The Brighton Public Library in Canada is located about two miles from the shores of Lake Ontario and just 189 miles from Rochester, New York, as the crow flies. It’s a small library serving a population of about 11,000 people. And in the fall of 2021, they were struggling to find a meaningful way to connect with Instagram users. Their posts didn’t seem to resonate with their followers and their engagement was low. 

The library decided to do something innovative. They realized that their followers were mostly women ages 25 to 45 with young children. So, the library began to center all its Instagram posts on childhood literacy. Within the first month, Brighton Public Library saw a 37 percent increase in their reach. The local school board started following the library's account and is now interested in partnering with them. The staff also says the focus made it easier for them to create content. “I think our expertise is a real service we provide the community,” said Andrea Wheeldon, who oversees social media for the library.    

Libraries have limited resources and need a way to reach community members who might not visit the library. That’s where social media can play a huge role in reaching new patrons. But everything changes fast on social media and that can leave your library’s social media team feeling frustrated and ineffective. Brighton Public Library’s story proves that success on social media is possible! There are three key steps every library needs to take to find success on social media. 

Step one: Set specific, measurable goals aligned with your library’s strategy. If your library is trying to increase circulation, increase use of a certain database, or reach a certain target audience of community members, your library’s social media posts must focus on helping to reach that goal. Incorporate your library’s overall goals into your specific goals for your social media accounts and include a timeline to keep you on track. For example, “We will drive engagement of our posts by 25 percent in the next six months in order to increase visits to our physical library by 10 percent during that same time period.”  

Step two: Identify your audience. Make a list of all your library’s social media accounts. Next, look at the insights for each of the platforms. Who is interacting with your posts? Identify your library’s demographic for each platform so you can work with what you have. Your audience will be different for every platform. You can intentionally and thoughtfully provide content to them.  

Step three: Match your goals to your audience. Now you’ll take the goals you set in step one and the audiences you’ve identified in step two and match them up. If you are working with a small staff, this step is crucial. It will help you identify the platforms that will serve your library’s goals best. That’s where you should be focusing your time and effort.  

These three steps are just the beginning of a focused, manageable, and successful social media strategy for your library. Your organization can transcend the changing rules of social media by centering your social media promotions on strategy and implementing best practices that will hold no matter what changes are made to platform algorithms.  

Your library can have success on social media. And that success can be measured by more than likes, shares, and comments. With a focused, strategic plan, you can reach new audiences and build community in these valuable online spaces.  

Angela Hursh is Senior Engagement Consultant for NoveList. She is currently listening to The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan.