Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Selfies, Scavenger Hunts, and Scrawls: How the Vise Library Used Social Media to Increase Usage

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Selfies, Scavenger Hunts, and Scrawls: How the Vise Library Used Social Media to Increase Usage

Article excerpt

Using social media to promote library resources and services is nothing new. However, the dilemma of trying to figure out how to engage with followers can be vexing. While sharing information will win your library a few Likes, it does nothing to make sure you are interacting with your patrons in a two-way conversation and actually bringing them into your building.

The staff of Cumberland University's Vise Library faced those issues and wanted to come up with a solution that would not only cost very little money, but would also involve very little hands-on time since we only have three full-time librarians available to implement these ideas. After a little bit of brainstorming (and some inspiration from a professor's assignment), we came up with three distinct social media campaigns: selfies, scavenger hunts, and scrawls. I will go through them chronologically.


Our first step in creating successful social media campaigns was to figure out how to bring people into the library. We developed scavenger hunts that required our followers to answer a question based on something they saw in the library in order to win a small prize. We chose to give a $5 coupon to the campus coffee shop as our prize, and we bought four of them up front so we would have prizes available to run this campaign for a semester. After our initial $20 investment, we were ready to choose our first scavenger hunt question.

At the time, we had accounts on Facebook and Twitter, so we used Hootsuite to post the question to both platforms. Then we sat back and waited for the overwhelming response as people rushed in to try to win our mystery prizes.

Of course, we all know what happened next: We did not have a stampede or even a small rush of people. Our question sat untouched and unnoticed on Facebook and Twitter for 3 days (a lifetime in the world of social media). We finally decided to repost it and see if we got a better response. We received one answer, so that person took the prize.

Although it was not the greatest start to our campaign, it was a start. There are a couple of mistakes we made on the first post that could have contributed to the lack of success. First, even though the post starts out "Answer & win," it is not very attention-grabbing. It was a little stiff and formal. The other main problem is simply saying "prizes up for grabs." Over the past few years, we have learned that people are much more likely to participate in giveaways if they know what the prize is. We naively assumed that college students would be happy to win a prize, even if they did not know what it was. Oops.

We announced the winner on our Facebook and Twitter pages and took a picture of her holding her gift card. The next month, we posted a new question and had an answer within a few hours.

As we continued to post these scavenger hunt questions each month, we found that we were getting more responses. One month, we even had two people answer at the exact same time, which was huge compared to where we started.

We ran this campaign until December 2012 with the intent to start it again in January 2013. Unfortunately, we never resumed it. Overall, it felt like a good beginning to our more interactive social media campaigns, but we wanted to try something that brought even more people into the library. With the questions, we found that once we announced a winner, the interest was gone (because who would want to look for the April 2007 Glamour just for fun 5 years after it was published?). After a little brainstorming and looking around at our library's spaces, we came up with our second campaign: the scrawl wall.


One underused space in our library is a gallery wall that people walk by on their way to the computers and copiers. We occasionally had art displayed on this wall, but many times, it was empty, particularly at the end of the fall and spring semesters. …

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