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

Target

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.

 

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How to Pick Books and More for Collection Marketing

I am not a librarian but sometimes I play one at work sometimes.

One of my favorite parts of the marketing my public library is choosing books, eBooks, audiobooks, movies, and magazines to promote to our cardholders. Collection marketing is a successful part of the marketing strategy at our library. About three years ago, we started to do these targeted emails and social media posts to drive circulation numbers. And it worked! Collection marketing is something every library should do.

How do I actually choose the items we promote? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Most people who work in library marketing are not librarians. My degree is in communication, not library science. But I’ve been picking items to promote for four years and, after picking a few duds, I’ve got a system figured out. So let me share my tips with you.

Pick new stuff. Several years of promotional data tell me that cardholders want the new items entering your collection. We may want to promote older items for re-circulation, but that’s not what our users want to check out. And your biggest competitors are not other libraries. You are competing with Amazon and your local bookstore, where your cardholders can get their hands on the latest books. Most people don’t even think about the library when their favorite author releases a new book. A concentrated collection marketing effort will change that attitude over time. Your cardholders will learn that they can come to you for new books when they are released.

My library sends an email once a month to several cardholder clusters-lovers of print books, lover of eBooks, lovers of audiobooks, lovers of kids’ books, and lovers of downloadable magazines. I pick three new items to promote in each email. It takes me about 20 minutes total to create each message from start to finish. The emails drive a circulation increase for those titles on average anywhere from 125 percent to 375 percent.

The question I get from most libraries when we talk about our new items strategy is this: “Don’t you worry that you’ll create a long holds list. You’ll make people angry because they have to wait.” I was worried about this when I began collection marketing. But the data tells me it doesn’t matter how long the holds list is. Truly. People will wait for a new book for a couple of weeks, at least. Most public libraries have a system for putting a new book or item into the online catalog a few weeks before the item is actually available in the building. That’s the perfect moment to start promoting it, particularly if you include a line in your promotion telling your cardholders that they are getting a jump on the holds list. Your most avid cardholders will pounce at the chance to get in line for holds on a new item.

Pay attention to book pop culture and promote items getting media or critical buzz. I listen to podcasts to learn new books headed to shelves, including the New York Public Library’s podcast The Librarian is In and Overdrive’s Professional Book Nerds Podcast. There are YouTube channels where librarians review advanced reader copies. You can also find advance reviews on Goodreads. And publishing houses like Penguin will often do Facebook live streams with reviewers who talk about their latest releases. If an avid reader of any kind is super excited about an upcoming book release, it’s a title you should promote.

Pick books with interesting covers. This sounds super vain but I swear to you it works. Whenever I send an email to my cardholders, I try to pick good books that meet the previous two guidelines but that also have a bright, colorful, or interesting cover. The better the cover, the higher the circulation numbers will be. Publishers understand the psychological impact of a good book cover. They spend a ton of money and research to pick the most engaging cover and we can use that to our advantage when we choose items to promote.

Pick something for everyone. The decision to market three items in each email is very intentional. I don’t have a lot of data about the exact reading preferences of the cardholders in each cluster I target with my collection emails, due to library privacy concerns. I don’t know exactly what kinds of books each of those cardholders like (mysteries, literary fiction, memoirs, etc.), so I try to pick something for everyone. I usually choose one literary fiction title, one nonfiction, and one thriller/mystery title. I make sure that I don’t pick three female or three male authors. I try to make sure there is something to interest as many people as possible in each email.

Don’t actually pick the items. That’s right! The easiest thing to do is to delegate the selection of items to the people who know what they’re doing–your collection or materials selection department. Contact the department. Set some guidelines for the kind of books you think your cardholders will love. And let them do the work.

I also periodically ask the general staff of my library for recommendations. Librarians love it when you ask them for their recommendations! At this moment, I’m scrolling through a list of more than 50 eBook suggestions from librarians all over my system for National Read an eBook Day. If you ask for recommendations from staff, I guarantee your biggest problem will be whittling down the answers!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

Four Reasons Why Library Marketing Is the Most Patriotic Profession

Here in the United States, we’re celebrating the birth of our country this week. July 4th is a big deal in America. We hold parades. We eat a lot of food. We set off fireworks. We wave the flag, wear the flag, and sing about the flag. We generally make fools of ourselves as we declare our love of the U.S. and list all the things that make America the best country ever.

