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Super Library Marketing! Great marketing ideas for libraries everywhere.

Stop Serving Your Cardholders Spaghetti: Get Personal

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Imagine you are going to dinner with someone special. You decide to visit your favorite Italian restaurant. A waiter seats you. The music is playing softly. Candles are flickering. The wine is fantastic. You’re primed for a spectacular meal.

But instead of handing you a menu, a waiter appears and simply places a plate of spaghetti and meatballs in front of you. He looks at you expectantly, waiting for you to bite in and express your appreciation.

But you don’t like spaghetti. Maybe you’re gluten-free. Maybe you prefer penne with pesto. Maybe you had dreams of a big, cheesy calzone.  Spaghetti is not what you had in mind this evening. You’re disappointed and upset and you end up walking out, vowing never to visit this crazy backwards restaurant again.

It’s common sense to treat restaurant customers like individuals, with individual tastes. You would never open a one-dish-fits-all restaurant and expect it to do well. So why do library marketers often treat their cardholders like they all love or want the same thing?

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We have a lot to excuses for why we don’t get more personal with our marketing messages to library cardholders. Most often, we blame our budget. We don’t have the money to buy software that would allow us to deliver personalized messages to thousands of cardholders.

It’s true that targeted email marketing is the most effective method I’ve come across for delivering the right message at the right time to the right customer. And it’s true that it usually costs some money to do it right. But it’s not the only way to do personalized marketing. There are two other effective methods that cost nothing or next to nothing.

Personalized social media marketing: Simply put, this is making a concerted effort to keep an eye on as many social media channels as possible for as many hours of the day as possible to answer customer questions and feedback on your library and services. Customer service through social is extremely important. If possible, your head of marketing should be non-exempt and should  be available to monitor social media channels during off-hours. I know that’s a lot to ask but it’s what customers expect us to do. It’s what our competitors do. If you really want to compete with Amazon, Netflix, and your neighborhood store, you’ll need to monitor your social channels as often as possible and respond to questions or comments as quickly as possible. That’s all there is to it.  For some amazing examples and inspiration, read this post.

In-person marketing: Front-line library staff are your marketing partners. When you have an important message for a certain segment of your cardholder population, you should enlist the front-line staff to help you deliver it.

Recently at my library, we welcomed author Lee Child for a book signing and talk. To help build excitement for the event, we created bookmarks that we put inside every Child book checked out during the month of November. Then, when cardholders came to pick up their holds or when they grabbed a Child book from the shelf, our front-line staff members started a conversation with the cardholder, giving them more information and talking up the event. We had 350 people at our author event, even though the evening was cold and it was pouring rain. It was that personal contact with cardholders that helped to make the difference. It helps to make sure cardholders remember the event, because they remembered the personal pitch made to them by front-line staff.

Don’t let fear or worry stop you from doing personal marketing. There are easy and free ways to deliver relevant, meaningful messages to your cardholders and to build relationships and make connections they’ll remember.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Seven Seriously Super Ways to Target Teens at Your Library

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This is the third and final part of our three-blog series on marketing to teenagers. Before you read this post, be sure to read this one and this one.

Okay, here are seven more ideas for targeting the elusive teen and bringing them into your library.

Showcase the library’s value. This generation is the product of tumultuous economic times. The recession hit during their formative years, making the circumspect about spending. In addition, they’re big into supporting socially conscious brands.

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A few years ago, my daughter and her friends and every teenage girl I spotted on the street started buying and wearing shirts from a company called Ivory Ella. This online clothing store is affiliated with the Save the Elephants campaign and they give a portion of their proceeds to that group. My daughter and her friends loved the designs of the shirts but what they really connected with was the cause.

Libraries are a socially conscious organization but I don’t think we spend enough time explaining that to teens. And we should.

Keep up on technology and trends but don’t chase the shiny new toy. Tech and trends change every day. We need to be aware of what’s new and how it works but we don’t necessarily have to use every new tool that comes our way. Set aside 30–60 minutes a week to research tech trends, YouTubers, and the world of teens in general. Take a step back and think about your strategy for every new piece of technology or social media platform that comes along. Before you decide to put some time into something, ask yourself–what is your goal?

Two years ago, we bought our teen an iPhone. I was psyched that I would be able to find her anytime, anywhere thanks to texting! It went smoothly–until she stopped answering my texts. I got mad. I confronted her. “Mom,” she said calmly, “No one texts anymore. We Snapchat.” Does that mean I should immediately go start snapping on the library account to connect with teens? Not necessarily.

Instead of running to work the next day and posting, I talked with the teen librarians, did some research, and decided to move forward with Snapchat. We would post only twice a week and our goal would be brand awareness. We’re not taxing our resources and we’re experimenting to see what works. And we’ve left ourselves room to pull back if it becomes clear that it’s not working.

Shiny new toys are awesome and fun. But sometimes the fun is short-lived. Be smart with your resources and make the right decisions for your library cardholders.

Be fluid with your marketing strategy for teens. Library marketing is about serving your cardholders needs. That means we need to let go of our ideas about where we think communication should be happening and what it should look like. We must be customer-focused. What do they want? What do they need? Where do they need us to deliver it? Library marketing is not about us–it’s about them! Teens at one branch might be super engaged. Teens at another branch might be apathetic. You’ll need to be aware of the way teens in your system are engaging with your library and try to be as flexible as possible with your strategy.

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Remember our homework help example from part two? A couple of the teens with whom I shared these ideas thought it would be even more helpful to have homework help late at night. They pointed out that most teens get to their homework after sports and extracurricular activities are finished… between 8 p.m. and midnight. So what they really need is a way to connect to a person after hours. They also suggested that libraries schedule teen programs later to accommodate their schedule. Another teen suggested libraries bring the portable elements of their Maker Spaces into classrooms to do demonstrations, instead of asking teens to come to the library to check them out, at least for the first time. And the teens all said that they prefer to do things in groups with other teens, so they wanted us to do more group-oriented programming and to market to their group of friends.

All of these suggestions have a common thread. These teens are asking the library to meet them where they are with the kind of experience they want. We really need to be more customer focused if we’re going to win them over.

Don’t forget the adults in their life. My library received a grant for a program that teaches teens how to handle their finances wisely. During the first round of this two-year program, we tried targeting our message directly at teens. And while we did have teens attending the programs, the numbers were not as high as I wanted.

So when round two came, we pivoted and started targeting the parents and teachers. We used mainly the same tactics–fliers, posters, emails, social media posts, and a few ads. But we changed the message, and it worked–attendance rose.

It makes sense to market a teen program to parents and their other adult connections, especially if it’s educational. Kids are more likely to attend those programs if a parent or teacher makes a commitment for them. Encourage teachers to offer extra credit to students who attend educational library programs.

We did a promotion for our Teen Art contest, which ran through October, and we promoted the program to teens but also to educators and to parents. We had 136 entries this year, about 50 more than last year. Adults encouraged reluctant kids to participate–they even offered incentives for them to do so–and that’s valuable marketing for us.

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You are competing for their time… their schedules are jammed so make your programs really count. Less is more. You’ll want to do programs that kids can’t find anywhere else. They can play video games and make crafts at home. But the Library has points of differentiation. You may have a Maker Space with equipment that kids don’t have access to elsewhere. Create programs for teens around that. My library did this kind of program as a kickoff to our Summer Learning program. We let the kids come into the library after hours to use the MakerSpace equipment and we turned it into a party. The party was full and the kids had a blast.  In addition, we held two teen writing camps, partnering with a local university to bring in instructors who did a free week-long workshop with teens who want to learn how to write. BOTH were filled up in a matter of days.

Don’t overlook visuals. This is the age of Instagram, Snapchat, and infographics. These kids have grown up in a world of photos. Make sure your messages include a visual component. Take a photography class or train one of your staff members to take great photos and use those in your marketing. This is what teens expect. They don’t want clip art and they don’t want all text.

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Don’t forget the collection! Kids still love to read… don’t let anyone tell you any differently. And teens want to know about new books and stuff coming to the library just like adult. You can hook up with a company that does targeted email messaging for your library, or build and email lists of interested teens who want to hear about the latest books first. Create a new reads shelf in your teen section inside your physical branch and get teens to work with you to create fun book lists.

Teenagers are an enigma but they are not unreachable. And they are certainly a group we need to focus more energy on if we want our library to succeed now and in the future.
These kids are worth it and it is up to us to make sure that they walk into adulthood with a personal connection to their library because, as you will know, a library is the door to all kinds of success in all stages of life.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Five Super Easy Ways to Hook Teen Cardholders for Life!

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Before you read this post, read this one.

Okay, now you’re ready to tackle marketing to teens. It’s an important demographic and we need to focus our efforts on them to secure the future of our libraries.

And if you are wondering, I actually ran these ideas past a group of teenagers ranging in age from 14 to 18. So you know I’m not just making this up. I got approval from real teenagers.

So, the number one most important rule of marketing to teens is…

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Don’t market to them.

They HATE marketing messages and they are masters at dodging them. They pay for Spotify, Netflix, and YouTube Red to avoid ads. They can spot an ad or a pitch a million miles away and they run screaming when we try to reach them through traditional marketing messages.

A study by the McCarthy group showed 84 percent of teens don’t like advertising and are much more trusting of information sources that are not actively focused on selling messages.

Well, that’s not very encouraging Angela. What do we do?

We build personal relationships with our teen cardholders. If you’ve spent any time with marketers, this is one of those things you heard them say all the time, particularly if they’re a student of content marketing. It sounds new-agey and difficult. I mean, they’re teenagers… can you even connect with them?

Yes. You will have to be patient and build a relationship with them over time in many places, including social media and in-person. This kind of marketing is counter intuitive to the traditional marketing mind. The traditional marketing mind pushes out messages like a machine. Have a program, create a flier, poster, bookmark, give them out to everyone who looks like they might slightly be within the realm of possibility as a participant, and hope that they show up.

If we really want to succeed, we need to focus our efforts and be more personal in our programming and our marketing. It takes more time but they’ll remember how that connection makes them feel every time they think about the library and that’s what we want… that feeling will be a thread through their lives.

Example: School work is hard. A lot of teens are taking advanced college level classes and their parents can’t help them with the material. They need help. Your library probably has some kind of homework help service and you probably market it the traditional way, through print poster and fliers that give out at the library or at their school saying, “Come use our homework help program!” What normally happens? They read it and they throw it away.

What if we offered to come into classrooms and teach teens how to find resources online, both from the library and from other sources, which they can use to help them with their homework. What if we showed them how to find research sources online that are vetted… not Wikipedia and not Google.

Number one, you’re creating a valuable partnership with your local school district. You’re helping the school by helping their students to improve their grades. You’ve solved the problem of getting teens to come to your library for a program on homework help because you’re catching them at school, where they have to be anyway, as part of their normal day. And you’re showing teens that the library is a place where people care about them and want to help them succeed in life.

There are dozens of innovative ways to market to teens through content marketing and in-person events. This kind of more personal marketing helps them to figure out solutions the main problems in their life. This sounds counter intuitive because you’re not directly marketing your library. But here’s why it works: you’re building trust and trust is the basis of any long-term relationship. We want young adults to know that when they have a problem in life, they can turn to the library to help them solve it. This is how we hook teens for life.

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Don’t try to be cool. Teenagers know that other teenagers are not running the marketing department of the local library. They recognize that adults speak to them in a different tone and manner than their peers. So don’t try to work slang or cool phrases into your marketing–they’ll see right through that and it might come off as corny or insincere. Instead, be direct, be conversational, and don’t talk down to them.

Teens are diverse, so your marketing must be. Walk through any high school cafeteria and you’ll realize that teens have widely different tastes in just about everything-music, movies, clothes, etc. Also they are diverse in age… a 13 year old’s interests are vastly different from an 18-year-old. So we do we lump all teens into one marketing group?

If you can pinpoint exactly what kind of teen will be interested in the program or service you need to promote, you can do a better job of marketing. Before you print anything or create any graphics, create a persona. How old is the teen you’re targeting? What kind of student are they? What do they like to do after school? Are they a regular library visitor or do they barely ever walk through your doors? These questions can help you create a narrowly focused target audience so your marketing will be more effective.

And keep your messages age appropriate. You may also have to narrow the focus of your teen program or event. The more specific you can get, the more your event or message will relate to an audience and the more than audience will engage with your library.

Build relationships with people who can help you. For my library system, the best marketing tool I have to reach teens is the teen librarians. These men and women interact with our young people every day. They know their names, their interests, their transportation situation, their struggles in school… all the things I can never uncover even with the best marketing survey possible. Keep your teen librarians in the loop about programs and services you are promoting and ask them to make one-on-one contact with some of the more influential teens at their branches. Leverage the trust that the teen librarians have with the kids by asking them to make personal pitches for marketing initiatives for teens. Word of mouth and influencer marketing is a successful tactic for teens. If you have time, ask your teen librarians to run ideas by their customers to get some preliminary feedback. Listen to their ideas and opinions, then base your decisions on their original input blended with your marketing expertise. Teens want to be respected and treated like an adult. They want their opinion to matter.

Here’s an example of how this worked for us. Teen Read Week happens every year, and I’ve never really been able to get teens to engage on social or on our website with marketing messages for that week because I’ve always been very general with my marketing message. “Hey teens, it’s Teen Read Week. You should… read.”

This year, I decided to create a specific book list for teens. Really, it was a list of reading recommendations for them put together by other teens. I sent an email out to our teen librarians with a form, asking them to ask teens at their library to fill it out.

We compiled the responses into a book list which was our main promotional focus during Teen Read Week. We did social media posts and we created an email that we sent to our teenagers with a direct link to the list. The email gave us a 29 percent increase in circulation for the books in the list. This list did well because teens love to be asked for their opinions about books and they’re more likely to read something suggested to them by another teenager.

Use brand ambassadors because teens care about what other people are thinking. If you can convince influential teens to use the library, then their influence will spread and going to the library becomes cool.

Next Monday, I’ll send the second part of this list of marketing tips to target teen cardholders!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Why Marketing to Teenagers is THE MOST IMPORTANT Job You Have Right Now

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Teenagers are the future of my library and yours. But traditional marketing fails to reach these media-savvy kids. So how do libraries build the foundation for a life-long relationship with this demographic?

Here’s the thing: It’s not all about technology!

Teenagers are not alien beings. I have a teenager and an almost teenager… ages 16 and 12. And they are growing up in a different world but they’re not that much different from the adults I interact with. They are not aliens. They’re just people in progress!

But I do look at my girls and think about how their generation is the future of my library. And then I feel anxious because traditional marketing fails to reach these connected, media-savvy kids. A study recently released by the McCarthy Group that showed teens trust their closest friends the most–and marketers the least! So right off the bat, we’re in trouble.

Building the foundation for a life-long library relationship between libraries and teens is tricky. But I’m not giving up and neither should you! Marketing to teenagers is an important job for our libraries–maybe the most important task we face right now.

Why do teens matter to a library? Duh, they’re the future. Of course, we worry about hooking teens and converting them into lifelong library users. But let’s break that down a bit. Why is it so important that we get teens to use the library and to understand the importance of the library as part of the community?

They are a big segment of our population. More than 12 percent of the people in the United States are between the ages of 10 and 19 years old. That amounts to almost 42 million people… enough people to fill my hometown of Cincinnati 49 times over. We can’t afford to allow a population segment that large to lose interest in the library.

Teens are the gatekeepers to modern trends. They have more information than ever. Style is no longer dictated to teens by TV, movies, and magazines. Teens are deciding trends for themselves. And they’re influencing older generations, passing taste and technology to their parents. They are the driving force behind their family’s technology shift. Why does this matter to libraries? Because a teen who believes their library is an important part of their life will exert an influence over the rest of their family and will affect the library behavior of the entire family.

What are we up against? The internet. I don’t have to tell you that today’s kids are connected. If they want to know something, they Google it. They find directions and order food and clothes online. They watch movies and TV shows online. They research papers online. They live online. A survey from Business Insider found that teens spend an average of 11 hours a day in front of some kind of screen. You can look at that as a constraint or a strength, and your perspective may affect the success of your library marketing efforts. We need to make sure our websites are mobile friendly, that our apps have the best design possible to make it easy for teens to use, and we need to make sure we provide as much content as possible online because that’s where kids are.

They think we’re old-fashioned. I did an unscientific survey of my daughter’s friends, about 15 kids. I asked them which of these words best described their image of the library.  The choices were: reliable, cheerful, trendy, old-fashioned, successful, stodgy, imaginative, and intelligent. The good news is that none of them answered stodgy! But the most frequent answer was old-fashioned. We have an image problem. So part of our approach to marketing to teens is to solve that.

Teens are insanely busy. The American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that teens spend the majority of their day, an average of nine hours, sleeping, seven hours a day in school, two hours of sports or extracurricular activities, two hours watching TV or texting with friends and four hours are split between work, religious activities, eating, grooming, and leisure activities, which includes reading and writing. If you’re having trouble getting teens to attend programs, this is why. It’s got to be really, really good to get them to make time for you in their schedule.

Teens are less loyal to brands and businesses than older generations. They’re not as nostalgic. Teens aren’t just going to use your services because it’s the thing that their parents or grandparents did.

Alright ,so now that you’re completely despondent and you are ready to throw in the towel… let’s figure out how to make this work. We don’t have to give up on teens and, as we mentioned, we don’t want to give up on them! We want them to be a part of the library. So how do we do that?

Next up, I’ll share a total of 13 easy tips that will help you market to teenagers. All of these tips cost little or no money and can be implemented right now in your library! Here’s the first set of tips. 

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Solve the Mystery Of LinkedIn With One Seriously Easy Step

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This is a short post. Because the answer to the question, “How did your library double engagement on LinkedIn?” is easy.

We started posting more often.

Let’s back up a bit. Why would a library even consider being on LinkedIn? It’s just one more social network that you gotta worry about, right? Who has the time? It’s not as sexy or provocative as Twitter and it’s not as timely as Snapchat. It doesn’t have Facebook’s gigantic audience. You could even argue that LinkedIn is hard to figure out in terms of user experience.

Those were all my concerns every time my social media specialist and I sat down to talk about LinkedIn. It just didn’t seem like a place where our cardholders were hanging out. Turns out we were wrong. We just had to put some cheese in the mousetrap.

Before this revelation, we posted to LinkedIn about twice a week, if we remembered. Our standards for success were pretty reasonable. In our documented strategy, we state that we will use LinkedIn to build a professional network to help increase the use and awareness of our business and career resources. Our benchmark for success is 1400 weekly impressions.

My social media specialist went on a well deserved vacation this past summer and I took charge of LinkedIn while he was gone. And I decided to experiment by posting on the site every weekday. I picked things I thought would resonate with the LinkedIn audience–professionals looking to network, find new jobs, and build connections that will help them advance in their careers.

One day I posted a promotion for an upcoming seminar on small business grants, with a beautiful, correctly sized graphic I created for free on Canva.  On another day, I chose to promote a self-help book from our new arrivals feed.  We were already posting a “Worker Wednesday” profile each week, highlighting one of our branch staff on our other social media platforms and I posted that on LinkedIn. I also promoted a niche business magazine from our eBranch and a vintage photo of librarians at one of our branches.

The result is that engagement doubled over the course of two weeks and we decided, right then and there, to adjust our strategy and post more often on LinkedIn. Our little experiment showed there was clearly an audience for those messages.

Be sure you have a social media strategy before you undertake any serious posting on any social media platform. But remember that you can always change your strategy if you discover something new about a platform that has performed consistently for you for some time. Flexibility is good!

And if your library is on LinkedIn and is having success, please let me know. I’d love to talk to you about it!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Tips to Have the Best Conference Ever

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I love conferences. I think they’re a valuable way to learn new stuff. I love stepping away from my normal work space and meeting new people who are excited about libraries and marketing. It’s a great way to re-energize yourself.

But there’s more to conferencing than registering for sessions and booking a hotel. You’ll want to squeeze as much learning and fun as you can of any conference. These tips will help you maximize the experience.

Pick your sessions in advance. Sit down and form a strategy for which sessions will offer the most value for you. Most conferences offer sessions in tracks–those are a series of related sessions designed to give you an in-depth and multi-layered education about one area of your business. But unless your library is sending more than one person to the conference, I recommend that you not marry yourself to one track. Rather, choose your sessions based on the needs of your library. Think about the coming year and the kinds of challenges that may lie ahead for your organization. Then pick the sessions that will help you to meet those challenges. If you’re on the fence about a session or are having trouble choosing between several speakers running at the same time (don’t you hate that problem?!) look on YouTube for video of the speakers and research their blogs to help you make the most informed decision. You can usually tell how valuable a session will be by a past speaker’s performance or blog posts.

Sign up for alerts and reminders from the conference host. Most organizations will send you notices as often as you like with helpful info, including places to eat and have fun when you’re not in a conference session. They may also alert you when sessions are added or dropped from the agenda.

Connect with fellow attendees and speakers on social media. Start checking the conference hashtag on Twitter and Instagram a few weeks in advance to see who’s buzzed to go. Send personal (not auto generated) DM’s to fellow attendees to let them know you’ll be there too. You might also find Facebook and LinkedIn groups connected to your conference where you can meet attendees in advance. Update your LinkedIn profile while you’re there, because you can bet people you meet at the conference will be checking you out. Connecting with conference attendees ahead of time makes it less intimidating to walk into a hotel full of strangers if you already “know” someone from social media. You can recognize them from their profile photo and social conversations and start a real conversation with all the awkward small talk already out-of-the-way!

