Super Library Marketing! Great marketing ideas for libraries everywhere.

Three Questions You Need to Ask to Make a Powerful Pinterest Profile

Confession: I am a Pinterest junkie. I’ve loved the platform since its infancy. When it debuted in March of 2010, I scored an invite to join from a journalist friend (at that time, you needed an invitation) and it was love at first Pin. Not only is the user-experience friendly, it became an easy place to find ideas and inspiration for all sorts of projects, hobbies, and interests. It’s true that Pinterest really is more of a search engine than a social media platform. When I need a recipe or have to make a craft (hello Solar Eclipse viewers!) I turn to Pinterest. I was so enamored that one of my first blog posts is about using Pinterest for library marketing, which looks really quaint now!

Fast forward seven years, and Pinterest is a major platform for a number of libraries. They are embracing it as a way to drive traffic to their collection and share information. They are reaching audiences that might not necessarily be regular library users.

Pinterest is a highly valuable place for your library to market. When we started strategically pinning, our library had about 2,000 followers. Four years later, we’re now at more than 10,000 followers and each month, the platform drives 25 to 50 percent of the traffic we get to our website. Sometimes it surges over 50 percent to be the highest source of traffic from any social media platform we use. It really is powerful!

When you find success with a social media platform, it’s easy to become complacent and to think that, because it’s working, you must have it all figured out! But at least once a year, I revamp my thoughts about Pinterest and update our approach to posting. So should you! But how do you re-think and update your strategy? Here are the three questions to ask as you update your profile to get the best library marketing results from your Pinterest account.

Ask yourself: Does our profile attract the right audience?

Take a close look at your profile. What are you using for your profile pic? If you have a bold logo, you can use that as your profile pic to drive brand awareness. Otherwise, pick a photo with one clear focal point that aligns with your brand–a book, a small child smiling, or your building if you only have one location. The profile photo area is quite small so make sure the photo you pick isn’t busy. Put your website URL underneath and add a link to your webpage. There is a short area where you can add a description. Right now my library has our mission statement in that line but I am planning to change it to be more keyword friendly… something like “Find books, music, movies, and book-themed crafts and food” to help drive more traffic in Pinterest’s keyword-friendly search optimization strategy.

Ask yourself: Is our library using SEO strategy to make sure our Pins are seen by book lovers?

As I said, Pinterest is mainly a search engine. The way it works is through keyword optimization. It trolls keywords in the Pin title and description and matches Pins with specific keywords to users–think Google but on steroids. So that means that every word in your Pin is valuable.

To make sure this feature is working in your library’s favor, take the time to do a full Pin audit. First, look at your boards. Are your boards providing value for your cardholders, or are they just there because someone in senior leadership wanted extra publicity for an initiative? Clean out any board that doesn’t give a specific, actionable value to your cardholders.

Next, go through and look at your boards individually. Update the names and descriptions to use keywords that will get picked up by Pinterest’s SEO. For instance, I love having book quotes in our board descriptions but it’s not serving us well on the SEO side, so we are in the process of changing all the board descriptions to take advantage of full keyword search potential. We might even rename some of our boards to maximize the chance that our Pins will get seen.

Next, go through each Pin on every board, making sure every link worked. Any Pins with dead links must be deleted. Next, replace the url’s of the remaining Pins to drive traffic to your website when applicable. For example, if you have re-pinned a book from someone else’s feed, replace the URL with a link to the book in your collection, so that anyone interested in the book can place a hold right from your Pin.  For each Pin, re-think the description section and make sure you are using words that will be picked up by Pinterest’s search engine and found by the right users.

Ask yourself: How can I use the content my followers are Pinning to my library’s advantage?

Re-pinning your followers content, when relevant, is an amazing way to grow your own audience and to make your followers feel special. Our staff will go through the boards of a few of our followers every day, picking content we think will resonate with the rest of the audience, and re-pinning it to our boards, fixing links and keywords to make them work to our advantage and to drive traffic to our website when relevant. We also pick one Pin each day to highlight on other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, thereby giving a shout out to our Pinterest followers and creating a relationship of sharing and spreading awareness of our presence on Pinterest.

Bonus tip: Pin books from your collection. Every. Single. Day.