But you may have noticed, even if you don’t live in the United States, that there’s been a bit of a shift in the collective patriotic mindset over the past 18 months. We are in a bit of a rough patch politically, ideologically, and culturally, you might say. There are some days when I find myself wondering if it was even worth celebrating the 4th of July this year.

Whenever I feel like my country is not living up to its ideals, it helps to think about my work. I work in a public library, with some of the most giving and noble people in existence. They do patriotic work every day. Libraries are the home of civility, which receives so much discussion of late. They are important public institutions. And no matter what country you call home, your work in library marketing is a patriotic duty. Here are four reasons why that is true.

Good Library Marketing keeps the building open. Good library marketing compels people to come to programs, check out items, and give to your library. Without fulfilling those three objectives, your library would fail to thrive. Cuts would be made to hours and staff. Services would be eliminated. A cut in any of those areas would mean the people in your community who need the library the most would suffer. When you do your job well, you are helping to raise up the underprivileged. You put much-needed services into their hands.

Good Library Marketing creates jobs. When you do a good job of keeping the collection in circulation or getting people into your buildings, you are creating employment opportunities for your fellow staff members and beyond. Publishing houses stay open. Authors have monetary incentive to keep writing. Program presenters get a paycheck for sharing their knowledge with your community. You help sustain employment for hundreds of thousands of workers outside of your community, including custodians, security staff, computer and technology service workers, and so much more.

Good Library Marketing connects people to their communities. When you do a good job of marketing your library to your public, you make people feel connected to each other. You give people a vested interest in their fellow human. When you help young children to learn to read, you improve the lives of everyone. A good library marketer can make that case, even to people who don’t have young children. They can make people care about one another. A well-publicized book club brings together a group of people who may not have otherwise met each other. Those people can talk to one another about subjects that never would come up in unregulated conversation. They learn about each other. They learn to disagree respectfully! Sometimes, a discussion that begins in a library can lead to social change. You help to make that happen!

Good Library Marketing supports the arts. I’ll bet your library hosts art exhibitions, musical and theater performances, and other arts-related programming and services throughout the year. When you do a good job of marketing those programs, you are supporting the arts in your community. You are enriching the lives of the people you serve. Many of them may not have the money to attend ticketed events. You are bringing beauty, philosophy, and creativity into their lives.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

How to Get Over Fear and Other Big Challenges to Library Marketing

When I was in first grade, I wanted to be famous. My big break arrived in the form of a school contest. The winner got to read a public service announcement about education on the radio. “IT HAS TO BE ME!!!” I exclaimed to my bewildered mother when I learned of the contest. She gently explained that I couldn’t win. She knew I faced a huge obstacle. I did not know (yet) how to read! The time between the contest announcement and the audition was short. How would I ever learn to read well enough to do it on the air? My mother is a very practical person. This was an insurmountable obstacle in her eyes.

I proved my mother wrong through sheer determination, and with a little help from the “Dick and Jane” series. I learned to read and won the contest! That was likely the first time I realized this powerful fact: there really isn’t any problem out there that can’t be solved.

20 years later, I found myself in a similar situation at my job as TV producer. The station suffered a huge power failure. The generators died. We had no way to get on the air. But failure was not an option and with airtime fast approaching, we came up with a plan. We would broadcast live from the parking lot using our live truck. It worked. We felt like heroes. Once again, I realized there was no problem that could not be solved.

We all face obstacles every day. Library marketing is not an easy job. You deal with deadlines, staffing issues, tiny budgets, and bureaucracy. Despite these obstacles, you make it work, day after day.  Your attitude plays a huge role in determining whether you overcome obstacles. Many of our problems are unique to this industry. Do. Not. Fear. You can find ways around anything. Here are some ideas to help.

The obstacle: there is never enough time. The library year is like the “lazy river” at my local YMCA; a constant, swirling flow of events that keeps pushing us forward. It takes some force to break free. When you’re under pressure to promote each big event, you may feel like you never have enough time to do anything well. All the emphasis is on the result and most people don’t give too much thought to the process.

