The Effect of Online Marketing through Social Media Platforms on Saudi Public Libraries

Document Type : Research Paper


, Information Science Department, Faculty of Arts and Huminites, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah -Saudi Arabia


Social media and social networking sites have become a vital part in everyone’s daily life and users of social networks are increasing. This study aims to review and highlight the importance of public libraries presence on social media, and public libraries crucial awareness on online marketing to market their various services, raise awareness and create a community according to each social media platform being used . This study focuses on helping public libraries in Saudi Arabia that lack the true understanding on how to implement social media as a part of their marketing plan, use social media features to create an online community and connect with their patrons to comprehend the basic marketing tools used online, and the benefits of public libraries online social presence and review previous public library marketing  implementations and methods through social media and social networking sites in building a community. Using a content analysis methodology, we reviewed the definition of marketing, marketing tools, social networking sites and previous library methods implemented on social media and the benefits of creating an online presence for libraries. We also highlighted the limitations facing libraries and an efficient method of social media engagement analysis. This study’s results indicate that public libraries in Saudi Arabia can enhance their online presence on social networking sites by implementing the correct content marketing method for each social media platform and the importance of training public library staff on the usage of social media to satisfy customer needs and therefore build a connection with patrons online which further more builds a community.
organization, representation, realization and protection of interests and rights of citizens



Although public libraries in Saudi Arabia realize that social media is a vital part in communicating their services, they still lack the skills to properly implement a clear marketing strategy. Public libraries are struggling to reach and create a community on social media due to the difficulties they face in keeping up with social media’s progress and librarians’ shortage in satisfying user’s needs in this field . In this paper we focus on highlighting the marketing strategies and tools used on social media along with their benefits on public libraries, highly utilized social media platforms by libraries, and an enhanced method in examining engagement on public libraries social media pages. 

In his book Tell Everyone: Why We Share and Why It Matters, Alfred Hermida states, “People are not hooked on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook but on each other. Tools and services come and go; what is constant is our human urge to share. Therefore, libraries should focus on creating communities on their social media pages and presenting content that creates user engagement and increases awareness towards the library social media page.


Literature Review 

This section investigates the state of art from the literature, by presenting several previous studies that dealt with the subject of the research and highlighted the various points of libraries existence on social media. (Khan Shakeel and Bhatti Rubina,2012) in his paper investigates the respondent's attitude towards the usefulness of social media in marketing of library. To explore different applications of social media for marketing of library and information resources and services. A survey research method was administered by using a peer-reviewed and pilot-tested questionnaire. Data was collected from librarians and LIS school academicians working at Bahauddin Zakariya University of Multan and the Islamia University of Bahawalpur. Research showed that respondent's attitude was positive; majority agreed that the use of social media is important to retrieve the attention of online users and helps in distance learning and knowledge sharing. Respondents recommended the use of Facebook, Wikis, LinkedIn, Blogging, YouTube and online groups for marketing different library services. They indicated that inadequate training opportunities, lack of knowledge, privacy and identity theft, slow speed of internet and electricity failure are the problems for applying social media in libraries of Pakistan for marketing library resources and services. They demanded for trainings for social media usage and suggested that libraries should develop social media page for maximum exploitation of library services. Study recommends that libraries should develop their marketing plan for utilizing social media for news and service alerts and quick updates to online users and fund raising. To furthermore stress the urgency of libraries existence online (Cole Kerry, Graves Tonia and Cipkowski Pam. 2010) explore The explosion of e-journals and other online resources has created many challenges for libraries. Use of general search engines is increasing, and the relevance of the library to users is being questioned. One issue that is often overlooked is how the library should market itself to a new generation of tech-savvy users. Basic marketing concepts, including how to formulate a marketing plan, are presented, as well as a look at one library's current marketing efforts. Focusing on examining and describing the status of academic library websites ( Md. Abul Kalam Siddike, M Nasiruddin Munshi and Rokon Mahamud, 2013) inspect A total of 16 public and private university libraries of Bangladesh based on pre-determined criteria developed from the previous studies. Most of the websites were visited at least twice during the assessment which first began by checking the availability of direct and non-direct links form the home page of the parent institution followed by website assessment against the criteria. The study indicated that academic library websites are not fully utilized for marketing library resources and services. A large majority of libraries did not make any effort to provide online literacy courses, live supports, copyright documents, and online user surveys. More on marketing library services on social media (Alkindi Salim and Al-Suqri Mohammed,2013) explore the varied marketing activities of libraries on SNSs, focusing on Facebook, as it is recognized as a popular SNS used among libraries. Additionally, the study introduces the role of library and information professionals (LIPs) within SNSs, as well as user contributions to the marketing process. Web content is used in a quantitative approach. Twenty public libraries that have Facebook pages have been selected as subject samples

