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You’re Doing Marketing Wrong: Why Targeted Emails Make Your Cardholders Happy


I’m going to make a statement. You can agree or disagree. But if there is one thing that I know about marketing a library, it’s this:

If your library is not sending regular, targeted email messages to your cardholders, you are doing marketing wrong.

This isn’t just my personal belief–it is a method which has worked with impressive results at my library. It wasn’t an easy process. It took us a good year to get into the groove. We made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. But we found our niche in collection marketing–sending regular emails with links to new materials in our catalog that are of interest to our cardholders, based on their way they use their card. This method increased circulation. It helped us maintain visits to our physical branches. We even used these emails to convince occasional and inactive cardholders to start using the library again.

We’re not perfect at it, by any means. We’re still experimenting. But what I can tell you after a year of emailing and tracking email results is this: it works.

It pains me to see so many libraries shying away from email marketing. I know there’s a long-standing fear among libraries that cardholders will view library emails as spam. Many libraries worry that cardholders will resent getting emails from the library, will unsubscribe, and stop using the library in protest. It’s simply not true. Our unsubscribe rate is near 0 percent. You read that correctly. Zero percent. Last month (March 2016), we had an average open rate of 32 percent and an average click-thru rate of five percent. Our cardholders want to hear from us and when we get it right, they are engaged with our collection and with our locations.

There are three big fears keeping libraries from gaining cardholders, visits, and circulation through targeted email message.

Libraries are worried about asking cardholders for their email addresses. Your cardholders won’t be put out by the request. The average consumer is accustomed to giving out their email address in exchange for marketing messages targeted specifically to them. I did this when I went shopping at Yankee Candle a couple of years ago and now I buy candles several times a year because I get messages based on the kind of fragrances I purchase and the sales I like to shop. It’s convenient for me and it’s beneficial to Yankee Candle, I’m sure! The same thing happened with my local grocery store–I signed up for their rewards system and regularly get emails for deals based on items I purchase. I expect to be marketed to–so do your cardholders.

Libraries worry that segmenting cardholders into clusters is an invasion of privacy.  There are software systems which allow you to segment cardholders without actually seeing what they’re checking out. At my library, we are only able to see that a customer checked out an eBook from Overdrive or borrowed a song from Hoopla… we can’t actually see the title of either checkout. I admit that seeing the title would be nice and would help us to target our cardholders even more effectively. Think about the marketing potential you’d have if you knew that a particular person checked out a dozen cookbooks every time the holidays rolled around… or that they are a mega-fan of Stephen King! In any case, I can’t see the titles and therefore, I cannot breach the privacy of any of my cardholders.

Libraries worry that by sending targeted messages to segmented audiences, they will miss out on the chance to get their message to all their cardholders. Many libraries are sending the same message to every cardholder, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people in one burst. It feels like the natural thing to do. “Everyone needs to know about this!” The problem with that approach is that your cardholders are individuals. One message never fits them all. This is particularly true if your service area covers a range of incomes and demographics. The needs and interests of your cardholders vary greatly. By targeting your message, you are more likely to say something that matters significantly to your cardholders, which makes them more likely to take an action, which makes it more likely that your email will be successful. Some of my most successful marketing emails were sent to less than 2000 cardholders.

In addition to cardholder usage, most email software systems will allow you to target emails by location. We did this for a recent branch anniversary celebration, sending notice of the party only to people who had listed that branch library as their home location–which amounted to 14,000 cardholders or 2.3 percent of the total number of cardholders in our system. The branch manager thought 250 people might show up for the celebration. She was surprised when 400 eager cardholders came to the party! That’s success, my friends.

Do not let your fears about email set you up for failure. Your cardholders want to hear from you. There are not very many industries who can say that their customers are begging to be marketed to… let’s take advantage of it and give the people what they want!


Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.



Snapchat Is Not Dead and You Need It For Superior Library Marketing

As social media platforms often do, Snapchat recently did a major update and basically changed everything, from the user experience to the layout to the way you find and follow people and brands.


I am a heavy Snapchat user in my personal life. In my role as a library marketer, I am in charge of posting and data analysis on the platform. So I’m on it many times a day. I’ve also taken part in #ChatSnap on Twitter (it’s a weekly chat about Snapchat!) and I’ve read Chelsea Pietz’s book, Talking in Pictures: How Snapchat Changed Cameras, Communication, and Communities. I’m familiar and comfortable with the platform.

