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.