FDLP Guide to Social Media

Using GPO Social Media Resources to Promote Your Library &
Federal Government Information

This guide is intended to provide assistance to Federal depository libraries in the world of social media. Engaging your library users via social media is a great way to make them aware and get them interested in library resources and services. The best approach to social media is to take it one step at a time, monitor your social media activities to see what works and what doesn’t, and keep communicating.

What is social media?

Social media is a form of communication using Internet-based tools and platforms that enhance the sharing of information worldwide. Social media is a major way people are communicating and getting information. If Facebook were a country, it would be the largest in the world. Facebook has about 1.5 billion users. The population of China is about 1.4 billion people, while the United States has a population of about 322 million.

GPO’s Social Media Platforms

GPO’s mission since 1861 has been Keeping America Informed on the three branches of the Federal Government, so it’s natural GPO uses social media as a tool to carry out this mission. Federal depository libraries play a big role in helping GPO inform the public about free access to U.S. Government information. Social media can increase a library’s interaction with the public and how they use library services. Social media helps your library stay connected with your patrons when they aren’t physically in the library, and it allows libraries to reach out to potential patrons you wouldn’t normally have access to.

GPO uses the following social media platforms:

Facebook is an online community where people connect with each other to build a network of shared information, pictures, and ideas. Facebook has about 1.5 billion monthly active users globally.

Here is an example of how the FDLP community is using Facebook:

Twitter is a combination of a mini-blog and a vehicle for announcements on the fly. It allows posts of up to 140 characters called tweets. Twitter has about 320 million monthly active users globally.

Here are just a few examples of how the FDLP community is using Twitter:

Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking platform. Instagram has about 400 million monthly active users globally.

Here’s an example of how the FDLP community is using Instagram:

YouTube is a popular video sharing website. YouTube has about one billion users globally.

Here are just a few examples of how the FDLP community is using YouTube:

Pinterest allows users to visually share and discover new interests by posting (known as “pinning”) images or videos to their own or others' boards (i.e. a collection of “pins,” usually with a common theme) and browsing what other users have pinned. Pinterest more than 100 million monthly active users globally.

Here’s an example of how the FDLP community is using Pinterest:

Auburn University of Montgomery

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with more than 400 million members globally.

Examples of GPO and FDLP Libraries Cross-Promoting Information on Social Media

#lovemyFDL February 2016 Twitter Campaign

In February 2016, GPO celebrated FDLP libraries with a month-long Twitter campaign. GPO shared facts, info, and highlights about the FDLP using the hashtag #lovemyFDL. FDLP libraries and patrons were encouraged to tweet about your library and the many benefits of the FDLP. GPO cross-promoted content on its Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube platforms.

Most engaging @USGPO tweets:

Examples of FDLP library tweets:

How GPO Can Help Promote Your Library

GPO invites the FDLP community to share information about your library news, updates, special events, displays, services, and collections, and GPO will promote your library via our social media platforms. Use askGPO, and send us photos and descriptions of what is happening, and your library could be featured via GPO social media. Under the “Ask a Question” tab, choose “Federal Depository Libraries” as your category and “Marketing Strategies/Radio Spots” as your sub-category. We looking forward to promoting your library!

Some Suggested Best Practices in Social Media

Social media can be a powerful tool, but it is can also be a competitive and overwhelming environment. Each day we are inundated with content: updates from friends and family, advertisements from stores, and messages from political candidates and interest groups, to name just a few.

In order to have a successful social media presence, engagement with the community must be the first step. There must be a measure of trust for the community to believe what you have to say. To engage your audience, you must be responsive to their questions, mentions, tags, and commentary. Be present and be active, and you will gain the trust of your audience.

Further, what you’re saying has to be interesting and eye-catching enough to make people stop scrolling.

Below is a collection of tips and best practices for social media success.

  1. When developing your posts, have your audience in mind. Identify their needs, and post accordingly. Who is your target audience? Is your tone representative of the audience you want to reach? Demonstrate your library’s value in the lives of your followers. You define your services and offerings to your customers. Make sure your voice and your personality all reflect the identity of your organization, even if multiple people are developing posts.