My first impression of the change was this–Snapchat is moving back to its original mission of promoting personal connections and conversations between individuals. Which is not good news for most brands. Most companies are preparing for a pay-to-play move by Snapchat. I expect that, at some point in the near future, Snapchat will offer marketers the chance to buy their way into the main feed of their followers and those who don’t pay will get little or no organic reach (think Facebook).

But for now, we should all be moving our libraries in a new direction to work better in the updated Snapchat. With the change, getting personally connected to your followers is now even more important. That’s because the new Snapchat algorithm sorts a users’ feed based on the people they interact with most often, putting the most frequent connections at the top of the feed. So, if you are talking and having conversations with your followers, they’re more likely to see your stories posts. If you don’t take the time to engage personally with users, you’ll be pushed to the bottom of the feed.

This is not to say that you need to engage with every single user every single day. My personal way to approach this is to send Snapchat messages or chats once or twice a week to a group of users. I do it alphabetically so it’s easier to keep track of who I’ve messaged. I might just ask a question like, “What are you reading this weekend?” or “Did you know you can get a passport at the library?” and then send it to 20 or so followers. Even if they don’t respond, the very act of reaching out from my end is enough to bump my stories up in their general feed. It literally takes five minutes of my time.

My Library is still appearing in the main feed for our users. This is also true for the long list of libraries which I follow on Snapchat. I’m not exactly sure why libraries are distinguished as friends instead of brands, which are now in the Discover tab, but I’m not going to complain or bring attention to it!! I haven’t seen any drop in the number of views on my posts to the Library account.

And for all the talk that the change will drive users away from the platform, data shows us usage hasn’t dropped. Stifel’s social media usage tracker shows Snapchat’s audience reach dropped by only about 0.1 percent in February. In an article posted in US News and World Report,  Analyst John Egbert says Snap seems to have lost only about 90,000 of its 187 million global daily active users in February. 18 percent of U.S. social media users are on Snapchat and users spend an average of 30 minutes a day on the platform. That number is higher for millennials. You can get updated Snapchat user stats here. It’s pretty fascinating and when I feel like I might be wasting my time on the platform, I just read these.

The bottom line is libraries should still be active on Snapchat. But it shouldn’t be your top priority. There are other platforms–namely Facebook and Instagram–where your time is better served. Use Snapchat to share videos of special occasions, news about new books, profile a Book of the Day, and practice your video and storytelling skills. Don’t devote major resources to it.

A post I wrote about Snapchat last year still applies and you can use it to help you brainstorm ways to connect with followers on the platform. It is important to have a presence of some sort on Snapchat. If you haven’t yet claimed your account, you should. You should be posting at least once a week. And you should offer to answer questions or provide help to your followers on the platform. We have to go where our cardholders are in order to best serve them.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedInInstagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


YouTube Fundamentals to Guarantee Library Marketing Results

Now that you understand the importance of video marketing for your library and you know how to create a video that will be interesting, suspenseful, and drive cardholders back to your channel for more content, let’s spend some time talking about the pros and cons of putting everything on YouTube–and what you can do to make your YouTube channel the best it can be for you and your cardholders.

This post is full of tips I learned from Jonathan Stanley, who is the creative manager of online video content and production for Lowe’s. I attended a session led by Jonathan at Content Marketing World and I left with pages of notes!

YouTube is a great option for posting and sharing library marketing videos. Jonathan says it’s the #2 search engine in the world (wow!) and it has billions of users. You can put your library marketing videos on your website but, according to Jonathan, the reality is that you also need to post your videos on YouTube. That’s because YouTube is the home of next generation of influencers, including that elusive and coveted demographic–teenagers! It’s where people go to watch videos these days (myself included). So your library must have a strong presence there.

To make your YouTube channel the best it can possibly be, your first task is to clean it up. Do not let your YouTube channel become a video dumping ground. Check all the videos on the channel right now and get rid of the videos that contain out-of-date information or that promote programs and services your library no longer provides. For the remaining videos, go in and do some editing to optimize the ability of users to find and watch those videos. You can do that by renaming the videos, rewriting the video descriptions, and updating the keywords.

Once you’ve cleaned up your channel, it’s time to start adding new videos. Jonathan says the production value of your library marketing videos doesn’t matter all that much. Consumer distrust of companies is at an all-time high. Most YouTube viewers equate slick video production with an advertisement, and they really hate ads. So Jonathan encourages you not to worry so much about every aspect of video production and instead focus on the quality of the storytelling because that will strike viewers as authentic and valuable, and they’ll be more likely to watch.

