Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

We live in a world full of advice.

We get tips (whether we ask for them or not!) on health, fashion, finance, work, and family nearly every day.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word advice means “guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent future action.” Personally, I will take all the help I can get for prudent future action!

There are a lot of blogs, videos, and newsletters that contain vast amounts of promotional advice. Some of it is valuable. And some of it is hogwash.

I’ve worked with libraries for nine years and in the communications field for another 20 years before that. One good thing about working in this field for so long is I can now identify the marketing advice that simply does not work for my library friends. In some cases, that bad advice has the potential to harm library promotional efforts.

👉Ignore this: “You need to go viral.” 

Your library should not pursue the goal of going viral with anything. Libraries are about community. They must focus on making personal connections with the people who use and fund them.

When you focus on going viral, you do so at the expense of creating relationships with the people in your local community who need you. And frankly, you need them too.

Going viral is a fluke, not a real goal. It’s like winning the lottery. It happens rarely and randomly. And your library won’t reap any lasting benefits from the exposure.

👍Do this instead: Create engaging content that speaks to YOUR audience.

If you want to break through the noise and become a subconscious part of your cardholders’ thought process, you must do two things.

The first is to segment your patrons based on their hopes, dreams, needs, and wants. This works particularly well for promotions by email and for social media posts.

Then, you should weave storytelling into your promotions. Stories create emotion and make your promotions more memorable to readers and listeners. Here’s a great example of how one library staffer used stories to change the public’s perception of her library.

Stories also help your library explain your services in a less clinical way. They demonstrate your value and relevance in real, tangible ways that your audience will relate to.

👉Ignore this: “All you have to do is share good content and your audience will find it.”

Your library is creating engaging, entertaining, and informative videos, blog posts, emails, and print pieces. So why isn’t anyone seeing them?

Creating content is only half the job. This blog is a great example. My posts and videos don’t get much traction until I send an email to my readers and post a link on my social media channels.

👍 Do this instead: Have a distribution plan for your promotions.

The Marketing Rule of 7 states that a prospect needs to hear or see your library’s message at least seven times before they’ll take an action like register for an event, download an eBook, or use a service.

For your library, the Marketing Rule of 7 means it’s important to publish content on various platforms and in multiple formats. This will allow your library to reach your entire target audience.

Marketing expert Andrew Davis gives good advice that you can trust! He taught me how to use a tiered strategy–which means that you publish content and then promote it one area at a time, overlapping your amplification efforts.

For example, let’s say you write and publish a blog. You promote it on Facebook. A few days later, you promote it on Twitter. A few days later, you include a blurb and a link in your email newsletter.

With a distribution plan, the work you put into creating that content will reach a wider audience over a longer period of time and get more engagement.

👉Ignore this: “You must increase your social media follower count.” 

It doesn’t matter how many followers your library has on social media. The algorithm decides when and where your library’s organic posts are shown.

I know of libraries that have tens of thousands of followers but suffer from lackluster engagement. And I know of libraries with hundreds of followers who get high engagement.

And the difference between those two kinds of libraries is the content of their posts. Successful libraries post content that gets likes, comments, and shares. Those three actions will determine the success of your library on any social media platform, no matter how many followers you have.

👍 Do this instead: Focus on creating posts that serve your audience.

Look at your insights on each of the platforms to which your library posts. Your audience will be different for every platform. Make a list of the different audiences.

Then, focus your content on serving that available audience. And this may mean you have to pull back on posting to certain platforms. That’s okay!

Focus your energy and resources on creating engaging posts that help your library reach its overall goals. Quality posts will always be better for your library than a high quantity of posts.

👉Ignore this: “There’s a new social media platform or feature that you HAVE to use!”

Twitter Spaces, Snapchat, Clubhouse, TikTok, Reels… the list of new social media platforms and fancy new features increases every day.

Libraries have limited time and energy. But we feel immense pressure to take advantage of these new features and platforms.

We (understandably) fear missing out on a chance to reach a new audience. And we fear missing out on a chance to prove our modernity and relevance.

👍 Do this instead: Claim your domain. Then make decisions based on your library’s goals.

If a new social media platform emerges, it’s important to claim a domain for your library. Make an account and create a handle that matches your other social media platform handles. This prevents nefarious dealers from masquerading as your library.

Next, take a step back and decide if your audience is on the platform. You may need to track the platform for several months to see what kind of audience it builds. Then, you can decide whether that audience is one you need to reach.

You must also think about whether your current library strategy aligns with the platform or feature. For example, if you don’t have the time or resources to shoot and edit short video clips, a platform like TikTok or a feature like Instagram Reels is not an effective use of your time.

Finally, consider your resources. You may not have the staff or time to manage another account or use another feature now. And that’s okay!

Read These Articles Too!

Maybe the Biggest Lesson for Libraries from Content Marketing World: Why Broad is Flawed!

The Top Four Reasons To Use Content Marketing To Promote Your Library on Every Platform

Angela’s Latest Book Review

Let’s Not Do That Again by Grant Ginder

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, enter your email address and click on the “Follow” button in the lower left-hand corner of the page.