In a time of social isolation, video is a great way to communicate with patrons. A video can help you provide service to the community without having an open physical building.

If you are nervous about using video for marketing, I’ve got a secret for you. Video, whether live or recorded and edited, is easy and relatively inexpensive. During the COVID-19 crisis, it’s now necessary for you to produce videos. And, when things return to normal (and they will) you will have the skills to extend the reach of your library to home-bound customers through video.

Using video for library outreach

This list will help you brainstorm specific videos to fill your library marketing content editorial calendar.

Demos: You can show library users how to navigate your digital resources. You can show them how to use specific platforms, like Overdrive, LearningExpress Library, or Demonstrate how to search a database, like NoveList or Consumer Reports. Make a video to show how patrons can talk to a librarian through chat or email while buildings are closed.

Programs: Many libraries are moving their planned program presents online right now. And this is a great video opportunity. You can record a teaser video, then the actual event, and a highlight reel for further promotion of more presenters. You can also move your story times to video format.

If you do these videos live on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, your viewers can still ask questions by commenting. In fact, live videos are a great option for library reach.  Viewers spend up to eight times longer with live video than with video-on-demand.

Book reviews: Turn the camera on yourself or a fellow book lover and record a review! I have started doing this on my YouTube channel. It took me about five minutes, once I figured out what I was going to say. Writing a Goodreads review of the book first helped me to organize my thoughts.

What equipment do you need?

In the past, producing video was expensive and difficult. But that is no longer the case. If you have a smartphone, you’re set. You can also record video on most DSLR cameras.

If you have an Adobe Creative Suite license already, you can use that to edit. You can also use iMovie or a host of other online editing software pieces, many of which are free. Here’s a great list. I edit the Library Marketing Show videos on my iPhone or using YouTube studio. And that’s really all you need!

Before you begin

Before you record anything, it’s important to identify who your target audience will be, and what the goal of the video will be. What do you want your audience to do after watching the video? This will help you plan the script, the call to action, the setting, and the goals by which you’ll measure the video’s success.

You should also decide where the video will live… on Facebook, on Instagram’s IGTV, on your library’s webpage, on YouTube, etc. Decide on one target location for your video.

Writing a script or outline

Most library videos will need a script or, at the very least, an outline. If you skip this step, you’ll may spend more time than you want editing. You may even discover you have to re-record certain sections. Your video might end up being longer than necessary. It might not be as engaging as you hope.

When I do the Library Marketing Show, I write a script. Sometimes it’s just an outline with key points. And sometimes it’s a word-for-word account of what I want to say. The script or outline helps me to formulate my thoughts. It also helps me time the video so I’m sure I’m not babbling on for longer than I need to be. But I don’t memorize my script. You know those cards with key points that I hold up during the video? Those are like slides in a conference presentation–they are visual cues to me so I can remember what I need to say.

As with any kind of library marketing, the language of your video should be relaxed, clear, and conversational. Avoid complex sentences and industry jargon or buzzwords. Speak to your video audience as you would to a customer at the front desk.

Also remember that the written word will sound different when you read it out loud. I rediscover this every time I do a webinar or a video! Be sure to read your script out loud before you record.

If your video features an outside presenter, write an introduction, as you would if you were doing the program in person. Be sure to tell your viewers how they can contact you with questions or comments during the video, if it’s live, or later if they are watching on-demand.

Time to record

Before you start recording, be sure your device has enough storage. If you’re using your smartphone, turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature to avoid distracting notifications. When I shoot my videos, I also do a few test recordings to make sure the lighting, the background, and the sound are the best they can be.

Record horizontally. This gives your video the best viewing experience on most platforms. If you are recording yourself speaking, be sure your camera is on a level surface and won’t fall over! And don’t forget to focus on the object that’s most important, like your face.

If you are shooting a video of yourself, be sure to look at your phone’s camera… not at yourself on the screen. This may feel like the weirdest thing ever. But it looks more normal because it mimics looking someone in the eye.

It may take a couple of takes to get a video right. Don’t despair… and don’t erase any bad takes until you publish your finished video officially. You never know what footage you may need in editing.

If your video needs music

The right music can set the mood and tone for your video. Do you need background music or something that will manipulate the mood of your viewers? Will someone be speaking in the video? What kind of pace should your music have–fast, steady, ethereal, dramatic? These are all factors to consider when choosing your music.

Most music isn’t free. If you use an artist’s music without permission or proper licensing, you risk legal action against your library and your video may be removed from social media channels. Look for royalty free tunes to fill your music needs.

Royalty free songs aren’t free to use; they’re quality songs available for a single flat fee. This means you don’t have to worry about paying additional licensing fees or royalties in the future. YouTube, Shutterstock, and Epidemic Sound are all great sites to find royalty free music.

Posting your video

You’ve got a couple of good options for housing your finished video. YouTube is the largest video hosting platform It’s free to upload your videos to YouTube and optimize them for search. I created this guide for optimizing your videos on YouTube.

Vimeo is another choice. There is a free option, with limited storage space. During the COVID-19 crisis, videos on Vimeo might be higher quality because YouTube has reduced its streaming quality to deal with bandwidth issues.

You can also post videos on Facebook, IGTV (this is Instagram’s version of YouTube), and of course, your library’s own website.

Pick one spot to house the full-length video. Then use your other marketing channels to drive traffic to your video on that one, main location.

It doesn’t have to be perfect

We all have this idea that the video must be narrated by the perfect person with the perfect hair in front of the perfect background. That’s old school TV thinking and it’s no longer necessary. In fact, the best videos are the ones that show your library’s authentic self. Don’t worry about getting every little hair to lie in place, having the right clothes, or always saying the right thing. You’re talking to real people, even if they are on the other end of a video screen. And they’ll forgive you–and love you–if you aren’t robotic. You will find fans will love you just for being you!

More Library Marketing Help During the COVID-19 Crisis

Recording of live session on promoting your online resources through social media.

Self-Care for Library Social Media Staff in the Midst of a Crisis like #COVID-19

Library Marketing During a Pandemic: Tips for Working from Home or the Office and Dealing with the Stress of a Crisis

How #COVID-19 is Impacting Social Media Marketing and What That Means for Libraries

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