A few months ago, I asked readers whether their library had a blog. 61 percent of respondents said no. I have to include myself in that statistic. And the more I think about it, the more that bothers me.

Blog-less libraries are missing a HUGE opportunity. A blog has a number of promotional advantages that simply cannot be replicated with any other type of tactic. And to make my case, I am going to share insights with you from a session at Content Marketing World–one that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about in the months since the conference.

Amanda Todorovich is the Director of Content Marketing at the Cleveland Clinic. She’s the 2016 winner of the Content Marketer of the Year from the Content Marketing Institute and she runs the most visited hospital blog in the United States, Health Essentials. Her session was all about the Cleveland Clinic blog and its success. And her story made me want a blog for my library.

Amanda says a blog is the best promotional tool because it creates brand awareness and relationships with current and potential customers. The goal of the Cleveland Clinic blog is to create a space in which the hospital is top of mind all the time with people looking for health information. Think about this: the hospital cannot create demand for their services. So they aim to provide credible health information at all times so that, in the unfortunate moment when someone is sick or injured, the first place they think of is the Cleveland Clinic.

That principle applies to libraries as well. There are times when a library cardholder may not need their library, but we want to stay top of mind with them so that they’ll turn to us when they do need books, or help with a struggling reader in their home, a passport, a voter registration form, help to create a resume, or whatever problem they might have. Libraries are not just about programs and books and there is a lot of value to offer your cardholders beyond those two basic services.

But Amanda also says in order for your blog to work, you have to stand strong. Your blog cannot be all things to all people. You’ll have to decide on your mission, write it down, and stick to it. This doesn’t mean that you are ignoring certain cardholders. It means that your blog has one focus, one mission and that everything you write–no matter the audience–drives at completing that mission. For example, Health Essentials mission is to engage users in daily conversation using health, wellness and clinical content that is unique to Cleveland Clinic. They’re not ignoring anyone. Rather, they are focusing all their energy on delivering on that mission to all of their potential patients and patient families. See the difference?

Blogs have a value beyond pure promotion. Using the right keywords and paying attention to metadata, tags, and links will help boost your position in search traffic. That means people will be able to find you first during a search. Some big brands pay big money for great search results placement. Can you imagine what would happen if; every time someone searches Google for a book, a DVD, or information that they land on your library’s blog? The impact would be mind-blowing.

Some library marketers are already taking this advice to heart, including Brook Savoie, who works for Lafourche Public Library in Thibodaux, Louisiana. She told me, “Our librarians take turns writing a post weekly. The purpose is to just bring more awareness to things that we do! It works well for me for social media, because I can share these blog posts weekly with our audiences without having to create any content myself.”

So, step one is convincing you, your staff, and your administration, to launch a blog. It’s worth it. You can do it. Here are Amanda’s other tips for blog success.

Focus on creating better posts, not more posts. You don’t have to post every day. Just pick a CONSISTENT schedule. Create a list of topics and then write. That’s what I do with this blog. I spend roughly three hours a week on this blog and that’s really only because I am my own editor. If I could just write and revise a draft and then hand it off to another person to edit, it wouldn’t take much time at all. I spend about ten minutes crafting and testing headlines. I spend about ten minutes making the graphic. I spend about ten minutes scheduling all the distribution. I write on the weekend and it feels like it doesn’t take much time at all.

Be willing to say no. Amanda says she doesn’t have a lot of friends outside her team because she says no to a lot of requests by other departments for blog posts. The hospital blog is focused on the needs of their readers, not on the needs of the organization and that’s why it works. When your customers are the center of your universe, you are providing them with value and they’ll keep coming back to you. You are beholden to your cardholders, and they should be your only concern.

Measure and test and test again. Never be content with the results, even when they seem good. Ask “what if” all the time–it could lead you to an extraordinary idea that takes your blog to the next level. Testing actually keeps blog writing interesting and keeps life exciting (I AGREE).

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