Also (Mahmoud Yaser,2019) sought in his paper explores the foremost wide renowned Social Media Sites (SMSs) utilized in selling of libraries’ services and resources of public libraries in United Arab Emirates. The study tackles the meaning of Social Media Sites (SMSs), its vital characteristics and advantages, and the way they will be used in the marketing of libraries’ services and resources. Moreover, the two researchers adopted descriptive methodology in their study. The study conjointly used the method of search field to review and analyze the aspects of benefits and show the services and activities which will be marketed through public libraires  Social Media Sites (SMSs) in UAE. The study’s results have indicated the positivity of using social media sites in selling libraries’ services and collections since such sites are wide and normally used in the various public libraries in UAE. At the forefront of those sites is Facebook, followed by Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram, in order. The current study has shown that the foremost vital services and activities which will be marketed and promoted through social media sites are the following: The publishing of updates and current events within the library, providing fast answers to the users’ inquiries, as well as sharing and collaborating within the video conferences and workshops that are organized within the library. Moreover, the participants within the study have reached the agreement on the very fact that marketing library services through social media sites is more effective than ancient strategies thanks to the many options and potentials that the former has. The study comes out with variety of recommendations to market library services and resources via social media sites.

(Young W.H.Scott and Rossmann Doralyn, 2015) focused more specifically on analyzing a model for Community Building through social media.

Resulting in a demonstration of the  importance of  strategy  and  interactivity    via  social  media  for  generating  new   connections  with library users. Details of this research include successful guidelines for building community and   developing engagement online with   social    media.  By applying intentional    social media practices, the researchers’ Twitter user community grew 100    percent in one year, with a corresponding 275 percent increase in user    interactions. Using a community analysis    approach, this research indicates   that    the idea of personality and interactivity    can lead to community formation for    targeted user groups. Discussion includes the strategies and research approaches    that were employed to build, study, and understand user community including User type analysis and action object mapping. From this research a picture of the    library as a member of an active  academic community comes into focus.

Brining into focus YouTube (Zouhir Ain,2019)  makes an attempt to spot the role of the social media YouTube in permitting librarians and skilled users to outline and provides data concerning national libraries within the Arab world through taking free video recordings out there on digital areas, or through live streaming in real time. during this scope, the latter can realize this house as an appropriate vogue for economical library communication, and interaction via participation and comments around, above all, process and selling the assorted services offered by the various national libraries’ services and departments within the Arab world. that has a participative house for exchanging ideas and data, additionally to demonstrable interaction on the skilled aspect and daily news. This study has adopted the content analytical approach in relation with a particular list out there via video clips’ network “YouTube”, exploitation the search term ‘national library” for each explicit Arab country adopting free discharging axis tab that cowl the foremost vital sides of the video clips’ topics such as: the excellent library services, scientific and cultural animation service, book exhibition services, conferences with personalities, library field visits, holding scientific manifestations, roles of citizenship and civil society, general news coverage. This study intends additionally to grant Associate in Nursing appraising read on the amount of cultural social communication and on the library aspect between the assorted segments of society at intervals this house of social media areas. Some sensible suggestions square measure conferred within the perspective of activating additional this communication network in society.


Problem Statement

The growth of technology and rapid information transition through the internet and social media has created a gap between public libraires and their regular visitors as public libraires struggle to reach their users directly online. Public libraries in Saudi Arabia should strive to stay up to date with the various social media services that enhance the interaction and engagement of their patrons on their online social media pages. Based on the previous statements we can specify that the core issue this paper highlights is Saudi public libraries finding the correct marketing strategy to implement and create exceptional communities online using the right marketing.


Objectives of the study

This study attempts to determine the effect of online marketing methods on public libraries.

 In more precise terms, the objectives of the study are to:

  • Define the definition of marketing and more specifically online marketing methods being used.
  • Identify the benefit of implemented marketing methods on public libraries.
  • Ascertain the highest used social media platform by public libraries.
  • Highlight engagement analysis used on social media to help improve the content being published on each platform



To reach the desired results, the study employs the descriptive approach by using content analysis to analyze the literature review published in both Arabic and English.

This research will focus on highlighting marketing tools and methods that public libraries can use to enhance the content perceived by users and how to implement them.


Significance of the study

The study is important because it deals with a relatively new topic in marketing Saudi public library services through social media and how with a clear online marketing strategy public library will be able to create an online community with patrons. Considering the urgent need for all public libraries to find ways and channels to attract patrons and create awareness on its various services. The study also gains importance considering the scarcity of Arabic studies that have focused on this topic, while it has received the attention of many English studies. Moreover, due to the need to highlight the usefulness of social media sites in marketing public library services in Saudi Arabia and the long-term effect of a strong public library online presence. This study is considered an important addition to the specialized literature review and research work in this field.


Results and Discussion

1-Internet users and more specifically users of social media are in a rapid growth.

2-Many services are offered by social media platforms that allow public libraries to create strong online presence using the right content marketing strategy.   

3-Understanding the benefit of public libraries existence on social media allows for clear content creation that is suitable for each platform and the audience available on that platform.

4-Facebook is a powerful platform internationally but on a narrower landscape and more specifically in Saudi Arabia Twitter and Instagram commonly used by locals and Facebook is common for foreigners living in Saudi Arabia.

6-Public libraries limitations to implement a strong marketing strategy exists mainly in librarians lack of knowledge, skills, and incentive to create unique marketing content.

7-Public libraries need to understand the process of engagement analysis and communication occurring across all their social media platforms to produce unique content that matches the user’s inquiries.



