Action Brief Statement:

Convince teenagers that by friending the library on Snapchat they will be a part of a fun and vibrant community which will be emotionally and intellectually fulfilling because the library is a welcoming institution full of helpful resources and amazing events.

Overview and Goals for Snapchat Implementation:
snapchat logoOur library is a public library that serves a population of roughly 50,000 people. We are located in a suburban area close to large metropolitan center. Our community is extremely diverse, including a wide range of socio-economic classes, ethnicities, and ages. We have a very robust children’s section that draws large groups for events, and though we have a section of the library exclusively for teens, we find that our teen events are not as well-attended. We would like to reach out to the teen population to both communicate who and what we are, as well as create new programs that they would be interested in.

We plan to implement a Snapchat program to connect teenagers in our community with the library. Using the popular mobile social media platform Snapchat, we hope to create a community within the platform that shares information in all directions: from the library to the patrons,from the patrons back to the library, and then perhaps even from the library out to the general public. The library will use Snapchat to share information about upcoming teen events, post pictures of past events, share book recommendations, and run various interactive campaigns. Our users will submit photos that we can post on our blog.

The library will meet teens where they are—on their mobile devices—to advocate for the library as a place that has a lot to offer them. By creating personal connections between teens and library staff, teens can be convinced to try the library as a resource for fun, for reading, for learning new things, for hanging out, and for making a difference in the world. Our ultimate goal is to foster a feeling of connectedness that will make teens feel like they are part of a fun community both at the library and outside it, resulting in more participation in library programs for teens.

Description of Community:
The Snapchat program will be aimed at teenagers aged 13 through 18 who have access to a mobile device. Teenagers have vibrant social lives and many choices for what to do in their free time. Teens want to feel like they belong with a group and that they are welcomed in a community. They are looking for emotional engagement. They are creative, hardworking, and insightful. They could be easily persuaded to participate in events at the library if they feel like the events are relevant, inclusive, and fun.

Evidence and Resources to Support Snapchat Use:

Infographic by Sumpto (Shontell, 2014)

Infographic by Sumpto (Shontell, 2014)

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 study, library use among teens had dropped from the previous year to 46% (McLary, 2015). But one survey found that 77% of college students used Snapchat at least once a day (Shontell, 2014). For the slightly younger crowd, the Pew Teens and Social Media report found that 41% of all teenagers use Snapchat (Lenhart, 2015). Anecdotally, it seems to be the fastest-growing social networking app for teens, and those who use it will use it daily.

While businesses as a whole have yet to use Snapchat as a marketing and outreach method, there are some that have done so very successfully, such as dosomething.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering teens to create their own projects that help others. According to one source, 67% of college students say they would open Snapchat messages from a brand (McLary, 2015). It is a probably a similar number for teens. There are very few libraries using Snapchat to connect with teens, but it seems like a natural way to do so, since so many teens are using it. The world of Snapchat marketing is so brand new that there aren’t any tried-and-true methods or campaigns, so our campaign would attempt to come up with innovative ideas for using the platform to create community.

Snapchat is not only a participatory service, but it is a transparent one as well. Participants will get a glimpse of what is going on at the library when they are not there. They can see how events went, what librarians are doing, and discover that librarians are real people who are fun and interesting. Stephens and Casey write that the transparent library fosters communication, conversation, and spots new trends (Casey & Stephens, 2007). Snapchat definitely fulfills these goals.

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Snapchat:
The mission of the Snapchat program is to create a community for teens that welcomes them to participate both on the platform and in the physical library. Through two-way communication, we want to create human connections that may be the starting point for teens to learn about and take advantage of library resources.

Use guidelines will follow the current library policy related to social media platforms. Our library is currently using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram as our marketing and outreach channels. Snapchat would be added as an additional channel with the same policies. For example, we will not post pictures of patrons on our blog without first getting permission.

Funding Considerations:
The best thing about Snapchat is that the technology is free, as long as the user has a mobile device already. However, staff time can be significant. Hopefully we will be able to implement this program without hiring new staff or increasing current hours. See below for staffing considerations.

If a particular event (such as a scavenger hunt or other game) requires prizes, there may be minimal expenses. These prizes will be budgeted into the department budget or solicited as donations.

We also plan to do some marketing with minimal costs (under $100). We can use our current marketing budget to cover these expenses.

Action Steps & Timeline:
Implementing Snapchat can be done very quickly. Once the teen librarians have all agreed to participate and are willing to add the learning and implementing of Snapchat to their current duties, it will take no more than a day to get the technology up and running.

Before we begin Snapping, however, we would like to take some time to make an initial plan for engagement. Questions that we will discuss will include:

  • What types of pictures will we post?
  • How often will we post?
  • What projects can we create that teens can contribute to via Snapchat?
  • What virtual events can we create using Snapchat?

