I write a lot of posts filled with advice about what you should do to better market your library. Today, I’m writing one about what you shouldn’t do.
This stems from a frustration over a lot of bad advice I see from marketing experts. In some cases, they’re just making your average snake oil promise of big returns on investment doing one simple thing. Other times, it is aggressively touting techniques that are either too expensive for libraries or just don’t work in our industry.
So when you hear someone tell you to do these four things at your library, ignore them.
You need to go viral. Let me be really clear because this one is a pet peeve of mine. You DO NOT need to go viral. Going viral is a fluke, not a real goal. It’s kind of like winning the lottery. There is no secret to going viral. No one can ever predict when or if it will happen. In fact, when I hear others make promises that “doing this will make you go viral”, I just have to cringe.
Do this instead. Create engaging content that speaks to YOUR audience and forget the rest of the world. If, by chance, you ever do something that does go viral, enjoy it, bask in it, promote it for all it’s worth. Then go back to your normal life with your documented marketing strategy and content goals. You are not a global company. Going viral will bring you fame and brand recognition in markets outside of your service area, but that won’t increase your circulation or program attendance. And I’ve seen a lot of libraries do some cringe-worthy stuff in the name of fame. Don’t waste your energy.
Use growth hacks to increase your social media audience. It doesn’t matter how many followers your library has on social media. It matters more WHO those followers are. You want people who are within your community and who are engaged with your brand–which means they like, comment, and share your posts.
Do this instead. Be deliberate in your social media. Post meaningful and relevant content. DO NOT BUY followers on any social media platform, ever. Spend your money boosting the posts that will connect with your cardholders and deepen their emotional connection to your library.
Posting on Facebook comes first. Many libraries have a huge following on Facebook and so they concentrate all of their efforts on that one platform. That’s the wrong approach. Facebook is rented land–you don’t own the platform and they have no allegiance to you. They can change their site however they want, anytime they want. Why do we keep rewarding a site that constantly changes its algorithm and makes it more difficult for libraries to hit their target audiences by spending so much time on posting content there?
Do this instead. Diversify your social media strategy. Pick one or two other platforms where you typically see engagement with followers. For most of us, this will be Twitter and Instagram. Create a strategy around those and increase the number and quality of posts you put there. Social media is a moving target and the popularity of social media sites waxes and wanes. Don’t go all in on one platform… that’s like putting all your money in one company in the stock market.
If you write it, they will come. Most of the time, we write a great piece of content and stick it out there in the world on our blog or in a newsletter and we hope or expect people to find it. And then we wonder why our posts get no traction. Writing the post is only half the battle.
Do this instead. Create a strategy for distribution when you fill out your editorial calendar. I do this in a spreadsheet. I decide how I’ll promote each piece of content and then schedule of promotion. It’s not complicated as long as you’re willing to invest time in planning. Marketing expert Andrew Davis advises a tiered strategy–which means that you publish content and then promote it one area at a time, overlapping your amplification efforts. So for instance, you write and publish a blog. You promote it on Facebook. A few days later, you promote it on Twitter. A few days later, you include a blurb and a link in your email newsletter… and so on. If you’re willing to invest a little time in the planning, the execution will run smoothly and you’ll get a longer shelf life, a wider audience, and more engagement from each piece of content.
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