1-Internet users

According to Communications and Information Technology Commission. (2012) There were 200,000 Internet users in December 2000, which grew to 2.54 million by 2006. As of December 2011, the number of Internet users in Saudi Arabia had grown to 13 million demonstrating that nearly half of the entire population makes use of the Internet. As of January 2021, Saudi internet users increased to 33.58 million out of a total population of 35.08 million. (Abdallah, M. 2012 Jan 31) Indicates that overall, of the Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia ranks third in number of Internet users. Therefor there is a huge opportunity for libraries online presence and growth to connect with their patrons and build communities.


2-Marketing Definition

There are multiple definitions to marketing, depending on the area in which the term is being used. According to” (Jestin & Parameswari, 2002, p. 2) “Marketing is planning and managing the organization’s exchange relations with its clients. It consists of learning the target market’s wants, planning applicable product and services, and mistreatment effective valuation, communication, and distribution to tell, motivate, and serve the market.

Marketing could be a comprehensive term and with the emergence of recent technologies it's important to clarify what marketing suggests in information science/information studies fields. The term is related to the marketing of information and the promotion of library services. “Marketing is not so much about ‘selling’ information products to researchers, as it is more about spreading the word about potentially useful new tools. It is also about keeping users informed about library activities and involving them in collection development” (Noel & Waugh, 2002, p. 2).

Gupta (2006) describes the term in relation to several points: establishing relationships with users, providing information services, and competing with others, using the Internet to provide services and to reach their users. Marketing also helps to contribute to building a relationship with the users that begins and ends with awareness (Kaur, 2009).

Marketing is the process of creating and managing a long-term customer relationship through satisfying customer wants and needs. once marketing activities are done by the net it is named online marketing, net marketing and e-marketing and they are interchangeable terms.


3-Marketing Tools:

It is firstly essential to identify the objective behind marketing public libraries on social media. Secondly, applying a strategy that clearly states how you’ll reach the objectives. Thirdly, identifying the roles and responsibilities of librarians. Fourthly, knowing your target audience and who’d you like to engage with online. Fifthly, Public libraries need to choose a suitable platform. Finally, Analyzing and evaluating the social media pages consistently (Gupta and Savard,2011).

The basic marketing tools used in marketing activities especially with the increased usage of the internet and to categorize the tools of internet or online marketing.

 Marketing mix can be identified as the mixture of marketing tools (four Ps- product, price, place, and promotion) that the firms produces to conduct their marketing activities.

Product is goods-and-services combination that company offers to customer and that can satisfy the needs and wants of target customers. Such as processor, mouse, laptop, and service of laptop. Amount of money that customers pay for using the utilities of product is called price. Place indicate the distribution system of company's product to the target customers- such as wholesalers, retailers, and showroom. And promotion includes activities (Advertising, personal selling, sales promotions, public relations, and direct marketing) that can communicate the product information with the target customers.

In this research we focus on promoting library functions and services to internet users and library patrons existing online. Online marketing tools are an essential part of internet marketing because after introducing World Wide Web (www) the users of the internet are quickly growing. According to Internet World Stats an estimated 3,366,261,156 are using the internet worldwide as November 30, 2015.

As of 2021, internet users in the Middle East are 265,587,661 out of the world total users of 7,875,765,584 Therefore, internet market is growing daily and most of the organizations are conducting their marketing activities by using internet.

Internet or online marketing tools are online product, price, place, and promotion.

Online product: online product are any goods and services that a company offers to target customers by using the internet. Online product includes website, product image, product options, brand name and service information. Online product are two types one is digital product (software, information) and physical product (Clothes, watches, laptops etc.)

Online price: price is the amount of money that a customer is willing to pay for obtaining the product. online price includes the price information, payment method, payment process system, discount, offers and details of credit system.

Online place: Online place is the distributions system of internet marketing.

Online promotion: online promotion includes Online advertising, Image- Audio and video, Content marketing, email marketing, Social networking and forum, Viral marketing, SEO (Search engine optimization) and Press release. Marketing company uses the online promotional tools to communicate the product information with customer through internet. The Internet has led to an increasingly connected environment, and the growth of Internet usage has resulted in the declining distribution of traditional media: television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. (Stokes, Rob. EMarketing. Рипол Классик, 1995. P.2) 

Online advertising: online advertising is the procedure of advertisement publishing on the Internet. the types of online advertising are Interstitial Banners, Pop-Ups advertising, Map Advertisement, Floating advertisement, Banner Advertisement, web public relation, Content marketing.

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating, publishing, and distributing content for a targeted online audience to drive profitable customer relationship, and this is implied on public libraries publishing different contents in different websites to attract targeted patrons. Content marketing is a useful tool for positioning the product image and public libraries with the right content marketing can reposition themselves in society and be part of internet consumers daily browsing while achieving their initial educational objectives. Email marketing: Email marketing is the process of sending product related information to the target group of customers. Another effective online marketing tool is Email. (Ryan & Jones, 2009).