In particular, focus on new books. Pinterest users love to find out about new books using the site and libraries are perfectly positioned to give that information. Every day, we go through the New Arrivals feed on our website and find the books that already have a holds lists… that’s clear proof that there is a demand for that books. We then Pin those books onto our New Books board. One note: make sure the book cover you Pin is as big as possible. If you have Overdrive, you can use their website to find large covers for most books. The bigger the cover, the more successful the Pin will be.

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, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


Attack of the Clones: How To Protect Your Library from Fake Tweets

Today’s post is a warning. It’s also a reminder to keep diligent about a very important part of library marketing–the security of your social media accounts.

First the warning. There is a new website that allows people to generate fake tweets which look like they come from your library. The website is called Tweeterino and I’m not going to share a link here because I don’t want the site’s url to get crawled by the Google keyword search engine. That would only strengthen its presence on the web. A quick Google search will lead you to it.

This kind of thing scares the you-know-what out of me, if I’m being honest. Internet security is already tough. I wrote a piece on the importance of shoring up your social media accounts with best practices on how to do that. Here’s the truth: most of us think a social media security breach will never happen to us. We couldn’t be more wrong. Imagine the nightmare of having your library’s accounts compromised and someone posting all manner of things IN YOUR LIBRARY’S NAME.

And of course, this new website makes it easier than ever. It appears Tweeterino does not actually post the Tweet to your Library’s Twitter account. It’s merely a clone, not a hack. However, I don’t think it makes much difference. The potential for damage is the same. Someone could post a malicious or fake Tweet while posing as your library. The tendency for people, and the media, to take Tweets as a first-person source of accurate information would be devastating. It’s already happened to celebrities. The story in this link was reported after someone saw a tweet from Rob Kardashian.  Except it wasn’t from Rob… it was from Tweeterino.

Impersonation accounts can damage the reputation your library has worked hard to build. It is the social media equivalent of identity theft. There doesn’t seem to be a way to stop trolls from creating these fake Tweets in your library’s name.  If it happens to here, here’s what should do:

Take a screenshot. You will need the fake Tweet for evidence.

Report the attack to Twitter. The social media platform does take reports of impersonation seriously and has a form to help you start the process. Report it right away. Most people who use the form say Twitter responds within 48 hours.

File a second report with Twitter for trademark or logo violation. Twitter is very responsive to these requests, provided your library logo is trademarked. Trademarking a logo is simple process. You can use the website Legal Zoom and have your library’s logo trademarked for about $200.

And how can you prevent such an attack from happening?

Monitor all mentions of your library on social media. I know this is time-consuming and, to be honest, many organizations–even big-name brands–relax their diligence over time. If you use Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, or Sprout Social, you can set up monitoring within the software–all have tutorials on how to do that. You can also set up Google Alerts and search the web for a host of other free social listening tools…. there are a wide variety for you to choose from, based on your needs.

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, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.



Eight of the Best Websites With Curated Content Ideas for Your Library!

Creating content for your Library social media feeds and blogs can feel a lot like feeding a very hungry, very demanding giant. You want your audiences to know that you are the source for all kinds of rich and valuable information but, let’s be honest, when you are doing the entire job of marketing for your library by yourself or with a small staff, keeping up with the audience’s expectations can be exhausting. And the more exhausted you get, the more your original content suffers. You can’t put your best work out into the world when you are feeding the beast.

That’s where content curation comes in. Content curation is the idea that you can share the blog posts, infographics, case studies, and interesting posts created by other organizations on your platforms. Now, I know this sounds counter-intuitive to marketing. Why would you share the good work of someone else with your audience? Shouldn’t we take every opportunity to engage OUR followers with OUR stuff? That would be ideal, but I know darn well you don’t have a staff of 20 writers to fill your content needs every day. Neither do I. The expectations of your audience are the same for you as they are for big brands. You simply can’t keep up, no matter how hard you try.

But here’s the really surprising thing about sharing curated content. If you do it right, by sharing content that aligns with your library’s brand and image, curated content actually helps to strengthen your library’s brand. At my library, we have a strategy which includes sharing curated content related to books and the literary world. That’s a pretty wide definition and it allows us to fill our content needs with posts about authors, new books, books being made into movies, anniversaries of books being made into movies, health news related to reading, beautiful libraries around the world, and a lot more. This strategy has positioned us as a news source for all things related to the book world, and our followers and fans think of us as more than a library. They turn to us for information on all things literature.