As an example, Jonathan shared a video Lowe’s created about the correct way to use a tape measure. It’s slick and well-produced.

To date, this video has gotten more than 50,000 views and 152 likes. However, Lowe’s noticed their video is out-performed by this homemade video, shot in a workshop.

It has bad lighting and varying audio levels. But it has been viewed more than 17 million times and has more than 29,000 likes! Why? It’s more authentic. So don’t worry too much about the look of your video. Instead, make sure the content is so good that people can’t help but watch it.

Next, Jonathan says you should create a schedule so that you post consistently and map out a plan to publicize your videos. His example comes from a series called “How to Cake It.” The creator, Yolanda Gampp, posts a new video every Tuesday.

The thing Jonathan wants you to focus on here is the way Yolanda sets a cadence. She’s built her audience by creating a sense of anticipation for her videos and by delivering on that anticipation. You could set your cadence at any level you can support on a consistent basis but you should tell your audience when to expect a new video and then deliver on it. You should also create a publicity schedule so that audiences on other channels will head to your YouTube channel to check it out.

Finally, Jonathan says you should always be testing! Experiment with different content types, formulas, and talent. You might fail right away, and that’s okay. The things that are not working for your audience will become clear pretty fast and you can pivot away from those failing ideas just as quickly. You also don’t need to spend years scripting your video. Write it, shoot it, put it out there, and see how it works. Then adjust your strategy for the next video.

Jonathan suggests you start using the YouTube Creator Academy. It’s a series of free courses designed to help you make better videos and use the YouTube platform to your advantage.

Read part two of this series here.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedInInstagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


What a Firecracker and a Watermelon Have to Do with Library Video Marketing

I am so excited that the focus of marketing in the current era is video. I’m positively giddy at the prospect of how this medium will help us transform the popular view of libraries. The power of video is mind-blowing. It’s easier than ever to create a video. The hard part is compelling your viewers to watch it and to keep coming back for more.

I want to encourage you by sharing tips I learned from an extraordinary marketing expert.  Andrew Davis is CEO of Monumental Shift and author of the book Brandscaping. He is a former journalist and producer for The Muppets and Charles Kuralt. He’s a brilliant storyteller and a gifted speaker. He spoke at Content Marketing World this year about the power of video marketing and how to make sure your videos are working at their fullest potential–engaging viewers, building compelling stories, and getting your whole message through to your target audience. His talk was energizing and I want to spread some of his enthusiasm around!

Davis says we need to change the way we think about engagement. Most libraries declare engagement victory when we get a certain amount of views, impressions, shares, or likes. But the social media landscape is so saturated that those numbers really have no meaning anymore. We need to shift our definition of engagement to audience retention.

Audience retention is, simply put, the amount of time our cardholders spend viewing our content. This translates to watch time on YouTube and Facebook and page time on Google Analytics. A compelling video will persuade people returning to those platforms to view your content over and over. Davis says we must stop blaming our viewers for having the attention span of a goldfish. It isn’t that our viewers can’t pay attention to what we are saying. The problem is that what we are saying is boring.

Create videos that your cardholders really want to watch. To do this, you’ll need to get inside the mind of your viewer. Start by creating a series of “how to” videos, which have high audience retention. How-to videos are low-hanging fruit for a library. Your librarians can be your guide–ask them to name the questions they are asked most often by cardholders and then help you create a simple video to explain the answers. To prove the power of the how-to video, Davis played this video, which is one of the most watched how-to videos on YouTube.

Davis says your next video marketing challenge is to create suspense by raising the stakes. The best way to explain this concept is with this video from the Slo-Mo guys.They inserted a firecracker into a watermelon. It takes 18 seconds from start to finish for it to blow up. I admit it’s kind of exciting.  But it’s over in less than half a minute–not the greatest way to create audience retention!

Davis says there is a better way to do that video–and the example comes from Buzzfeed. They did a Facebook live where they burst a watermelon with rubber bands. It took forever to make the watermelon explode but tons of people were watching when it finally blew up. At the 20 minute mark, they had 375,000 viewers. By 40 minutes, they had 800,000 viewers. In all, more than 11 million watched it on demand after the fact. So the lesson is… DON’T INSERT A FIRECRACKER INTO A WATERMELON.

