Very recently, I made the reluctant decision to stop doing webinars focused on tracking social media metrics. The topic was one that has made me uneasy for a while, but there seemed to be at least some demand for it.
There has definitely been evolution in how these are measured since the early days of counting followers and other basic metrics. However, I have come to the conclusion that the topic is based on a system that is heading into foundational failure. At this point, I am feeling that it wouldn’t be fair to libraries to effectively subsidize what is increasingly looking like a failing ecosystem. I realize that libraries are still reporting those numbers, but I don’t think that’s something that’s going to be sustainable for the long term.
As trends have continued, especially with the ongoing implosion of Twitter, I have real concerns about teaching this topic. It has become so messy that even assuming that social media will even be an option down the line is becoming tenuous as a marketing position. Numbers across the board continue to drop for marketers, making this subject even more difficult than it was when I started putting a webinar together, back in the fall of 2022.
You’d think I’d not be surprised by social media falling apart at the seams. You’re right: I’m not. I actually began blogging about these major changes to social media patterns in 2018 (Part One
, Part Two
). “Social” is still social, but now it’s becoming something else. It’s no longer a public square where people shout into the ether and hope people pay attention. People (especially Gen Z) are circling around digital campfires
with their friends, and only
their friends. The public square has become a virtual place polluted by ads, toxicity and algorithmic determinations of what one actually gets to see. People have been fleeing to more personalized apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp for some time. “Using a messaging app feels like ‘sending’ something, not ‘posting’ something.” (Mike Elgan, writing for Computer World
I think this viewpoint was cemented even more for me when I watched Angela Hursh’s vlog, titled “Is This the Beginning of the End for Social Media Marketing at Your Library? 4 Ways To Prepare Now!
” She encourages library marketers to start more heavily focusing on other methods of reaching users, and to start diversifying away from traditional social media. I heartily endorse those approaches. It’s worried me for some time that libraries have become almost primarily dependent on social platforms to get their messages out. Traditional social media work is far easier than some of the other things Hursh suggests, such as podcasts and curating email lists.
While the possible demise of Twitter has accelerated the process, the idea that social media is going away isn’t new. I think the Twitter debacle has just put it in our collective faces. It’s uncomfortable, and changing how marketing is done in our libraries is going to be uncomfortable. The “easy button” is disappearing rapidly, and libraries need to pivot. Fast.