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Super Library Marketing: All kinds of marketing ideas for all kinds of libraries.

Five Totally Doable Things That Make Your Library Content More Shareable

Every content creator fears no one will read their work. By contrast, the most exhilarating thing you can do in marketing is to write something that people read, share, and comment on. I speak from experience. There is no better compliment.

Last week, I told you about the upcoming keynote I’m giving on content marketing and shared some reasons why your library should be creating content. The more I write for this blog, the more I learn about the kinds of content my audience will read AND share. That second part is important. You want to reach new people and make them library fans. But what makes your content shareable?

I have five simple ideas for you. Each of these increase the likelihood that your content gets shared.

Write longer, compelling pieces. Seriously, the whole thing about how your audience only has the attention of a goldfish is bunk. They will read a 2,000-word post from you if it’s compelling.  People read whole books with 50,000 plus words! I don’t know why this myth of the “too-long content piece” exists when there is literally hundreds of years’ worth of proof that it’s not true.

If you tell a story in long form, with authentic quotes, an emotional arch with conflict and resolution, and a clear beginning, middle, and end, it will not feel like a long read. And a piece of content with all of those characteristics is also likely to be memorable. Great stories stick in our minds long after we read them. And memorable posts get shared!

Long form content is also better for your library’s search results. Back in 2012, serpIQ conducted a study involving more than 20,000 keywords. The results showed that the average content length of the top 10 search results was more than 2,000 words.

I have some evidence that this works personally. In 2018, I purposefully started writing longer blog posts here. Most of my posts land at around 1,000 words… not quite up to serpIQ’s standards but about 200-300 more words per post than I wrote in 2017. And guess what happened? My engagement stats increased by nearly 215 percent over 2017!

My library just started a blog two weeks ago. We will experiment with post length. And you can bet that I’ll push our writers to put out longer and more compelling stories, even if that means we have to publish fewer total posts. Write longer, more interesting posts and people will respond.

Be emotional. According to research from the journal Psychological Science, our emotional responses to content play a huge role in our decision to share that content. But all emotions are not created equal. The study shows people will share content that makes them feel fearful, angry, or amused. There is also a ton of evidence to suggest that people like to share content that inspires or contains a surprise.

Conversely, you should avoid creating content with negative emotions like sadness or even contentment, which tend to cause inaction. We don’t want that!

Insert images in your content. You may have noticed I’ve started inserting more images into my posts on this blog. That’s because adding images to your content is proven to increase the likelihood that it is seen and shared. My post popular post ever is this one, which contains three images. Those three images are strategically placed to emphasis the meaning of the words. They also break up the text for a visually pleasing read.

You must also use images on social media when promoting your content. This rule applies to all platforms. Your audience is visual and they want to see images in addition to your important words. The right image–one that evokes emotions or really serves to succinctly illustrate whatever you are saying in your content–will also make your content more shareable.

Write simply and conversationally. The more your audience understands what you’re trying to say, the most likely they are to share your posts. Define unfamiliar or difficult words, titles, or services. Go through the draft of your material and highlight words or terms that may confuse your audience. Then, find a better way to say or explain those words.

Never take it for granted that your reader has been a lifelong user or follower of the library. Words used by librarians to describe services, programs, catalogs, and databases may seem common to you and your staff. They are not common to your reader. Always explain. Then, ask a non-library employee to read your work. I often take my stuff home and ask my husband or my teenage daughter to read it. If they find anything to be confusing or convoluted, I know I need to change it.

Shorten your sentences and paragraphs. Shorter sentences will make it easier for your reader to understand and absorb what you are saying. The same is true with paragraphs. A piece of material with lots of long paragraphs looks thick and off-putting. Readers will skip lengthy paragraphs, according to British grammarian H. W. Fowler. In addition, the Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack Study shows people are more likely to read an entire web page when the paragraphs are short. And if you can get the reader to look at the entire post, it’s more likely that they’ll share the content.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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Eight Major Reasons To Add Content To Your Library Marketing {Infographic}

I’m so excited to be the keynote speaker for the Illinois Library Association Marketing Forum Mini-Conference in Chicago in a few weeks. My brain is entirely engulfed in content marketing as I formulate the talk. There are also some big content changes afoot at my library. I’ll talk more about those when we have our campaigns up and running. But, let’s just say that most of my marketing focus in my professional life is on content–why we should do it, how to make it work better, and how to be efficient in our content creation.

The most important part of the speech I’ll give next month is the “why.” Why is content marketing important to libraries? This was actually the focus of one of my early posts here on blog. The argument for content marketing hasn’t changed. You can make all the posters and fliers you want. People don’t pay attention to those push promotional tactics. That’s why marketing seems frustrating.

You want desperately to break through the noise of life and become a subconscious part of your cardholders’ thought process. You want them to think of you every time they face a problem. You want them to remember they can come to you for pretty much anything they need. This is the common struggle for libraries everywhere, no matter their size, staffing, or service area. Honest to goodness, the only way to achieve that is through content marketing. I know this from experience.

There is now a lot of data to back up the assertion that content works. I want to share some of that with you. I’m hoping that, if you are hesitant or nervous about working content marketing into your overall library marketing strategy, these stats will convince you. I truly believe this is an opportunity for libraries that cannot be missed. If we are to survive and thrive as an industry, we need to do more content marketing.

Here are the facts for why content is key to library marketing.

Why Content is Key to Library Marketing

80 percent of people prefer to get information about your library from a series of articles versus an advertisement.

71 percent of people are turned off by content that seems like a sales pitch. Which means, if you are doing mostly traditional promotional marketing, it’s not working.

75 percent of people who find local, helpful information in search results are more likely to visit a physical building. We want to get more bodies inside our libraries. Content is the key.

Only 45 percent of marketers are using storytelling to create a relationship with their audience. Most big brands are still running ads and push promotion. This is our open door. It’s a huge opportunity for libraries. This is how we sneak in and take away audience share… by telling stories. And who doesn’t love a good positive story about a library?

95 percent of people only look at the first page of search results. Optimized content (that’s content that uses keywords that are likely to be picked up by Google and other search engines) is incredibly helpful. If your library’s content appears on the second page or later, people won’t see it.

Blog posts are the content that get the most shares. And if your post is helpful to others, it’s more likely to be shared. 94 percent of readers share a blog post because they think it can be useful to someone they know. And the more often you publish blog content, the more often your content will show up in search, which increases the likelihood that people will find your library while doing a search. Amazing, right?

90 percent of the most successful marketers prioritize educating their audience over promotion their company’s promotional messages. Education is our main industry. Libraries are perfectly aligned to make this work for us.

But here’s a stat that really surprised me. 78 percent of effective content marketers use press releases as part of their strategy. Yep, press releases can be content marketing too. Use your releases to be informative but to really pitch amazing story ideas to the media. If you have a great story and you can make all the elements available to the media, you can let them tell it and take advantage of their built-in audience to spread the word about your library.

These stats come from a variety of great blogs including Impact, Marketing Profs, OptinMonster, Elite Copywriter, Cision, and Forbes. I hope they’ve convinced you to do content marketing at your library.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

The Latest Data on the Biggest Video Library Marketing Questions

Regular readers of this blog know that I love video marketing. So do most marketers. And so do our cardholders.

A study released by Hubspot on video marketing found that video marketing has not yet reached its saturation point. More brands and libraries are creating videos. 87 percent of organizations use video as a marketing tool. That’s because it’s getting easier to convince our senior leaders that video is an effective and vital part of any marketing strategy. 87 percent of consumers say they like seeing videos from brands. It’s interesting, because that number matches the percentage of  brands using videos for marketing! You can read the full report here.

Videos are getting easier and cheaper to shoot, thanks to smartphones. So, you may find that your biggest video marketing problem right now is figuring out what kind of video to create, how long your video should be, and how to make sure your finished video is seen by your cardholders. Those are my biggest issues! I researched the answers to those questions. Here’s what I found.

What kind of video should we create? 

Consumers want to see short, educational videos. That’s a big opportunity for libraries.

To narrow down the most relevant topics for your library marketing educational videos, find out what questions your cardholders are asking of staff. To do that, check the inquiries you get on social media accounts. Talk to front-line staff. And, if your library website users an after-hours chat service or has a help line, ask those employees to give you the top five questions they are asked. Then create a video to answer each of those questions.

Here’s a great example from the Denver Public Library. It’s a short video explaining how to use their self-check-out machines.

If you have the time and equipment, invest in serialized video content designed to educate your community in a new skill, like languages. I love how the Boone County Public Library did this with their “Word of the Week” video series. The series is tied to use of the Mango Languages service.

And I also love this video from the J. Willard Marriott Library which offers a seven minute tour of their building!


Here are some more ideas for library marketing videos.

How long should our videos be?

This answer is a bit more complicated because it really depends on where you are going to post the video. Each of the social media platforms has an optimum video length, according to the latest data.  Here are the bottom line stats:

Instagram: A study by Hubspot revealed that the Instagram videos with the most engagement were those that were less than 30 seconds long.

Facebook: That same Hubspot study says engagement on this platform is highest for videos that run around 60 seconds.

YouTube: Hubspot says engagement is highest for videos that are about two minutes. However, there is a ton of other research that suggests YouTube audiences will watch longer videos if the content of the video is excellent.

LinkedIn: Many thought leaders in the social media space suggest this platform has the most potential for video growth. LinkedIn suggests marketers keep videos between 30 seconds and five minutes for optimum performance on their site. Essentially, that means they’re not sure which length is best because most brands aren’t posting videos on LinkedIn. And that leaves the door wide open for libraries to experiment and take the lead in getting brand awareness and action from LinkedIn users.

Given these varied recommendations, you may consider making several versions of a video to get the most performance out of your videos. My library recently did this for a video we created called Library Love, where we had librarians read notes of thanks and gratitude written by cardholders. The main video runs four minutes and is housed on our YouTube channel.

Now, you’ll notice that’s a bit longer than the recommended two minutes. But the content is good and we have gotten a lot of engagement. We created shorter versions for the different social media platforms.

How should we promote our videos?

It isn’t enough to post your video on YouTube or your website and forget about it. No matter how short your video is, it still took time and effort to create. You’ll want to make sure people see it. The most effective way to promote your videos, in my opinion, is through emails. Send an email to your cardholders with a link to your video. You might also consider playing your videos at an event. We did this with this same Library Love video. We played it our most recent board meeting, at staff meetings, and for legislators at a recent event. And of course, we’ve already talked about how to optimize video for social media. But if you have the budget and ability, putting a little money behind promotion of your video on social media can help tremendously.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

 

How a Last Minute Idea Can Lead to Amazing Library Marketing Results

I have a theory about the kind of person who becomes a journalist. The general news reporter who gets sent to the drug busts and homicides and fires and tornadoes is a junkie of sorts. They like the high that can only be found when you’re racing at breakneck speed to get to a scene before your competitor. They do their best thinking when they’re working on a deadline…a really tight deadline. They love that adrenaline rush.

I was just such a junkie. In fact, my addiction to the breaking news high was one of the reasons it took me so long to leave the business. Even after I was worn to the bone, dog-tired, and miserable, I stayed in TV news because I thought I could not get that high in any other profession. I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a former news colleague. He was covering a major event at my library. He said to me, “I never thought you would leave news for a laid-back job at a library.” And I laughed, out loud. I may have even sounded maniacal. My library is definitely not laid back. And I’m certain, from my many conversations with my dear readers, your job isn’t either!

It’s true that, on most days, I have more time to plan and organize than I did in TV news. Overall, things move at a slower pace through the funnel at my organization–and that’s a good thing. There’s more time to think, be creative, and consider marketing from all angles. There is time to make sure all the pieces of a promotion are in place and crafted as perfectly as possible.

But being a little agile, a little willing to do some marketing on a rushed deadline, is also a good thing. I wish more organizations would open themselves to last-minute marketing. It can be fun and challenging to take ideas that come at the last-minute and bring them to life. You may do some of your best work when you are formulating promotions in a few days or a few hours! A good deadline can push you and your staff to be creative in ways you’ve never imagined.

It’s easy to recognize these quick promotional ideas if you are open to them. Seize an opportunity from a vendor or a partner organization. Recognize when your library has a connection to an event in pop culture. Look for pieces of user-generated content that are so fun and engaging you can’t want to wait to promote them. If it makes sense, if the promotion aligns with your library’s overall strategy, and if you have the time to do it, there’s value in turning a promotional opportunity around in a few days.

You don’t have to be a formal journalist to do this. Anyone can include some flexibility in their marketing schedule. The key lies in planning–which sounds contradictory. But the trick is pretty simple.  When you’re laying out your regular marketing schedule, be sure to deliberately leave holes where you might be able to drop in promotions.

For my library, this drop-in marketing usually happens when we have a great event that’s been planned by a branch at the last minute. This year, I was looking at the calendar and I realized there was a series of anti-bullying puppet shows for young children scheduled at several of our branches. I realized the event was in line with one of the core elements of our library’s overall strategy. I also did about ten minutes of online research and discovered programs of this nature were not available anywhere else in our community. I quickly put together a social media and email promotional plan and launched it in the span of a week. Our emails had a 30 percent open rate, a ten percent click-through rate, and attendance was high.

Most libraries will find it easiest to create a drop-in marketing campaign on social media. Sometimes the idea will become a creative outlet that can drive engagement on your platforms. This was the case when one of our marketing department co-workers noticed that the front covers of many old books compliment or match clothing! She grabbed some books and some staff and posed them together. Her Instagram posts drew new followers and engagement for the library’s account.

Of course, to execute drop-in marketing, you need the approval and trust of your supervisor. So, have the talk ahead of time with your superiors.  You won’t have to turn a last-minute campaign around every week or even every month. But when you do… it will be worth it. Sometimes the gold nuggets of promotion are the ones you can’t plan ahead of time!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

Seven Podcasts that Will Make You a Better Library Marketer

An exciting thing happened this week! The library marketing profession is now the subject of a podcast. It’s called Library Figures. It’s produced by Piola, a company which designs library websites.

Many smart and strategic library marketing professionals including Kimberly Crowder of the Indianapolis Public Library (featured in this Super Library Marketing post last year) are guests on the pod. Each episode focuses on a successful library marketing strategy. The host and guest dissect the implementation, tools, success measurements, and results. I amhonored to be featured on episodes one and four. Maybe it’s silly, but I’m just beyond thrilled that we’ve got our own podcast corner where we can share and learn.

I’m a huge podcast fan. My podcast player is overflowing with episodes. I’d love to share my list with you and explain a bit about why listening to these shows will make you a better library marketer.

The Science of Social Media

This is a new discovery for me. This show, produced by Buffer, focuses on data, insight, trends, tips, and more. Anyone who works on social media for any library will find value in listening to these episodes, which cover subjects for everyone from beginners to those with advanced social media skills.

Marketing School

I just discovered this podcast last month and I’m catching up on back episodes (there are more than 900!) but I really love it. The creators release one ten-minute episode every day focused on one nugget of great marketing wisdom. Past subjects include blogs, event marketing, crisis communications, and generating great content ideas.

Brand Newsroom

This show, produced by a content marketing agency in Australia, bills itself as “the show for anyone who has a say in how companies are communicating.” The hosts use a round-table discussion format to dissect topics like crisis communications, branding, and networking.  The most interesting episodes involve disagreement between the hosts. They all have a different perceptive on marketing, and I find that they help me to consider issues from different angles. They also have a fun segment at the end of each episode called “On my Desk” where they share something they’re really excited about, from apps to software to new books.

Marketing over Coffee

As its name implies, each weekly show is recorded in a coffee shop. The two hosts talk casually about all kinds of marketing topics including writing, influencer marketing, SEO, and other relevant marketing problems and solutions. They also take listener questions, which I really love. And the episodes are short, so they’re easy to listen to during a typical 20-minute commute.