Next, Davis says, teach your audience to chase answers. The pursuit of the answers builds momentum. Your videos need to occupy your audience’s desire to know more over time. Davis says you need to stop worrying about how long a video is. Rather, ask yourself if your entire video worth watching. When someone says your video is too long, what they’re really saying is “I have no more questions.” Make sure there are questions that need answering and keep the audience constantly asking what’s next.

Remember that building suspense isn’t just part of the story line of your video. The title and the thumbnail you choose is part of the equation–don’t give it all away in those two elements. To demonstrate, Davis shared this video from the ancestry research company 23 and Me. Honestly, if you just read the title and look at the thumbnail, you will already know what’s going to happen. There’s no suspense and that translates into no real reason to watch.

A more compelling example of building suspense through the title and use of video is this Dove Choose Beautiful spot.

Finally, Davis says when you are creating drama with your videos, it is important to remember to pay it off. Make sure you deliver a catharsis or an emotional release our audience craves. If you don’t, you risk alienating your viewers. For example, Billy Gene The Wolf of Advertising made the following video. Watch it and see if you can guess why it was widely criticized.

There is no resolution! You must resolve every question you raise by the end of the video. Be sure to provide answers to all the questions in your video, so you avoid frustrating your audience. A frustrated audience will not come back to watch more of your content.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedInInstagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


The Top Five Ultimate Library Marketing Holiday Ideas

During the lead-up to any holiday, your inbox is likely flooded with a host of email from companies offering discounts and other promotions tied to the season. I’m sometimes jealous of these for-profit brands: it would be fun to think of exciting ways to tie sales into a holiday. On the other hand, thank goodness we don’t really have to sell anything!

Our customers don’t groan when we market to them–they love us and our products. And we can find fun and interesting ways to engage with our cardholders during holidays. In fact, it behooves us to go beyond beautiful in-branch book displays and bulletin boards to market our collection and best programs while our cardholders are in the spirit of whatever season they’re celebrating.

Here are my tried and true tips for taking advantage of any holiday season to remind your cardholders of your presence and all that you offer and to capture their attention!

Collection-based marketing. This is my favorite tactic. I enlist the help of my librarians to curate lists of new holiday-themed books for adults and kids. In my experience, the lists that generate the most holds and check-outs contain 10-12 new books and are mostly fiction, with a few exceptions: decorating, entertaining, and cookbooks. Start planning these lists at least two months before the corresponding holiday so you have time to make sure the list is complete and all your promotional pieces are in place. Then, pick a date about two to three weeks before the holiday and begin promoting the lists to the corresponding audience. Watch the holds and check-outs fly in as your cardholders get into the mood of the season with new titles!

Promote the best of your library events.  At least two months before the holiday, begin to scan the program calendar regularly for any program that’s fun and interesting. You want to target programs that can’t really be found at any other place in your community and are highly tease-able. Again, promote these programs to the corresponding audience about 2-3 weeks before the event for best results.

Inspire your readers. 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. You are an information hub, not just a book peddler!

Do contrasting marketing to rival Amazon and your local bookstore. Start checking your competitors’ website and ads as soon as they begin their holiday marketing. Figure out what their offers are and how you can counteract those offers with free stuff! For example, we know that, as we approach Black Friday, stores will begin to promote their sales heavily. We can create similar marketing campaigns that emphasize our free products and services in contrast to the big-name stores. You can also host a mobile device or gadget petting zoo, where you have several models of tablets and smartphones available for cardholders to test and examine before they make their big purchases. The event can be a great way to promote your digital offerings to an audience that is clearly interested in going mobile. Or set up a call center or event where you can take questions from cardholders who need help picking out a gift, cooking a big meal, or figuring out etiquette questions like which fork to use!

Don’t forget holidays that are uniquely library-oriented. We can celebrate fun days like Take Your Child to the Library Day and eBook Day in ways that stores cannot. Use the ideas above and add that library-themed angle to your marketing of these days for fun that your cardholders will appreciate. Last year, for Take Your Child to the Library Day, my library did a gift card giveaway for parents who brought their kids to a branch.

Have you done something fun and successful to market your library during a holiday? Please share your successes in the comments!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


Library Marketing Secrets You Can Steal From General Electric

The woman who manages marketing at one of the biggest companies in the United States–and perhaps the world–made a huge impression on me at Content Marketing World. Linda Boff is Chief Marketing Officer at General Electric. You might think a huge brand like GE would be mired in traditional marketing practices and have nothing to teach us about agility and experimentation. You would be wrong.

