Posted in Passive Programs

Increase Your Participation Stats!

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As teen library workers, an important part of the job is to attract teens to the library, our programs, and our collection. We are often successful but there are those groups of teens that no matter what we do, they do not come to the library, attend programs at the library, or check out books.  How can we reach those teens? Social media. You probably already use social media to display program pictures and promotional flyers but you can also use it to engage teens with interactive posts and videos.

All Types of Teens

If your library is anything like mine, there are several groups of teens that are a challenge to reach. Here are a few of those categories:

  • The Reader-These are teens who come into the library, get their books, and leave.  They don’t attend programs nor do the use the computers.
  • The Gamer-These are teens who come into the library to use the computers to play Minecraft or Fortnite. If you work in a lower income community, these teens may not have internet access at home so they come to the library to play computer games. These teens do not check out books or come to programs.
  • The-I’m-Only-Here-Becasue-I-Don’t-Want-To-Stay-In-The-Car-These teens follow their parents into the library. They kind of wander around while their parents are in the stacks. Sometimes they look into your teen room or maker space or teen space but they don’t come in. These teens may or may not check out books and they don’t come to programs.
  • Busy Beaver-These teens are in sports or theater or other after school clubs. They are in advanced placement classes or they have jobs or they live too far to get to the library. These teens want to come to programs or read but they just don’t have time.

How can you reach the above teens and all the other categories of teens who don’t come to programs? Social Media is the answer.

What Can Social Media Do For Your Library?

According to Common Sense Media, teens spend on average, nine hours a day on their phones. In the same study, girls spend 47% of that time on social media while boys spend 35% of their time on social media. Teens spend about three to four hours on social media so as librarians, we can use some of that social media time to engage teens in a variety of ways.

Utilizing social media is a great way to engage with those special categories of teens listed above. The one thing the above groups of teens have in common is that they don’t come to programs but you can use social media to bring the program to them. You can use social media for reader’s advisory to entice your non-readers and or to recommend books for the teens who only come in to get books. Often times, The Gamer, doesn’t realize their library offers gaming programs. You can use social media to promote your gaming programs through pictures of previous programs and flyers for upcoming programs. You can use social media to allow your teens to get to know their teen librarian so next time that teens who’s just waiting for their parent will come in to talk to you. As for the Busy Beaver, these teens can play your online contests and feel connected to the library even if they are too busy to come in.

Social media is a free way to reach all types of teens through fun and informative posts and you can report their participation in your stat reports.

How Do You Decide Which Platform To Use?

There are many different social media sites but the most popular are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. Each community is different so it’s important to find out what your teens use.  For example, in my community, our teens are not on Twitter and their parents are on Facebook so they use Instagram. During your teen programs, do a verbal survey and ask teens what they use. You could also do a short paper survey at your next school visit. Use those stats decide which platform to use.

Once you’ve decided which platform to use, educate yourself about all the features that platform has to offer-live video, stories, emoji’s, etc.

Now it’s time to choose your name/handle. Create a short name or use a name that’s already used to describe your teen population. For example, my library’s Instagram and Facebook accounts are called ZBteens (Our town is Zion-Benton-ZB). ZBteens has been on all of our flyers and  newsletters for years so our teens are familiar with the term. You can use the name of your teen room or the town’s high school mascot or your town’s nickname. If you don’t have something familiar, make up something new and use it on all your promotional material so that will become familiar.

How Do I Get Followers?

Obtaining followers is tough especially if you are asking teens to follow the library. Here are some strategies that we’ve used:

  • Write down your social media handle on a slip of paper and ask teens to follow youIMG_4265 at the beginning or the end of your teen programs.  Offer them candy if they do and tell them that you will follow them back. Followers are also important to teens.
  • Do the above strategy during school visits. Many schools allow teens to have their phones on them. You can ask the teacher before your visit if it is okay for teens to use their phones during your visit. Once again, offer candy. We always bring candy at school visits so the teens who follow you on social media get two pieces of candy.
  • Put your social media handle on all of your promotional information.
  • If you have a BINGO game for summer or winter reading, put your social media handle in a square.
  • Once you have some followers, you can host a TAG a friend contest. Offer a prize to a random teen who tags a friend to follow you.
  • Once you have some followers, look through their list of followers and follow them. I know that seems creepy but if you have a description and some posts, those teens will know you are the library and not a random person.

We get most of our followers from the first two bullet points but all the strategies have been successful.

Once you have followers, it’s important to keep them. Posting several times a week is important in follower retention.

What Should I Post?

It’s important to have a schedule; this eliminates the guessing game. Here’s our schedule: Monday-Book Recs; Tuesdays-Programming Pictures; Wednesday-Contests; Thursdays-Ask Us Questions.

We mostly use Instagram because that is what most of our teens use but the beauty of Instagram is that you can post that content on Facebook with one click-Facebook owns Instagram. Instagram is a great platform because you can do engaging Instastories, normal posts, live video, polls, teens can ask questions, Gifs, in post text, and much more. Because of all the variety, we try to vary our book rec posts.

