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How Instagram Can Help Public Libraries Connect With Teens

Public libraries have so much to offer teens. They’re not only reference resources for homework, but they also offer social meeting spaces, job training and search resources, and access to computers and year-round learning. Thus, connecting with teens is an important objective for public library marketing programs.

Of all the social networks, Instagram is perhaps the most promising platform for connecting with teens. And just what do teens think of Instagram? Well, they make up a very large share – 62% – of all Instagram users. And one-third call it the most important social media platform.

One reason for Instagram’s popularity is that it is 100% mobile. Visual communication is especially important in this format, which makes reading large chunks of text on a small screen difficult.

It should come as no surprise that we are in the midst of a visual revolution, in which images are favored more than plain text. Today, visuals are the “universal language,” especially for younger generations. And Instagram is just perfect for visual content and storytelling because it enables easy sharing of photos, images, GIFs and video.

“The teens I work with say it is the last app they close at night and the first they open in the morning. If teen brands can speak teens’ Instagram language and serve them fresh, entertaining content, they’ll connect with their audience,” says Laura Tierney, social media director at Digiday.

How can libraries take advantage of this platform? Here are five ways to use Instagram for building a rapport with teens.

Engage with lifestyle marketing

Tierney says the most successful brands on Instagram use lifestyle marketing to engage teens. This aspirational approach focuses on creating and sharing images that show how the brand’s products fit into the teen’s life. Of course this works exceedingly well for fashion, but it can also work for public libraries.

For example, you can create Instagram images that illustrate how the library fits into the teen day. Go beyond images of students poring over books in the library, and instead create images of teens socializing in library areas, participating in library events, and earning recognition for their accomplishments, such as getting a job or earning an A on schoolwork.

An emphasis on sharing user generated content

One of the best ways to build your brand on Instagram (or any social network) is to share content created by other people. This makes the library seem more “human” and helps to foster enthusiasm. Plus, whenever you share a photo taken by a library visitor, it builds loyalty. Use Instagram’s geography tags to find posts taken in or near the library and use hashtags to share content on topics important and relevant to both teens and the library.

Time your posts to optimize reach

Be sure to upload and share your images when teens are most likely to be on Instagram: in the morning and at night. You’ll reach a wider audience, and there’s less chance your post will be overlooked or missed while teens are in class.

Be generous with hashtags

Hashtags make it easier for teens to find your content, and they are a popular convention on this platform. It’s important to use only hashtags that are relevant to your image, but it’s also acceptable to include 10 or more hashtags with each post. In fact, interactions are highest on posts with 11 or more hashtags.

Be sure to incorporate a couple of the most popular Instagram hashtags. As teens follow these hashtags, they’re more likely to see your posts.

Also make a point of creating a few hashtags specific to your library or the campaigns you are running. Some examples relevant to New Jersey libraries are: #library, #libraries, #nj, #newjersey, #reading, #books, #librarians and #librarylove.

It’s Time for Candid Camera

Research from Edelman PR shows that we tend to trust people like ourselves more than we trust celebrities or CEOs. That’s a key reason candid shots on Instagram work so well. Behind-the-scenes shots – of your staff going about their daily work or interacting with teens – make the library more relatable for teens. These shots are perceived as more authentic, and they help create and build a stronger relationship.

Let teens know the library is on Instagram!

Don’t rely on teens stumbling across your Instagram account. Be sure to promote your presence on the platform in all of your marketing materials, flyers, newsletters and email accounts. Post signs promoting both your account name and your hashtags around the library and in other public areas to encourage teens to follow your account.

Instagram is a promising platform for building the relationship between teens and the library. Start with the basics and experiment with the platform. Over time, you’ll learn what types of images both keep teens coming back and get them excited about sharing.


Marketing Budgets 2016: 5 Reasons Instagram Matters, Big Time [Infographic]
by MDG Advertising

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