Boff has led the company into a new realm of marketing, using tactics that libraries have access to, like podcasts and Facebook Live. Her focus is storytelling–finding the stories within your company and sharing them with your audience. She insists you don’t need a big budget to do what she’s doing. She’s a dynamic speaker and her presentation was one of the more memorable moments in the two-day conference because I ended up coming away with so many ideas for my library marketing. I left the room excited and energized!

Boff says there are five reasons to tell your library’s story: To sell (library translation: improve circulation, visits, and attendance), to inspire, to explain strategy, to reach audiences, and to educate. She told the audience that the success of GE with storytelling relies on a simple formula: Be first on platforms + activate unlikely audiences + find the human in the digital times. She laid out exactly what she means in her main brand storytelling tips.

Know who you are. GE embraces its nerd identity. The company produced a series of videos showcasing its nerd employees. They are professionally produced but you can do the same thing using your iPhone. Remember, it’s the story that’s important–not the production value of your video. In fact, our library produced a similar series of videos back in April for National Library Workers Week. We shot everything on a DSLR camera and edited it using free software available on the internet. Our fans–and our employees–loved the videos.

Identify your secret sauce. What is your tone? How do you come to life? Every brand has to figure out what this means to them. This next part is going to sound really familiar. GE has had to fight to be relevant, contemporary, relatable, and modern. Everyone knows who GE was in the company’s past. Everyone is familiar with GE’s legacy. Boff said one of her marketing goals is to teach people what GE is in the present.  To do this, Boff recommends you need to “show up as a person”–in other words, use real and personal stories about your workers to put a face to your company’s name. GE went to its employee’s children to ask them what their parents do. They told stories and drew pictures explaining their parent’s work. Then GE took those pieces and used them internally and externally. You can see some of those stories here.

 Find unexpected audiences. At South by Southwest, GE created a BBQ incubation area. They set up a BBQ smoker and had data scientists on hand to smoke the meat with exact precision so it came out right every time. They also had their scientists use data to make BBQ sauce, and they let people taste the sauce while hooked up to a scanner so they could see what their brain responded to via scan. Then took the super smoker to college campuses, so instead of the tent and handouts, they had this cool interactive centerpiece. I think that idea could translate for libraries too. Instead of just having a table at events, let’s bring MakerSpace equipment and traveling library collections so people can interact with our “products.”

Experiment early, experiment often. When a new social media platform or technology emerges, don’t hesitate–jump on board quickly and learn all you can about it, says Boff. The cost barrier to entry is always very low at the beginning of any new trend and the audience has no expectations about what you can or should produce. Boff says it’s important to be on the playing field and really skin your knees; you can’t just read about new trends. I really took this point to heart. We now have permission to move forward on new trends–let’s embrace it!

Good content speaks for itself. Boff and her team created GE Podcast Theater. They create long-form, lightly branded podcasts that are full content marketing platforms. GE’s “The Message” podcast was named as one of the New York Times 11 Fiction Podcasts Worth Listening To and was in the #1 spot on iTunes after its release.  Boff says if you are putting great stories out into the world, they’ll do their own marketing with their amazing content.

Stories are right under your nose: The hardest thing is finding stories to tell. GE works had to find stories reach customers, investors, thought leaders, media, AND employees. I’ve talked about finding stories in the library on this blog before in this article and this article. We should always be looking to connect with narratives that inspire all of those audiences. I really loved how Boff emphasized storytelling as a way to grow employee pride. At GE they do this through a YouTube series called In the Wild. It’s entertaining and engaging. Libraries could imitate that on a smaller scale. In fact, my library did that using a GoPro camera! We did time-lapse videos of various jobs and departments in the library and posted them on our YouTube channel. Those videos had more than a thousand views total and continue to draw new people to our YouTube content.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


Make the Most Beautiful Library Marketing Print Materials For Free!

Many of you are struggling to make all the print materials you need for your library on a tiny or nonexistent budget. You want your print materials to look professional but your background isn’t in art. I want to help.

I’m lucky to have two graphic artists on staff to help create the print materials for 41 library locations but I do understand this struggle. In my spare time, I coordinate the marketing for my church. It’s a volunteer position with no staff. I’m a writer, not an artist. I have a teeny-tiny budget, which I share with the guy who maintains the video projector in the sanctuary and those babies are always breaking. So basically, I have no money for print.