The solution: Create a marketing strategy and STICK TO IT. The strategy must be clear, with expectations and goals set in writing. Get it approved by your supervisor and administrators. Explain it to staff. A strategy will help you stay laser-focused. Your marketing can be consistent. Library users will start to recognize the strategy of your organization without reading the mission statement. You’ll be able to accurately measure results. And, most important, you’ll be able to say “no” to promotions that don’t serve to drive your library’s overall strategic mission.

The obstacle: there is never enough money.  Budgets are a pain. Nothing can make you feel like you can’t reach your goals like facing the cold, hard reality of zero cash flow.

The solution: start small and partner up. Ask your administration for money to fund social media advertising. It’s cheaper than traditional ad buys. Your administrators might not realize how effective targeted social media ads can be. You can easily prove that you can make a good return on their investment. Look for partnership opportunities to promote more than the big programs. Create a standard agreement for media sponsorships of major programs, listing the action items your potential sponsors will fulfill and what benefits you can offer them in return. For every big program or marketing push, brainstorm partnership opportunities. For instance, my library uses partnerships for author events and to promote our collection.

The obstacle: too much work, too few people. Trying to take on a concerted, strategic marketing initiative can be overwhelming when you work alone. It’s a struggle just to keep up with the day-to-day stresses of social media, press, and meetings.

The solution: Ask for more help. You’ll find librarians who have an interest and skill in social media, writing, video, and design. Ask around and recruit those staff members to help you create content, with their supervisor’s permission of course. Ask for permission to engage an intern or two. Every organization has people with hidden talents!

The obstacle: There is never enough data about customers. This one sounds like the most difficult of the problems to solve but it’s actually one of the easiest. If your library isn’t already collecting data about your current customers, it should. I know libraries have a long and proud tradition of protecting the data and privacy of users and I respect that. I think there is a balance that can be struck. We can’t serve our cardholders well and point them in the direction of the items and services they need and want unless we know something about them. Collecting data on their card use preferences isn’t intrusive and I bet if you ask your cardholders, they’d confirm my assertion as long as we don’t share the data or lose it.

The solution: Ask, ask, and ask again. When people come to programs, hand them a three-question survey: How did you find out about this program? Do you have a library card already? What other kinds of things would you like to see at this library?  Create a new cardholder survey to gauge the interests of people just entering your library system. A yearly satisfaction survey for all cardholders is also necessary, particularly when you can take the results and split them into your different persona groups.

There are a number of software companies that can help you sort through cardholder use while masking the names of the actual items checked out by your cardholders, like Savannah by Orangeboy. From there, you can map your customer’s journey: When they get a card, how long does it take them to use it? Are they checking out books or using your digital collection or computers? Do they simply let it languish? Do you have some customers who got a card years ago, used it a specific way, and then stopped altogether? Do you have some customers who are making the transition from print items to digital materials? Do you have some customers who are only interested in one particular kind of item–DVDs, audio books, or computers? Break your customers into groups based on what they do with the card. Start creating pieces of content that target those groups.

The obstacle: fear. After five years of sharing library marketing information, this is still the biggest problem we face. Libraries are afraid of change AND afraid of failure. How many times have you heard someone in your library say, “But that’s the way we’ve always done it!” It’s the phrase I dread. It takes an enormous amount of effort and energy to change the minds of our fellow library staff members and our administration. It seems like it would just be easier to stay the course.

The solution: no one will die if you try something and it doesn’t work. It’s just marketing. Try stuff. Just try!  We have to remember our main goal–to get customers to move through the cardholder journey and engage with the library. Without that engagement, the people who argue that libraries are obsolete will win! We can’t have that. Do not be afraid. Marketing works best when you start small. Think of it like a staircase. On the bottom step, you make a small argument and you try a new thing. You see results. You report the results and chances are you’ll get to climb to the next step. If you fail, it’s just failure. No one dies. You stay on that step and you try something else! You’ll never get to the top of the stairs unless you try.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

Six Shrewd Ways to Spot Trends For Your Library Marketing

Contrary to popular belief, librarians are trendy! I’m not just talking about the physical sporting of tattoos, body piercings, and colored hair. I’m talking about the more important stuff. Most librarians know how to work all kinds of advanced technological equipment like 3D printers. They are well-versed in the latest studies about public space, childhood literacy, mental illness, and poverty. Because they interact with all ages of the public all the time, they often see issues like the opioid epidemic, emerging before anyone else. They have inside knowledge about how trends affect the lives of their cardholders.