The creation of relationships forms online communities where interaction and socializing are the focus, with members sharing similar interests and learning about each other by exchanging information (Buss & Strauss, 2009). This information is often referred to as social media, which is simply the content embodied in social networks; namely photos (product), status updates (marketing promotion), video and links (Marketing place) to websites (Eley & Tilley, 2009). They also pointed out that the combination of the concepts of social media and networks has seen the rise of social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn,Wechat and Orkut, all of which aim to connect groups and individuals such as friends, relatives, and business colleagues.

Social networking is becoming more popular than other communication methods such as through phone, mobile, face-to-face, and email (Gil-or, 2010a). Indicating that marketing activities can be easily implemented through network. Blog is another form of social media where any topic can be published. Viral marketing: Exponentially video, image or any content sharing process is called viral marketing. Viral marketing is the digital form of word-of -mouth marketing that can enormously spread a communication message.

 SEO: search engine optimization (SEO): SEO is the process of increasing visibility of website and its content on search engine. SEO techniques help to visible the company's website or page on the search engine.) Press release: Company publishes their press release or news regarding the current product and service on website to inform customers.

All the previous tools offer public libraries the opportunity to grow online and build a community with their patrons. It also implies that public libraries need to have better understanding of the basic marketing methods available to enhance their content and achieve great results online.


4-Social Networking Sites (SNS)

According to Computing Dictionary (2011), social networking site is any website designed to allow multiple users to publish their own content themselves. The information may be on any subject and may be for consumption by friends, mates, employers, employees. Boyd and Ellison (2007) define social networking sites as web-based services that allow people to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, view and navigate their list of connections and those made by others within the system. Powell (2009) defines social networking as a community in which individuals are somehow connected through friendship, values, working relationships, idea and so on. Webopedia (2014) described social networking site as the phrase used to describe any Website that enables users to create public profiles within that Web site and form relationships with other users of the same Web site who access their profile.

There are some researchers that have expressed SNSs as a type of virtual community (Dwyer, Hiltz, & Passerini, 2007), while others describe it as a communication channel. SNSs are spaces that “enable users to articulate and make their social networks visible” (Boyd & Ellison, 2008, p. 112). They are considered as sites where a user can create a profile and build a personal network, and then can share and exchange information with others (Lenhart & Madden, 2007).

Social networking sites (SNS) are helpful for stirring up interactions among users (Tella et al., 2013). (O’Dell, 2010). Stated that social networking sites (SNS) provide an innovative and effective way of connecting users. Features of SNS enable users to generate interpersonal connections based on common grounds (Greenhow & Robelia, Adeyinka Tella University of Ilorin, Nigeria Evelyn O. Akinboro University of Ilorin Library, Nigeria280 The Impact of Social Media to Library Services in Digital Environment 2009).

Therefore, social network sites or social media in this research are used as interchangeable terms. Public libraries using social networking sites have the opportunity to create content based on users engagement and reach a specific target audience that are interested in the libraries services.


5-Social Network Differentiation:

A 2007 research conducted by researchers from Rice University, the University of Maryland, and Max Planck Institute for Software Systems analyzed what characteristics of very large online social networks made them so successful. The research included Orkut, YouTube, MySpace, LinkedIn, and LiveJournal. The study makes an important point, that while web pages are based on content, online social networks are based on users. The conclusion of the study is also fascinating, because the researchers found that the most trustworthy “nodes,” or members, of the network are those users who established the largest number of “friends” within the online network, establishing themselves as close to the “core” of that social network as possible. This means that the closer to the core of a social network that you are, the faster you’re able to propagate information out to a wider segment of the network. This is exactly the kind of opportunity that most marketers look for. Five basic characteristics that differentiate a social network from a regular website have been identified. Those characteristics are as: user based, interactive, community driven, relationship and emotion over content (Dube, 2014).

1-User-Based: Before social networks like Facebook or MySpace became the norm, websites were based on content that was updated by one user and read by Internet visitors. The flow of information was in a single direction, and the direction of future updates was determined by the webmaster, or writer. Online social networks, on the other hand, are built and directed by users themselves. Without the users, the network would be an empty space filled with empty forums, applications, and chat rooms. Users populate the network with conversations and content. The direction of that content is determined by anyone who takes part in the discussion. This is what makes social networks so much more exciting and dynamic for Internet users.

Hence public libraries should train their librarians in content creation and social network sites usage or outsource marketing agencies to enhance the user experience and engagement which in order creates a satisfying and exciting user experience online.

  1. Interactive: Another characteristic of modern social networks is that they are interactive. This means that a social network is not just a collection of chatrooms and forums anymore. Websites like Facebook are filled with network-based gaming applications, where you can play games together or challenge a friend to a chess tournament. These social networks are quickly becoming a pastime that more people are choosing over television - because it’s more than just entertainment, it’s a way to connect and have fun with friends. Moreover, public libraries should take advantage of the opportunities provided by social networks in entertainment and create fun educational and cultural games in different professions because public libraries are accessible by the public of various interests.
  2. Community-Driven: Social networks are built and thrive from community concepts. This means that just like communities or social groups worldwide are founded on the fact that members hold common beliefs or hobbies, social networks are based on the same principle. Within most modern online social networks today, you’ll find sub-communities of people who share commonalities, such as alumni of a particular high school, or volunteer groups. Not only can you discover new friends within these interest-based communities, but you can also reconnect with old friends that you lost contact with many years ago.
  3. Relationships: Unlike the websites of the past, social networks thrive on relationships. The more relationships that you have within the network, the more established you are toward the center of that network.
  4. Emotion Over Content: Another unique characteristic of social networks is the emotional factor. Websites before were focused primarily on providing information to a visitor, the social network provides users with emotional security and a sense that no matter what happens, their friends are within easy reach. Whether suffering any crisis, people are finding that the ability to go online and communicate directly with a circle of friends provides a great deal of support in an otherwise unmanageable situation.

