Using Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram are designed for communicating creatively — especially with our elected officials. Social media channels provide a place where libraries can share the work they are doing with their community leadership. Each platform serves a different audience and has its own strengths and weaknesses. It isn’t necessary to be active on all of the major social media platforms; simply tailor your advocacy around the platform that works best for you.

  • Follow

    Elected officials have social media for the same reason they have phone numbers and email: they want to hear from their constituents. Take advantage of these convenient ways to engage with them. Share news and positive stories about your library, say thank you, or make suggestions for the future. By following them, you can track what issues your elected officials are prioritizing as well as upcoming events they will be attending, such as town halls or debates.
  • Follow-Up

    Some elected officials use social media more than others. You might not get a response when you Tweet at your Senators or leave your Representative a comment on their Facebook page, but your message still gets through. When you meet your elected officials in person, let them know that you’ve been interacting with them on social media. When they can connect the messages with the people sending them, they pay attention.
  • Plan

    Platforms like Facebook are great for creating event pages or groups where you can invite your community to participate in your advocacy-related events. Planning an advocacy campaign for your library? Create a closed group for stakeholders to brainstorm and share ideas. Need a planning idea? Check out ALA's Library Snapshot Day planning guide.
  • Share

    Social media’s interactive environment offers a low-cost way for libraries to mobilize supporters, foster dialog with large audiences, and attract attention to issues that might otherwise be overlooked by traditional media. If you’re using action alerts to send messages to elected leaders, leverage social media to circulate your calls to action and share information with your community.
  • Know Your Library’s Social Media Policy

    Before you start posting, make sure you know what content has been approved for social media. If your library is run by your county government, you will likely have guidelines or restrictions about what political speech can appear on your library’s pages. You may need to call on your community and other library champions to help you get the word out on their pages instead. The more voices that carry your message, the stronger it gets across.

Best Practices

  • Be concise: Keep your posts brief, with a clear call to action, and include a link to background information if necessary.
  • Tags and hashtags: Tagging your elected officials or community stakeholders can be an easy way to draw their attention to your campaign, but tagging too many people can draw attention away from what you are trying to convey. Similarly, hashtags extend your reach beyond your own followers, but overuse of hashtags or using tags that are irrelevant to the content of your message can hurt your post.
  • Research hashtags before you use them: If you create a hashtag for a specific event or campaign, take time to find out if anyone has used the hashtag before. If the tag is already in use, find out who is using it, if it is still active, and whether your content conflicts with content already in the hashtag. That goes for hashtags that are already trending as well!
  • Plan ahead: Knowing what you want to post, what you want to say, and when it will go live can help strengthen your message. Be mindful of campaign milestones you want to amplify and other events taking place in your community that might drown out what you are trying to say, and then plan your posts to coincide with or avoid them. This has the added bonus of giving you time to draft, review, and get approval for each post and cuts down on the likelihood of rushed, unedited posts.
  • Be creative: Social media platforms are creative spaces driven by highly visual content! Use free design programs like Canva to create graphics, infographics, banners, and anything else you might need during your campaign. It is also good to keep in mind that social media platforms use algorithms that decide what content can be seen by each user. Posts with graphics are more likely to show up in your follower’s feeds!
  • Balance your content: Be careful not to overload your followers with too many posts about your campaign. Even in the midst of a heated budget campaign, limit the number of posts to each social media channel and remember to employ other communications streams (such as newsletters or your website) to help you get the word out and keep the campaign at the forefront over everyone’s minds.
  • Create a crisis response plan: Whether it is a public outcry over a book challenge or backlash over an event at your library, identify the people you will call on to mitigate the crisis ahead of time. Maintain a list of who should be notified and the steps you needed to respond. It can be helpful to prepare standard responses to common issues and prep a press contact list just in case.