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Magazines > Computers in Libraries > December 2023

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Vol. 43 No. 10 — December 2023
FEATURE

Social Media Review and Strategy Update for 2024
by David Lee King


Donít worry too much about the demise of one platform. Instead, watch for new platforms, experiment with them, learn what they do, and see how that can work for your library.
It’s been 20 years since Myspace launched. Those years have been full of changes and surprises, especially for libraries and information-based organizations that use social media platforms to connect with their customers and communities. I will share a brief overview of how social media has evolved over the last 2 decades, and then I’ll narrow my focus to developments in social media over the last year.

Social Media Use in 2023

Social media has become big business: Statistica reports that ad spending in the social media market will have reached more than $207 billion by the end of 2023.1 That explains why we are seeing so many ads in our social media feeds, which used to be full of posts from our friends and the organizations we follow. Although it may be personally annoying, it’s not surprising that social media has become a marketing hot spot. Consider these usage statistics:2

  • Nearly 5 billion people use social media globally. That’s slightly more than 60% of the world’s population.
  • The average time people spend using social media is 2 hours, 26 minutes per day.

As you’ve probably seen in the news, social media platforms are also slowly coming to terms with how they handle different viewpoints and ideologies (and if that content should be blocked, banned, or moderated). Individual platforms are also working to adapt to varying laws in different countries, which is having an impact globally.

Social media has also turned into a largely mobile platform. According to an article on Backlinko, 99% of social media users access it with a mobile device.3 That makes sense. Most social media platforms have a mobile app, which is often the easiest way to access each platform throughout the day, since your smartphone is most likely in your pocket or purse.

Social Media Platform Updates

Let’s turn our attention to see what’s happening on some of the most popular social media platforms.

Facebook—Sixty-nine percent of U.S. adults use Facebook.4 It has changed from being a mostly text-based platform to an image-heavy and video-heavy platform. Facebook’s Reels has become popular as more social media platforms focus on short-form video sharing.

YouTube—YouTube is the most popular social media platform; 81% of U.S. adults use it. It’s also unique among social media platforms in that you can fully use it as a consumer without interacting with YouTube as a video-based social media platform with accounts, friending/following, likes/dislikes, and commenting. YouTube Shorts, which launched in 2020, is similar to Reels.

Instagram—Forty percent of U.S. adults use Instagram. The platform seems to be going through some growing pains as it competes with TikTok. It’s changed from primarily a photo-sharing platform to a video-sharing platform. Instagram has multiple types of video that a user can share, including feed-based videos, the more-ephemeral Stories, live video, or Instagram’s Reels. Instagram has a much higher percentage of use with teens (67%) than adults (40%).

X (i.e., Twitter)—X/Twitter is still around and seems to be hanging in there. The platform is going through some difficulties since Elon Musk bought it. Some changes seem random, and some are bordering on weird (e.g., the not-quite-finished name change from Twitter to X). As of this writing, it seems like there will be more upheavals to come. According to Pew Research Center’s last social media use report in 2021, 23% of U.S. adults were using Twitter. Apparently, roughly 60% of U.S. Twitter users have taken a break from the platform since Musk purchased it and started making changes (I’m part of this demographic).5 I think we’ll need to give X a few more years before we know what will ultimately happen with it.

LinkedIn—Twenty-eight percent of U.S. adults use LinkedIn. I’ve seen this platform slowly grow from a space to post a resume into a solid social network with a professional and business focus. I’m even finding useful articles on technology and library information in my LinkedIn feed.

TikTok—Twenty-one percent of U.S. adults use TikTok. That percentage grows to 67% for teens. TikTok has developed a trust problem; 59% of U.S. adults see TikTok as a security threat.6 Many, maybe most, of those people aren’t familiar with the app. But it’s a big enough concern that some local and state governments have banned TikTok from being used on government-issued devices. Regardless of the potential security problems, TikTok use is still growing.

Snapchat—Twenty-five percent of U.S. adults use Snapchat; 59% of teens do. It seems to be holding strong and is still slightly confusing to anyone older than 30. Snapchat has also been experimenting with generative AI in the form of My AI, an AI-based “friend” that you can interact with in the app.

Nextdoor—Thirteen percent of U.S. adults use Nextdoor, a platform that is focused on local neighborhoods. It’s a good place to find out what’s happening in your community. Sprinkled in with useful information about street closures and recommended home repair workers are a lot of “have you seen my cat” type posts. Nextdoor seems to be a slowly growing platform, and there are now ways to create a business or organizational page.

Twitter Alternatives

Because of X/Twitter’s recent changes, there are some alternatives that are appearing. Let’s look at a handful of X/Twitter-like tools to try out.

Mastodon—Here’s what Wikipedia says about Mastodon: “Mastodon is free and open-source software for running self-hosted social networking services. It has microblogging features similar to Twitter, which are offered by a large number of independently run nodes, known as instances, each with its own code of conduct, terms of service, privacy policy, privacy options, and content moderation policies.”7 Open source? Self-hosted? Independent nodes? Because of descriptions like this, Mastodon can seem a bit confusing to some people. Nonetheless, it has seen surges of new users (especially as X/Twitter continues to make concerning or confusing changes to its platform).

Threads—Threads was created by Instagram and launched on July 5, 2023. Soon after its release, it became the fastest-growing social media platform in history, quickly gaining 30 million users. But that initial interest seems to have quickly calmed down. Personally, I think Threads had a huge start (and then a quick waning of interest) because of how it handled gaining followers. Instagram created the option to link Instagram and Threads accounts, which gave Threads users the same set of followers they have on Instagram. That’s not necessarily a good thing. For example, the people I want to share a text-based chat with are not the same people I follow on Instagram. I might want to watch their videos, see their photos, and maybe leave a comment, but not necessarily talk to them in a tweet-like way.