    1. Develop a Social Media Style Guide for your institution. Develop standards for how your brand should be represented. This type of guide can really help you define your institution’s voice and persona. Create your guide in coordination with your library’s current web policies and guidelines.

    2. Develop social media guidelines. What are the dos and don’ts of social media at your organization? How will social media be used and how should social media never be used?

    3. Avoid engaging Internet trolls and spammers. Monitor and remove any offensive or inappropriate posts to your page. Make this part of your policy.

  2. If allowable by your library, create communal or organizational social media accounts with a shared password so that updates can continue regardless of vacations, illness, retirement, etc. This also creates a more manageable, shared workload.

  3. Enrich your “about me” section with as much information as possible. Include a description of your library and its services; current contact information; your address; hours of operation; a link to your website; a link to any virtual reference services, blogs, etc.; and any other information that lets your current and potential patrons know what you have to offer and how to get to you quickly.

  4. Make sure your social media platforms are working with each other, not against each other. Keep your profile names consistent across all platforms, if possible. Make sure you are linking to your social media sites on your blog, your institution’s website, LibGuides, etc. Post a link to your latest blog entry on your social media pages.

  5. Promote your social media sites on multimedia displays in the library, on signage, on print literature, in classes that you teach, and through staff conversations with patrons.

  6. Post often (but not too often) to keep your followers engaged. To put things into perspective, the half-life of a tweet is about 18 minutes. Your updates will only stay at the top of a feed for about that long.

    1. Try to keep posts and tweets around 100 characters.

    2. Posting too often can be undesirable to your followers. Create a content planning calendar to help keep you focused on the message you want to convey. If you don’t have anything valuable to post, don’t post just to make a quota. You want to keep users engaged with relevant information.

    3. Use hashtags to make your photos more discoverable, but beware of hashtag overkill. Research has shown that tweets with more than three hashtags saw a significant drop in likes and retweets.

    4. Research has also shown that using a hashtag and a link together in your tweet drives engagement.

  7. Share tips and tricks to create an informed citizenry through your library’s programs, services, and resources.

  8. Think about your collection. Do you have new publications? Feature them on your social media sites.

  9. Use PURLs to link to U.S. Government resources whenever possible, as they are more stable than direct URLs. Bonus – PURLs have fewer characters than many direct URLs!

  10. Share adjacent content, meaning content that is relevant to your patrons but comes from other sources. Some examples: If another library has created a useful online tool, if you read about new research and study techniques, or if you find information of local community interest, re-post that information for your followers.

  11. Everyone loves variety. Does your library staff engage in volunteer work? Did you have a retirement party for a long-time staffer? Does your staff like to dress in patriotic garb for Constitution Day? Post about it. Give your followers a more personal look into the culture at your organization. Speaking of your organization, are you looking for a new Government documents staff member? Don’t forget to promote job openings via social media as well.

  12. Engage your audience in conversation, and be responsive. Make sure to monitor your page and past posts for any questions that are posed by your followers. Address those questions as you would a face-to-face patron in the library. An engaged audience is one of the greatest assets your library can have in the social media environment.

    1. Respond to both negative and positive discussions. If you receive negative comments (as long as they are not inappropriate in language or subject matter), look at it as an opportunity to demonstrate to your followers that you are open to constructive criticism and eager to find ways to improve. If someone is looking for a solution, do your best to provide a resolution or explain politely why that is not possible.

  13. Remember your grammar and spellcheck. Review your posts before you publish to ensure no mistakes were made. A misplaced keystroke can be embarrassing and unprofessional. It’s a good idea to have a colleague review your content before it posts.

  14. Social media sites tend to be more informal. While remaining professional and appropriate, it’s ok to relax your language, be conversational, and have fun with your posts. You will connect with your audience much better by using humor and relatable language than if you use jargon. Be sure to consult your library administration and web guidelines.

  15. Be aware of current events. If it is a solemn time, don’t post light-hearted jokes or promotional items.

  16. If possible, never post without an accompanying photo or video. You need something eye-catching to grab the attention of someone scrolling through their newsfeeds.

  17. Showcase your patrons enjoying your resources and services. Ask for testimonials about their experience. This is a great way to show patrons that you appreciate them and to show potential patrons what you have to offer. Remember to get permission to post their photo.

