As I watch teens interact with each other at the public library where I work, I’ve noticed how they like to record their time in our Teen Room with pictures and videos on Snapchat. So I wasn’t surprised to read in USA Today that Snapchat has become so popular with teens that it has surpassed Instagram as the #1 preferred social media platform.
Snapchat is a social media app that sends pictures, videos, or doodles to another user. It is unique because users typically share pictures and videos only with close friends instead of a large group, and the content disappears after a few seconds. Of course, there are some privacy issues with Snapchat, and you can learn more about them on the company’s Safety Center web page.
Due to Snapchat’s increase in popularity, a colleague and I decided to harness its power by posting content that would appeal to teens and new adults (ages 23–30) in our community. Our Cape May (NJ) County Library Snapchat username is the same as our other social media usernames for consistency: @CMCLibrary. While we advertise our programs, the most positive feedback we receive is about no less than my weekly booktalk videos called #TeenBookTuesday.
Booktalking on Snapchat
The best part about booktalking on Snapchat is your ability to add some flair! Snapchat has features that allow you to add text, emojis, filters, and doodles, which can make your videos more fun. For example, when I booktalked “The Selection” series by Kiera Cass on Snapchat, I gave myself a majestic crown. Another neat feature is that Snapchat encourages communities to create geofilters, which are unique filters that can be used when Snapchat is being used at a specific location. If, for example, you are visiting Cape May, a special geofilter saying “Jersey Shore” can be used. You can design your own geofilter for patrons to choose while using Snapchat your library.
While similar to booktalking in that it’s in front of a live audience, crossposting is different in a few key ways. First, Snapchat videos can only record up to 10 seconds at a time, so your video has to be formatted to fit this time constraint. You will also need to consider the video’s setting. I prefer to record #TeenBookTuesday videos in the morning while the teens are in class. I record inside our Teen Room with a bookshelf behind me so that it looks visually appealing, and I know the room will be quiet until the teens come in after their last period.
The reason why I named my weekly Snapchat booktalks “#TeenBookTuesday” is that I create crossposts for our Instagram and Tumblr profiles. Crossposts help promote your Snapchat account and notify viewers when the video is ready to view. You can also crosspost your library’s Snapchat profile picture as an easy way to gain followers. All viewers have to do is open Snapchat, hold their phone up to the profile picture, and they will instantly follow your profile.
You may encounter a few obstacles when using Snapchat, but have no fear! First, when you turn your device’s camera to face you, the image it produces is mirrored—the book cover you’re holding up looks backwards in the video. I haven’t discovered a way to reverse this, but to compensate, I take a picture of books with my front-facing camera and tell viewers to take a screenshot if they want to remember the title and author. This is helpful in another way: Snapchat will tell me how many people took a screenshot, and I can keep track of those numbers.
The second hitch is that Snapchat doesn’t give you a list of followers or even a total number. We keep track of the number of followers by writing down how many new ones we get each day and adding it to our running total. The good news is that there are other ways to measure the “success” of Snapchat booktalks, such as looking at circulation numbers.
Goodbye, library anxiety
Despite these small challenges, Snapchat is an invaluable tool that can help alleviate patrons’ feelings of library anxiety. For example, adults who read young adult books but feel slightly embarrassed about it might prefer watching booktalks on Snapchat to asking for suggestions at the library or browsing the Teen Room when teens are there.
Snapchat can also help teens find books that they might be afraid to request in person. Teenagers can feel like they can’t ask for a specific title because of their gender, reading level, or the content, but Snapchat removes those biases. Teens may also learn about books that go outside of their comfort zone—and read them.
One of my favorite Snapchat success stories is when a boy asked me, “Hey Ms. Alanna? Can you put a hold on that comic book that you talked about last Tuesday? The one about the girl superhero who just wants to be normal?” He meant Strong Female Protagonist by Brannan Lee Mulligan. Snapchat helped me convince a young teen boy to read a comic book that was located at another branch. He probably wouldn’t have picked it up, or even known about it, on his own.
Worth Following on Snapchat
- The Anne Arundel County (MD) Public Library Snapchat features behind-the-scenes photos at the facility, such as children’s librarians preparing for storytime. @aacpl
- The Cincy Public Library (Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH) account takes viewers on tours around this beautiful building. It also highlights library-relevant holidays, such as National Children’s Book Week. @cincylibrary
- The CWU Brooks Library (Ellensberg, WA) account features candid photos of patrons. @cwulibrary
- The Frisco (TX) Library uses Snapchat to promote programs with photos and videos; it also uses hashtags to crosspost on its other social media platforms. @friscolibrary
- The Long Beach (CA) Public Library takes advantage of the Long Beach geofilter and promotes large events, including the library’s Zine Fest. @lblibrary
- The Rice Lake (WI) Public Library account takes viewers on a tour of its facility to promote book displays, programs for all ages, and library decorations. @therlpl
Publishers and more
- Epic Reads features new titles and posts hilarious videos featuring “Divergent” cardboard character cutouts. @epicreads
- Quirk Books likes to do giveaways via Snapchat, often asking viewers to send silly photos of themselves to win a free book. @quirkbooks
- Book Riot shows off its galleys and posts behind-the-scenes videos. @bookriot
- Dutton Books shows off behind-the-scenes happenings at the publishing house. @duttonbooks