This week, I heard a truism about email marketing.
Marketing expert Ann Handley said, “Email is the only place where people, not algorithms, are in control.”
When the pandemic struck, email became the only reliable way libraries had to communicate with their patrons. More libraries are sending email newsletters. And they’ve gotten good at the basics.
So, it’s time to take the power of email newsletters to the next level.
Focus less on the news, more on the letter
Handley has one of the best newsletters I’ve ever seen. It stands out because she focuses less on the news part… and more on the letter. Sign up, and you’ll see what I mean.
What I’ve learned from Handley is that your newsletter is your opportunity to directly connect with cardholders in their inbox. What does your community need? What can you provide for them? And most importantly, how can your library demonstrate the way it is different than any other organization?
Ann recommends you lose the marketing voice for your newsletter. Instead, write as you would if you were trying to convince a friend or family member to use the library. Be personable and relatable. Your authentic voice will connect to your readers.
New topic ideas for your library email newsletter
Your library newsletter can and should contain more than book recommendations and announcements about programs and services. Here is a list of ideas that go beyond the typical library information.
Send simple how-to instructions for using your library.
There are all kinds of opportunities to share instructions. Write simple steps for using one of your services. Or share instructions on how to complete a task outside of your library, like fill out an absentee ballot form or make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.
Step-by-by-step instructions shared in your newsletter will help you build a relationship and form trust with your community. It demonstrates your library’s ability to find solutions to your community’s most pressing problems.
Answer frequently asked questions.
Ask your front line staff, your chat service operator, or the person who handles your library’s main email inbox to share the questions they get most frequently from the public. Then, answer them in your newsletter!
Your email audience will learn new things about your library. You’ll make your library more accessible. And you’ll build trust with your community by proving your library is a place where answers are found.
Promote blog posts.
Use your newsletter to promote your blog and get more views.
Take the first few lines of your post and use them to tease your newsletter audience. Include a photo or graphic from the post to tie your newsletter into your blog. If you send one newsletter a month but post several blogs, tease each post and include a link.
Your newsletter audience will be introduced to a new way to interact with and get news from your library. It will also give you valuable information about which blog posts your newsletter audience is interested in.
For instance, if you see that your newsletter audience always click on links for blog posts about genealogy and history, then you’ll know to write more posts on that topic and include them your next newsletter.
Promote your videos.
If your library is creating and posting videos on YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, or another platform, your newsletter is the perfect place to give those videos an extra boost. As with the blog posts, share a sentence or two to entice your audience to click on a link to the video.
One note: Include a link to the video on the original platform to which you published. Don’t embed the video in your newsletter. Many email services view embedded video code as suspicious, and will mark your email as spam.
There’s a reason Buzzfeed articles are so popular… they contain listicles, which are articles that feature a numbered list (Hey, this post is a listicle of sorts!) A list is easy for your audience to digest and remember.
Create a top ten list of anything: your staff’s book picks, the ten things a patron can create in your Makerspace, the best albums to download from the library… the possibilities are endless. Your email readers will love it. You can even ask your readers to suggest a topic for a list in your next email newsletter!
Share social media content in your newsletter.
If you library had a popular social media post, you can replicate it by adding it to your newsletter.
For instance, if your library posted a book review that got a lot of comments, likes, and shares, put that post into your newsletter, along with a link so your patrons can visit the social media platform, see the original post, and interact with it.
Likewise, when your library gets a great piece of user-generated content, share it in your newsletter as well as on your social media audience.
Share testimonials and reviews.
We know that trust is built between your community and your library through social proof: namely, other community members talking about how they’ve used and loved your library. So, when you get those reviews and testimonials, insert them into your newsletter.
You should also ask your email readers to share reviews and testimonials of your library. Include an easy way for them to send you feedback on what they love about your library. Then share those in your next newsletter and on social media.
Advocate your library.
As a library staffer, you likely know about all the good work your library is doing. But your community has a very limited understanding of the value of your work.
Your newsletter is a great way to begin to share examples and stories of how your library works to make your community a better place. Share short tidbits or an infographic to explain your library’s value.
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