Using social media in higher education teaching


My new job as Faculty Liaison Librarian at Newcastle University has made me think more about the use of social media in the Higher Education setting, especially with its use in teaching and research.

Some academics may still view social media as a distraction rather than seeing it as a valuable tool to reach out to their students.  However, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can be harnessed by lecturers to create a more challenging and stimulating learning environment on a level that the students are happy and familiar with.

You might already have an idea how you want to use a particular platform in your teaching, or you maybe you know you want to use social media, but you don’t know which platform and how you want to use it!  First you should go through our adapted checklist, which is aimed at those teaching in higher education.  This will get you asking what you are wanting to do with the platform? If you want to share updates, then maybe Twitter would be best, or if you want to use it as an information source, then maybe a blog would be ideal, and so on:

Social Media checklist: higher education teaching

This article from Open Colleges gives a good breakdown of 25 of the main social media platforms and why you would use them: 25 Awesome Social Media Tools for Education.

Remember you need to plan HOW you are going to use your social media… leaping in without a plan is setting yourself up to failure.  Have a look are our previous blog posts on strategic planning to get you going:

Why do you need a social media policy?

Why do you need a social media strategy?

The importance of being organised

Here are some examples of using Twitter in teaching:

University of Nottingham use of Twitter for one of their Business modules

UCL Chemistry module on Twitter

UEA Chemistry module on Twitter

Twitter’s not literature, but it can be a novel teaching tool

Using Twitter in university learning

60 Inspiring Examples of Twitter in the Classroom

Here are also some articles to read more about using social media in teaching:

One in four students uses social media to contact university staff

Universities should use Twitter to engage with students

Using Twitter in university research, teaching, and impact activities

8 Kinds of Social Media Personalities: Which Are You?

If you are interested in reaching out and contacting other academics that are using social media, here’s a great list of the top 50 users in the UK:

UK higher education social media influencers named

Don’t forget to have a look at the top 100 online tools to give you ideas on what platform you want to use:

 Top 200 Tools for Learning 2016: Overview

Do you use social media in your teaching? If so, share with us what you use and how you use it.

Organising your content


A key component of social media success is regularity of your posts. Over time your followers will come to expect Facebook posts from you every day or x amount of tweets per day.

Having a plan for what content you’ll be publishing can really help you organise your days and weeks.

There are several ways to do this. I personally use a combination of a couple of methods-one is “old school” and the other slightly more modern 🙂

I have a whiteboard where I plan out our Facebook posts for the week. I really like using a whiteboard because of the flexibility it offers. Quite often our Facebook posts get shuffled around and it drives me crazy trying to update this on the computer or rubbing out pencil marks in my notebook. So far, it’s been working really well and makes it super easy to adjust scheduled posts as the need arises.

2) My second method is using Hootsuite to plan my tweets. I tend to schedule Facebook posts within Facebook itself as there are multiple people that need to see the scheduled posts. But, for tweets, Hootsuite is my one true love. The publisher feature is awesome for seeing all your scheduled posts at a glance. It’s also super easy to move them around, change the time they will be posted or simply delete them.

Hootsuite also has an auto-schedule feature, where an algorithm automatically figures out the most effective time for your tweet to be posted. Alternatives to Hootsuite are Buffer or Tweetdeck.

See here for my post all about why I love Hootsuite and the features it offers to make managing social media so much easier.

How do you organise your content? I’d love to know! Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @JuliadeRuiter.


Why it’s OK to fail


keyboard-621832_960_720I imagine the reason a lot of  people are scared of starting a social media channel for their library is failure. That they won’t get followers. That their posts won’t perform well. That they don’t have the skills needed.

Please, don’t let that stop you! You just need to give it a go. I’ve been working with social media for the last five years and if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that you can schedule posts according to when the most people are online, on the best day of the week, with a post that you just know will be a hit and then only 20 people see it! For sure, it can be discouraging when your reach numbers are low on Facebook or none of the great links you’re sharing on Twitter are being clicked on. But, don’t let it get you down. I’m going to share with you an example that happened to me quite recently.

In December 2015, I had the great idea ( or so I thought) to run a competition over the summer holidays where people would take a  photo of their summer reads, post it on our Facebook page and then go in the draw to win a prize.

I designed an eye catching poster, promoted it on our social media channels, all the usual promotion person entered. One. It was a little embarrassing and I felt quite discouraged after that.

But, that’s the nature of social media. Sometimes your posts will be super popular with your community and sometimes they’ll be an epic fail.  Just roll with the punches, keep the enthusiasm and continuity going and things will pick up again soon.

Have you had any bad experiences with social media? Let me know in the comments below, or send me a tweet @JuliadeRuiter




Pinterest for Reader’s Advisory


Social media, in particular Pinterest, can be a great addition to  the traditional reader’s advisory methods used in libraries.

