at your accounts before deciding to shut it down.
Have you noticed your own library using social media like this? Any other social media tips for non-profits that you would like to share?