I want to share eight websites we use to find content to feed our curation strategy so you can find the same success.

BuzzFeed Books: We pull something from this fantastic BuzzFeed spin-off nearly every day. One word of warning though: check the posts for inappropriate language. BuzzFeed is loose in their writing style and occasionally, they’ll allow an obscenity or two.

reddit Books: This list of user-generated content on books, libraries, and the literary world is pretty invaluable.  It also gives us ideas for polls to ask of our followers or original content posts, based on popular discussion boards. It’s a good way to put your finger on the pulse of the reading world in real-time.

NPR Books: Another place where you can find high-brow literary news and lots of book reviews. I use this site when I’m trying to decide which books I should highlight for individual promotions on social media and through email.

HuffPost Books: Similar to NPR Books but with a lot of news about book-related movies.

BOOK RIOT: A slick and modern website with more in-depth articles and interesting angles on literary themes. Scroll down to the bottom for links to a host of podcasts on every kind of literary subject. This website really warms your soul when you just want to immerse yourself in the world of books and think about how literature affects the lives of everyone.

Books – Flavorwire: The posts here are less frequent but are more varied than other sites. Their writers are very cultural and their perspectives are rare.

Electric Lit: A high-brow website with a fun, cultural perspective on literature. I also just love the look of their website.

NoveList: I’m pretty sure you all know this one exists but if you are like me and you didn’t come to this line of work from library school, this is THE go-to list for librarians who want to learn about new books or find reading recommendations for cardholders. I love their blogs and newsletters, which can be a rich source of content curation or promotional ideas for your library.

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, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

The Best Ways to Find the Right Keywords For Your Library Marketing

The internet is a giant swirling vortex of blog posts, featured articles, and videos. Social media feeds are packed with all kinds of content on every topic imaginable. We know that when you write for your library website, blog, or other content site, you should always be focused on the needs of your cardholders and potential library customers. But how do you make sure your words reach the people who need it most? How does your library cut through the noise and get noticed?

Keywords are the key.

Libraries have a tendency to release content that is not keyword friendly. Libraries are institutions of precision. Library staff believes in using the correct words in the correct context, even if it’s clunky or uncommon. Library staff creates lots of terms and phrases to help us to track down information for our customers. But we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how those terms and phrases might be confusing to cardholders who are not standing with a library staff member.  When a cardholder is online, trying to find the source that will help them to write a research paper, add branches to their family tree, or make a decision about whether to purchase a car, they need us to speak their language.

That’s where keywords come into play. Using the right keywords makes it more likely that the content you write, in whatever format it is in, will end up on the computer screen in front of the person who needs it most.

There are three tools library marketing experts can use to help find keywords to weave into your content. I use the three sites when I write for this blog and they’re reliable and efficient. And all the search engines in this post are free!

Keyword Tool

I first learned about this keyword search tool about a year ago at a conference. It’s my favorite.  Type your subject or starting phrase into the box and it will tell you what terms people are using to search in Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon, eBay, and the App Store. This tool is the reason I write about the subjects I do. For instance, I have learned that people who type library marketing into the search bar are looking for conferences, plans, and ideas.  So, if you are wondering, that’s why most of my posts focus on those three subjects. It works! My conference based stories are among the most popular of the blog and anytime I write about marketing plans or strategies, I get a huge response.

There is a fee-based option that allows you to look up search volume, cost per conversion, and AdWords competition but frankly, I don’t think you need them unless you are creating marketing for a huge and very expensive library campaign.


Using the plain old Google search bar allows you to see what content is rising to the top of Google’s algorithm and what keywords or phrases those top-performing content pieces are using to catch the attention of readers. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery–whatever those articles are using should be what you use too! Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom to see “related searches,” which I find to be extremely valuable as a source of more keywords.


My guess is that you hadn’t thought of using Pinterest as a keyword tool. But I typed “buy a new car” into the Pinterest box and got all kinds of articles and graphics with tips and tricks for buying a new car. I could use this information to create content around how to use our free Consumer Reports Database or our Chilton Auto Repair database, but with words that I know people are using and language they’ll understand. It also helps me to decide what parts of the car-buying or car repair process my cardholders might be most concerned about.