Public Libraries should thoroughly understand these social network sites characteristics and focus on creating a competitive advantage through the content created and published on their social network sites, that in order allows users to engage with one another over various library services and activities and create a strong community bond over common interests.


6-Benefits of libraries existence on social media/ SNS

Social media network is a powerful tool for sharing information with others. Any information accessible through these tools will reach more people in the shortest possible time. The Librarians and other institutions can continue to have good relationships with their users or members. Similarly, public libraries also need to use such social media tools to reach users within the libraries community and to reach new users.

The librarian is a Knowledge manager, information Scientist, Technology gatekeeper, and library staff that due to the responsibilities they hold need to know about present technologies, as there are many of social networking sites available on the internet to the share the knowledge through. 

Rogers (2009) reported that many public libraries in America are embracing social networking tools to promote library marketing services for library patrons. Internet based social media tools like blogs, podcasts, online videos, and social networks are giving voice to the opinions of millions of online users. Mickiernan (2009) stressed that libraries should think to fulfill the need of online users i.e. professors, librarians or parents who are in social space. It was found that students were willing to access the library through this unique platform in the right circumstances.

Many studies describe the utilization of SNSs for enhancing public library services. Roncaglia (2009) identifies three main activities: information literacy; the active promotion of reading, writing, and researching; and support for learning and educational activities. SNSs can help public libraries doing these activities effectively. Public libraries can use SNSs as a platform for these activities. He also mentions that SNSs can be used as book recommendation sites such as Facebook’s Visual Bookshelf and Goodreads. SNSs are powerful tools for the active promotion of reading, and for marketing library services.

Landis (2010) stated that social network sites enable libraries to pull themselves out of the dark ages of the pre-Internet era and inject themselves into the current information environment. They provide libraries with a new, exciting form of communication for reaching users and nonusers. In relation to this, Fernandez (2009) pointed out that the benefits of maintaining a presence on social networking sites is clear, because they allow libraries to reach out to patrons in the world of Web 2.0, a virtual world that many patrons already inhabit with ease.


7-Public Libraries using SNS to enhance their presence

Library use of social media has steadily increased over time; in 2013, 86 percent of libraries reported using social media to connect with their patron communities (Nancy Dowd 2013). The ways in which libraries use social media tend to vary, but common themes include marketing services, content, and spaces to patrons, as well as creating a sense of community (Marshall Breeding 2016).

SNSs are good at knowledge gathering that they have been utilized in research of social sciences to gather professional knowledge and the responses from research objects (Poynter, 2010). Through SNSs, library harvest information from individual users for improving library services, academic research, etc. With millions of users, SNS offers opportunities for libraries to reach out to communities and gather knowledge from the interaction between librarians and users (O’Dell, 2010). Users can help create new library services by contributing their knowledge through an online network (Casey & Savastinuk, 2006)


8-Objectives of using social media in libraries

-Daily activities can be tweeted through librarians on Twitter

- Members of the public library community and general library visitors can stay up to date on new arrivals in library.

-Using instant messenger apps allow public library staff to send alert messages to the library patrons for discharge of books and reminders.

- YouTube channels can be utilized by public libraries to share hosted events and live programs taking place in the library.

 - Create a library community group for sharing information by using tools like WhatsApp, Telegram. Also, share the public or private messages related to the public library and its services

- To create groups between public library users to discuss the new age of information or services.

-Instagram can be a great tool to publish images, motion graphics and engage with public libraries audience for example through competitions that create incentive for more patrons to visit the library and take advantage of its online presence.

(NLA, n.d) Presentations and talks organized on different topics by the library are disseminated via podcasts. Hendrix and Zafron (2009) found that the main purpose of using Facebook in libraries is to market the library and push out announcements to library users for promotional purpose. To have a presence in the social network, libraries post photos and provide chat reference service.

Saudi public libraries should emphasize their existence along social media platforms according to the various activities provided by the library to better communicate the services presented.


9-Usage of Social networking sites /Social Media in public Libraries

Facebook and Twitter are applied by libraries to build up academic networks, “catalyzing the exchange of knowledge” (Ayu & Abrizah, 2011; Nicholas, Watkinson, Rowlands, & Jubb, 2011).

 Disseminating information to users is a critical function of Web 2.0 technology. Its weight in measuring the effectiveness of libraries’ SNSs is comparable with knowledge sharing (Ram et al., 2011). Most information being disseminated through SNSs is about business in the libraries. Kim and Abbas (2010) reported that 55 libraries in Massachusetts Institute of Technology made announcements on Twitter, including those about resources, workshops, courses, training, conferences, etc. Compared with other Web 2.0 technologies, Facebook and Twitter are more capable in syndicating and disseminating information (Cahill, 2009). The concise style of text mitigates the impact of information overload, making SNSs excellent for information dissemination (Kim & Abbas, 2010). Updating of the news and announcements from libraries are also possible.