Today I’m sharing some websites I use to design print materials–posters, fliers, postcards, bookmarks, door hangers, and more–all for free. They have templates that make the design process easy and give you a finished product that looks professionally designed.

But before you dive headlong into designing your own materials, it’s important to keep a few design basics in mind.

Keep it simple. Library marketers often try to put all the information about a program or event on their printed marketing materials. This makes the piece look cluttered and less inviting to the eye. Research shows the use of white space or negative space increases reading comprehension by almost 20 percent. Use bold graphics or well-produced photos in your printed material to draw attention to the piece. Include only the basic information–the points your audience needs to know and remember about what you are marketing. Then direct users to visit your website or to ask a staff member for further details.

Keep your design consistent with your brand. That doesn’t mean you have to use the same font for every print piece but it’s a good idea to choose several fonts that you can rotate. Include your logo somewhere on the piece and make sure the wording is brand consistent.

Here are my four favorite websites for creating professional looking print marketing materials for free!

Poster My Wall: They have about a dozen library-themed templates and dozens of other templates that are super easy to customize. Downloads are free, as long as you’re cool with a tiny watermark in the corner of the poster (I think it’s pretty unobtrusive). If you have a budget but no printer, you can order printed copies of your work from this company.

Canva: I use this for the majority of my church marketing materials and I know a lot of library marketers who rely on Canva for their work. They have the widest selection of templates and the most intuitive platform for custom design. You can download files as a .png, .jpg, or PDF and they recently added the option of ordering prints of your materials, which is awesome if you want to create postcards or other collateral. I pull from my list of free stock photos, upload them to Canva, and I get tons of compliments on my work. I am not a trained designer. I could not even draw a stick figure. That’s how intuitive this platform is.

Desygner: This is a new service. Their selection of free materials is small but I wanted to mention them because they do have some beautiful designs and they’ll likely expand as more people start to use the platform.

Adobe Spark:  If you’ve already got a Creative Cloud account, you’re halfway there. Adobe is used by designers everywhere and their free Spark plan lets you create beautiful print materials (and social media graphics) with an easy-to-use template. You can change the shape, color, font, opacity, and spacing to suit your needs. The Adobe suite of products is awesome and this is no exception.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.



How To Be a Journalist: Six Library Marketing Writing Tips

Sometimes, I really miss being a journalist.

My former profession was difficult. It was grinding. It sometimes felt abusive. I’m a pretty positive person but honestly, after 19 years of working on stories about crime, drugs, death, families in crisis, and dealing with all the viewers (or trolls, depending on your perspective) who came with the advent of social media to comment on our stories, I was feeling pretty beat up. My mental health was one of the reasons I left journalism to work in a library.

But I also kind of miss the work. There is a great joy and satisfaction that comes from telling stories about people who otherwise wouldn’t have a voice. To do it well and honestly is a reward and a privilege.

Lucky for me, marketers have realized the power of storytelling. The embrace of content marketing in library marketing departments means that we are using well-crafted stories about our customers, employees, and organizations to spread our message, educate cardholders, fight for more funding, and impact our communities. Which is why I was excited to attend a session led by Michelle Park Lazette at Content Marketing World. She works as a writer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. If anyone can sympathize with the bureaucracy, technical language, and sensitive subjects that a library content marketer will need to write about, it’s someone who works in another government agency!

Michelle gave a bunch of tips for writing pieces that will really get the attention of your cardholders. Her approach centers on the journalist mindset–find the stories, tell the stories, explain the stories in a language your cardholder will understand, peak your cardholders emotions. Here are the top six lessons I learned in Michelle’s session. I’ve written a bunch of articles since attending her session, including a cover story for our quarterly magazine, and my writing has already improved. (Thanks, Michelle!)

Use the chicken test with every possible story. Ask yourself: Does my audience care about the chickens? Can my audience see themselves as the chickens? Are the chickens crossing the road now or are they about to? Does anyone care if they did it five years ago? Why and to whom does it matter that chickens are crossing the road?

Dig up fresh, differentiated ideas.   Start with the truth your employees and cardholders witness and broaden the scope with industry context. Localize with your insights and experiences. If you are bucking the trend, go ahead and say it. Look at surveys for content ideas. Reveal the story behind the numbers. You must monitor your data to find stories. With events, help an audience that was there AND the audience that wasn’t there. Do pre-event Q&A’s.  Changing customers tastes and budgets can be content ideas.