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, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Now Is the Time For Your Library to Get Back to Snapchat

I suspect my library’s relationship with Snapchat will mirror your library’s experience. About two years ago, we claimed our account on this burgeoning platform and started experimenting with content and engagement. It was fun and different. We had high hopes that Snapchat would help us to reach new (younger) audiences. We hoped Snapchat was the gateway for breaking through to that elusive millennial target audience. We hoped it would show teens that we are relevant in their lives.

It didn’t work.

Readers of this blog know that I like to take a scientific approach to marketing. Set your hypothesis, decide on your goals, experiment, gather data, and then adjust: that’s my MO. In line with that thinking, we decided that Snapchat wasn’t worth our time and we dropped marketing on the platform. We decided to wait to see if Snapchat’s owners would address concerns of major (and frankly more well-funded) companies that were looking to do a better job at marketing on the platform. We wanted to see if they would pivot the platform to be less about chatting with friends and more about interacting with community.

Those changes have finally come to fruition and now our Library is jumping back into the water of Snapchat. I think you should join us. Here’s why:

You can now add links to posts. This was a huge sticking point for most marketers. Why spend time creating a story when there was no way to embed a call to action for interested customers? That’s no longer an issue. It’s easy to add a link–simply click on the paperclip icon that appears on the right side of the Snap when you’ve finished recording it. Copy and paste your link into the provided space and you’re done. You should use Google Tracking Links so you can see how many people are specifically using your Snapchat-embedded link to get to a piece of content. For an easy guide on how to use Google’s URL builder, click here. You will have to create the URL on your desktop, then email it to yourself, copy it, and paste it into Snapchat. It sounds like a lot of work but it will be worth it for the tracking data.

You can now create geofilters inside the app. Until recently, you had to create your geofilter using a graphics program, then submit it and hope that it met specifications for approval. My library tried this on three occasions. We were very careful to follow all the provided guidelines–and we were never approved. However, my guess is that now our geofilters will be more likely to be approved and I’m eager to test this out. This article does a great job of walking you through the process of using the app to create a geofilter. Having a custom geofilter for your library gives your cardholders a fun way to engage with your brand and gives you the chance to market your library to new, non-cardholding customers through the Snaps of your loyal fans.

It’s easy to repurpose content on Snapchat. Snapchat has made the process of saving and storing Snaps for re-purposing easier with its Memories function. Basically, when you have a Snap that you want to save, you click on the “download” arrow icon on the bottom left-hand side of your Snap screen. The Snap is saved in the app’s Memories. For a step-by-step guide, click here.

One note: I don’t think its good marketing practice to save an entire Snap story and then reuse it in its original form on another platform. We know that users of different social media platforms have different interests and tastes, and you should have separate strategies for the social media platforms. But it’s plausible that sections of your Snap story can be reworked for another platform, and that’s where saving Snaps to memories can come in handy.

In addition, there are some expert marketers who are experimenting with exporting Instagram Stories onto Snapchat. I have not tried this, so I can’t comment on whether it works, but Carlos Gil is an expert on Snapchat and I trust his opinion. He’s created this great video to show you how to save your Instagram Stories and add them to Snapchat. This is a great experiment to try with your library and could be really useful for those libraries with limited staff and resources for managing social media.

Finally, if you are still unconvinced about the value of Snapchat for library marketing, I want to leave you with a post  full of ideas gleaned from the work of big companies which you could use at your Library.

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, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Three Marketing Lessons Learned at the Jane Austen Festival

I am a fan of Jane Austen. I don’t have to extol the virtues of the Regency-era authoress to you–you work in a library. But I do want to share an experience I had this weekend and the marketing lessons I learned from it.

For the fourth year, my daughter and I attended the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the largest Jane Austen festival in North America and it is amazing for many reasons. The dresses, the food, and the vendors are all amazing and period-authentic. But this year, I found that I was hyper-aware of the marketing aspects of the festival. This is the 9th year for the festival and they are doing everything right, in my opinion. Here are the three big marketing lessons I learned.

Build your fan base over time and don’t discount the wonderful ways they can market for you. They might not be “influencers” in the traditional marketing sense, but your loyal, adamant, and devoted fans are a powerful marketing tool. A group of people who love you and your products will do more free marketing for you than any ad you can ever buy.