According to (Reyaee & Ahmed ,2015) Saudi Arabia, is the 2nd most populated country in the Arab Gulf States, rank 6th as far as the number of internet users is concerned .The users were mainly using Facebook in 2011 (90.42%) and 2012 (61.17%) but in 2013 trend changes and Twitter dominated the market (60.4%). Twitter was having an inadequate share in 2011 (2.85%) and 2012 (20.46%) but it gained a huge market in 2013 with a 39.94% jump during 2012-2013. Facebook has lost its market share considerably from 61.17% in 2012 to 35.68% in 2013. YouTube gained some market in 2012 (16.7%) in comparison with its little market share in 2011 (4.66%) but declined in 2013 (2.74%) yet retained 3rd place. StumbleUpon and NowPublic also have lost their market share since 2011, while the former is still used by a few people; the latter is out of the market in 2013. However, some other SNSs like Tumblr and Google+ have shown their presence in 2013 which were not in the market in 2011. 

There are libraries which use Twitter to connect themselves with important information sources (Milstein, 2009).

(Mack, Behler, Roberts, & Rimland, 2007). Research found that college students perceive Facebook as engaging when applied in libraries.  According to Graham (2009), Facebook had facilitated the development of professional relationships in and beyond libraries.

 In a 2009 survey, researchers found that SNS was only adopted by a few academic libraries (Xu, Ouyang, & Chu, 2009). After no more than 2 years, another survey revealed that Facebook and Twitter have become the most popular Web 2.0 applications in libraries (Mahmood & Richardson Jr, 2011).

Bart (2010) studied the social media usage among college faculty. It was found that 80% of the respondents had at least one social networking account. They used it for professional purpose. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were found as most recognizable names among more than 90% of the faculty. It was found that teachers used Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype and YouTube for communicating with peers and students.

In an academic library, Facebook and Myspace are good outreach tools as well as marketing tools (Chu & Meulemans, 2008) and they are very popular among students (Chu & Meulemans, 2008). Ecademy, Friendster, Friendzy, LinkedIn, Meetup, orkut, Ryze, Spoke, Tickle and Tribe are popular SNSs among business organizations (O’ Murchu, Breslin, & Decker, 2004) that can be used for different purposes such as marketing and communication

(O’Dell, 2010) stresses that SNS provide libraries with an innovative and effective way of connecting with their users as Librarians make use of SNS with the purpose of “being part of their communities” (De Rosa et al., 2007), or promoting libraries’ services and events (Charnigo & Barnett-Ellis, 2007; Hendrix, Chiarella, Hasman, Murphy, & Zafron, 2009).

A study by Secker (2008) provides a list of some library applications on Facebook, including:

  • LibGuides Librarian, which allows librarians to display their guides in their Facebook profiles and provides a search of their library’s catalogue.
  • Librarian, which provides links to books and other resources.
  • Books iRead, which lets users and librarians share a virtual bookshelf of titles they are currently reading or not reading. They can also rate titles and list books they own and highlight their favorite books.
  • COPAC Search, which gives librarians the ability to search the COPAC’s union catalogue from within Facebook. All these services can be used to market library services and materials to users. The libraries can benefit from these tools by raising their profiles or promoting specific services (Riza Ayu & Abrizah, 2011).

Relevant researches have been done on four types of interactions: one to- many knowledge sharing (Harinarayana & Raju, 2010), one-to-many information dissemination (Ram et al., 2011), one-to-one communication (Romero, 2011) and many-to-one knowledge gathering (O’Dell, 2010).

As students frequently use outside search engines for academic research, even a basic Facebook page can serve as a reminder to use the resources available at an academic library (Farkas 2007).

Public libraries also create event invitations for programs as an additional forum to promote library activities (Chu and Meulemans 2008).

Public libraries are first able to create knowledge and share it with communities (MacAdam, 1998). For instance, Librarians or users share information resources with others. Knowledge sharing is an important aspect for libraries in utilizing SNSs, since libraries play an important role in knowledge sharing (MacAdam, 1998). To achieve knowledge sharing, technical and systematic infrastructure is needed to ensure, “making knowledge available to others who need it” (Seonghee & Boryung, 2008). Libraries act as the backend of their media, provide organized information.

 The Impact of Social Media to Library Services in Digital Environment sources on social networking platforms, stimulate user’s participation, and fulfill the dynamics of knowledge sharing (Harinarayana & Raju, 2010).

Public libraries taking into consideration the consistent flow of communication from users and engagement will consider Instagram as an important part of their social media strategy given the fact that According to Salamoon (2013) Instagram function focuses on becoming a mediator of communication through pictures or photographs.

Essentially, Facebook pages provide a marketing tool for the services available to students at their academic library.