Social Media Marketing Podcast

Michael Stelzner, who runs the Social Media Examiner website, is the host of this show. His guests have a range of backgrounds and answer questions about all kinds of social media topics and tactics. Mike is really good about digging down and getting the basics about each topic. He also shares a new app at the beginning of each show. Most of his discoveries are free or very inexpensive and they’re all designed to help make marketing easier and more fun.

Unpodcast

I’m going to end in an unconventional spot by recommending this podcast, hosted by husband and wife team Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer. I have seen Scott speak at Content Marketing World several times. He’s hilarious and brutally honest about the faults and triumphs of marketing. Alison is his partner in crime and besides being the cutest couple in marketing,  their observations are always spot on. Some episodes dissect customer service, some talk about marketing mistakes, and sometimes they talk about innovation and entrepreneurship. They really make me think. Just trust me and subscribe.

And of course, we support our fellow library marketers producing podcasts. Read the back stories about how those shows are produced and then subscribe to the library podcasts on this list.

And if you have a podcast you want to recommend, please let me know in the comments!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

How to Hook New Cardholders and Make Them Loyal with Email

We talk a lot about emailing our cardholders with information about new products, services, and collection items. But you can also use your email list in a powerful way to reach people who have just signed up for a library card.

Most libraries take a minimalist approach to “on-boarding” a new cardholder.  Once a person fills out a library card application, we hand them a card, a welcome brochure, and send them on their way. We’re friendly and we’re genuinely excited to welcome them to our system. But we make a mistake that’s common for a lot of businesses and organizations. We know our system inside and out and we often forget that our new cardholders know nothing about what we offer. We assume they can find their way to the things they need.

It’s important to help those cardholders learn to navigate the behemoth number of resources and items available at the library. A solid on-boarding campaign retains new cardholders and turns them into lifelong loyal users of the library. The first 90 days of a new library cardholder’s experience is crucial to determining their feelings of connection and loyalty to the library.

It also makes good business sense. Studies show it costs five times as much to gain a new customer than it does to retain them. A library marketer practicing good stewardship will want to do their best to keep new cardholders coming back to use the library.

The most effective way to on-board a new cardholder is through email marketing. Many libraries create a campaign with specific emails sent to new cardholders at a pre-determined pace. Those emails slowly introduce them to new features and inspire them to try out all the library has to offer. It’s easy to do this using some mail systems, like OrangeBoy and MailChimp.

My library has a 90 day on-boarding campaign set to run automatically through OrangeBoy. Creating it was a bit of process. But the effort was worth it. In addition to retaining customers, the on-boarding emails reduce unsubscribes for future targeted promotional emails. Here’s how we did it and what we learned about doing it well.

First, make a list of the services, events, and collection types that get the most use at your library. You’ll want to include information about the most popular features you offer in your emails to new cardholders.

Then, make a list of the services, events, and collection types that are interesting or unique to your library but don’t get a lot of use. These are the gold nuggets of your on-boarding campaign. You’ll have the attention of your new cardholder. The relationship is fresh. Why not use that to showcase the hidden treasures at your library.

Finally, create an outline of your campaign, mapping out each message, when it will be sent, and what it will say. Look at the two lists you’ve created and narrow your focus. Try to promote no more than four things per on-boarding message. You don’t want to overwhelm your new cardholder. Rather, you’ll want to introduce people to the library in small doses. Pick a theme for each message with a specific call to action. Keep the language simple, conversational, and free of industry jargon.

Create, test, and release the messages. This part took me nearly as long as creating the plan did! But you’re almost there.

Track results. Of course, you’ll want to use a Google URL tracker or Bitly link to see which services and items get the most interest from your new cardholders. You can also track unsubscribe rates, and if you have the ability to divide cardholders into clusters, you can see where your new cardholders land after they finish the on-boarding process.

Here are a couple of examples of my library’s on-boarding emails so you can see what we do.

How do new cardholders react to these messages? They definitely don’t hate them. Our unsubscribe rate is 0%. We’re a large system and we’ve sent these for several years to thousands of new cardholders. Over the course of our campaign, we’ve had a couple of hundred people unsubscribe.

