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By the Book: 4 Ways Libraries Can Improve Your Social Media Strategy

A library, which can be a museum or an art gallery in itself, is a goldmine for inspiration and storytelling ideas. As an owner or a manager of a cultural space, in a library, you may find reflections of your own artifacts and artists, and connect the dots between your creative organization and its history, present day, and future. Perhaps most importantly, a bibliotheca can help you build stronger connections with your online audience.

In the magical land of libraries, you can be transported to faraway realms and foreign kingdoms in the blink of an eye. New friends, imaginary creatures, and wise ancestors gather under one roof to tell you their stories. The past, present, and future merge together and endless possibilities wait around every corner, on every shelf, in every book.

Is there anywhere else all this would be equally possible? The closest experience we think you can get is on social media. Because we are all stories waiting to be told.

Last year (2021), Instagram saw the biggest growth in followers for the top 100 museums. Instagram’s audience increased by 30%, compared to 13% on Twitter and 5% on Facebook. Effectively, Instagram has taken the throne as the most popular social media platform for museums.

As content creators, we like to know every trick in the book when it comes to social media. That’s why we’re looking towards libraries for inspiration and providing you with a catalog of four social strategies to help your organization pull readers in and take them on a valuable journey.

“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”

― Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

1. Judge a Book by Its Cover

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see”, said Henry David Thoreau. Still, a book cover is the first thing we lay eyes on at a library. Our subconscious mind has nothing else to go on at that moment and whether we like it or not, the first impression is the last impression.

Instagram, primarily a visual platform, is practically a picture book. Captions matter greatly as they can clarify or highlight what the image leaves unsaid, yet words are not the first thing we see when we stumble upon a new account. For this reason, the overall presentation of your grid has the power to make or break your following.

Instagram grid
A beautiful Instagram grid from Existentiallism.

It is of vital importance how you present yourself on all social media but Instagram in particular loves esthetics. To showcase your work from all flattering angles keep your grid nice and neat, post high-quality images that are centered properly, and use simple tricks like free Canva templates for both posts and stories. A little goes a long way when it comes to design.

2. Steal Like an Artist

“Art is theft”, said Pablo Picasso. “Everything is copy”, followed Nora Ephron.

All great artists in this world seem to be of a similar opinion that no piece of work is fully original. That’s not to say that you can’t be unique and one of a kind or that we support plagiarism. Yet, the amount of inspiration we’re surrounded with makes everything we produce a synthesis of borrowed elements, stolen shades, and phrases coined from previously existing words.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in a library. If you pick up a fantasy book, chances are a dragon will raise its head on one of the pages. All of our favorite stories have been told before in a different way by somebody else before our favorite authors gave them their preferred shape. Did J. K. Rowling invent magic? Certainly not. And yet Harry Potter revolutionized storytelling for an entire generation of readers.

From ‘Steal Like an Artist’ by Austin Kleon

Keep proverbial pen and paper on you at all times. In his book Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon calls it your morgue file. Whenever your senses pick up something useful in somebody else’s work, write it down, doodle it, preserve this idea for future revival in your own art. Modify that spark of inspiration and adjust it to fit your own narrative.

Pro tip: creating a morgue file on Instagram is easy. Apart from following accounts that you enjoy the most, you can bookmark and save single posts to create your own vision boards. Use the heck out of this option, take a leaf out of somebody else’s book, and model your esthetics accordingly.

3. Balance the Books

So many books, so little time, as the saying goes. Such is the eternal headache of bookworms around the world. However, while new books are being released every hour, there is only a finite number of social media platforms.

Still, we live in abundant times. And just like it’s perfectly acceptable to read several books at the same time, it’s okay to tell the story of your museum, art gallery, or cultural organization over more than one social media platform to reach a wider audience. But which ones to choose?

Utilize what brings the best results. Follow your audience, see where they like to hang out and are most active. It’s ok to try different platforms before picking the two to three you enjoy creating content for.

According to recent trends, Instagram is the best place for museums to be this year. But when it comes to the research phase, we always suggest looking at your options – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, etc. – and picking the ones that make the most sense for your business. If the chosen channel remains a mystery to you, consider hiring someone who knows the platform inside out.

If you’re still stuck, try leaning on Edgar Allan Poe’s unity of effect. It will help you determine what kind of effect you want to elicit from your followers and then see which social medium will get you closer to that goal.

4. Turn the Page

In other words: evolve. Just as libraries are still going strong because they offer novel services like virtual tours or e-books available to borrow online, your museum or art gallery needs to keep up with trends and technological advancements. For instance, if you want to attract more people to your content, your social media posts should always be accompanied by relevant community-created hashtags. For booklovers, for example, those could be:

Social media is a constant reminder of the ever-changing needs of your audience. Younger generations keep inventing viral trends and while there’s no need to participate in all of them, it helps to be aware of what’s engaging people these days. Museums, heritage centers, and libraries have in part been created to preserve the past but they also need to take care of our future. Make your evolution one for the books by staying open-minded and relevant.

To help you begin improving your social media strategy, we’ve designed a free Content Marketing Scorecard for you to quickly and easily benchmark your current content strategy. By answering 16 yes/no questions, you’ll be able to pinpoint your digital content strengths and weaknesses, as well as identify specific ways to improve your content, including social media. It takes less than five minutes to fill out and is completely confidential.

When in Doubt, Go to The Library

More and more libraries embrace their role in a forward-thinking manner to bring us all together, bonded by stories, regardless of our age or where we are in the world. You can follow their lead. Inspire yourself among books and art, invest time and energy in thoughtful design and content research, and use the best platforms for your message. Evolve.

When it comes to Instagram, think of it this way: if you post anything regularly, the algorithms might work in your favor. But if you are selective, intentional, and Instagrammable (yes, that is a word), your grid will recite poetry in ways your audience won’t be able to resist. This is how to make sure you’re not only an open book but a compelling one at that.

“What she needs are stories. Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget. Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books. Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives—or to find strength in a very long one.”

― V.E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

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