And For Today’s Trick, We’re Going to Make Your Content…DISAPPEAR!

Today we’re going to look at a somewhat newer trend.


No, sorry dabbing dinosaur, I mean dabasaur, a social media trend. We’re going to look at the popularity behind disappearing content. What began as a feature unique to Snapchat has now been adopted by Instagram, and you can bet you’ll soon see it elsewhere as well. Now, it may seem counterintuitive to pour time into creating something that will soon vanish, sometimes within 24 hours, but as any dinosaur can attest to, sometimes being gone forever gives something an added cool factor.

So wait…I’m working hard on content that will be gone tomorrow? Yup, sorry!

So what is disappearing content and what makes it so popular? Snapchat is made up entirely of temporary content whereas Instagram uses images and animations to tell a “story”, as a sort of digital blog of what’s happening in your life at one moment in time. It may not have the same quality of permanent pictures that you choose to archive in your profile, but it’s rawness is what makes it special in its own way. Snapchat and Instagram even allow you to draw on your content and add stickers to give it a less refined look that serves more to entertain than to impress visually. It’s lack of permanency is also what gives it its exciting exclusive feel, which is why libraries and other businesses should care about its potential for interacting with their audience. People want to feel like they’re an exclusive member and they hate missing out on interesting things, so posting creative images or videos as disappearing content can encourage more frequent viewing habits from your followers and win more likes. They will want to check your page more frequently to see if there’s anything new going on.

So how could your library use this feature? You might do special sneak peaks into the best study spaces or some remarkable items in your collection, to start with. Got an event coming up? Perhaps you could interview people involved and provide a “behind the scene” look at what’s to come. Or, if you want to get more crazy, try offering sporadic contests with prizes in this disappearing content messages to produce some desired behavior from your followers: locate a certain branch and get the code from the librarian, find a piece of information on the website and email it to the address provided, etc. It really is a great opportunity to inject a bit of fun into your social media campaign.

The flip side of this is that you will be doing work that many will miss out on if they fail to see it on time. For this reason, it should by no means be your only means for conveying important information that you wish the most number of viewers to see! Choose carefully what content is supplementary. Think of bonus features on a DVD. It is not essential to using the library, but it might make for a much more enjoyable experience!


You, too, can YouTube!

In class, I’ve noticed a lot of people automatically think of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram when considering social media sites that information professionals should be taking most advantage of, but YouTube has plenty to offer too. Libraries and Museums are using the video hosting site in a variety of ways, from web tutorials to general outreach. So if you’re feeling a little ancient when someone mentions staring a YouTube channel for your library, don’t worry. I’ve curated some samples below from various institutions that are using it effectively!

Don’t look so worried – let’s learn this together!

Promoting the Importance of Libraries

New York Public Library started a great series called Library Stories in which some of their patrons and staff shared what the library means to them and why it’s such an important place in their lives. According to their site, “The mission of The New York Public Library is to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities. Through the pursuit of this mission, the Library touches the lives of thousands of New Yorkers every day, and every interaction creates a story.” Library stories explores the way each story is relevant to the library’s mission.

Highlighting the Collection

The Natural History Museum in NYC took to YouTube to share an audio slideshow of the book Rare Treasures from their Special Collections Department. Other libraries have used the site for a similar purpose, showing off interesting holdings, such as a collection of tiny books and other oddities that patrons might not otherwise know existed in the Stacks.

Training Purposes

Departments within the library itself sometimes create videos, such as this creative effort by Columbia University to add interest to subject matter that students might not otherwise find very engaging. Other libraries have created tutorials for patrons to easily navigate standard library services, such as a new website, popular databases, proper citation, renewing books online, and more.

Book Reviews

Some librarians have taken their expertise and love of books and reading to the Web and have started their own Youtube channels on behalf of their libraries, where they review books from their collection and recommend their top choices. These videos often involve brief plot summaries, ratings, and personal critiques.

Other Options?

What other options are available to libraries or museums looking for a creative way to utilize YouTube? Some users have begun posting interactive “choose your own” adventure games that link a series of videos that share a narrative and proceed depending on the viewers choice of action. Though I have not seen any library related stories so far, I can easily imagine an education library adventure that involves students attempting to navigate their way through the stacks and encountering various storybook-inspired adventures along the way! This option would, of course, require staff who are proficient at writing and a crew interested in acting out the roles assigned, but it seems a promising and engaging addition to any library or museum’s YouTube channel! I look forward to seeing one in the future!

Posting With Purpose


When thinking of acquiring followers for your social media site, be like the t-rex. You don’t want to be too sedentary with your activity – he sees his prey through movement and lack of posts may cause current followers to lose interest and newcomers to view this as a sign that you will not provide the current information that might be seeking. In other words, you will fail to be seen as a web presence. Nor do you want to be to sporadic with posts, sharing memes and adorable pictures of LOLCats just because they’re popular and you think people will like them. The t-rex is not very agile and will not be able to follow that scattered pattern, and neither will your audience. Instead, determine what your brand is, what you wish your viewers to take from your site, and focus on creating interesting content that meets those goals. Anything else will distract them from your purpose and probably send them fleeing to an easier meal to digest.

This is not to say that you cannot post fun content when you want to. On the contrary, viewers will love you if you can find a way to marry fun and appropriate material in your posts. This may involve some creative thinking as you think of a way to tie a picture or a story into your library or museum and your holding and services. But always keep in mind what your goal is with a post and make sure that every message remains true to that mission!

As an example, let’s say that I really liked this image, which I do and thought my followers on Facebook might giggle when they saw it.


It would not necessarily be appropriate for a library’s social media page, unless you find some way of connecting to your mission. If my mission is to highlight my library’s collection, facility, and services, I might include the following text with this image:

“Feeling like you’re falling just short of achieving excellence? Ask a Librarian how you can find the books you need to achieve your desired goal.”

Perhaps that’s not the best example per se, but you get the idea! Other ideas might be including the call number of a relevant book on the subject matter or directing students to an appropriate service area, like Academic Advising. Your page should be lean and mean without any fluff! Every post should be focused on your goal – even if it involves a little imagination to get it there!

Some social media platforms may be more limiting than others if you wish to explain the meaning behind your post and tie in its relevance. For instance, Facebook will allow you enter a lengthy text while Twitter is restricted to 140 characters. Instagram gets even worse because most followers only care about the visual itself and don’t pay as much attention to the caption. So consider your platform and your audience, and try your best to be focused in all you do to keep your readers interested in all the exciting things you surely have to tell them!