We send six emails over 90 days. The first email gets a lot of engagement, which is not a surprise.  The fifth email about using your neighborhood branch (see the image above) is the second most engaging email for us. Overall, about half of the new cardholders we sign up end up becoming loyal library customers. Most use our computers but the rest are checking out physical and digital items or using our MakerSpace.

If your library is doing something to on-board cardholders, I’d love to hear about it. Please take this poll and tell me about what you are doing in the comments.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

 

The 2019 List of Best Conferences for Library Marketers

I’m a conference junkie. I find conferences to be inspiring and engaging. I love the networking. I love the expo halls. I love the swag. I love the keynotes. I love meeting new people and finding out that you face the same challenges in the workplace. I love learning.

If you have money in your budget to attend a conference, I recommend you take advantage of it. But there are so many conferences for marketers that it’s sometimes hard to choose which one will be best. I’ve been searching for conferences for myself and my staff, so I thought I’d also compile a list for you. I’ve picked these conferences based on the value for the cost, relevance to our work in the library world, and the reputation of the organizers.

An apology for my international audience: this year’s list includes only American-based conferences. That’s because I can’t vet the international offerings. But… please let me know about great conferences in  your area or country in the comments so I can add them to the list. Include the conference URL and your recommendation if you’ve attended. I’ll cite you as my source.

In addition, there are some great library marketing conferences in the works for November and December but details are not yet available yet. I’ll add them to the list later in the year, so you may want to bookmark this post.

Social Media Marketing World
March 20-22, 2019
San Diego, CA
If you have the budget and social media is a huge part of your library’s work, this is THE conference to attend in 2019. Every one of the experts in the field of social media will be there, including Jay Baer, Mari Smith, and Ann Handley. You will learn everything you ever need to know about social media and all the platforms. It’s an expensive ticket ($1537 for the All Access pass) but the Marketer pass gets you into everything you’ll need at a $997 price point. In past years, I’ve purchased the Virtual pass. It’s $697 and gets you recordings of all sessions and workshop. That’s still a great deal.

Government Social Media Conference
April 2-4, 2019
Nashville, Tennessee
#GSMCON2019 is for people who manage social media accounts for government agencies, like the library. You’ll learn strategy, video production, and the latest trends in social media. The full ticket registration is $795 and the deadline to register is Feb. 28. It includes breakfast and lunch and a virtual pass. The virtual pass by itself costs just $225, and gives you access to video or audio recordings of most sessions along with speaker slides–a great deal for budget-strapped libraries. I’m sending one of my staff members to this conference.

Vidcon
July 10-13
Anaheim, CA
My husband attends this conference every year and he works in the health care industry at a non-profit children’s hospital. Last year, when he got home, he put together a lunch and learn to share his experience with his co-workers. He raves about it. There are tons of sessions that focus on video, from production to promotion. It’s packed with YouTube stars and they’re not all teenagers (but we can learn a lot from young folks!). Tickets are cheap–the creator pass is $175 through April 1. Your major expense will be the flight. My husband stays in an AirBnB near the convention center to save on hotel costs.

IDEAL ’19: Advancing Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility in Libraries & Archives
August 6-7, 2019
Columbus, Ohio

There is a movement in the library world to add more diversity and inclusion to libraries, and this conference is the perfect place to be educated on library diversity issues. Key speakers include Kimberle Crenshaw, professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School and an authority in Civil Rights, and journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones who covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine. Register by April 30 for $200. After that, the rate is $250 and registration closes on July 1.

Content Marketing World
Sept. 4-5, 2019
Cleveland, Ohio

You’ve heard me rave about this one before. Last year, a group of seven library marketers joined me and it was SO MUCH FUN. CMWorld has tons of sessions for marketers of all levels and interests. There are sessions on SEO, internal communications, video, social media, strategy, and artificial intelligence. The networking potential is amazing. Super early bird rates for the main conference are $1099 and end Feb. 28, then the price goes up to $1299 until May 31. I know that’s steep for most libraries. However, if you email the organizers and ask for the nonprofit discount, you can get a percentage off the Main Conference ticket. That brings the price into the affordable range, about $800. There are also all-access and special industry forums that cost extra if you have the budget.