Start your piece with the powerful words. Michelle gave us an example in her own writing. She was putting together a piece on a customer of the Federal Reserve and shared her opening line: “If Lynn Tatum was staying in this depressing place, she was going to make it better.” Use details to take the reader along for the ride. Always ask follow-up questions.

Humble yourself before you subject matter experts. If you don’t know what a term means or how something works, ask. Regularly ask what the experts in the field-librarians, library directors, publishers, are seeing. What are cardholders struggling with? What are they, the experts, struggling with? What brings them joy? How do their jobs work? All of these questions can lead you to great stories which you can share with your cardholders.

Take it all in. When you write, set the scene. What does the place where you are doing the interview look like, smell like, sound like? Including these little details may seem completely unimportant, but it helps the reader experience more of the emotion with you. It makes them feel as if they were there!

Help the reader along. Try to convince your experts that jargon serves no one but them. Find new ways to explain things. (My biggest library marketing example: I never say “periodical” in my writing. They are magazines and newspapers.)

Finally, Michelle left us with one thought which I’ve printed out and taped to the wall of my office. If you are the 17th person to say or do something, are you delivering value? Deliver different and people will be so moved by your content that they’ll be compelled to share your content. 

Go to Michelle’s Twitter account to see examples of her work and to be inspired.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


The Most Exciting Library Marketing Lessons from Content Marketing World

The future of content marketing at your library is stories, videos, and making personal connections between your cardholders and your libraries. That’s the big takeaway for me from the year’s Content Marketing World, a giant marketing conference in Cleveland. I’ve just returned with a head full of ideas and heart full of energy. Rubbing elbows with 4,000 marketers bursting with love for the profession will do that to you.

At #CMWorld, I attended 15 sessions and learned a ton of new information which I will flesh out here over the course of the next several months. Some tips can be put into action immediately and some will need time for processing in my brain, as I work to figure out how to make them doable for libraries of all sizes, shapes, and missions.

Here are the main takeaways I received from 15 sessions with links so you can check out more of the speaker’s work and get started on transforming your own library marketing.

Linda Boff, Chief Marketing Officer at General Electric:  Stories are everywhere, right under your nose. Find and embrace them.

Jay Acunzo, host of the podcast Unthinkable:  Content marketing is about inspiring your true believers, not coercing the skeptics. (This was an ah-ha moment for me!)

Drew Davis, a former marketer, best-selling author, and speaker:  Audience retention is the true definition of video engagement. Stop trying to just get views and get audiences to watch your whole video!

Doug Kessler, creative director and co-founder of Velocity Partners: It’s our job as marketers to expose the hidden marketing conventions and turn them on their heads. In other words, conventional thinking will get you nowhere. Now is the time to be creative.

Ian Cleary, founder of Razorsocial: Be smart when you publish your content because if no one sees it, what’s the point? Use smart keywords, collaborate with influencers, and promote yourself. During this session, I realized I know nothing about web optimization!

Amanda Todorovich, Content Marketing Director at the Cleveland Clinic: Never be content. Measure and test and test again. Ask “what if” all the time.

Casey Neistat, YouTube star: Do what you can’t. Make it count. Follow your gut. Cut through the bullshit. Yes, I put that all in bold because IT’S IMPORTANT.

Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad and a bunch of other books, Pulitzer Price Winner, National Book Award Winner, etc., etc., etc. You know him, you work at a library: If you have ideas and you’re not sure you can pull them off, it’s ok to wait until you are actually ready. I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I agree with this but I’m going to think about it for a while.

Amy Schmittauer Landino, vlogger, author, and speaker: The secret to great video is asking yourself…would you share it?? Really?? Not just because you think everything you do is fantastic, but because what you do is actually fantastic.

Arnie Kuen, CEO of Vertical Measures: There is only a two percent chance your followers will see your organic post. (YIKES!)

Scott Stratten, author, speaker, blogger, podcaster, promoter of unconventional marketing. This was a session on public speaking: Tell a personal story but only if it makes a point. Respect the audience’s time.

Tamsen Webster, speaker, and producer of TEDx Cambridge, during the same session on public speaking: Go ask for the stage you deserve. The way to speak more is… to speak more.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, actor and creator of hitRECord, an online collaboration and creation website for video, graphics, music, and more: Community, fair compensation, and collaboration are the future of content creation.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Jonathan Stanley, Executive Producer for Lowe’s: Test all the time on YouTube. Fail fast and learn fast. Don’t spend years scripting.