  1. Announce programs of the library
  2. Use to promote library services.
  3. Used to advertise library events and create online library study groups and book clubs for students
  4. Give students and staff the opportunity to ask questions pertaining to the use of the library
  5. Teach basic library search tools
  6. Information on new books can be provided on the wall of SNSs to inform the general users.
  7. Send brief updates to patrons
  8. To carry out library services anytime and anywhere e.g. - ask a Librarian
  9. Use as teaching tools either by the libraries or library schools.
  10. Library can use the social media as a platform for user education or library orientation program, etc.

It is important to note that these marketing tools and method implementation can vary according to the social media platform being used.

In a study conducted by (Aseel Ghada,2019) results indicated the weak utilization of Facebook in Saudi Arabia’s public libraries, weak online presence, outdated information on the Facebook pages, and limiting its pages to being purely commercial and the lack of presenting information services to users. 

According to The Montana State University    Library social    media    program    was    fundamentally   formed    around    an    approach    described    by    Glazer: “Be    interesting, be    interested”

When adopting this method on the library social media audience engagement, followership, and interaction overall increased.

Public libraries in Saudi Arabia need to be able to efficiently utilize all services and promotional marketing tools provided by Facebook, twitter, Instagram or YouTube etc. Also create interesting content that meets the users’ needs of a certain category or age group according to the platform being utilized while employing each social media platforms features. Although, it is important to highlight that foreigners living in Saudi are main users of Facebook meanwhile Twitter and Instagram are the main platform for local Saudi users on social media.


10-Limitations of using SNS/ Social Media in Libraries

Despite the increasing adoption of SNSs by libraries, user engagement is low on libraries’ SNSs. Researchers observed that there were only few responses from users on several libraries’ fan pages (Jacobson, 2011). Libraries’ Twitter accounts only got a few followers (Stuart, 2010). On this note, it is very crucial to create more awareness on the impact of SNSs to libraries to increase its usage among libraries and patrons

The ongoing debate according to (Crawford, 2006) is on the role of traditional libraries as being “inefficient, limited and obsolete”

There are several factors that inhibit libraries’ from using SNSs to interact with their users. Researchers have suggested that the concerns of privacy from users (Chu et al., 2008; De Rosa et al., 2007), and updating information in low frequency (Stuart, 2010) have negative impact on the effectiveness of SNSs in facilitating interactions.

 Others include low awareness of the university library’s presence on Facebook. The low user engagement could be attributed to inadequate promotion. Possible Interaction on Social Media/SNSs in online social networks and information-flow (Xu et al., 2009), generating different types of interactions (Dalkir, 2011).

The key to a successful social media plan implemented in a library relies on user participation. However, there are multiple limitations associated with it. The following are likely challenges libraries may face while implementing social media software in Saudi public libraries:

  • Culture: The requirement for an open, clear, horizontal working culture, i.e. a culture that allows information to flow from top to the bottom officers and vice versa. it's tributary for effective and inventive on-line data sharing.
  • Organization Support: To possess a commitment from the management for cooperative internet tools is extremely necessary. A shift to horizontal clear communication opens new venues to gift the organization’s life.
  • User Orientation: Developing a web-based communication culture needs orientation. Blogs are totally different from a workflow-based intranet. Therefore, there is need for user orientation. This as well might be tasking.
  • User adaption: Developing a web-based communication culture requires user’s adaption.
  • User Participation: Participants might be very limited at the beginning. However, massive participation is important. To achieve this, the library takes time to market and train the initial participants who later train others.
  • Resources: The tools are cheap and easy to install, but the resources needed might be under-estimated.
  • Patience: To incorporate social media tools to an organization takes time. A few months can pass by before participation reaches a sufficient level.
  • Training: Social media might be easy to use but still there are many people within the library that are not digitally compliance; hence might find it difficult to use the applications since they are new to them.
  • Usability: Usability is very important because users take advantage of all features offered.
  • Privacy, Intellectual Property Right, (IPR) Copyright Issues of Social Software: Joint Information System Committee, (JISC) highlighted these issues as being relevant to the teaching and learning community and they are similarly relevant in the context of library developments. Storing personal data on remote systems raises obvious privacy issues, but IPR and copyright issues are also applicable.
  • Skilled Labor: Most of the Academic Libraries lack skilled labor. This can be attributed to the few schools available to train public Librarians coupled with lack of incentives for them.


11-Engagement analysis on library social media

According to (Peter Fernandez 2016) when comparing new social networking systems, like Instagram, to older platforms, like Myspace, Fernandez argued that today’s common social media sites encourage networking and are particularly suited to creating community.