Bluesky—Bluesky is moving at a much slower pace than Mastodon or Threads. As of now, it’s still an invite-only platform. So, we’ll need to wait and see what happens once it fully launches.

General Trends for 2023 and 2024

Now that we looked at long-term trends and individual platform changes, let’s explore some content trends. Here is a short list of content that seems to be working in 2023 and should hold up in 2024.

Short-form video—Short-form video is everywhere. You can find these videos on TikTok, Instagram, X/Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Snapchat. With some of these platforms, the short-form video is more ephemeral and will disappear in 24 hours. But in others, it’s just a video-based way to share content. For each platform, these videos are growing in popularity. People like to watch and interact with them.

Photos—Most social media is visual these days. Even if you are creating a text-based post, it will probably be viewed more if it’s accompanied with some type of image. The image can make or break your post. If it’s inviting, people will stick around to interact with the rest of your post content. If the image is not eye-catching, people will quickly scroll to the next post, and your content will be lost in the algorithm.

Memes—Have you seen a lot of memes lately? They are very popular on most social media platforms. They can be fun, engaging, and informative. Memes seem to be the editorial cartoons of the 21st century. Get good at making them, and you’ll gain followers.

Stories—Some social media platforms have stories. These are short-form videos and images that appear and disappear within 24 hours. They can feel more authentic and in the moment. If you post a story on some social media platforms, it will trigger a notification to your followers. That notification prompt helps expand follower engagement.

Live video—YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok all have a way to go live. Live video can be a fun way to share what’s happening right now.

Authenticity—Most social media platforms and their users want to see authenticity in the people and organizations they follow. That’s why we follow our friends and people we know. That’s also why we appreciate businesses and organizations that show behind-the-scenes images and information. We’re interested in seeing the real person behind the screen, so to speak. Being authentic in your posts helps keep followers interested and engaged.

Commercialism—Most social media platforms also dish out a large helping of commercialism. Ads are everywhere. That’s another reason why authenticity is important, even if you’re trying to be authentic and useful within a social media ad.

Impact and Application for Libraries

How do these trends and changes affect your library’s social media posts? Here are a few things to think about going into 2024.

Keep posting—People are still friending and following your library on social media. That means they are interested enough in the content you post to click Follow and to see more of what you post. Your job is straightforward: Keep creating and sharing interesting content.

Make more videos—You most likely don’t post enough videos on your social media platforms. But in the greater social media world, that’s what people are watching and where they are connecting. Figure out how to create and post short-form videos and video-based stories. See what your followers connect with, and then create a plan to do more of those posts. An easy way to start is to post a short “what’s happening this week at the library” video.

Find your micro and local influencers—Hunt down the micro and local influencers in your community, and see if you can work together. A micro influencer is someone who has 1,000–10,000 followers on a given social media platform. If they live in your community, it’s a good thing to make friends with them (on social media and in real life). Partnering with them on a social media campaign can help spread the campaign reach further, because you’ll be able to extend your content to their platform.

A local influencer is slightly different. These people will have mostly community-based followers. They can be nonsocial media influencers, such as local journalists, city council members, and local movers and shakers in your community. Most likely, they have and use social media. Invite them to see what’s happening at the library, then ask them to share it with their local networks. It’s another way to help extend the library’s reach into the community.

Change is good—Finally, realize that social media does change, even drastically, from time to time. Will X stick around and still be a useful tool in a year’s time? I’m not sure. It might be. Or it might fold, and that will be just fine. Another social media platform will take its place.

So, don’t worry too much about the demise of one platform. Instead, watch for new platforms, experiment with them, learn what they do, and see how that can work for your library. You’ll stay ahead of the curve and be prepared with engaging content when people in your community start using those platforms.

Endnotes

1. “Social Media Advertising—Worldwide.” Statistica. Accessed 9/13/23. statista.com/outlook/dmo/digital-advertising/social-media-advertising/worldwide?currency=usd.

2. “Global Social Media Statistics.” DataReportal. Accessed 9/13/23. datareportal.com/social-media-users.

3. Dean, B. “Social Network Usage & Growth Statistics: How Many People Use Social Media in 2023?” Backlinko. Updated Mar. 27, 2023. Accessed 9/13/23. backlinko.com/social-media-users.

4. Auxier, B. and Anderson, M. “Social Media Use in 2021.” Pew Research Center. April 7, 2021. Accessed 9/13/23. pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021.

5. Faverio, M. “Majority of U.S. Twitter Users Say They’ve Taken a Break From the Platform in the Past Year.” Pew Research Center. May 17, 2023. Accessed 9/13/23. pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/05/17/majority-of-us-twitter-users-say-theyve-taken-a-break-from-the-platform-in-the-past-year.

6. McClain, C. “Majority of Americans Say TikTok Is a Threat to National Security.” Pew Research Center. July 10, 2023. Accessed 9/13/23. pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/07/10/majority-of-americans-say-tiktok-is-a-threat-to-national-security.

7. Mastodon (social network). Wikipedia. Accessed 9/13/23. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastodon_(social_network).

David Lee King David Lee King (davidleeking@gmail.com) is the digital services director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library in Topeka, Kansas. He explores social media, emerging trends, and websites on his blog at davidleeking.com.