Practice how you’ll introduce yourself to new people and have a few “small talk” conversation starters in your back pocket. You’ll be surprised how fast you can freeze up in a room of 1000 strangers. So even though it feels weird, figure out what you’ll say to introduce yourself and then come up with three questions you can ask someone you’ve just met to help get a conversation going.

Figure out where you are going. If the conference is held in another city, I try to arrive on the day before the conference begins so I can go to the venue and get the lay of the land. I get nervous and excited on that first day and knowing where my sessions are held before I arrive on that first day is a big confidence boost. It frees my brain up to do more important stuff… like meet new people and take notes!

Take notes in sessions. You might be tempted to skip this step, given that many speakers make their slides publicly available after the presentation or write blogs about their sessions after they’ve given them. (I totally do that–here’s one!) But you’ll absorb more of the information long-term if you take notes.

Give yourself a break. The first time I attended Content Marketing World, I made one big mistake. I went from session to session without any breaks… all day long! It was exhausting and I never had a chance to take a breather and reflect on what I was learning–nor to catch up on emails from the office. (Let’s all just admit right now that those will chase you, even when you’re at a great conference.) So this year,  I took a lunch break. I actually took my food outside and ate while reading a book for 20 minutes. The dose of fresh air and sunshine helped me to focus during my afternoon sessions. Be sure to give yourself space to breathe in your conference schedule so you don’t end the day exhausted and overwhelmed.

At the end of each day, go through your notes and compile a summary.  You can take this back to your library to share with your boss and your co-workers. That time you spend putting your notes in order will also help to reinforce what you learn and will prompt you to start thinking about ways to put those new nuggets of knowledge into practice at your library!

Do you have other tips to help fellow conference attendees? Please share in the comments! Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

Five Easy Ways To Make Sure Your Library Website Doesn’t Suck

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I am woman enough to admit it: making sure our Library website works well, draws visitors, is easy to navigate, and makes life better for our cardholders is hard. I bet you can relate. Library websites are notoriously clunky and hard to use. Very few libraries do it well. This is a shame, considering how many of our cardholders use our websites to search the catalog, place holds, find programs, and do research.

But there are things we can do to improve the experience for cardholders. I learned some great tips this past September at Content  Marketing World, where I heard Andy Crestodina speak. Andy has been in the web design and interactive marketing space since January of 2000. He’s the co-founder and strategic director for Orbit Media in Chicago, and an evangelist for content marketing and ethical digital marketing. I highly recommend you bookmark his company’s blog for lots of tips on how to make your website work better and stand out.

Andy says a lot of little design decisions made by libraries cause analytics problems. Many of those decisions can affect your future ability to measure. Marketers need to combine the analytical process and the creative process to create a great website. That means your website should be a combination of art and science.

To often, we fail to do that–mainly because we really don’t know how. We focus on the look and feel of the website, and not on the data. The best marketers use a lot of data to drive their decisions. So ask yourself–does your website work with or against your analytics? Here are Andy’s tips.

Have a domain strategy. When you create a page or a sub page for your website, do you have a strategy for the domain name? This simple step is very important. Many of us are tempted to create separate domains for our separate pieces of content, but Andy says you should never do that… never, not at all. A good URL structure is short, with one or two slashes, and includes a target phrase. For example, our library has created a page for our summer reading program, CincinnatiLibrary.org/SummerLearn. This URL makes analysis easy and ensures that our site is search engine friendly.

Don’t use dates on your blog. Andy says the analytics shows there is value in refraining from dating all your blog material. Unless you are a news organization, avoid dates. Don’t even put a date in title. It gives readers the impression that your content is old. Readers may say they prefer a date–but analytics show us otherwise.

Stop posting press releases on your website. Andy says press releases are a lazy, insensible way to post content. The content isn’t trusted by the consumer. By all means, send the release to the media but then rewrite your release as a customer-friendly blog post, without the industry jargon, and post the information on your blog. And not as a PDF. Andy calls PDF’s “the rust of the internet.”

Get rid of all your dead-end pages. Have a call to action on every page. Make sure there are no dead-ends… that every page leads to an action that takes a cardholder to another page. This increases conversions. Andy also suggests getting rid of email links. They aren’t trackable and they attract spam. Instead, create contact forms so your cardholders can be funneled to the right person.

