Social media: Can you tell if it’s working yet?

On Friday 1st July I jumped on a train up to Manchester to attend an ARLG NW event called Social media: Can you tell if it’s working yet? I always look forward to these courses, partly because social media in libraries is one of my main areas of interest, but also because it’s good to meet other academic librarians and hear about their experiences.

My journey through Manchester was eventful; it was the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and there was a big afternoon procession due to start from the Central Library where I was heading, meaning many roads were blocked off.  I’m terrible with directions anyway, and despite a printed map, Google maps on my phone, *and* written instructions, I got completely lost and had to ask a proper grown-up for help. I arrived with 10 minutes to spare, spending 5 minutes admiring the giant cannons outside ready for the procession, and 5 minutes admiring the beautiful atrium of the Central Library. I’d certainly advocate a visit to this venue – it’s a gorgeous old domed/pillared building, with a clean, modern and bright interior.


After the cannon-fire subsided, the course got going.  Sarah Mallen from the University of Manchester Careers Service, and Michelle Bond from Liverpool Hope University spoke about their experiences of using social media, with a common theme of learning to hone their social media presence over time in response to changing audiences and channels, using a strategy or framework to make the whole process manageable and easier to evaluate.  They were followed by Tom Mason, Social Media Coordinator at the University of Manchester, who demonstrated the value of a social media framework and also showed us how he manages a large social media presence for an entire university.  I really appreciated his expertise from a marketing perspective, and it was actually the opposite of what I’d learned from previous social media courses.  Whereas those courses had focused on systematically crafting different content suitable for each channel, Tom spoke of deciding upon the message first, and then disseminating it through the appropriate channels. This makes sense to me – if you decide on what you want to say first (let’s say we’re talking about study space) then you can decide how best to communicate the information to the people who need to know about it (perhaps pictures and maps of the different spaces) and then decide on the best channel (a photo-sharing site i.e. Instagram plus cross-sharing across platforms).

The final part of the day was the bit that had sold the course to me – working in groups to create a social media framework.  My group discussed our experiences more than working on the framework, but this was valuable in itself and I came away with not only a way forward in terms of our own social media strategy, but loads of great ideas (and things to avoid!) from my group.

Overall it was a very positive day out, and I’m really glad I went. I’m now brimming with renewed enthusiasm for the huge potentials that social media can offer us.