Using Social Media to Overcome Barriers in Connecting with the Outreach Community: Successes from ABOS

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By: David Kelsey, 2021 ABOS President, and Lori Berezovsky, 2021 ABOS President-Elect

On March 23, 2020, during the start of the pandemic, Cathy Zimmerman, the 2020 President of the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), and David Kelsey, the 2020 ABOS President-Elect, decided to try something new to reach individuals during COVID-19. The solution was to engage individuals through social media since people were at home, isolated for safety. Cathy and David wanted to keep bookmobiles and outreach, as well as the love for the outreach field, at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts and minds.

Cathy and David decided to focus on Facebook in 2020 as the organization already had a Facebook page, though there was not a designated person to manage it and posts were infrequent. David implemented a posting schedule on Facebook and shared news articles, photos of bookmobiles and outreach vans, and bookmobile humor.

Social media graphic. Books standing upright in a circle with text in the middle that reads "tell us about your library outreach." The ABOS logo accompanies it.

At the beginning of the campaign, ABOS had 665 likes on Facebook. Currently, ABOS has over 2,000 likes. This is over a 300% increase!

We’ll go more into depth about these campaigns and how they led to success for our social media team.

Virtual Bookmobile Day

Each year, those in the Bookmobile and Outreach field celebrate National Bookmobile Day, which is held annually on the Wednesday of National Library Week. Due to the pandemic, bookmobile staff could not hold their usual celebrations and festivities, so the ABOS Board of Directors decided to host a virtual parade of bookmobiles on the ABOS Facebook page.

Some highlights from the 2020 ABOS Virtual Bookmobile Day:

  • 133 libraries participated from across the United States and from 12 other countries.
  • ABOS reached 32,000 people on Facebook in one day.
  • ABOS had 145 new “likes” in 24 hours.
  • Posts were scheduled every 10-15 minutes on Facebook.
  • It was such a success that ABOS has turned it into an annual event.
  • In 2021, the Virtual Bookmobile Parade will be held on April 7.

Social media graphic. Peach background with red text that reads "Virtual Bookmobile Parade. April 7, 2021. Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services."

Book Bike Week

One of the goals of the 2020 ABOS Board of Directors was to reach more individuals in the field and to break down barriers. One of the solutions was to launch Book Bike Week, a week-long event celebrating library book bike programs and individuals who serve their communities by bike.

  • Some highlights from the 2020 ABOS Book Bike Week:
  • Over 60 library book bike programs were featured.
  • ABOS reached 32,000 during this week-long event.
  • It was such a success that ABOS has turned it into an annual event.
  • In 2021, Book Bike Week will be held during the first week in August: August 2-6, 2021.

Lori Berezovsky, the 2021 ABOS President-Elect, will be spearheading social media in 2021 in her role as the Social Media Coordinator. Lori has gathered a Social Media Team, who will handle Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. The Social Media Team consists of four team members (each being part of the ABOS Marketing Committee) who handle a separate social media account as well as committee members who create graphics and additional content. Time commitment is a few hours each week to research articles of interest, create graphics, develop content, and pre-schedule posts. A regular posting scheduled on all four platforms has been implemented and positive results are already being noticed.

  • In one month, our Twitter page has grown from 130 followers to almost 500 followers.
  • Instagram has grown from 20 followers to almost 200 followers.

In addition to the Virtual Bookmobile Parade (April 7) and Book Bike Week (August 2-6) in 2021, Lori and her team are launching Little Free Library Week, in partnership with the Little Free Library organization. Little Free Library Week, May 3-7, will be a week-long event celebrating Little Free Library programs, stewards, and promoting community-wide literacy initiatives. Below you'll find some tips and tricks to help you launch your own social media campaigns!

Social media graphic. The background is green with the picture of a library professional next to their book bike. The text reads, " ABOS presents...Book Bike Week. August 2-6, 2021. Photo used with permission from the Lafayette Public Library"

10 Tips and Tricks for Library Organizations Interested in Expanding Their Social Media Presence

  1. Start off small with one social media platform before adding additional networks. You don’t want your organization to take on more than it can handle.
  1. Have a team of individuals to spearhead your organization’s social media. More hands make for lighter work.
  1. Pre-schedule posts and work ahead whenever possible. This enables your organization to have better control over your social media presence and ensures that you have posts for each day.
  1. Create a posting schedule that fits your organization and the social media platform. Make sure that you post to your social media channels at least once a day to guarantee that you are engaging with your social media audience.
  1. Don’t post too much each day or you will lose followers. Less is more.
  1. Have your organization invest in Canva to develop professional-looking graphics. Canva has a free version for non-profit organizations, which includes libraries.
  1. Make sure your library association members are aware that you have social media pages. Email your members routinely to inform them on how they can access your pages and provide the link. Include your social media information on your membership pages and welcome packets.
  1. Spotlight your members by asking them for photos and feature noteworthy initiatives. Everyone likes a time to shine!
  1. Locate news articles on topics relevant to your association by setting up Google News Alerts. Every time a certain topic is mentioned in the online news, Google notifies you through your Google email and provides the article name and link. For example, ABOS has Google Alerts for the topics of “bookmobile” and “library outreach” as well as several others.
  1. Be prepared to spend a few hours each week working on your library’s social media channels. The time is worth it as your social media presence will grow as you add new followers.

Social media graphic. The background is an image of a free little library. The text to the left of the little library reads "Little Free Library Week. May 3-7, 2021. A partnership between ABOS and Little Free Library"

10 Recommendations on Spearheading Virtual Events for Your Library Organization

  1. If you launch a virtual event, give yourself plenty of time to schedule the event. ABOS recommends two months for collecting information.
  1. Be very specific about the information that you need for your virtual event. Ex: name of library, city, state.
  1. Provide a deadline for submissions. ABOS suggests ending submissions one week prior to the event.
  1. Set up a Google Form to collect information. This streamlines the process and makes it easier for everyone involved.
  1. Incorporate photos for each post during the event to increase engagement.
  1. Pre-schedule all the posts on social media. Give yourself enough time to schedule.
  1. Develop hashtags to be used during the event, such as #LittleFreeLibraryWeek.
  1. Promote your event to not only your members and social media followers, but also to state and regional library associations to increase awareness of the event.
  1. Consider hosting raffles and giveaways during the week to expand on engagement with your followers. Have you thought about giving away free association memberships?
  1. Remember that even though you have a deadline for submissions, you will be contacted on the day of the event by those wanting to be included. Be lenient and include them. This promotes goodwill for your organization and will be beneficial to increase your social media presence within your field.

The ABOS Board of Directors has discovered that spearheading a social media initiative has been essential in reaching those in the field and promoting the ABOS organization to a wider audience. Already, ABOS has noticed more individuals joining the ABOS organization who are indicating that they heard about ABOS through social media. One of the goals for ABOS in 2021 is to discover ways to engage those in the outreach field throughout the year and one of the methods ABOS is using to achieve this goal is through an active social media program. In 2021 and beyond, ABOS will continue to discover ways to expand its social media presence in an effort to break down barriers and to celebrate those in the bookmobile and outreach profession.