For Book Recs Monday, we make them interactive. Please see the pictures for examples.

Wednesdays is Win it Wednesdays. Sometimes we do an Instastory and sometimes it’s in a post. We’ll give away gift cards or prize packs comprised of random things we have in our teen room.


Giving out prizes is optional as it requires teens to come to the library. This is a pro because if/when they come in, you can introduce yourself, get to know a little bit about them, and talk to them for a couple of minutes about programming and books. This could be a con because they don’t come in to pick up their prize. To avoid the latter, give the winning teen a deadline to pick up their prize and inform them that if they don’t pick it up by the deadline, it will go to the next winner. Keep doing this until someone picks it up. You don’t always need to offer prizes to entice teens to engage in your posts; they will participate for the fun of it. We do prizes during special weeks-Teen Read Week; Valentine’s Week; Christmastime; etc. I’ll explain our 2018 Teen Read Week programming later in this post.

Ask Us Thursday is a fun way for teens to get to know the us, their teen librarians. Sometimes we poll or sometimes we just put the “As me something,” text bubble in our instastory. We stipulate that it doesn’t have to be about books because teens tend to think that everything we do at the library is book related.

Other Ideas

You can use social media to help you with programming for the next newsletter or ask them to name a program. You can ask them to choose the next book club book or what food they want at the next big teen party. We’ve used Instagram to ask teens what to name our new LGBTQ club and when is the best time to meet and we’ve asked them to name our three new 3D printers. Asking teens for their opinions or feedback gives them ownership of the library and will encourage them to participate in person.

If you have a TAG group or teen volunteers, have them run some social media posts. Sit with them and plan what they are going to post but let them lead the meeting. This is also a perfect opportunity inform teens that social media marketing is a career they can pursue-college and career readiness! Your teens can do live feeds or record and edit videos for their posts. They can recommend books they like or post about the teen program their currently attending.

During programs, ask your teens to take a picture of what they are doing or a selfie and have them use a hashtag that has your handle. This way, their friends see all the fun they are having and can attract them to attend library programming.

Teen Read Week 2018

Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week are great YALSA initiatives but we sometimes have issues getting teens to attend programs-especially more than one. In 2018, we did all of our TRW on Instagram. Instead of purchasing programming supplies/food, we bought gift cards and ran contests all week.  Below is part of the Instastory contest we hosted on the first day. Eight teens actively participated by telling us their sign and 44 teens watched the story. We used those numbers in our monthly report.

Even More Social Media Ideas

  • Community Scavenger Hunt-We had our volunteers paint rocks and hide them all over town. We posted a live video of some of our rock placing. In the video and in a feed post, we told teens to look for the rocks and bring them into the library to choose a prize.
    • If you do this as a special week, you can give out gift cards. Or you can compile some random prizes into a treasure chest and let teens choose. Even better-snacks such as chips or candy bars and a book.
  • Live Trivia-Go live on Instagram or Facebook and do a themed trivia-Harry Potter; K-Pop; Marvel; or whatever your teens are into. The first person to answer the questions correctly wins.
    • Be sure to set up a date and time before the live game and remind them on social media periodically so that teens are ready when you go live.
  • Teens are the Judge-If you run an art contest or bookmark contest or poetry contest, post the pics of the entries and allow teens to vote on social media.
  • Book Club-If you have teens who like to read but don’t want to attend the face to face meeting, do a book club discussion on a live feed.
    • Be sure to set up a date and time before the live discussion so that teens are prepared.
  • New Books-Promote your new arrivals.
  • Emoji Storytime-Post a series of emojis and challenge teens to write a “first line” of a story based on the emojis.
    • Or make it a contest and use a series of emojis to describe a book or book title and have teens guess the titles.
  • Summer Reading-Lots of teens read but they don’t sign up for summer reading. Our summer reading challenge is by pages-if teens read 800 pages, they completed the challenge. Once a week, we asked teens to raise their hand if they were reading books. If they raised their hands, we asked them how many books/pages they read and if it added to 800 pages, we told them they completed the summer reading challenge and that they could come in and pick up three prizes-these are prizes they would have received had they signed up at the library.
    • When they came to pick up their prizes, we registered them and marked them as completed for summer reading. We received about ten more sign ups that summer.
  • Cell Phone Photographer Contest-We did a photo contest on social media since it’s easier to submit the photos.
  • Banned Book Week-In addition to in house book displays, we ran contests and information on Instagram. Since we don’t get in house program participation, we decided to do it online and we receive a lot of participation while informing teens about banned books.


If your teens aren’t coming to you, try to find them on social media. Even though they aren’t physically sitting in your program, they are still actively participating with their library.

Let’s start a conversation, how do you use social media with your patrons?



YA Librarian. Lover of Sherlock. And all Things Harry Potter.

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