The Milwaukee Public Library launched one of the most robust social media campaigns in the country. This campaign has been so successful at reaching historically underserved communities, particularly youth, and people of color, that libraries and other academic institutions on a national level now engage the Library in social media training, peer review, and resource sharing.
MPL Social Media in the News
How 'LibraryTok' is helping libraries write their next chapter | Today Show, April 28, 2023
Inside Milwaukee Public Library’s Rise to TikTok Stardom | Milwaukee Magazine, January 3, 2023
Cheeky Library Builds Social Media Fan Base | Wall Street Journal, December 28, 2022
TikTok's Favorite Library | Today Show, December 27, 2022
MPL's social media gains global attention | WISN, December 16, 2022
MPL is TikTok Famous | JS Online, October 19, 2022
MPL Video Homage to Stephen King is Perfect | Milwaukee Record, October 5, 2022
- Amelia Bedelia
- Banned Books
- How Can I Support Public Libraries
- Library Apps You Should Have on Your Phone
- Registering for a Library Card
- Seasoned Librarians
- Sensitive Topic
- Stephen King
- Stranger Things Part 1
- You Can't Read Manga
- You Showing Up
What editing software do you use?
We edit all of our videos using the free video editing software CapCut. Recording videos in your phone’s native camera app keeps the video quality at its highest resolution and allows you free range to work with the videos across software and social media platforms.
What equipment do you need to get started?
We started with just our cell phones! For the most part, we use practical effects but we sometimes add special effect features in the CapCut or TikTok apps. Since we started we have added a green screen and green man suit that we use sometimes. We also have a ring light that we mostly use as a stand to hold our phones. All of our props are handmade or borrowed from our staff, friends, and families.
Would your social media team mentor me?
As much as we would love to help everyone that reaches out to us, everyone on our video team works full-time jobs outside of the social media work they do. The limited time we have to spend on social media is best spent on making the videos themselves. However, as a library, we like to educate and share the information we have. If after reading these FAQs you have additional questions or requests, please reach out to our Communications & Marketing Department at LibraryCommunicationsMarketing@milwaukee.gov.
Where do you get inspiration?
We love to play off of pop culture. We use trending sounds and like to spoof media and pop culture moments. When we're scrolling TikTok for videos or personally watching and enjoying something that we like we ask, "How could we use this to promote the library in a fun way?"
How do you use trends?
We like to have fun with trending sounds or ideas on social media. We try to get ahead of the curve on a trend before it's oversaturated. We also try to up the ante on every trend. We ask ourselves, "How can we take this idea to the next level? How can we give this a unique twist?" If a trend is really oversaturated, however, rather than doing what everyone else is doing, we usually skip it and move on to the next idea.
How do you get people to participate in your videos?
We like to make our performers feel as comfortable as possible. We talk them through the concept and show them examples so they understand what's being asked of them. Behind the camera when they're performing, we dance, sing, and mouth along with them so they feel encouraged and don't feel so alone. Being on social media is a vulnerable place and when someone agrees to be in a video, they are trusting you with their image. If they say no, no means no. After our staff started seeing our videos, more and more were willing to participate. We are so grateful to them. Without them, our platform wouldn't work and they do such a great job!
My organization hasn't started short-form videos yet. Why do you recommend it?
The way people use and engage with social media changes so often and right now video content is in demand. Since starting to make videos for Instagram and TikTok, our library has had a positive, national spotlight. Our silly videos have impacted library usage and even tourism in our city. In 2023 we even won Visit Milwaukee's Dear MKE Award. Starting short-form videos for our organization has had an overwhelmingly positive impact.
Why do you think your content is so successful?
We have moved away from trying to sound like a commercial. Although we are still asking for something from the viewer in every video (get a library card, attend a program, download this app) we put the content first and then ask second. If they are moved by the video, they might perform the ask. If they aren't interested in the service, they can still enjoy the video and follow the platform and maybe in the next video, we'll motivate them to try a different library service. As a small creative team working on these videos, it allows us to vary our content between funny, scary, emotional, self-reflective, memes, spoofs, series, etc. so that there's something for everyone to enjoy.
What other advice do you have?
If you're promoting a brand, you want to think about your messaging and make your brand look good. Simple, we know! Sometimes there are ideas that come up that are funny but wouldn't portray our organization in the best light. Whatever we do, we try to make the library look its best.