Recently, I have been working on a social media policy for the library I work in. This was in response to discussions I had with some colleagues about reviving the social media services the library uses. We decided that we needed guidelines on what we should post, the frequency with which we should post, think about who we are aiming at posts at, and so on.
Some of the social media services the library uses, such as LibraryThing, are used weekly to advertise our most recent acquisitions. The use of Facebook and Twitter was less enthusiastic though. People tended to post when something interesting arose, rather than actively seeking relevant information for the library’s users. The social media policy is designed to provide guidelines to the library’s staff on how often we should be posting and where to find inspiration.
This blog post will look at the steps I took to create the library’s social media policy and what a social media policy should contain.
My first port of call was the web. A Google search brought up lots of social media policies libraries and organisations had created. I also looked for advice on creating a policy, investigating what to include in the policy and how to cater it towards your workplace.
I also recalled, when I worked at another library in the past, being emailed a very detailed social media policy. I emailed the head of communications and I very quickly received a response with the policy attached and some presentations on how individual libraries had created their own.
I also sent out a tweet on Twitter asking for advice, which brought back some useful contacts and websites to visit. These websites, along with the ones I found, are at the bottom of this post.
I looked at all of these websites and documents and noted down information that is essential to put into the policy, including copyright law and data protection. I learnt that the policy should include not only guidelines on being aware of who your audience is and frequency with which you post, but more serious information on legal implications.
I also looked at the structure the documents took. In general, the format looked like this:
Overview (introduction to the document’s purpose)
Appendix (definitions, templates for deciding how to use a social media a service)
Knowing the general content of a social media policy and the structure the document takes, I could then move on to applying this to the creation of my own policy.
After my research, I wrote down everything I wanted the policy to include. I then put the ideas into order and created sections. What I decided on was something like this:
What social media is
Why the library uses it
How it can help
The purpose of the document and what it contains
- Respect the law
- Be transparent
- Be accurate
- Encourage comments and debate
- What you should never post
- The media
- Finding inspiration
- What to post
- How much time to invest
Setting up an account
[Points to consider when deciding whether to set up an account with a social media service.]
[Practicality of using social media which applies directly to the library.]
Looking at lots of libraries’ and organisations’ social media policies showed me that a lot of them contain the same information. In terms of the law, being accurate in what you post, and how to deal with negativity/harassment, the guidelines are generally the same. It is the practical side of using the services in your library that allows more room for creativity in the document.
- Think about the larger organisation
In writing the policy for the library I work in, I had to think about the larger organisation we fall under. I work in a library within a college and it was important to bear in mind any policies they already have and their use of social media. Luckily for me, they don’t have any social media profiles and, therefore, don’t have a policy. However, I still had to think about the college as our audience and what they would be interested in reading.
- Next steps
Having fleshed out each section into something more complex, I will pass the document on to the head of the library to read. I haven’t been in this job for that long and it is quite possible that before I arrived, my colleagues had conversations on the use of social media which I am not aware of. Also, it is important for the head of the library to know what I have written in order to be aware of what their staff are doing and ensuring the guidelines are followed.
I have already passed it on to a fellow colleague who is very much involved with the library’s use of social media so they can offer ideas and corrections.
Then, once it is amended and proof-read, I will distribute it to my colleagues.
I have rather enjoyed writing the library’s social media policy. Not just because it gives me a sense of responsibility but because I have enjoyed doing research into how other libraries operate their social media use.
I think a social media policy is very important for a library to have so they can follow guidelines and also because, if anything untoward happens, e.g. abusive comments, then the library will know how to respond. The document should ideally be created before joining social network services but, from experience and general chatter, I understand many libraries joined social networking services to see what they were like and then thought they should create some guidelines afterwards. This just means we should know what to do in the future and, when a new social media site is launched, we can think more strategically about whether it is worth the library signing up.