The Jane Austen festival boasts thousands of attendees every year and although they do some promotional media on local newspapers, TV, and radio stations, I haven’t ever seen a single ad buy. They don’t need to. The event grew quickly through word-of-mouth. Jane fans tell other Jane fans, in person and online. At the afternoon tea, I spent half an hour giving a new attendee from Indiana the lowdown on what to see, which vendor tents to visit, and where to get a Regency-style outfit for next year. No one paid me! There’s just an excitement that’s contagious and that loyal fans want to share.

The Jane Austen Society of Louisville has a Facebook page with more than 1200 members, including myself. Only about 10 percent of those members belong to the society but everyone who likes the page will share news about the festival with friends across the world. And fans will share recommendations for costumers, tea merchants, and other vendors, providing business even after the three-day festival has ended.

In addition, festival organizers give a place online for fans to talk and post photos and videos after the event. The festival organizers and the smart vendors like and comment on those photos, making festival goers feel valued and special.

Creating an immersive experience leaves a lasting impression. From the moment you step onto the grounds of Locust Grove, you feel like you’ve been transported to Jane’s era. Many attendees dress in authentic Regency wear. People bring picnic baskets and full tea sets and eat on the lawn using authentic place settings and utensils–no plastic sandwich bags or paper napkins here. In a sea of brightly colored frocks, parasols, fichus, and top hats, you can’t help but feel like you’re part of Jane’s world and that leaves a lasting impression.

The festival organizers go out of their way to complete the immersive experience by handing out programs and putting up signs in hand drawn authentic regency font. I know it’s just a font but it sure does a lot to capture the mood! All the vendors set up their wares inside beautiful white tents and many will use signs that say “Bills of Credit Accepted” instead of the more modern credit card signs. It may sound insignificant but it’s those little touches that extend the mood of the festival and make it an enjoyable and memorable experience for all.

Content marketing works. The entire customer journey for the Jane Austen festival only lasts a month. Tickets don’t go on sale until about 45 days before the event. But the society spends the whole of the year prepping Jane fans by posting articles about Jane, talking about Austen spin-off books, sharing photos and videos about Jane Austen and the Regency era, and holding smaller events with the Jane Austen theme. All this Jane talk serves to educate potential festival goers about the era and the author and builds excitement for the main event.

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.

How to Get Stuff Done: A Guide to Time Management

You are pressed for time. I know it. I have the statistics to prove it.

In a recent post, I asked you to name your biggest hurdle to successful library marketing. I confess I thought the answer would be budget. I was wrong. 44 readers responded and 30 percent of those said they don’t have enough time. Money was the fourth concern on the list, behind staff and experience.

Of course, this makes sense. I am pretty sure if you stopped people on the street, most would tell you they never have enough time to do the things they want or need, personally or professionally.

And yet, we are expected to crank out library promotion after library promotion, increase attendance, increase circulation, and increase donations to our library. And we only have eight hours a day to do it all. It’s exhausting. But there are ways to improve your time management.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a number of people who have mentored me in my journey as a library marketer. Most of these mentors are not marketers! They’re upper management and they’ve been kind enough to share tips for time management, which I have put into practice.

It’s my turn to pass the five most effective tips on to you. This is my secret to making sure my work is completed and my personal life stays in balance. No magic, no gimmicks!

Make a wish list for tomorrow.  Make a list of the things that you wish to get done during the day tomorrow. You should be working on this list throughout the day today. Include every task: meetings, lunches, phone calls, calculations, reports, writing assignments–the whole deal. At the end of today, go through your tomorrow list and highlight 3 things that absolutely must get done.

Each day when you walk into the office, your tomorrow list becomes your today list. Do the highlighted things first. Once you have the “must do” items completed, you are free to move on to the non-highlighted items.

Be protective about your wish-list. If someone emails you with a task and it isn’t absolutely urgent that you complete it right this very instant, put it on tomorrow’s list. Your list should be sacred, as much as possible. Remember, if it’s not life or death, it gets put on the next day’s wish list.

Do not beat yourself up if you don’t finish every task on your list. As long as you complete your highlighted items, any task finished beyond that is icing on the cake. Move uncompleted items to the wish list for the next day. Soon, you’ll be better at estimating exactly how many tasks you can complete in a day.