Library Marketing and Communications Conference
Nov. 13-14, 2019
St. Louis, Missouri

Confession: I’ve never been to this one, and I’ve always wanted to go. Our library’s conference budget is tight and I’ve always had to choose between CMWorld and this one. But I might not have to this year (fingers crossed!). I’ve heard great things about this conference. There are tracks on social media, graphic design, strategy, and more. Plus, the networking capabilities are phenomenal.  The conference sold out in 2018. Registration for this year has not yet begun but make sure you sign up for the email list so you can get notifications when it opens.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

Sensational and Free (or Cheap) Social Media Scheduling Tools

A well thought out social media strategy is only half the battle for library marketers looking to reach audiences without spending budget. Once you decide who you will talk to, and what you will say, it’s time to figure out how to physically get those posts scheduled.

I’ve scoured the web for scheduling tools and tried them out to see which ones will work for libraries. Some tools are better for people who must share accounts with lots of contributors. Others work best for single person teams. Some work well for libraries posting on only a few social media platforms. Some are meant for larger systems with wide strategies.

My list does not include schedulers that only allow you to schedule posts on one platform, like Tweetdeck. That is inefficient for any library system. I also recommend some paid plans, but only the ones that offer the most features for the least amount of money.

Before we get to the list, I want to address a myth about scheduling social media posts. I’ve heard lots of marketing “experts” say that it’s wrong for brands to pre-schedule social media posts. Their argument is that a pre-loaded social media platform is inauthentic. I call bullshit. Your cardholders don’t care if you are posting something live or using a scheduler. If the post comes across as inauthentic, it’s because it’s not written well!

There are good, data-driven reasons for scheduling social media posts. If you’re watching the data and engagement of past posts, you can use your scheduler to give your audience what they want, when they want it. You don’t have to worry that you’ll forget or get distracted. Pre-scheduling also gives you time to create honest and meaningful text and graphics. It’s not lazy. It’s incredibly smart.

Now, there in one warning I must share about scheduling posts in advance. You may run into a situation where you’ve pre-scheduled a post and something happens that makes the post irrelevant. For instance, if you schedule a post to promote an event at a branch and then something happens that causes that branch to close unexpectedly. That’s just something to keep in mind as emergencies arise in your system. Your checklist of things to do in an emergency should include checking your pre-scheduled social media posts.

Here are the tools I think are best for social media post scheduling.

Hootsuite

The free plan lets you schedule on three platforms. You can pre-load 30 messages at a time. My favorite feature is the boost plan. If you have money for social media ads, you can boost posts through Hootsuite instead of going to each individual platform. That’s super convenient. There are also analytics and free social media courses.

Buffer

This site’s free plan also lets you post on three platforms. You can pre-load 10 messages per platform. It includes a link shortener, an image creator, and the ability to upload videos or GIFs. If you want more capability, their most basic “Pro” plan is $10 a month and lets you post on eight platforms and schedule up to 100 posts in advance. One note: you must pay the Pro rate for the analytics capability on Buffer. Analytics are not included in the free plan.

Zoho Social

Their standard plan is the most robust I found in my research. For a little more than $8 a month, two team members can post on eight different channels. The plan includes analytics, the ability to pause and resume posts, a link shortener, and other features. There is a free plan, which lets one person post on all the channels, but you can’t schedule posts ahead of time.

Friends + Me

This site’s free option gives you the ability to schedule on two platforms, with up to five posts on each platform. That’s not super helpful unless you have time every day to schedule posts or are not active on social media. However, the site’s bottom tier paid plan is $7.50 a month and gives you a ton of features– you can pre-load as many as 500 posts to five platforms. 10 people can also use the platform on this plan. I think that’s a good deal.

Crowdfire

Crowdfire’s free plan lets one person post on the big four social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook LinkedIn, and Instagram) with up to ten pre-loaded posts per platform. But I would actually recommend the first level paid plan, call Plus. For about $7.50 a month, you get access to Pinterest and 100 pre-loaded posts, plus a pretty robust analytics tracker, hashtag recommendations, and no ads on the mobile site.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

 

How to Create a Social Media Strategy That Actually Works

The most effective, free marketing tactic in the library marketing professional’s toolbox is social media. Personally, I love it. I think it’s fun. And interesting. And despite the trolls, I’ve made some actual friends and professional connections in the social space.

