Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

In my sophomore year of high school, I nearly failed my math class.

Geometry at Old Fort High School was taught by Mrs. Hoover, a quiet, unassuming woman with a bouffant hairdo reminiscent of the 1970s. She spent most of the class standing at the chalkboard, diagramming equations to calculate distance and space.

I believe she was doing the best she could do with me. But the numbers and formulas just didn’t sink in. I could not understand them.

I knew I’d be in trouble with my parents if I brought home an F on my midterm report card. So, I decided to take drastic measures.

I was working as a student assistant in the office. When the day of midterm reports came in, I set mine aside. It was easy enough to change my Geometry grade from an F to a B by connecting lines in the letters. I thought I was a genius.

Of course, I was caught. I should have known that my mother, who also taught in the school, would talk to Mrs. Hoover in the teacher’s lounge. I was assigned after-school tutoring several days a week until I eventually brought my grade up to a C.

It’s clear that I’m not good at math. But math is an essential part of my library job. Thankfully, I don’t have to calculate space and distance, at least not in the ways that Geometry requires.

Library promotion does require data analysis. For too long, this was a step that many libraries skipped.

But in the last year, the scales have tipped as more libraries see the benefit of analyzing their promotions. In the most recent Super Library Marketing survey, 55 percent of respondents said they are measuring their promotions to gauge effectiveness. HOORAY!

It would be SO EASY to just chuck the analysis. You are so dang busy. But you must do it because it’s necessary and because the results always reveal something important.  

Without data analysis, you are blind to the trends that emerge in your community’s behavior. Your work is more efficient when you know how your cardholders react to messages and how those reactions change over time. So, to begin the new year, I want you to focus on analytics.

It doesn’t need to take you a bunch of time. You don’t have to be a math whiz. Focus on two core principles:

  • Identify what is working so you can replicate it.
  • Identify what isn’t working so you can STOP doing that.

Three tips to make data analysis easier for libraries

Tip #1: Record your results soon after you send your promotions.

Make it a habit to document your data as soon as the campaign ends. If you love spreadsheets, this is your chance to put them to use. Here are my recommendations for how soon to record the numbers for the most used promotional tactics.

  • Emails: three days after the send
  • Social media: two days after posting
  • Videos: 30 days after publishing
  • Blog posts and website promotions: one week after posting
  • Print flyers and bookmarks promoting events: As soon as the event happens, record attendance and how attendees found out about the event.

Tip #2: Clear your schedule and set manageable time expectations for yourself.

Schedule your promotional measurement time into your calendar like you would a regular meeting. That ensures that time won’t get taken away from you and that you won’t be tempted to give it up for other tasks.

As you begin making a habit of data analysis, you’ll get a good sense of exactly how much time you need to set aside. Then, shut the door of your office (if you have one)  and hunker down. It takes discipline but it’s worth it.

Tip #3: Share your results.

Transparency in marketing is a good thing. It helps your co-workers have a clearer understanding of what you are doing when you promote the library.

In my day job at NoveList, we share our metrics each month. And inevitably, someone asks a question about the results that is relevant and insightful.

Library marketers are often so close and precious about their work, that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Your colleagues may look at the results and find some new insight that you missed.  

Common digital metrics and why they are important

Social media reach and impressions

These two measurements should be analyzed together. They help you see how big your audience is. They also give you a good picture of the overall engagement of your social media content. But, because they are so closely related, they can be confusing to explain.

Reach is the number of unique users who saw your content on their screens. In basic terms, reach indicates the size of your audience on any social media platform.

Impressions refer to the number of times your content appears on any screen, even if one user saw the content many times. It’s a way to measure whether you are meeting the algorithm’s expectations.

If your posts are resonating with audiences and following the best practices of the platform, your Impression number should be higher than your Reach. If your Reach and Impressions are nearly the same, you know you’ll need to adjust something to make your posts more algorithm friendly.

Social media likes and reactions 

Likes and reactions are a way for social media users to express their support for a piece of content. These measurements are proof that your audience connects with your content. Also, every algorithm uses likes and reactions are used as a ranking signal. More reactions lead to a wider audience.

Reactions can also help you refine your posts to increase engagement. For example, if you have an unusually low number of interactions on a post with a very high reach, you might want to consider changing up the text or graphic to make it more appealing to your audience and the algorithm. 

Link clicks 

Most of your library marketing is meant to drive action by your community members. Link clicks tell you whether people were inspired by your marketing to take an action.

If your promotions get only a few link clicks, you may need to adjust the text or accompanying media to be more enticing to your audience. You might also think about whether the promotion is being sent to the right audience on the right platform. 

Video Views and Watch Time

Like social media impressions and reach, views and watch time should be analyzed together. Views can tell whether your video title, thumbnail, and video description are interesting to users. Watch time shows you how engaging the video is.

In my opinion, watch time is more valuable than total views. You’ll be working toward an average watch time of 70-80 percent.   

Email open and click-through rates

An email open rate is the percentage of people who receive your email and open it. It can indicate the success of your subject line.

An email click-thru rate is the percentage of people who click on something inside your email. This is the true indication of success for your email. Once they opened the message, were they persuaded to click on your website or catalog by something you said? Compelling text, graphics, photos, and calls to action will all increase your click-thru rate.

Website visitors and bounce rate

As you analyze the success of your library website, record the raw number of visitors to your website. You’ll also want to keep track of the number of new visitors versus the number of returning visitors. And finally, track the length of time visitors spend on your website.

Note: If your main library marketing focus is on the collection, and your main focus is to drive people to your library’s catalog, your time spent on the website may be minimal. In this case, focus on tracking circulation stats for the titles or collection items in your promotions. 

Blog views and visitors

Blog views are the total number of people who click on a post. This is a good way to measure the success of your post title and your promotion of the posts.

Blog visitors indicate the total number of people who visited any post on your blog.

In general, you want the number of your views to be twice the number of people who visit your blog. That would tell you that your visitors are clicking on more than one post as they visit your blog because your blog is filled with content that your visitors find interesting!

Can you measure non-digital promotions?

Non-digital library marketing, including print promotions and word-of-mouth marketing, is an effective way to promote your library when used in the right context. It’s true these tactics can’t provide you with the kind of clear, concise data that digital promotions can. But there are ways to measure them.

  • QR codes
  • Google Analytics: view traffic to specific landing pages on your website. You can see how well those print pieces work by filtering for time and date.
  • Circulation and visitor stats

Whenever possible, use your print marketing messages to drive your community to a digital platform, like your website, where you can collect more detailed data.

A potential downside to library marketing data

There is a balance to strike between data and creativity. Sometimes, the most successful library promotions happen when you take creative risks.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. And don’t let data paralyze you or prevent you from trusting your gut instinct.

More advice

What the Heck Is the Difference Between Library Statistics and Marketing Metrics? Here’s the Full Explanation and Why They Are BOTH Important!

Looking for Guaranteed Email Marketing Success at Your Library? Here Are Four Essential Metrics To Track.

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