Is Snapchat worth it for academic libraries?

The library I work at further enhanced its social presence this September by launching a Snapchat account. I manage digital communications and online engagement at the University of Limerick’s Glucksman Library so the responsibility for this is mine. . . . a slightly uncomfortable position to be in when you are outside the key demographic that uses Snapchat.

So our target audience for daily comms at the Glucksman Library is our undergraduate population. To date we have used Facebook and Twitter, and most recently Instagram, in addition to emails and digital notices to get messages directly to these groups.

It is important that our library services reach people, in this case young people, where they already are. With Snapchat being the most popular network for 16-24 year olds, we felt it was time to explore this as a comms option.

So what do academic librarians do when they want to start offering a new service?

  1. Look around to see what other libraries do
  2. Worry about how much analytics and data there will be to defend/justify use of the service/tool

So when I looked around to see what other libraries were on Snapchat I found Paige Alfonzo’s list of libraries on Snapchat. Thanks Paige and all the other amazing librarians around the world that grab on to the latest in tech and comms and share it with the rest of us!

Glucksman Library UL Snapcode
With Snapchat, some could argue that time spent creating content is time wasted as the content is very temporary, it disappears after 24 hours – unless someone wants to screenshot the image that you’ve posted. But if you are having an impact, and people are actually seeing your messages, it has to be worth 10 – 20 minutes of your day. So where’s the impact, the data, the performance indicators? I haven’t been able to get any yet apart from who has viewed the snaps and how many people have added he library to their network but I will keep looking.

So the library will use Snapchat to give students a behind-the-scenes look at what we do, introduce some key library faces, announce events, notify people of the things we used to just put on Facebook and hope people saw. Snapchat will allow us to be creative and have more fun than we can on other platforms. Snapchat will exhibit the library as a welcoming persona that students will engage with, either in person or online.

Students who work in the library are currently populating the Snapchat account but they have brought Yours Truly along with them in their establishment of the account. I can now confidently run the Snapchat account but this early input was invaluable. 

If you are not using Snapchat or not familiar with it at all the terminology is a minefield; snaps, snapcodes, snapstreaks and emojis are not in the vernacular of the under 24s. But compared to all the other hard stuff you’ve learned how to do, this one is easy enough.

Snapchat is an informal, impermanent comms channel but one that is used by the college population so if you are not already on it, I’d be having a chat with your most trusted under 25 friend and learning the how tos.

Snapchat won’t replace our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts but we need to be aware that students use (probably in this order) the following social networks:

  1. Snapchat
  2. Instagram
  3. Facebook

Because our Snapchat is relatively new, we will initially use our Facebook to send people to our Snapchat and then ask fans from there to add us on Snapchat. We  will also display the snapcode at prominent locations and change our Facebook and Twitter profile images to incorporate the snap code for a few weeks.

Being aware of how Snapchat works and how people are using it is important for your overall social media and digital outreach strategy. You’ve read to the bottom of this article so you are already informed about Snapchat in academic libraries – so why not give it a go yourself?





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