  18. Are you planning an event at your library? Promote the upcoming event as soon as possible to generate interest ahead of time. Consider live-tweeting the event, giving your followers a play-by-play of what’s happening. A great time to do this would be Constitution Day.

    1. Create hashtags for events. Make sure to search Twitter for your hashtag to ensure it isn’t already being used by another person or group for a different subject matter.

  19. Use social media to establish interest groups. Since you can find a Government document on almost any subject, pull together patrons who want or need the same types of information. These groups are a great way to share and promote Government information resources. You could even ask the same patrons to offer book reviews or recommendations.

  20. Be clear and concise. Use an active voice in your posts.

  21. If you are posting the same idea to multiple social media sites, change up the wording to keep it interesting for those who are following you on multiple platforms. Make sure your information is adhering to the style and format of each platform.

  22. Identify like-minded organizations, other local libraries, etc., and reach out to them about a co-promotional relationship where they like and share your posts and you return the favor.

  23. Like, follow, and share posts from Federal agencies. Check the website homepages of Federal agencies for links to their social media pages. GPO’s social media links can be found in the bottom right-hand corner of its homepage at www.gpo.gov, and they are also linked at the beginning of this Guide.

  24. Proper attribution for photo usage is important. Giving credit where it’s due cannot be stressed enough, regardless of social media platform. There are multiple categories of image licensing; users need to be aware of the terms and use them appropriately. Misuse can cause legal issues.

  25. Collect data. Keep track of the posts that generate the most likes, comments, and shares. See if a pattern is present. Likewise, pay attention to the types of posts that aren’t generating much interest. As time progresses, alter your social media strategy accordingly.

Sample Social Media Posts

The following is a list of suggested social media posts that Federal depository libraries can use to promote your FDLP collection and its related resources. We invite you to tag GPO in your posts and use the hashtag #fdlp.

Promoting the Federal Depository Library Program

  • Our library is a @USGPO Federal depository. Free access to official #USGov information, every day. Ask a staff member for help. #fdlp
  • Did you know that we can provide research assistance using U.S. Government information resources?
  • #USGov information on science, history, health, careers, defense, statistics, travel, citizenship, environment, education, genealogy, and more right at your fingertips. Ask a staff member.
  • Official documents from Congress, Federal agencies, the White House, the U.S. courts, and more are available right here in the library.
  • Have you seen our #USGov databases, eBooks, books, maps, journals, periodicals, handbooks, and pamphlets?
  • Our library provides free access to current and historic #USGov information. Ask a staff member today.
  • Need assistance on a research project? #USGov documents can help. Ask a staff member. #fdlp
  • #USGov documents go way beyond laws and tax forms. Explore the possibilities right here in our library. #fdlp

Promoting the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications

  • Have you tried the finding tool for #USGov information? Try the @USGPO Catalog of U.S. Government Publications: catalog.gpo.gov
  • Descriptive records for historic and current #USGov publications with direct online links: catalog.gpo.gov
  • Free, 24/7 access to #USGov research. No logins. No fees. catalog.gpo.gov
  • Free access to 1 million @USGPO publication records: catalog.gpo.gov
  • Free full-text documents, reports, articles, eBooks, forms, posters, and more from @USGPO: catalog.gpo.gov
  • Search across multiple #USGov databases at once using MetaLib: metalib.gpo.gov/
  • Over 200 Free eBooks via @USGPO: catalog.gpo.gov

Promoting govinfo

  • Free access to #USGov documents from all 3 branches of the Government: www.govinfo.gov.
  • Want to track #USGov legislation from start to finish? Visit www.govinfo.gov.
  • Researching #USGov regulations? Visit www.govinfo.gov.
  • Need to access documents of the U.S. courts? Visit www.govinfo.gov.
  • Interested in Presidential documents like the State of the Union Addresses, Public Papers of the Presidents of the U.S., and the U.S. Budget? Visit www.govinfo.gov.
  • Search and browse free documents from all three branches of the #USGov: www.govinfo.gov.