At Waitaki District Libraries we’ve recently started incorporating Pinterest as a reader’s advisory tool. As more and more people access library services from home, we feel it’s important to provide reader’s advisory services online too.

If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, it’s like an online bulletin board. You create different boards according to your interests and then you can ‘pin’ different content on them. For example we have genre boards like ‘Australian Rural Romance’ ‘Sexy Books’ and ‘Dystopian Books’. We can then pin items from the library catalogue to the relevant boards. Here’s the link to our library Pinterest account if you want to check it out.

Be sure to only pin book titles that you know your library holds. You can install a pin it button into your browser to make it super simple to add pins from websites you’re browsing.

Pinterest is a great way to streamline the combined book knowledge of staff and provide an online source for patrons to browse. One thing to note is that you have to have a Pinterest account to browse the boards. This can limit some patrons but is a compromise that I think is worth it.

If your library doesn’t have social media or you don’t feel comfortable using technology, there are websites like What shall I read next?  where you input the title and author of a book you liked and it gives you suggestions of other books you may enjoy. This can help you to incorporate technology in your reader’s advisory interactions without the commitment of signing up to social media platforms.

We’d love to know if your library uses social media for reader’s advisory! Leave a comment below or tweet me @JuliadeRuiter.





The importance of being organised


So many decision to make… How often should our library post on each of out platforms… hourly, daily, monthly? What time of the day should we post? Should we post more on Facebook than Twitter? What are we going to post about?  What is important… what needs more attention than our cat YouTube videos?!

Reading this has probably put you off using social media at your library as it sounds like a lot of hard work and time for what!?  There are two simple words that will help you with this… “get organised!”  By creating a simple social media calendar, in conjunction with a social media policy for your library, you will be able to organise your social media, have clear guidelines on your postings and all with very little effort.

Yes creating your calendar and policy might take a bit of time, but once you have these in place it’s smooth sailing!

A social media calendar can be as simple as a wall planner with all of your events and happenings that are on in your library.  Your policy can then lay out the library’s guidelines for posting on social media.  Your policy should include things like copyright, how staff should conduct themselves on social media (really important if there is more than one staff member posting), what the library can and can’t post about, how the library will reply to comments and handle unsavoury messages.

Here are some great examples of social media policy’s from large companies:

Everyone loves a template… why reinvent the wheel!

We would love to hear from library’s that have a either a social media calendar or policy or both and let us know what works and what doesn’t work.

Content, content, content!

bird-287109_1920So much to share, so little time!

The wonderful thing about public libraries is that you you can pretty much post about anything (within reason!).  You have such a huge array of subjects that you can blog, Tweet, Facebook about, create wonderful Pinterest boards and interesting Instagram photos or videos.

So when it comes to ideas for posts, the world is your oyster!  However, therein lies the problem.  Posting about anything and everything at anytime can be the possible downfall of  your social media empire.  You need to manage your content, ideally with a Social Media Content Strategy.  Here you need to think hard about the content you are putting up and start asking yourself:

  • Who is our target audience?
  • What kind of content do we want to post (and what works best) on each of our platforms?
  • Do we need to start planning our social media calendar for the year? (Check out our blog post on social media calendars to see what this involves).

Having some form of structure to your posts will not only give your content relevancy and direction, but will also make it easier to manage.  For example, if you have regular events in the library, make sure you advertise on the same platforms, on the same day every week.  You can go one step further and look at what time of day is best for posting on each of your platforms:

Or you can look at your analytics of your platform… what time of day is your audience most active?

So I think after you have done all of that you are ready for a very large G&T! Yes I know it takes time, and probably time you feel that you don’t have to spare, but I think it is definitely time well spent and you will hopefully reap the rewards with increased traffic not only to your social media platforms, but also to your library.

Hootsuite for social media management


If your library is going to get serious about social media, it’s essential that you use a good social media management tool. Hootsuite and Buffer are two of the most well known platforms. They both are free to use on a basic level but do offer offer more options in their premium packages.

Social media management tools like this allow you to monitor your different social channels, schedule content, assign tasks to team members and check analytics, all in one place.

I personally love Hootsuite best. After trying Buffer, Tweetdeck and then Hootsuite, it won by a landslide. The user interface is easy to navigate and organise which is a major plus when trying to coordinate multiple platforms. The Hootsuite team are also super responsive and helpful in dealing with any problems or queries you may have.

The thing I like most about Hootsuite are the scheduling and analytics reporting features. You can create custom reports and get them sent to you every month. This is so handy and makes my life a lot easier come monthly report time! You can also schedule as many tweets as you like ahead of time. This is great for promoting upcoming events or reminding followers about public holidays.

If you have any social media management tools you use and love, comment below-we’d love to hear your recommendations!