Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Using Social Media to Engage Teens, including contests

I always blog wearing a tiara 🙂

Contests: They are simple and fun ways to keep your teens engaged.  They generate repeat business.  They help you appeal to a wide variety of interests.  In short, they work for teen librarians.  Last week we discussed why I love them and I shared one of my favorite ones, the teen TSRC artwork contest.  And as I mentioned, I spent many years making contest sheets and doing contests once every 2 weeks.  The turn over helped keep a steady flow of interest.  Now a days, you can use social media sites to keep teens engaged daily. 

You can do the simplest of things, and it allows you the opportunity to be spontaneous.  Have an idea?  You can just throw it up on your Facebook page or Twitter and run with it.  Social media affords us all the opportunity to embrace creativity or respond to a suddenly popular trend.  You can throw out book quotes and ask teens to guess the book.  Or, you can throw out some pictures and ask teens to guess what the picture is from or depicting.

When discussing marketing you hear the term branding come up frequently.  You can create some regular features as a part of your social media site and they become a type of brand; something that your teen patrons come to look forward to and immediately associate with your library.  For example, on Fridays, we have “Friday Fill-Ins” on the Teen Librarian’s Toolbox Facebook page.  This is a regular feature where I write a sentence and ask my audience to fill in the blanks.  It is a way of engaging your audience and getting feedback from them.  Other sites have things like Funny Fridays (at the Leaky Boob, a breastfeeding support site) where the audience is invited to share their funny stories.  As another example, the Delaware County District Library has a regular feature on their Facebook page called What Am I Wednesday where they gives some hints and ask their fans to identify what they are describing:

My largest city ranks among the world’s busiest ports.
I am the only U.S. state that calls my counties parishes.
I was influenced by both French and Spanish settlers.
Tourists know me for my jazz and annual Mardi Gras celebration.
What state am I?
The answer: Louisiana
(Delaware County District Library Facebook page, January 4, 2012)

By creating these types of regular features on your library’s social media pages, you develop a relationship with your teen patrons.  They know that you are inviting them to participate and creating opportunities for destination events.  They know that on Thursday nights they can watch The Vampire Diaries on the CW and on Friday mornings they can expect a fun post for their favorite teen services librarian.

Just as you have to spend time with your teens in the library and build a rapport, you need to spend time with your teens online and cultivate that same type of rapport.  Teens spend a lot of time online using social media sites, so we need to meet them where they are and use the tools effectively.  We need to be willing to have fun with it and reveal a little bit of ourselves while still remaining appropriate levels of privacy.  So don’t be afraid to get online and be whimsical, spirited, passionate – be engaging.

For a good example of someone who uses Twitter well, check out Sarah Dessen.  She is funny and personable and really connects with her followers.  Over the weekend she started a Twitter feed for her rooster, Foghorn, and overnight he received over 500 followers.  There are a wide variety of authors using Twitter, and many bloggers as well.  Here are some things you should know about Twitter:

1)  It is addictive (much like Pinterest)
2) If you follow the right feeds, it CAN be a good source of news and information.  Many publishers, authors and news channels have feeds and link you to up to date articles and information.  I found a variety of sources that I did not previously know about that have proven useful.
3) Sarah Dessen is hysterical.  As is her rooster.
4) John Green is just as awesome as you would imagine.
5) You can follow the Teen Librarian’s Toolbox @TLT16
6) Most of the professional journals you use have feeds and they provide supplemental information
7) You can use Twitter to host a chat or discussion, or watch a show with your teens and comment about it that way.
8) Many readers like to post quotes as they are reading.
9) Mtv talks a lot about Jersey Shore in their feed. It is as annoying as you think it would be.
10) If you search #the2012project you will see pictures of teens reading and using their libraries and it is wicked cool.

A couple of words of caution about using social media:
I recommend you set up a library page attached to your library e-mail account or a dummy e-mail account as opposed to your personal e-mail account.  One, this creates appropriate boundaries between your work and personal accounts.  Two, if you leave to take another position they can maintain access to these accounts and keep the fan base.

I also recommend you set up your Facebook account as a page and don’t deal with friend requests.  Your teens can choose to follow your Facebook page by “liking” it and you don’t get access to their FB page and they don’t get access to yours.  I think there are some appropriate boundaries you want to keep when working with teens.

Next blog post, I will share with you a contest that you can use on your social media site already packaged for you.

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