Make a page for each of your services.  If you do it right, people will click in from Google. Andy says your homepage is an after thought. Many visitors will not see your home page. It’s not the most important and that shouldn’t worry you. Also remember, as you name each page for products and services, to use words that your cardholders would use. Avoid industry jargon like “solutions.”

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Three Pieces of Advice Library Marketers Can Use Right Now

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This is the time of the year when I start to formulate strategies for the next 12 months for all aspects of my team’s work, including social media, content marketing, contacting the press, and targeted email messaging.

Three of the keynote speakers at Content Marketing World had a lot to say about the future of marketing and looking back over my notes from the conference is helping me a great deal as I formulate the path for next year. I think these thoughts will help you too! Are you creating a strategy? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment or shoot me an email so we can have an in-depth conversation!

Ann Handley, Head of Content at MarketingProfs and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everybody Writes. Slow down. There is value in plotting and being more deliberate and thoughtful. The key is to slow down at the right moment. How do you know what those moments are? Ask yourself these questions:

So what? Why does that matter? When you figure out the point of empathy in your marketing, you’ll stop pushing messages out to your audience and start engaging with them instead. And that leads to better long-term results. We’re in it for the long game, people. Libraries are institutions that last for generations. We don’t have to worry about making our quarterly profits. We have to worry about gaining and keeping our cardholders active for a lifetime. In a way, that’s a scarier goal, but it’s vital to our success. And that leads me to Ann’s second piece of advice.

Wait, what? There is immense pressure to hustle. We feel like we need to be sprinting all the time. We don’t spend enough time on the preparation. Why are we doing this? What is our long-term plan? Ask yourself… will our library marketing sustain us? Opt for sustainability over speed. Are you proud of what you are creating? Does it feed your soul? If the answers to these questions are “no”, then stop doing that thing. I know saying “no” is scary and it feels wrong. But you were hired to market your library because you know what you’re doing. You’re an expert at this. Remind your organization of your ability by exercising your right to make decisions about what marketing will best serve your library.

Mitch Joel, President of Mirum and author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete. The library world is in a major state of disruption. Our funding is cut. Our competition is innovating. Just this month, Amazon Prime started offering free eBooks to users as part of the Prime service. Audible and local bookstores are drawing more customers and we’re losing them.

But Joel says don’t confuse disruption for destruction. We can gain back our footing in this state of disruption by integrating content marketing into our marketing strategy. Joel says content marketers purpose is to transform. It’s about making sure our cardholders realize we’re a dynamic, nontraditional organization with resources that can help them in all areas of their life. It’s about educating cardholders. Our competitors aren’t doing that, and content marketing gives us the chance to differentiate ourselves.

I’m with Joel but the transformation doesn’t happen quickly. It takes patience and consistency and this is where most libraries and businesses fail. However, if you create a consistent and clear message, over time, you’ll transform the image of your library. That’s priceless and it’s a change that will bring you so many other benefits.

How do we do it? Joel suggests that you get really focused. Most marketers think they have to churn out lots and lots of content, but they just end up churning out a lot of crap. So do a small amount but do it really well. Create the best content you can imagine for your library. Become the place where people in your industry turn for great content examples. And, says Joel, depth wins. When you explore topics in-depth, you will gain ground because most libraries don’t do that! (For inspiration on in-depth content, listen to the Longform podcast.)

Lars Silberbauer, Global Senior Director of Social Media and Video at Lego. Silberbauer says the best thing a marketer can do is engage the consumer. Libraries need to get close to their cardholders, to observe and understand their behavior. That’s how we make a connection and build a relationship. Listen and understand their needs.

Silberbauer is also a big fan of responding to customers in real-time and understanding moments that happen between your organization and cardholder right now. Silberbauer says that if we don’t have a continuous give and take relationship with the people using our library, they’ll be charmed by our competitors and we’ll lose them forever. I agree.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Why Libraries and Content Marketing Make the Perfect Couple: A Content Marketing Institute Interview

A crazy thing happened to me this week. Content Marketing Institute published a profile I did a few weeks ago with them. Each week, they highlight attendees of their big, fabulous Content Marketing World conference and I was lucky enough to be in the spotlight this year. Libraries and content marketing are the perfect combination!

You can read the interview here. Thanks CMI!

angelahurshmedal

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

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