PHoto courtesy of Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

I had a wonderful conversation with a librarian from Canada this week. She heads technical services at her library. We were brainstorming about ways to market her library services, programs, and collection during the COVID-19 shutdown. And we both realized something. The pandemic is awful and scary. But it also affords one big opportunity for librarians and library marketers.

Now is the time to prove the value of digital promotions 

The Marketing Rule of 7 states that a prospect needs to “hear” the advertiser’s message at least seven times before they’ll take action to buy that product or service. This marketing maxim developed by the movie industry in the 1930s. Studio bosses discovered that a certain amount of advertising and promotion was required to compel someone to see one of their movies. 

What does the Marketing Rule of 7 have to do with your library? Digital promotion helps you fulfill the rule of seven. It’s the most efficient way to get your message in front of eyes in a variety of places.

In fact, if you’ve been thinking of slowing down the communication you do right now, don’t. Ramp it up! Your community needs to hear from you.

You should be sending more email to your cardholders. You should be posting to social media more frequently. You should be putting more notices about digital resources on the homepage of your website. 

In this moment, we can accurately measure the results of digital marketing because of the lack of competition from more traditional means of library marketing, like book displays, flyers, and posters. No one is seeing those at this moment, because no one is coming into your physical library building. Digital results are easy to record.

And, if we take this unique moment to gather data to prove that our work yields results, we can provide solid evidence of our worth in the community. We may prevent layoffs and budget cuts. When this is all over, we can say the library was there–and people turned to it for help. 

Statistics to gather now to prove your worth later

Measure virtual program viewing. Many libraries are putting together great virtual programming, particularly story times. If you do live streaming or on-demand videos, be sure to gather metrics on views.

Some platforms will tell you how a person got to your video and some will tell you how long they watch. Most will give you demographics on your viewers, like their age, identified gender, and location. All will give you stats on reach, engagement, and follower growth.

All those data points are valuable. Start a spreadsheet now and track the results day by day. You’ll be able to prove that people watched, how they found out about the video, which videos they liked most, and how long your library held their interest.

Send more emails, and track results religiously. Your library can use email to promote everything from services to events to the collection. Tell your cardholders about the new eBooks and eAudiobooks in your collection. Use your email to drive usage of those hidden treasures in your library, like online homework help, streaming music, and resume or job-hunting databases. Then…  

Tracks holds, checkouts, and usage for digital collection items. Be sure to write down how many holds and checkouts there are before you market, and one week after. It’s easy to prove the value of digital collection marketing when no one can walk into a library to check out a book. Every checkout is likely coming from your efforts!

Ramp up your social media posting schedule on two platforms. Social media is the second method most effective method for digital promotions. And it’s the best way for you to reach non-library cardholders right now.

Current research shows that people are Tweeting a lot more right now. With the amount of content on that platform, I would not recommend posting more frequently on Twitter. There’s too much competition and your posts are likely to get lost in the shuffle.

However, those same stats also show growth in use of LinkedIn and Pinterest during the pandemic. If your library is not posting on those platforms, now is a fantastic time to experiment and reach a new audience.

On LinkedIn, you can share collection items, services, and events that focus on job-hunting, career advancement, personal wellness, diversity, literacy, and entrepreneurship.

On Pinterest, post new eBooks and eAudiobooks added to your collection. If you have DIY, STEM-activities, or story time videos, you can also post those to Pinterest. People are using the platform for inspiration and to find activities to fill their time. Now is a great time to give them some content so they can discover your amazing library.

One more thing to do

Advocate to change your marketing emails from opt-in to opt-out. That means every cardholder who gives your library their email address, in the past or in the future, is on your marketing list. If they want to opt-out, they can (but they won’t!).

I know many libraries will find this to be a radical shift. Libraries worry about angering their cardholders by sending them emails. They don’t want to be one of the “bad brands” that sends spam. Many libraries have actual board policies making opt-in mandatory for emails.

Now is the time to advocate for change. Here’s why.

A library is NOT a business. The normal consumer sentiment about spam email does not apply to you. Your cardholders want your emails.

People love the library. They love what you offer them. They want to know what’s going on at the library. 

You are not going to spam people or make them mad by sending them emails. Unwavering cardholder loyalty is the one big advantage libraries have over their competitors in the profit world. And we should use it!

In addition, people are accustomed to opt-out emails. They know that if they give you their email, you’re going to message them. 

My argument for opt-out emails comes from lots of experience. When I worked for a public library, we sent marketing emails nearly every day of the week. My library’s unsubscribe rate was ZERO percent. I usually saw about 10-15 unsubscribes for every 10-thousand emails I send. Across the non-profit world, the average unsubscribe rate is about .19 percent, according to Smart Insights.

I worked the library outreach table at a book festival every year while I worked at the public library. Without prompting, customers asked about the library’s marketing emails. One lady said she heard her friends talking about them and wondered why she wasn’t receiving them! Several others mentioned they learned about new books and services from our emails. I had people GIVING ME their email addresses to check their status.

Do you think customers of other companies ask about their emails or talk about them with fondness to other customers?  I never have, and I sign up for A LOT of marketing emails from other companies.

Start sending your emails to every customer. They want to hear from you! And you can track usage and circulation increases from those emails to help prove your library’s worth.

You might also want to read these⬇️

What Metrics Demonstrate Your Library’s Social Media Marketing is Working?

How to Reverse Engineer Your Library Marketing Social Media Audiences!

The One Social Media Shortcut That Can Tank Engagement and Cost Your Library in a Pandemic–or Anytime!

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