Using Snapchat to Engage Teens at the Library
If you want to engage the teen patrons, go where the teens are. And the teens are on Snapchat.
I’ve had this vision in my head of the perfect library Snapchat account since my first job in a teen department. A teen would register for an event that sounded awesome. In the middle of school, sports, and SAT classes, she would completely forget about the event. She barely had time to sleep, never mind check the library website! She would, however, look through all her friends’ Snapchat stories last thing before bed and on the way to school in the morning. An event reminder, posted on the library’s Snapchat story the night before, would refresh her memory and she’d be there for the game day/crochet lesson/ light painting event that she had wanted to attend.
Snapchat has grown in popularity, particularly with the teenage crowd, since the app was created in 2011. According to the Pew Research Center’s Teen Relationship Survey, 41% of all teens ages 13-17 use Snapchat. The same survey found that Snapchat was one of the top three social media apps used by this age group.
While the teens are using social media, I couldn’t help but notice that few of them follow the library’s pages. I asked why: some weren’t aware the library had a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Some felt the content wasn’t relevant to them.
Although the Snapchat account has been marketed to our teen patrons, it isn’t limited to teen content. The Piscataway Public Library Foundation hosted a fundraiser at the local Chipotle, which was advertised across all our social media platforms including Snapchat. Collections for veterans and hurricane victims are posted. So, although the content isn’t exclusively teen-specific, we make every effort to keep it teen-relevant.
I aim for three posts of teen-relevant content a week, which is frequently enough for me to feel like the account is active, but not overloaded. The teens love searching the shelves for their own bookface ideas–an image in which they hold a book up to align with their face. They also love filter face–applying a filter to a book cover with a face on it. Asking for the teens to get involved with the posts has been met with enthusiasm. Since they are a key part of creating the content on the account, they feel ownership and pride over what is posted.
Once a week I record book talk videos. Either I do the videos, where I highlight a YA or Middle Grade book in a one-minute video (approx. six Snapchat clips), or I ask the teens to make one. Due to waiver issues, the teens’ faces are rarely included. Instead, their voice is featured over the cover of a book they recommend. They say one or two sentences about why they like the book. I might ask a question, also done by voiceover.
Piscataway Public Library launched our Snapchat at the end of August, and things have really taken off. The app makes it easy to monitor how many people our posts are reaching. The account has about forty followers, and each story is getting anywhere from twenty five to thirty five views. We can also monitor how many users screenshot a post, which lets us know if they are interested in that particular book or event.
The launch of the Snapchat coincided with a big change to the teen space of both library branches. Instead of a social space for loosely supervised hangouts, the teen space would transform into STAR Homework Club every day for three hours after school. Some of our regulars weren’t sure how they felt about having their hangout space turn into a homework club, but reception has been positive. The STAR rules and new activities were posted on Snapchat a few times a week in the final weeks of August, to remind the teens of the new expectations we had for their behavior in the space.
This October, the library is doing a “Snap-venger Hunt.” Teens will be encouraged to attend events and participate in the STAR Homework Club by Snapchatting themselves in the library. They will be pushed to think of their own creative picture ideas, to join study break activities, and to participate in Teen Read Week to earn points. Each task is worth a certain number of points. When they reach twenty points, teens will be given a small prize and entered into a drawing for a larger prize.
Meet Our Guest Blogger
Kate-Lynn is a teen services information assistant in New Jersey. She is currently a student in the Rutgers Master of Information program, which she will complete in May 2018. She loves reading thrillers and creative nonfiction. You can find her digital portfolio here and follow her on Twitter, @katelynnbrown95.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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