For my library, it’s the easiest way to get our message to the masses. But with so many platforms intended for different audiences, it’s also overwhelming. Should you post on every channel?  What should you post? How often do you have to post? If you work alone, you need to be efficient. You don’t want to spend a lot of time experimenting with social media. You want to know what works, and how to be successful. You need goals.

A few months ago, Marcy Timblin, Public Relations Specialist at East Bonner County Library, sent me this email: You always have such timely, comprehensive advice for getting the most out of social media marketing for libraries. I dream of putting it all together to formulate an amazing social media plan that I can implement – even though I am the “numero uno” social media marketer at my library district.”

I appreciate the vote of confidence. Really, any success in the social media space centers on strategy. A strategy lets you take your library’s overall strategy and use social media to make those goals a reality. But telling you to have a strategy and putting one together are two totally different things.

I am blessed with a social media specialist on my staff. Part of her job is to create and maintain our specific social media strategy. And it’s a big job. We’re a large library system (41 locations, 600,000 cardholders) and we post on multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Tumblr). It takes time to sort out how to make each channel work for us. But we do have a process for creating a strategy. Here is how we do it.

Consider what you already know. Go through each of the social media platforms that your library already uses. Look at the analytics for those platforms. How are people using the platform? Which kinds of posts do they respond to?

Most platforms now offer analytics (Facebook is best by far) so you can evaluate success. And if your library is using a scheduling platform to manage your social media posts, you can use those analytics. For those libraries posting organically on platforms without the use of scheduling software, there are options for free analytics. Read this blog article to find one that works for you.

In this step, you are looking to replicate past success and trim past failures. You may find a platform you are using that is not working for you. Drop it. You may also discover a platform that is working really well for you. Concentrate your efforts there.

What are your library’s goals for the year? As with everything you do in library marketing, your social media work must be in service of advancing your library’s overall goals. So, get that list in front of you for the next two steps.

Create a mission statement for each social media platform. Look at your library’s goals for the year and what you know about each platform. Then write a one to two sentence mission statement for each of the social media platforms, lining up your library’s goals with the current audience for that platform. This mission statement should be something your staff and your cardholders will understand. Here’s an example:

LinkedIn: Discover career advice, business tips, and free resources that will help you succeed at work.

Twitter: Get regular updates on our collection, library events, and the literary and entertainment world.

Instagram: Photos tell the library’s story, one snapshot at a time.

And so on. Once you have created the mission statement for the platforms, you can create a persona for the people who will follow you on that platform. The mission statement and persona will help you visualize your audience every time you post. You’ll be able to connect with them because you’ll know who they are, and what they expect from you.

Experiment with scheduling. Look at your current analytics to see which time of day and day of the week work best for social media posts. Use that as a starting point for deciding when and how often you’ll post. Be consistent with your posts. And set a cadence that you know you can keep up with.

Track metrics and be flexible but not overly reactive. It takes time to achieve your library goals using any kind of marketing. The exception is social media. That’s because the platforms themselves are transforming and changing at a rapid and unpredictable rate. Algorithm adjustments and new features can throw off your strategy.

Here’s my general rule: keep an eye on changes in the social media landscape. When a big change occurs, like when Facebook changes its algorithm, sit tight for a while. Give it a month at least and see how the platform’s change affects your reach. Watch to see how your audience reacts. Watch to see how other brands adjust based on the change. Then, if you see your reach is changing negatively or positively, make the adjustment. Don’t wait until your strategy cycle (six-12 months maximum) is over to make your change. You’ll lose months of audience reach if you wait.

Never stop researching. I follow a couple of websites and podcasts religiously to keep up on social media trends. Of all the marketing tactics, that’s the one that takes the most personal learning upkeep! I rely on the Social Media Examiner Podcast, Social Media Today, Social Media Explorer, and Rebekah Radice.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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