I also use my Outlook calendar as a list keeper. When I am given a task that can be put off for more than one day, I enter it as a “meeting” in my calendar on a future day, keeping ahead of any deadlines. I also enter recurring tasks in my calendar, so I can be reminded to add those tasks to my wish list when the time to do them arrives. This frees up brain power and leaves me more time to focus on tasks for today, and not worrying that I’ve forgotten to do something important.

Set aside time for email every day. I mean it. Put it on the wish list. Try to keep your email reading and replying to your designated time. Outside of your designated email time, unless something comes in marked “urgent” or is from your boss, save your response for the next day. This will not only save you time–it will give you time to thoughtfully consider every email to make the most professionally and emotionally intelligent response possible. The same rule applies to phone calls. You don’t have to answer just because your phone is ringing. Use your voicemail.

Block out distractions. I’ve handled social media for our library for past four weeks as we wait for a new staff member to join my team, and let me tell you, I have to fight the urge to check Facebook and Twitter every five minutes. I log out of our social media management platform to help me with this because I have no willpower. If you are distracted, as I am, do whatever you have to do to get focus. When I’m editing our print publication, I will go to another floor of our building with my red pen so I can focus on editing without distractions. It’s okay to create physical barriers to your distractions. It will help you complete tasks in the long run.

Learn to say no. If you’re asked to add to your library promotional schedule but the addition does not drive the overall strategy of the library or falls outside the boundaries of your documented marketing strategy, say no. Saying no gives you time to really concentrate on the pieces that will help your library the most. Your work will be better the LESS you do.

Take creative breaks. No one can churn out tasks, one right after the other, all day long. Take short breaks and walk the stacks, or go for a walk around the block. Get away from your desk for five minutes to stretch your legs and gather your thoughts. Creative breaks will give your mind a rest and help you focus when you need to.

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.

Make Your Library Marketing Explode with Success for Very Little Money

Fact: customers hate ads.

Researchers at IPG Mediabrands Media Lab asked 11,000 consumers about their ad-watching habits and published the results earlier this year. 65 percent of respondents told the surveyors they skip online video ads. The most recent survey I can find on static digital ads is from the research firm Lumen, which found only 35 percent of digital ads receive any views at all and only nine percent hold the attention of viewers for more than a second. I couldn’t find solid, current numbers on newspaper ad effectiveness but I did this fascinating study focused solely on people who admit to ignoring newspaper ads. Those respondents told researchers they see too many print ads that are not relevant or interesting to them, and that many ads focus on the needs of the company, not on the needs of the consumer. I didn’t find any reliable data on radio, but there is a reason Pandora and Spotify exist and are doing so well. I couldn’t find any study on billboards that wasn’t conducted by a billboard-sales company but, from my experience, they’re expensive and not very effective.

Yet there are times when your library will need to do some kind of advertising. I get that. I would hate for you to spend big money and get no results. So I want to share the four most effective ways we’ve advertised at my library. They’re all cheap, easy, and effective.

Buy targeted social media advertising. I beat this drum regularly but it’s cheap and effective. Facebook ads are so easy to make, my teenagers can do it. You can create very specific audience targets and watch results in real-time, adjusting the ad as needed. I always put this at the top of my list because it’s really the best way for libraries, or any budget-strapped organization to advertise.

Ask your local TV stations to run your ad for free. My library did this for our summer reading program this year. We created an English and a Spanish version of the same 15 second ad, shot it on an iPhone, and edited it in Adobe Creative Suite. It literally took us a day, and our ad runs at least once a day on a top-rated station. The only thing I had to do in return was add the station’s logo to the list of our summer reading sponsors! I found that all I had to do was ask for the time. Sometimes, you’ll get a yes! Then your biggest problem will be figuring out how to get the ad produced… but that’s a good problem to have!

