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Your library’s online audience really isn’t everyone

Libraries can provide services to many different populations.  As library staff, we often want to help as many people, in as many different ways, as possible.  While this is admirable, it’s hardly realistic, particularly when resources and time are limited commodities.

Your library may have had to make some decisions about where to focus its  resources; perhaps a poorly-attended program series was canceled.  Maybe your library has found its series of bibliographies, booklists or pathfinders is not well-used, and decided to discontinue them.  Libraries, of all types, have to make choices like this all the time.  We would like to provide services and materials to everyone we might serve, but we know that isn’t a pragmatic approach…no matter how much we might desire it to be otherwise.  Libraries have to be careful with their resources, and be able to justify how they are used.  Services that they provide have to be sound returns on their patrons’ investments.

When posting content online, it can be very, very easy to forget that these same kinds of decisions still have to be made.  The audience is literally out of sight, so we’re not always sure just whom we’re serving.  Engagement with posts can be low or negligible, especially if the effort putting into posting by the library is slight or is using poor practices.  Statistics can be difficult to interpret, if staff even takes the time to look at them.  It’s no wonder that so many libraries just throw things out into the ether, figuratively speaking. Doing anything else takes yet more effort and isn’t simple.

If I asked you who your target audience(s) for your library’s social media is, would you know? To succeed, you need to know who you want to actually see your messages.

Get to know your target market. Understand their needs and which of their problems you might solve. Each item you post (except for, perhaps, outright humorous content) should have some kind of CTA (Call to Action), either explicitly or implicitly.  If you’re promoting a resume workshop, do you want to be aiming that at senior citizens, who are likely retired? What about that advanced research methods class? Or even an anime film festival? Some demographics are easy, but many are not.

If you haven’t done the research before, do it now. Remember, anecdotes aren’t data. You don’t have the answers…yet. And, your audience really isn’t everyone.