It’s hard to do library promotion during the holiday season in a normal year.
When I worked for a large public library system, I both enjoyed and dreaded work in the months of November and December.
I enjoyed it because there were plenty of fun things to promote at the library.
And I dreaded it because engagement took a nosedive. It was hard to get anyone to respond to social media posts and emails. Attendance at programs dipped. Circulation dropped.
Two factors were behind this engagement dip. People got incredibly busy. And people were overloaded with content from businesses trying to make their holiday sales goals.
This year will likely be very different. With COVID infections spreading rapidly across the world, holiday events at schools, churches, theaters, and community organizations, including libraries, are canceled. In the marketing space, we won’t be battling for the attention of a busy populace.
Many families are also hurting financially because of the pandemic. They’ll be looking for entertainment that don’t cost them anything.
And, because it’s not safe to travel, many of our community members will celebrate with only their immediate family members this year. They’ll be craving social interaction.
Your library can fulfill the unique needs the pandemic has created. Here are four ideas to market your library during this pandemic holiday season.
Market your collection, especially your digital items.
Libraries no longer have to worry that people don’t know we have e-books and e-audiobooks. Checkouts of e-books have soared 52 percent since March, according to Overdrive.
Your cardholders want to read and listen to books. Your collection provides them with a sense of normalcy and comfort. So, focus your efforts for the end of the year on promoting your collection, especially your digital items.
Send emails to your cardholders with suggestions for digital collection items to check out. For the next two months, try sending a collection-based email every two weeks. Make these emails short but powerful. Include three to five suggestions and watch how your cardholders respond.
Post collection items to social media. Try mixing it up a bit: booklists one day, single collection items the next day, three items with opposing story themes the next. This is your chance to experiment to see what your followers respond to.
Print bookmarks with digital collection suggestions and slip them into your curbside holds of print items.
Create a couple of bookmarks for different cardholder needs: one for kids’ books, one for cozy books, one for historical fiction, one for nonfiction, etc. If library staff notice someone is checking out books that match one of your bookmark categories, have them slip a bookmark into the cardholder’s holds.
Don’t limit your collection marketing to just e-books and e-audiobooks. Try at least two emails promoting your downloadable magazines, especially magazines that center on cooking and decorating for the holidays. Or try promoting magazines that contain inspiring or enlightening stories, like Readers’ Digest or Smithsonian.
And don’t forget to pick out some holiday-themed streaming movies and music to promote on social media and through email.
Finally, try collection marketing to counteract Black Friday. I really love what the New York Public Library does every year with their “Unlock Your Black Friday Deal” campaign. They have a whole landing page that looks exactly like a Black Friday ad. They even have a video advertisement. Here’s the 2019 version of that page.
This idea can easily be replicated by most libraries. Once you have your landing page created, break down the individual elements to promote.
And the great thing about being a library is that the “deals” don’t end when Black Friday is over.
Experiment with virtual events beyond storytime.
You’ll want to focus your marketing this year on any virtual event that is fun, interesting, and differentiating. Create programs that aren’t being done by anyone else.
This is a great time to experiment with live take-and-make craft events. Put together your craft kits and spend two weeks promoting their availability. Inside each kit, place a print piece that promotes your live event.
During your live event, have a staffer show everyone how to put the craft kit together. It’s fun, it combats boredom, and it gives your community a chance for some social interaction.
Live cooking classes are also a great idea. Have a staffer go live on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to cook a recipe from a cookbook available at the the library. We know people love cooking shows! And it’s a great way to show how the library can help people with their everyday tasks.
Or try a virtual program featuring a library staffer who answers questions about any topic–books, gift-giving, recipes, job hunting… whatever the staff member feels comfortable discussing.
These virtual events are free and they drive engagement on your social media accounts. They’re easy to set up and execute. They also give you a chance to promote other services, like your collection or your databases. Best of all, no one else is doing anything like it.
Inspire your community.
Post ideas for holiday gifts, recipes, and more–especially if they are literary-themed–on your social media accounts, especially Pinterest.
If you don’t have a Pinterest account at your library, starting one during any holiday season is a great opportunity to showcase your library as a place where ideas and information are found.
Create a “wish list” of books that are coming out in 2021 in various genres and themes. Start to build excitement and collect holds on those new books, if the catalog records are available.
Create and release a series of tips for your cardholders on how they can use your library to make their lives a little easier during the pandemic. Brainstorm a list of ways your library provides support in education, the workplace, and to senior citizens. Add those promotions to your social media, newsletter, website, and print promotions to further extend the reach of your marketing.
Showcase your staff.
Interview a diverse group of front-line staff about how they celebrate during the holidays. Or ask staff to name their favorite book of the year, and release their answers as a special end-of-the year staff picks book list.
You can cross promote these staff tidbits on your social platforms. You can include them in your other email messages to cardholders.
Highlighting your staff is content that’s different from what anyone else will be offering. And it creates a human connection by putting a face to the services your library provides.
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