Insights on marketing with social media: an interview with Beth C. Thomsett-Scott

Needless to say, in our current circumstances social media as a marketing tool is more important than ever for libraries, not only to promote their services but also to build community. For the all-new second edition of Marketing with Social Media, a LITA Guide published in cooperation with ALA Editions, editor Beth C. Thomsett-Scott gathers a range of contributors to explore real-world uses of library marketing technology. In this interview we discuss how the social media landscape has changed over the last several years, how to stay current without getting overwhelmed, and the importance of having a privacy policy and sticking to it.

The first edition of your guide came out in 2014—and in the world of social media, that feels like an eon! When it comes to social network services (SNS), what do you think has changed the most in that period?

author photo of's a tough question to narrow to one item. If I was forced to choose, I'd say the willingness of libraries to experiment with SNSs. We did before but sometimes did not give them enough time to take hold in our community. At times we have been too early for our users and reluctant to try again. Since the technologies tend to be easier now and more ingrained in our communities (my choice for second major change), we seem to be more willing to take the risk of trying them out.

Would you talk a little bit about how you found your contributors this time around? Did you reach out to people knowing that they’d be able to address specific topics?

First off, I want to thank all the authors who contributed chapters to create this book. I always learn more from them and appreciate their dedication and diligence in sharing their work with us. Several contributors from the earlier edition came back to substantially update or contribute to another technology. After finding authors that way, I googled to see which libraries and librarians were active in the remaining technologies. This covered most of the chapters. I put out a few calls to listservs listing the topics I still needed covered and was able to find amazing people to fill in the last chapters.
This is related to something many of us are facing individually: what can librarians do to stay on top of their organization’s social media initiatives without getting overwhelmed? There’s just so much going on!

That's another great question! A couple of thoughts. Make sure to grab the branding for new social media to ensure a consistent look across all offerings. Most allow you to do this and then make the profile private until you are ready to reveal it. Have someone or a small group who are responsible for updating the content of your chosen initiatives - we need to maximize our time. It's good to have someone or multiple someones watching the trends coming down and being used across all generations (you don't want to miss anyone). It is essential to know your users. What are they using? Are they quick to pick up new technologies or tend towards waiting? Each organization has its own culture. Staying organized helps as well. You can use similar messages but tailored for the particular system.
What are some key privacy issues that libraries need to stay conscious of, and what advice would you offer a library that’s suddenly forced to confront an SNS-born controversy?

book cover for Marketing with Social Media: A LITA Guide, Second EditionThere's the chance of being hacked and having someone post inappropriate content as the library. This could cause huge controversy but an explanation and tightened security should help the issue. Libraries that allow comments do need to be aware that people could start a "war" online if they have strong dissenting opinions about something e.g. an exhibit. Libraries should have polices about removing particular types of comments, but also remember freedom of speech works both ways. Having a policy helps, although things still happen. Not overreacting and pulling all social media is one of my first pieces of advice. Solve the problem but don't backslide. Always be upfront about what happened and steps taken to ameliorate it, as well as the new safeguards to prevent it from happening again.
Of the “newer” SNS which do you think have the greatest potential for library marketing? And which “legacy” SNS should libraries consider abandoning?

Before answering, it is important to remember and know your users. What works for an academic research library may not work for a small rural library. Facebook is a nice standard which many users appreciate. Twitter is one legacy item I might reconsider depending on my current user base. Instagram tends to a popular item with both libraries and users. Much like Facebook, it is easy to set up and keep maintained.

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