A Facebook Page is one way for your public library to reach local audiences, but it’s not the only one. Facebook Groups are another option for promoting library news, blog posts and events.
Groups, which are created around interests and managed by individuals (rather than Pages), are one of the most popular features on Facebook. There are more than one billion monthly active users of Facebook Groups, and members make more than 10 billion comments and “like” 25 billion posts or photos each month, according to Business Insider.
There are two ways public libraries can take advantage of Facebook Groups. One option is to find and join local groups in your community and then share updates about the library with each one. Essentially, you’re going to where people gather, rather than hoping they come to you. This is extremely effective for building awareness, especially among community members who aren’t actively looking for information about the library.
Another option is to start a group of your own. Your group could act as a forum to discuss any topic related to the library, from funding to collections and activities, or it could be more specific. For example, it could be used to bring together local parents who are interested in the summer reading program.
If you’re not already familiar with Facebook Groups, you can become comfortable with how they work by joining a few that match your personal interests. Then, follow these seven tips to use them to promote your library.
1. Find & Join Local Groups
Type your town’s name into Facebook’s search feature or use the Explore feature to find local groups. (You’ll find the Explore feature in the left navigation bar of your Facebook news feed.) There are groups covering dozens of topics and interests. You’ll find ones for local businesses, school alumni, employees of local corporations, and neighborhoods. There are groups for people interested in many different types of hobbies and passions, including sports, books, writing, health, exercise, and so much more. Choose a few that make sense for your library. For example, you may want to join neighborhood groups, but not ones for online yard sales.
2. You May Have to Ask to Join
There are two types of Facebook Groups: closed and public. Anyone can join a public group, but closed groups are private, and you must ask to join. It’s important to keep in mind that Pages cannot join groups, only people. Be sure your own personal profile makes your connection to the group clear, but you can also message the administrator to explain why you want to join.
3. Abide by Group Rules
Before you share anything with the group, be sure you understand its rules of engagement. Some groups discourage promotional posts, and violations can get you kicked out. If in doubt, you can always ask the administrator for clarification.
4. Share Library News and Events
Whenever you publish a new blog post or promote a new event, share it with each of the groups you’ve joined. If your announcement fits the purpose of the group, you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by members’ positive reactions to it. Be sure to customize your message to the group, telling them why they would be interested, and always upload a photo to accompany the post.
5. Start Your Own Group
Engagement, rather than awareness, is the biggest benefit of creating your own group. By creating a community around a specific topic, you’ll attract members sharing a common interest. As more people join, discussion levels will rise. Be sure to set rules about behavior so that people feel comfortable and safe whenever they comment. And keep in mind, you’ll have to do some promotion to attract people to join. Announce your group on your Facebook Page, in your email newsletter, on your website and at the library.
6. Recycle Old Content
Your own group is an excellent place to start a discussion around content you may have created and posted months or even years earlier. For example, just as you would on your Facebook page, share content for #ThrowbackThursday.
7. Use Your Group Cover Photo to Promote Events
Want to keep your event top of mind? Upload a specially designed cover photo to your group to promote your event. For example, details about the event could overlay a relevant photo. Images are powerful marketing tools, and a Facebook cover photo is valuable real estate, so it’s wise to take advantage.
These are just a few of the ways you can use Facebook Groups to promote your public library. As you become more comfortable, you can implement polls, ask for feedback on library initiatives, and even use groups as an integral part of the event planning process. No matter how you use them, they are an invaluable tool for strengthening connections with your community.