Hyperlinked Environments

My niece made fun of me for using Facebook. She said,  “Nunu, join SnapChat so we can keep in touch when I’m in college. Nobody I know uses Facebook!” This was news to me when she made her playfully snarky comment, and also made me feel like I was 100 years old. It made me ponder my social media usage. Where I once thought everyone was using what I was using (except for those stubborn holdouts, like my friends who say, “I don’t even own a TV” that I acknowledge by rolling my eyes (lovingly of course, because to each his own)), I’m realizing that social media usage is different depending on so many different variables. For the module, Hyperlinked Libraries, I dug into the social media research conducted by the Pew Research Center. Studying the social media habits of teens and adults provides incredible insight into the infiltration of computers and smartphones into our every day lives. The Pew Research Center’s studies provide rich data for us future librarians to help in studying the usage of social media, not just because it’s helpful for libraries to engage in social media (this is a no-brainer in 2017, don’t you think?), but because we can learn about who uses the various platforms, and how the user engagement ebbs and flows with every new platform that comes along.

One study noted that 65% of adults use social media. Those numbers, from 2015, have surely increased. On Twitter’s 10 year anniversary, the Pew Research Center listed some facts about Twitter, with one emphasizing the differences in demographics that utilize Twitter. For example, the Pew article found that “The Twitterverse doesn’t always mirror the real world.” In fact, the article indicated that a higher number users were “young, urban, African-American, and better educated.” However, in general, the demographics of social media are pretty even, with various races in the United States evenly represented. For teens, social media is an integral part of their lives. In revisiting my niece’s comments on Facebook, this study shone some light on the reasons for why she uses certain social media platforms. Interestingly, “Teens from more affluent households are somewhat more likely than those from the least affluent homes to say they visit Snapchat most often, with 14% of those from families earning more than $75,000 saying Snapchat is their top site, compared with 7% of those whose families earn less than $30,000 annually.” This shows that she and her friends, all of whom come from higher-income brackets, prefer Snapchat. It is staggering, the amount of teens that use social media, and how they will become adults relying on this tool for news, information, community, education, and entertainment. The study from 2015 adds, “When asked a general question about whether they used social media, three-quarters (76%) of teens use social media, and 81% of older teens use the sites, compared with 68% of teens 13 to 14.”

How does this relate to libraries? And how can libraries harness this rich data and learn about their patrons’ needs? Yesterday’s teens, now Millennial adults, are using the library more than ever. Libraries, by changing their programming, and adjusting their collection and services to meet the needs of young adults, are finding that Millennials are more inclined than previous generations to utilize the public library. Libraries are adapting to each new generation, and utilizing social media to engage and increase patron engagement. Not only is it important to communicate via social media, libraries also are seeing the rising interest in usage of their library catalogs, as well as other library technologies that are of interest to patrons. Our challenge is to keep these patrons interested in the library, and to create that true hyperlinked environment that enriches our patrons’ lives, one that keeps them coming back again and again.

10 Thoughts.

  1. Hi Swetta,
    Your post is very interesting – great statistics! I think you point out a really important issue. “Social media” is an umbrella term and just because two people both use “social media” it doesn’t mean they’re on the same platform. It’s also interesting that you noted that social media usage and platform preferences differ by age. That means that people working in libraries cannot rely on their own social media preferences if they’re trying to reach or create programs for patrons in different age brackets. Reaching out to patrons and asking them for guidance is vitally important – this is something we all know, but can never be reminded of often enough.

    • Thanks for your comment, Amanda! I agree that as a librarian, it will be vital for us to survey our patrons and ensure that we are reaching out via social media in a meaningful manner. My library recently started uploading tutorials to YouTube, which is a great way to reach students at a university.

  2. Hi Swetta,
    Social media evolution is so interesting and appreciated reading the informatoin you shared about it. Once upon a time, MySpace was all the rage, then it was abandoned by the younger set for Facebook. Now, we’re seeing a similar migration to SnapChat and Instagram. It’s truly head spinning trying to keep up, but I know as an information specialist, it’s so very important.

    • Hi Dana, it IS dizzying! I’m excited to see what connects my library to specific users, and how it helps them interact with us as librarians. I’ve mentioned this before, but I love the #bookfaceFriday hashtag on Instagram, and there are certain libraries, such as NYPL and Burlingame Public, that are doing some cool things with engaging in this format.

  3. @swetta once again I’ve enjoyed a post of yours! Last night my spouse was exclaiming that 50% of Twitters “users” are actually bots and Twitter and Facebook need to make some serious changes since these bots are impersonating every demographic out there and further dividing us. Since these SM giants rely so heavily on user numbers for their IPOs, we have a serious issue on our hands with how information is being shared and distributed and being even more broken down by demographic. Taking everything you discuss above about the demographic using specific platforms, and the library plays an even more vital role in providing access to information to every demographic that walks in our doors or visits us virtually, and getting the message across that we’re the place to start their search for the truth. ~C

    • Aww shucks, Cheryl! Well said about the library’s purpose in this SM landscape, not only in terms of patron engagement but with helping patrons gain accurate information. What do your kids use for social media? I recently started paying for dinners, etc., via VenMo, and I was shocked at how flippant people are about publicly telling others how they spend their money. I really do feel 100 years old sometimes.

    • Don’t worry Michael, I told my niece to wait until she was an adult and she got a pet of her own or had a child. Then she’d be using Facebook all the time! 🙂 SnapChat is a bit of a mystery to me, but still really fun to use. Their filters are super silly, and highly flattering.

  4. Swetta, loved the information in your post. Because I teach those millennials, I appreciate any information that brings insight into my classroom. I checked out your PEW link about Millennials using libraries more than other groups. Fascinating stats, I only wish it was easier to understand why. . . And, I was also struck by how little they use mobile library apps (I think the number was 9%). What does that suggest? The apps for libraries are bad? Not useful? This is good news for libraries though!

    • Mary, regarding the apps for libraries, from what I’ve seen, the problem is often that they’re clunky and not easy to use. The other issue is that the apps are often not integrated that well into other products. For example, my university wants a library app that can be plugged into the college’s main mobile app, and they haven’t found any that suits the college’s demands.

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