Leveraging Social Media Platforms to Connect with Students

High school librarian Erica Thorsen offers advice on using social media to connect with students and raise awareness of the library’s collections.

Since high school students who visit the library are largely those who are electing to, high school librarians are always looking for ways to reach all of our students, including ones who don’t come to the library. According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens have a smartphone, 67% of teens use TikTok, and 62% use Instagram.  Like many of you, my two teenage daughters are among those with smartphones, TikTok, Instagram, and other apps. I’ve seen firsthand how my daughters and my students use social media not only to connect with friends but to gather information and search for answers. Social media has led to an explosion of interest in certain authors and genres. For example, during the last school year, we suddenly had many requests for Colleen Hoover books, a tribute to the influence of Instagram’s #bookstagram and TikTok’s #booktok!

This led me to try using Instagram and TikTok to reach students who may not be aware of all our library has to offer. Having personal accounts for both of these platforms, setting up the accounts was simple. However, I wasn’t really sure how to start and what to post.  So I turned to the experts around me–students–and they gave me invaluable advice!  

Top Three Tips from High School Students on Using Social Media

1. Young people don’t watch reels on Instagram (they go to TikTok for videos).

2. The music selected for a TikTok video should be carefully selected – you should enjoy it but it can’t be too old-fashioned. (My rule–make sure it’s not explicit).

3.  When taking pictures of students, they must approve the picture and select the filter they prefer.

We have been taking pictures of events in the library such as:

  • During spirit week, we made tutus with a group of multilingual learners.
  • On “Bring Your Teddy Bear to School Day” we took pictures of students cuddling with their plush friends.
  • Right before the break, we took pictures of students decorating ugly sweater cookies.

We have also been posting unboxing videos, pictures of new books (especially the new #CoHo), and every once in a while, we’ll attempt a TikTok trend (like the October 3rd lines from Mean Girls).

It was helpful to share the account information with the SGA and other student influencers.  Including students in our posts helped us gain followers–those students and their friends started to follow us.  We have increased engagement with the members of our school community and have made information about the library and library services available to families as well! While social media usage in schools can be a mixed bag, we’ve found great success in using TikTok in our library to connect with students, increase awareness of our services, and teach digital citizenship in action.

Erica Thorsen is a high school librarian in Albemarle County Public Schools and an eMediaVA Ambassador.

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