 Ideally, community engagement in the virtual social media environment would encourage more patrons to enter the library and thus engage in more face-to-face encounters. ( Robin M. Hastings 2010)

Libraries’ vary in their use of social media and the strategies of measuring the success of their social media engagement. Assessment of libraries’ social media effectivity is hard, and extremely variable from establishment to another which librarians ought to acknowledge patrons both actively and passively interacting with social media content. As a result, whereas several comments or likes are considered as positive markers for active engagement, passive kinds of engagement, like the quantity of times a post appeared in users’ Instagram feeds, can also be relevant. Therefore (Robert Jenkins 2018) indicates when librarians measure the success of an Instagram post by examining only the number of likes and comments, they should be aware that they are measuring a very specific type of engagement: one which, on its own, may not determine a post’s full reach or effectiveness. Other ways to measure engagement include monitoring how the number of people subscribed to an account changes over time, evaluating reach and impressions, (Lucy Hitz 2020) analyzing the content of comments (a type of qualitative measure that may indicate the type of community developing around the library’s social media). Perhaps due to very little articles that have been written about how different types of libraries (such as academic libraries, law libraries, public libraries, etc.), or libraries in general, use these platforms and the excitement surrounding the possibilities that libraries’ engagement with social media can produce, (Vassilakaki and Garoufallou ) Additionally, many librarians may lack expertise in marketing, including those who are managing social media accounts. (Mark Aaron Polger and Karen Okamoto 2013) As social media culture continues to evolve, librarians should move toward a more targeted and pragmatic approach to their Instagram practices. This refinement in social media practices could change libraries to develop additional structure, so they'll produce and share the kind of content that might come through as their desired result at a given time. However, to develop this sort of measured approach, it's necessary for researchers to first analyze libraries’ current Instagram practices to see however posts are utilized in getting the desired outcomes. 

Communication, including dialogues and comments, is one of the most important areas in measuring the effectiveness of SNSs (Romero, 2011). SNS is logical for communication. Through SNSs, the library target peoples conversations that happen between librarians and users or among users. analysis finds that low self-disclosure on SNS make it easier for users to launch conversations with acquaintances (McElvain & Smyth, 2006). Besides, due to the concise format and informal tones, SNS is more likely to stir up interactions between users than the other non-social networking Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs and wikis (Romero, 2011). Scholars concluded that SNS can advance communication in quantity and may improve in quality (Boyd & Ellison, 2007; Ito et al., 2008). However, it has been observed that extracting responses from users in public networks does not seem as easy as in personal social circles (Burton & Soboleva, 2011)

Saudi public libraries should implement engagement analysis across all their social media platforms to enhance the content created and published. Also, to create a better relationship with their users and understand whom they are targeting through each platform.




  • Public libraries should take advantage of the opportunity offered by social media to engage with many users online and create a community.
  • Online content marketing strategy that focuses on publishing relevant and engaging content such us competitions with their online patrons instead of being purely informative or promotional is mostly suitable for Saudi public libraries.
  • Public libraries should publish content that allows users to engage with each other and focus on publishing content that is user based such as videos reposted to public libraries stories originally posted by patrons online.
  • Saudi public libraries should be active on both these platforms and take advantage of all its unique features.
  • Saudi public library staff should be trained and educated in marketing. Also, public libraries can outsource marketing agencies to help implement a tailored marketing strategy that fits the public library’s services.
  • Saudi public libraries should thoroughly analyze the engagement received on their social media and create content tailored to the each segment across various platforms.



Social media users and human interactions online are rapidly growing. Therefore, public libraries must be aware on how to market themselves online to maintain a strong relationship with their patrons and build an effective online community. Marketing itself is the process of creating and managing a long-term customer relationship through satisfying customer wants and needs. Online marketing, net marketing and e-marketing are interchangeable terms. Identifying marketing tools and activities used helps public libraries form a strategic marketing plan more specifically focusing on online marketing tools when implementing these strategies. Content marketing which is a part of online advertising focuses on creating, publishing, and distributing content for targeted online audience to sustain a relationship with customers. When public libraries understand their target market and focus on implying a clear content strategy, they’ll be able to build a relationship with patrons and public library online social media page visitors. Moreover, social networking sites according to Powell (2009) that stated a suitable overall definition as a community in which individuals are somehow connected through friendship, values, working relationships, idea and so on. Online social networks are based on users and therefor is differentiated from other web pages with the following characteristics: User based, interactive, community-driven, relationships built, and emotion over content. Public libraries focusing on these characteristics will be able to successfully implement a marketing strategy.  Identifying the main benefits behind public libraries existence on social media and enhancing their services through the active promotion of reading, researching, and writing. Creating library groups for information sharing. Using social media platforms like Facebook and twitter were commonly found to be effective in academic connections and library communities. Twitter and Instagram respectively being more commonly used by Local Saudi’s.

 Public Libraries are also able to harvest information from individual users of social networking sites for improving library services. Public Libraries main limitations to using SNS and social media was the lack of awareness on social media’s impact, privacy concerns, low frequency of information updates, low user engagement. Libraries have limited analysis of engagement on their social media pages and mainly focus on likes and comments when in fact due to the continuous changes occurring on a social media account,  engagement analysis requires monitoring the number of followers/ subscribers and evaluating reach and impressions in a periodic matter and having strong communication.

  • We recommend that public libraries begin to rebrand themselves as an organization that’s up to date with the technological improvements happening first by training librarians in Saudi Arabia in marketing to actively enhance the library’s online presence and create a strong implementation of marketing strategies. Also, conducting researches that focus on library content and engagement analysis in Saudi Arabia to have a better understanding of the most suitable marketing strategy to be implemented. Moreover, encourage Saudi public libraries to have a better understanding of their patrons and social media page visitors through research and surveys so they can create content that focuses on building a community rather than pushing informative content continuously.
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