Milwaukee Public Library advertisementsEarlier we considered how Facebook advertising came to be and how businesses can use it to effectively target potential customers. We also considered some pitfalls of advertising on this social media platform. Now let’s take a look at some ways in which libraries can avoid these pitfalls and make efficient and effective use of Facebook advertising.

Libraries probably wouldn’t benefit from the ephemeral value produced from traditional Facebook ads. Budgets are too tight to spend money on something with such limited results. Perhaps a better way for libraries to market themselves on Facebook is through “social ads” and “sponsored stories”. A social ad is when a user “likes” an organization on Facebook and Facebook then creates a small ad on the user’s friends’ pages to tell them that they liked the organization. The idea behind this type of advertising is called “word of mouth at scale” and it suggests that an endorsement from a friend is better than an endorsement from an organization itself. Sure, libraries could create ads telling targeted users how great their services are, but wouldn’t it be more convincing to hear that a personal friend uses their services and finds them valuable enough to like the library on Facebook? A similar offering by Facebook is “sponsored stories” in which a user’s photo and a comment on what they did on an organization’s site shows up on the user’s friends’ newsfeeds, as if it were a story that they posted themselves. This allows the organization’s name and the user’s endorsement of it to be embedded in other users’ newsfeeds, and is more difficult to ignore than a traditional or social ad. Sponsored stories are a great option for libraries because libraries are a part of the community! They should integrate themselves into their patrons’ online community as well as the physical community to connect with new users and demonstrate their services.

So what do you think: Would these methods be helpful and cost effective to a library looking to market itself? Have you ever “liked” a library on Facebook or another social media platform? Do you interact with the organization’s page by leaving comments or participating in discussions? What other ways might a library use Facebook as an advertising tool?

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