Be super thoughtful with signage.  My library has permanent signage holders at the entrances, on the second and third floors, and in the elevators. For a long time, these extra sign spaces were not what I would consider to be prime advertising opportunities. Then, one day, I hung out where those signs are located, watching our customers come in and out of the library. I noticed whether they glanced at the signs, and where they went next. I took those observations back to my office and gave careful thought to the messages contained in those signs. For instance, I started using the signs at the library entrances to direct customers to our amazing exhibits, which are in an obscure space on the third floor. Lo and behold, as I watched customers after those signs were installed, they would glance at them and then head for the elevators or ask staff for specific directions to make sure they were headed to the right area or to get more information about the exhibit. Sometimes I stalked around the exhibit space and would approach customers, politely asking them how they found out about the exhibit.

I took the same approach in the elevators. We have three banks, and there are three very different sets of library customers using each bank. I rode up and down for a while, trying to notice who looked at the sign and whether they would comment on it or take action. I try to gear the signs in each bank of elevators to be relevant to the customer. It only took a few hours of my time, but it made a world of difference in how effective those sign spaces are and it changed my mind about whether that space was valuable. The best part? Those signs are free!!

Enlist the help of library staff.  Your staff can also be a huge help when it comes to marketing. When your library unveils a new service, educate your staff about how it works and encourage them to strike up personal conversations with customers. Make buttons that staff can wear that say “Ask me about (insert service name here)” to help get the conversation going and give them talking points to help them feel more comfortable answering questions. Talking to your cardholders is the best way to get a message across. They’ll retain what you say if it’s part of a personal conversation, as opposed to a potentially unwanted advertisement pushed into their face.

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.

You Don’t Need to Focus on Brand Awareness!

Prepare the pitchforks. I’m about to say something unpopular.

A lot of libraries list brand awareness as one of their strategy and marketing goals. They believe their community doesn’t know the library exists.  In the past, I’ve not objected to this assertion as long as the library marketer had a defined way to measure success and a documented strategy.

I’ve changed my mind. I think libraries should abandon the idea of generalized brand awareness as a marketing goal. In fact, I think it’s kind of lazy to do overall brand awareness campaigns, unless your library has recently changed names, location, or made some other major operational change.

Libraries need to be more focused, more specific, and more concrete. Brand awareness is too broad and it’s too difficult to measure. But more importantly, recent studies show people know the library exists. In a 2016 study by Pew Research Center on public libraries, 77 percent of respondents said they felt their local library offered them the services they need. That means 77 percent of adults know the library is in the community! 48 percent of people have visited the library in person the past year.  And 27 percent have visited the library’s website.

Getting people to understand that your community has a library isn’t the problem. Your problem is more specific. That same Pew study shows 44 percent of adults think libraries should loan eBooks. A University of Maryland study found that 90 percent of libraries have an eBook loaning vendor. That disparity is one example of where your opportunity lies!

The Pew study focused on public libraries but I think most communities understand that libraries exist at schools and universities as well. And I think school and university libraries face the same problem as public libraries–your cardholders are unaware of the specific services you offer.

So here’s what your library, whether you are public, private, university, or school-based, should focus on with more targeted brand marketing.

We’re not phony. In all your marketing messages, emphasize truth and trust. “You can trust us, we mean what we say.” The core mission of all libraries is to deliver truthful information in a way that’s easy to understand. We don’t make false promises. I think it’s time for libraries to start celebrating that core mission!

Market your well-trained staff. Librarians and library staff are constantly in a state of training. This is pretty unique in any industry… only doctors and teachers get more training than librarians. Your cardholders likely don’t realize this. So we should emphasize the excellent skills of our librarians in specific areas. For example, if you have a MakerSpace, you can market it by talking about the training those staff members undergo and how they use that training to help specific customers. Same with your reference and children’s librarians, who are more like teachers than general store support staff. They know their stuff! We should be marketing their extensive subject knowledge and expertise.

Focus on connecting niche audiences and specific collection pieces or services. There are segments of your service population that are not aware that you have job and career readiness resources and who desperately need to be connected to those services. This more focused approach takes work. You have to spend time finding the target audience and figuring out where they are so you can deliver the message to them. You have to figure out ways to make your message resonate with that specific audience, paying attention to language, tone, and delivery. But more-focused marketing gives better results. Don’t limit it to one message. Do it consistently, over time. At my library, we send emails every month to our cardholders letting them know about specific new eBooks and eAudiobooks added to the collection. And we do specific, collection-based marketing for eBooks and eAudiobooks on a consistent basis on our social media platforms. Over time, this has driven circulation of those digital collections. It will work for you too!

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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