Column Description: Being a social media manager can be a daunting task. What's trending? Am I up-to-date on what's relevant and cool? How do I create reels? Is TikTok worth it? So many questions with countless answers. Journey with me into Memeland as I share some of the tips and tricks I've picked up along the way to help you survive the task of being a library social media manager. You can be sure there will also be some pit stops along the way to far-off places like Marketing Mountain and Outreach Beach - so buckle up and prepare for an awesome journey!
As library marketers, we have so many content formatting options available to us that can be used as the vehicle to get our messaging across to our user base. I will always say that word of mouth is always going to be your best friend, but I think the next best thing, at least in today’s social media landscape, is short-form videos. According to the bloggers at Hubspot, a short-form video is “a video up to 2 minutes and 30 seconds in length…” Think back to some of your favorite videos to scroll through on Facebook or Instagram, were they usually less than three minutes? If you came across something longer than three minutes, how likely were you to sit there and watch the entire thing? How long are the ads that are constantly being pushed on these platforms?
When I think about short-form videos, I instantly think about some of my favorite Instagram Reels, Instagram Stories, Subscriptions/Discover on Snapchat, Vines (R.I.P.), and now the ever-popular TikToks. As of March 2021, the average amount of time spent on short-form videos ranges from fifty-five minutes (Instagram Reels) to twenty-two minutes (Triller). That’s a lot of time if you consider that those fifty-five minutes are more than likely spaced out throughout a person’s day. Now I’m not saying there isn’t a place for long-form videos, plenty of folks still enjoy YouTube. But short-form videos are perfectly poised to really help deliver promotional content, brief tutorials, and general goodwill in a length that is easily digested.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about, you guessed it, TikTok. TikTok is solidly comprised of all short-form videos. To put into perspective how popular this platform has become, globally, there are over one billion active TikTok users monthly as of September 2021. That’s a huge audience for content creators. In comparison, Instagram Stories (by itself) had about 500 million daily active users as of 2019. In the summer of 2020, Instagram introduced their version of “TikTok” with Reels, thus capitalizing on the formula that made TikTok so successful. TikToks vary in length of fifteen seconds, thirty seconds, and, more recently added, three minutes whereas, Instagram Stories are no more than fifteen seconds per frame and Reels are up to one minute. TikToks, Stories, and Reels can range from silly dances to informational or promotional content.
We know that short-form video is having a moment right now. So how do we as library marketers capitalize on this – should we invest the time? My answer is unequivocally, yes – take the time to jump on the short-form video bandwagon. I would say that if you already have an Instagram account, start there. Reels are very similar to TikToks, and you probably don’t want to start a brand-new account if you do not have to, especially if you are a solo marketer. Take a look at what other libraries have already generated, on either platform, and see what is doable for you. Remember, the filming of Reels or TikToks does not need to be a big production. You can easily shoot a video right on the platform from a smart device. If you so choose, you can record them on professional equipment and edit them down using something like Premiere, but not everyone has time for that.
Here are some examples of Reels I have done for my own library and in what context we created them:
- Printing: We created this Reel because one of our frequent questions at our service desk is “How do I print?”. Even though we have FAQs on our website and step-by-step instructions around the library, we still wind up walking over with students to show them the process. We felt that creating a short-form video on the subject would be the perfect visual we needed.
- Masking: Like most Libraries may be experiencing right now, we were struggling with mask compliance in our buildings. We remixed this content from @vtlibraries (sharing is caring!). The purpose of this Reel is to remind students of a policy.
- PAWS: We have a one-on-one research consultation service called PAWS. One of my Library Ambassadors had the brilliant idea to use a Taylor Swift song that is having a renewed viral moment and create this TikTok to advertise our service.
- Viral Dance: I really wanted to use the viral song “Meet Me At Our Spot” by THE ANXIETY, Tyler Cole, & Willow. There is a dance to it that has been circulating on TikTok and I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t use it for a Reel. The purpose of this was to generate goodwill towards the libraries going into academic finals and show that we have a pulse on what is currently trending.
In conclusion, short-form videos are a great way to share a variety of content in a current popular format. These kinds of videos are relatively easy to make and require minimal effort in terms of editing. Bottom line – have fun and happy creating!
Amanda M. Lowe is the Outreach and Marketing Librarian at the University at Albany, SUNY. In her role, she serves as a reference librarian and the marketing maven for all three campus libraries. When Amanda is not engaging patrons on social media, you can find her doing all sorts of outreach programming. Her research focuses on library marketing and outreach with a concentration on social media, reference services, and library programming. Amanda has an MLS from the University at Buffalo and a BS in English with a minor in Theatre from Oneonta State College.