April 2024: Adventures in Memeland - A Librarian's Journey

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! 

Disclaimer: Make sure you are following any media release policies that your institution has before posting photos with patrons in them.

Instagram is a highly visual platform that presents us with a unique opportunity to showcase our resources, events, and most importantly the vibrant communities that we build within our libraries. While static graphics have their place, the real magic happens when we embrace candid images and videos of actual people. Let’s take the time to delve into why this dynamic content is crucial for our library’s Instagram account and explore some tips for how you can capture compelling visuals with nothing more than your smartphone camera.

First things first – why are candid images and videos so impactful? One word: AUTHENTICITY. When followers see genuine moments captured within the library, whether it’s patrons browsing for books, attending an event, or interacting with library staff, it fosters a sense of connection. There’s a reason why these kinds of posts usually see more engagement! These posts humanize the library, transforming it from a mere building filled with books to a lively hub buzzing with activity and community spirit – that mythical third place that lots of folks are seeking nowadays! This authenticity resonates deeply with Instagram users (our patrons!) who are accustomed to scrolling through polished but often impersonal content. Candid shots break through the ‘perfect,’ evoking emotion and, again, inviting that engagement that we all are striving to get.

Something else to consider – candid content tends to perform better on Instagram’s algorithm. The platform tends to prioritize posts that spark interactions such as likes, comments, shares, or saves. Candid images and videos have a higher potential to elicit these kinds of responses in comparison to static graphics. When followers within your community see familiar faces or relatable moments, they are more inclined to engage with a post, whether it’s by leaving a comment, tagging a friend, or sharing that content with their followers (thus furthering your reach!). This increase in engagement not only boosts your library’s visibility, but it also strengthens your online library community.

Here are some tips for capturing great content with just your smartphone camera:

  1. Focus on lighting: Good lighting is essential for any photo or video. When indoors, position your subject(s) near windows to take advantage of natural light. Avoid harsh overhead lighting or backlighting.
  2. Capture Genuine Moments: Encourage your patrons and/or staff to act naturally. Again, we are striving for authenticity and want to avoid overly posed or staged scenes. Capture those genuine interactions, expressions, and emotions!
  3. Use Different Angles and Perspectives: Don’t be afraid to get creative with your compositions. Try shooting from different angles and perspectives to add visual interest to your content. Get down on the floor or up on a chair!
  4. Utilize Portrait Mode (if available): Many smartphones offer a portrait mode feature, which automatically blurs the background, creating a professional-looking effect. This can help the subject of your photo stand out and draw focus to the main elements of what you are photographing.
  5. Edit Thoughtfully: While smartphones offer built-in editing tools, exercise some restraint when applying filters or adjustments. Aim for a natural look. Most photos do not need to be edited and content is trending more towards the exclusion of filters nowadays.
  6. Tell a Story: Each post should aim to tell a story or evoke a specific emotion. Whether it’s capturing the excitement of a children’s story time, the quiet contemplation of a reader lost in a book, or a student’s buckling down to study for an exam, strive to convey the unique atmosphere of your library through your visuals.

By incorporating candid images and videos more regularly into your Instagram strategy, you can breathe new life into your account, boost engagement, and hopefully forge deeper connections within your community. Embrace authenticity, don’t discredit the usefulness of smartphone photography, and have fun! Remember that the heart of the library lies not only in our collections, but also in the people who bring it to life every day.

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.

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