Promoting Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government

  • Educational content for children and adults of all ages on the #USGov and U.S. history – bensguide.gpo.gov
  • Free #USGov games and activities for children from @USGPO– bensguide.gpo.gov

Promoting Annual Government Publications

*If your library has its own social media site, change “library name” to “in the #USGov docs dept.” If your social media site is associated with a parent institution, include the library name as noted below.

  • See where your tax dollars are going. The Budget of the U.S. Government is now available at library name and/or URL.
  • Interested in the writings, addresses, and remarks of the President? The year edition of the Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States is available at library name and/or URL.
  • Want to know the economic policies of the U.S.? The Economic Report of the President is now available at library name and/or URL.
  • The official handbook of the U.S. Government is now available. The U.S. Government Manual provides info on the agencies of all 3 branches of the Government. Check it out at library name and/or URL.
  • Want to know your Congress? The year Congressional Directory is now available at library name and/or URL.
  • Interested in the sun, moon, and stars? The Astronomical Almanac is now available at library name.
  • Need a grant or help with your small business? First time home buyer? Check out the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance at library name.

National Observances & Events to Spotlight via Social Media

A great way to have some fun, show off your research skill, and promote documents in a whole new way is to announce holidays and observances and relate them to Government documents. Besides the eleven Federal holidays that are celebrated, there are many observances and events that can be used to promote Government documents. The following is a sampling of observances implemented by a Presidential Proclamation, Executive Order, and Public Law, as well as some nationally-recognized observances/events that correlate well with the FDLP.

Event Date Event
January 6 National Bean Day
January (3rd Monday) Martin Luther King Jr Day
January (3rd Saturday) Bald Eagle Appreciation Day
January 28 Data Privacy Day
February 1 National Freedom Day
February 12 Abraham Lincoln's Birthday
February 15 Susan B. Anthony Day
February 20 National Love Your Pet Day
February 27 National Polar Bear Day
February African American History Month
February American Heart Month
March National Women's History Month
March American Red Cross Month
March Irish-American Heritage Month
March Poison Prevention Month
March 1 Peace Corps Day
March 2 Read Across America Day
March (early) National Consumer Protection Week
March 14 π Day / Pi Day
March 16 Freedom of Information Day
March (3rd week) National Poison Prevention Week
April Money Smart Week
April (2nd Thursday) National D.A.R.E. Day
April 22 Earth Day
April (last week) National Volunteer Week, National Park Week
April (varies) National Library Week
April (within Nat Library Week) National Library Workers Day
April Cancer Control Month
April National Financial Literacy Month
May (3rd Saturday) Armed Forces Day
May (3rd week) National Hurricane Preparedness Week
May (3rd Friday) National Defense Transportation Day
May 4 National Star Wars Day
May 22 National Maritime Day
Week prior to Memorial Day National Safe Boating Week
May Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month
May National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
June 6 D-Day
June 14 Flag Day
June 26 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month
June Caribbean-American Heritage Month
June Great Outdoors Month
June National Oceans Month
July 15 National Ice Cream Day
July 20 Apollo 11 Anniversary
August 4 U.S. Coast Guard Birthday
August 19 National Aviation Day
August 21 Senior Citizens Day
September 11 Patriot Day
Sept 15-Oct 15 National Hispanic Heritage Month
September 17 Constitution Day
September 18 U. S. Air Force Birthday
September 26 National Hunting and Fishing Day
September (3rd week) National Farm Safety and Health Week
September (4th Sun) National Good Neighbor Day
September (4th Tuesday) National Voter Registration Day
September (varies) Minority Enterprise Development Week
September (varies) "Welcome Back" Student Fairs
September National Wilderness Month
September National Preparedness Month
October (1st Monday) Child Health Day
Ocotber (Week of October 9th) Fire Prevention Week
October (Week of 3rd Sunday) National Forest Products Week
October 24 United Nations Day
October National Disability Employment Awareness Month
October National Information Literacy Awareness Month
October Italian American Heritage and Culture Month
October National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October National Cybersecurity Awareness Month
October National Arts and Humanities Month
November National American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month
November National Entrepreneurship Month
November National Diabetes Month
December 7 National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
December 17 Wright Brothers Day

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Social Media