Photo courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Once you have taken a look inside the minds and lives of Gen Z, you can focus energy on teens as a target promotional audience. Here are seven tips to create effective promotions that reach your teen audience.

Create personas that reflect your diverse teen audience.

Teens have widely different tastes in just about everything-music, movies, clothes… the list goes on and on. That makes it hard for a library to market to them. But, if you can pinpoint exactly what kind of teen will be interested in the program or service you want to promote, you can do a better job of marketing.

Before you write any copy or create any graphics, build a persona to help you imagine the exact teen you wish to reach. How old is the teen you’re targeting? What kind of student are they? What do they like to do in their free time? Are they a regular library user or do they barely ever interact with the library?

These questions will help you decide what to write, what graphics to use, and where to put your promotions. For example, a poster is not effective for reaching an older teen who is an ambitious and college-focused student, who has very little free time, and who mainly interacts with the library online. For that teen, you’ll want to create digital promotions with photos or graphics that accurately reflect that specific population.

Build relationships with people who can help you. 

Adults who regularly interact with teens, including teachers and teen librarians, will be your library’s secret promotional weapon. These adults can give you insight on your specific teen audience, including their interests, transportation situation, and struggles in school. Use these insights to build those targeted personas.

Of course, you’ll want to keep your teen librarians and the teachers in your local school district informed about new programs and services. You can also ask them to recruit teen influencers to help spread the word. Kids put more trust into recommendations from other teens as well as from adults they trust.

Ask teens what they want.

In my former library job, I was asked to promote our homework help service. I created a target persona and wrote some marketing messages.

Then, I went to a group of teens I know and I asked them for feedback. That led to a fascinating and enlightening conversation. Not only did they share their thoughts on my proposed marketing, they also provided feedback on the homework help service itself.

They thought it would be even more helpful to have homework help late at night. They also suggested that libraries schedule teen programs later to accommodate their schedule. And the teens all said that they prefer to do things in groups with other teens, so they wanted us to do more group-oriented programming.

That conversation left a lasting impression on me. I came to understand that teens are not often asked for their opinions by adults. Doing so makes them feel engaged and connected to the library. The conversation itself was a form of marketing! I also gained some insight that helped my library improve it’s services to teens.

If you don’t have access to a group of teens yourself, ask your teen librarians and teacher friends to run ideas by their patrons and students to get preliminary feedback on your services and your marketing.

Let teens market to other teens.

Teen Read Week happens every year here in the U.S. For the first few years in my former job at a library, I was very general with my marketing message. “Hey teens, it’s Teen Read Week. You should… read.” You won’t be surprised when I tell you that never worked very well.

One year, I decided to create a specific reading recommendation list for teens created by other teens. I recruited the help of our teen librarians. They asked teens to write down their favorite book along with a one-sentence explanation of why they would recommend that book to other kids their age.

We compiled the responses into a book list which was our main promotional focus during Teen Read Week. We did social media posts. Then, we created an email that we sent to our teen cardholders with a direct link to the list.

The results were fantastic. We saw a 29 percent increase in circulation for the books on that list during Teen Read Week. And we had more teens than normal who shared the social media posts about the booklist because they had helped to create it.

This list worked because teens love to be asked for their opinions about books. And they’re more likely to read something suggested to them by another teenager.

You can recreate this success for all kinds of promotions. Ask your teen librarians to recruit teens who love the library and who are willing to talk about it with other teens. Let them create TikTok videos, Instagram Stories, and Instagram Reels talking about your library. Encourage them to tag your library when they’re at the library, posting selfies on social media. Teen influencers are the most effective marketing tactic for other teens.

Market to teens’ parents and adult caregivers.  

In my former job, my library received a grant for a financial literacy program. During the first year of this two-year program, we tried targeting our message directly at teens. That tactic was only marginally successful. Attendance was never at the level we wanted.

So, when it came time to plan for year two of the program, we changed course. We started targeting our message to the teens’ parents and teachers. We used the same promotional tactics-fliers, posters, emails, social media posts, and a paid ads. But we changed the message to appeal to adults who are worried about the financial literacy of their teens. We encouraged teachers to offer extra credit to students who attended.

And it worked–attendance rose significantly during that second year. You can replicate that success by taking the same approach at your library.

Emphasize the social value of your library.

Research shows teens appreciate companies and products that support good causes. They want to be involved in organizations that help to transform the world. Your library can tap into teen activism by emphasizing the social value of your library.

Create content marketing for teens to educate them about the work you do. If you have programs and services for underserved populations, let your teens know. If your library is actively involved in social justice causes, let your teens know that too. Then, make sure there are ways for the teens in your community to volunteer their time to help you!

Don’t forget the collection!

Kids still love to read. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently. They want reading suggestions. They want to know when new books are added to your collection.

Ask teens if they want to sign up for an e-newsletter so you can send them reading suggestions directly to their inbox. (Yes, teens read email!) Market your readers’ advisory service to teens. And ask teens to help you compile reading lists to send to other Gen Z patrons.

Did I miss anything? Has your library had success marketing to teens? Share your ideas in the comment section.

You may also like these posts

Your Library Can Reach Teens With Programming and Marketing! A Look Inside the Lives and Minds of the Elusive Generation Z

Zoom Fatigue is RUINING My Library Programming! How the Heck Should Libraries Deal With That?

Latest Book Review

The Cold Vanish by Jon Billman

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on the “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and LinkedIn.