Some possible answers to these questions:

  • Post a Snapchat “story” of every teen event.
  • Post announcements for upcoming events
  • Post funny/interesting photos from the library, including book covers, other materials, staff shenanigans, etc.
  • Ask patrons to contribute photos to a theme. “YA books spotted in the wild,” “Books I love,” etc. (Possibly requires creating a blog for sharing these pictures)
  • Organize a scavenger hunt that requires users to send pictures of successful finds
  • Simple lottery-style entry into a contest
  • Creativity-inspired contests (photography, poetry, art, etc.)

Staffing Considerations:
The Snapchat program will require all the teen librarians who have a mobile device to install the app on their device, know the library’s login information, and be familiar with how it works. One librarian or staff member will be designated as the point person for the project and run most of the program from their personal device. The time needed to run an effective campaign may be significant for this person, but can be alleviated by sharing the planning duties between staff members as a departmental project.

The care and feeding of the Snapchat account should not take long periods of time at any one time; rather, there will be things to do for a few minutes at a time. Hopefully this time will fit seamlessly into the cracks of a librarian’s day. Some tasks can be delegated to teen volunteers. These can include uploading photos onto a blog or helping organize a scavenger hunt.

Training:
All teen librarians will be trained on how to use Snapchat. Since this is a relatively small group of people, we will hold one training session to go over how to download, login, and use Snapchat. One member of the department will be designated as the trainer (probably the program point person). This person will learn the app herself before the meeting, which should take no more than one hour. We can extend a regular department meeting to accommodate the training.

Promotion & Marketing:
Once everyone in the department is using Snapchat, the conversation can begin within the group using the platform. Using regular channels of communication among the library staff (email and blog), we will notify the entire library staff of the new program and encourage people to participate. If enough participation “seeds” the community, patrons who join will see a community already in place.

Marketing for the Snapchat platform will be done using our existing social media, as well as a blog post on our website and icons on our website denoting our participation in the social media. However, in order to reach teens where they are, we will reach out personally to teachers and librarians in our local high schools to let them know about the program.

We will create “business cards” with our Snapchat code and identifying information to hand out to teens who are interested. We will make this cards available to local high school teachers and librarians, who may see teens using Snapchat at school and be able to tell them about us. We will identify teens who are both current loyal library patrons and who use Snapchat (our volunteers would be a great place to start) and ask them to be our ambassadors to their friends. They can give out these cards as well. Hopefully word of mouth will help us build an audience.

Evaluation:
The obvious metrics for social media evaluation can be used initially: how many “friends” our account has, as well as the number of views of our account Story. For each separate campaign, we will count the number of responses/participants we get. Our goal is not to reach a certain number of friends or responses, but to insure that the numbers we do get are continually increasing. Increasing participation numbers will be what tells us that the program is successful.

Another quantitative assessment of success would be an increase in visits to the teen section of the library, increase in teen material circulation, and/or an increase in attendance at our teen events.

Additionally, we will try to collect qualitative evidence for the impact of the program. Most of this evidence will be anecdotal, but when our librarians have a good opportunity, we can ask our teen users what they think of the program and what they get out of it. Using this feedback, we can create new campaigns that meet the interests and needs of our community of teens.

A great feature of having a Snapchat community is that once we have enough followers, we can run campaigns that invite suggestions for the community for event ideas, collection suggestions, and even Snapchat ideas. Incorporating user suggestions into our program would create even more loyalty and increase users.

Conclusion:

When a student once asked, “What is the best social media for a public library?” Michael Stephens answered that the best social media for a library is the social media that its patrons use (Stephens, 2016).

Teens today are increasingly using their mobile devices for social and educational purposes. Libraries need to meet teens where they are—on their devices. While the app du jour may be constantly changing, it is clear that Snapchat is currently an extremely popular social media platform for teens. We can take advantage of this by implementing a Snapchat outreach program quickly to create a community where teens feel welcomed and engaged. By putting a human face on the library and creating a community that is comfortable and stimulating, we hope that teens will discover the library’s many resources, both physical and virtual, and become lifelong library users.

 

References

Casey, M. & Stephens, M., (2007). The Transparent Library: Introducing the Michaels.

Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015.

McClary, T. (2015). Marketing Public Libraries to Millenials Using Snapchat.

Shontell, A. (2014) 77% of College Kids Use Snapchat Every Day.

Stephens, M. (February 10, 2016). Assignment Q&A Session [Collaborate Recording]. Retrieved from https://sas.elluminate.com/drtbl?sid=2011274&suid=D.FD2C28F10CA7177FA3794871C6D096