Michelle Park Lazette, Content Marketer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland: Deliver different! Try your best to produce the “okra breakfasts” of content. Okra breakfasts are content that is unexpected but delicious and filling!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.



The Bloody Hell of Library Marketing Data and How to Stay Sane

Let’s be real. When you work at a library, the process of collecting and analyzing data on your marketing initiatives can be messy, tedious, time-consuming, and boring as hell. I speak from experience. I am a data-collection freak but I just spent three weeks analyzing the numbers from six months of email marketing. I’m tired. My eyes are crossed. If I have to do any more math, I’m going to lose my mind.

I do this long-view analysis twice each year and about halfway through, I find myself caught in a serious case of what I call “dashboard envy.” I wish I had a program to do the calculations for me, like big brand companies. I go to one big conference every year–Content Marketing World. Their expo hall is filled with an amazing variety of marketing technology companies, peddling a number of products to make everything easier for marketers, including data collection. I almost never go to any of the booths to talk to the reps, but I do sometimes stand off to the side and watch them pitch to big companies. They’ve all got solutions for easy data collection and analysis and I am very envious of anyone who can afford them. Sigh.

It would be SO EASY to just chuck the analysis. I am so dang busy. I’m running email promotions, creating a strategy, writing for publications, taking phone calls, running meetings… etc. And I hate math. I mean, I really hate math.

But I do it. I make myself sit down and I go through all the data points, carefully and thoroughly, to analyze everything we’ve done with our email marketing, which is our most effective and most wide-ranging marketing tactic. I do it because it’s necessary and because the results always reveal something that guides my strategy for the next six months. It is so important to take a long-view look at what you are doing. Without data analysis, I am blind to the trends that emerge in my cardholders’ behavior. For instance, this round I’ve discovered:

I can send emails any time of day EXCEPT 7 a.m. to noon. We’re getting horrible engagement on emails.

Emails sent on Friday and Saturday TANK so no more sending on those days. When I discovered this fact, I immediately went into our library’s email calendar and changed the dates on five upcoming messages to avoid sending on Friday and Saturday.

About a year ago, we were really focused on sending messages to tiny audiences–less than 1,000 cardholders. The data showed that smaller audiences led to better the engagement. Now, we’re noticing that we get the best engagement with audiences of about 10,000 cardholders! That’s quite a shift and my theory is that we’re doing more promotion of services in our emails, which is of more interest to a wider range of cardholders. I also think I’m doing a better job at creating segments or clusters and matching their interests to the email (practice makes perfect!)

There are a couple of branches in our system that I won’t be sending email to anymore on a regular basis because their cardholders do not open, click, or act on anything… even special offers. We’ll be working on different ways to engage those cardholders.

Knowing how my cardholders are reacting to messages and how those reactions change over time makes the work we do more efficient. That’s why data collection and analysis, no matter how painful, is totally worth it. So now, I want to share with you some pointers for making it through the data-analysis process without losing your ever-loving mind.

Keep meticulous records of data as it comes in. If you start documenting rudimentary data after every campaign, as soon as the campaign ends, you won’t have to spend a bunch of time going back into your email system or into your social media platform dashboard or whatever you use for insights. I have a Word document for every email I send where I record the date, time, and number of cardholders who receive the email as well as the results–if it’s a circulation-based email, I record the number of books put on hold or checked out and if it’s a program promotion email, I record the number of attendees at the event.

Clear your schedule and set manageable time expectations for yourself. I calculate results of individual email campaigns monthly and then I schedule a six-month trend analysis. I schedule both of these tasks in my calendar like I would a regular meeting. That ensures that time won’t get taken away from me and that I won’t be tempted to give it up for other tasks. I make sure that six-month analysis happens during a slow time of year and I give myself 2-3 weeks to complete it. I set aside time each day to do my calculations–maybe an hour a day over a week (or three, if you’re slow at math like me). I shut the door of my office and hunker down. It takes discipline but it’s really worth it.

Keep records of everything you calculate. I literally wrote out the formulas for calculating the results the first time I did it so I could replicate it six months later. I write out all my results in case someone wants to take me to task later over a decision I make based on those results.

Talk about the results with your colleagues and share your results with other departments. Transparency in marketing is a good thing. It helps your co-workers and administrators have a clearer understanding of what you do in your marketing department! And they may look at the results and find some new insight that you missed. More eyes are better, honestly.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


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