These days a lot of our discussion has revolved around how the pandemic affects what we do. For example, how has going completely virtual impacted reference stats? I’ve heard different tales from different schools. But what I want to ask is this: how has our new-ish online world changed the social media viewing habits of our students in regard to library outreach? In particular, has it become more difficult to reach students via Facebook and Twitter? Just as Zoom fatigue is very real, is it now more difficult to connect with students on social media?
Here’s the latest episode that prompted this post: shortly after the NCAA announced the tournament bracket a couple weeks back, I was excited to resume what I have dubbed the Mason Megabowl Madness Challenge. Ours is your run-of-the-mill tourney pool only distinguished by a convoluted name and an esoteric pop reference. Typical online and social media fare, yes? With free entry and Amazon gift cards as prizes, surely students would jump at the opportunity. Thanks to our crack circulation team, we even plastered these flyers in the elevators.
Sadly, participation was far below my expectations and I’m not sure precisely why. Without presenting an extensive breakdown here, the analytics say our page views over the past year have dropped. So, yes, fewer students were aware of the pool. But there were still a sufficient number of eyeballs on the page, I think, that I would have predicted more entries.
Even in the best of times, reaching students via social media can be tricky—or at least reaching out with a message that’s representative of the library’s mission. After all, we’re not TikTok. I don’t always know how well I’m doing at it, but I’ve tried to balance our posts with a balance between informative and fun (and crafting your social media message might be a future blog post topic). That said, perhaps I should leave open the possibility that our page views have dropped because my content is less interesting as it’s being penned by an author who also frequently needs a break from the internet.
2020 was a time where many intentionally withdrew from social media because of political discourse exhaustion, mental well-being, or just plain feeling overwhelmed. That there’s no going back to a pre-pandemic world is frequently said with some certitude. So will libraries’ social media strategies need to adjust even when we return to that bygone era of face-to-face reference transactions and in-person teaching? I don’t have a good answer yet.