It’s important to library marketing pros to spot trends too. We have to make decisions about whether to react. So how do you keep an eye on the things that matter to your cardholders? Here are six easy tools for keeping up-to-date on trends of all sorts.

Facebook Topics and Trends ReportThis annual report is worth your time. It’s a yearly summary of the most popular conversations happening on the platform. This report covers everything from culture to technology to food. It’s useful for planning your marketing calendar. You can take any of these topics and apply it to items and services available at the library, then work those into your marketing plan. Use keywords and suggestions in this report to boost the engagement of your posts on Facebook, Instagram, and beyond.

Google Trends. This tool is a lot of fun! Type in a keyword and get a picture of what people are talking about related to that word. It will even drill down on data, showing you specific searches, timelines, and places where that term is searched. I often use this tool to search book titles or authors, seasonal keywords, or pop culture references to get a more accurate feel for how many people are talking about them.

What is trending on social media platforms? Most of the major social platforms now have an area where you can check keywords or trending topics. Do so regularly. Then use those trending topics to curate posts from reliable sources. Pick content that is appealing and relevant to your audience. Even if you don’t immediately find a way to use the ideas you find on these social channels, checking them keeps you connected to the things that matter to your users. Twitter is a great place to discover the topics used in social conversation specific to your geographic area. The Pinterest trending section is a feast for the eyes but can also show you the kinds of Pins that are getting engagement so you can mimic that success or share them with your followers. There is ALWAYS a booklist in the Pinterest trending feed that you can repin, as well as tons of fun craft and program ideas for your librarians! Snapchat’s Discover section will help you keep up to date on pop culture so you can market your items and services, like streaming music and downloads, and appeal to that coveted younger audience. Ditto with Instagram’s trending section.

What is trending in the podcast world? Every month or so, I open my podcast player and check the trending podcast list. Why? Podcasts are a commitment. If the public is taking the time to listen to 20 minutes of talk about a particular topic, then it might be something we want to pay attention to!

Ted Talks. The nonprofit is dedicated to spreading ideas that are worth talking about. New talks appear several times a week. If you don’t have time to actually listen to all the talks, a quick check of the topics will give you a sense of the kinds of technology, humanitarian, and educational ideas flowing into mainstream thought.

What questions are your librarians getting? Every once in a while, I’ll email the manager of our Virtual Information Center. That’s the department in my library that takes all the calls and chats from the public. I ask for the top ten questions they’re getting from people and then I use that list to create content to answer those questions. It’s easy and it directly impacts your users (and your staff!).

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

Eight Easy Secrets to Create Competitive Emails For Your Library

I spend the majority of my day working on email marketing for my library. Marketing your services, collection, and programs to your cardholders by email is powerful. And it’s easy. I want to be very clear–you need to be emailing your cardholders. You can do it, no matter how big or small your library is. It is more than important… it is necessary. Failing to email your cardholders is a huge mistake.

It’s taken me a long time and a lot of experimentation to learn what to do and what not to do when I email my cardholders. I want to convince you that email marketing is doable. Start with these eight easy tips to create amazing library emails. You can compete with other companies for a space in your cardholders inbox. Done well, your cardholders will even begin to look forward to your emails! Try it and watch how emails help you reach your overall marketing goals.

Don’t be afraid to email. The most common comment I receive from other libraries when we’re discussing email marketing is a fear of sending too many emails. “I don’t want to be viewed as spam.” I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again here: you can’t send too many emails. The rules for avoiding the spam box which apply to other companies don’t apply to libraries. Our cardholders love us. They love what we offer. They want us to reach out to them. It’s the biggest advantage we have over other industries. I send tens of thousands of emails to my cardholders every week and my unsubscribe rate is zero percent. I’m not joking. Our library uses the OrangeBoy product Savannah for emailing. It divides our cardholders into clusters based on their card activity. My general rule is to send 2-3 emails every week to cardholders who use our digital services, like our eBooks and online databases. The rest of the clusters get 1-2 emails a week. And still, our unsubscribe rate remains at zero percent. Let go of the fear of becoming spam. Reach out to your cardholders. They love you, I promise.

Embrace the fear of failure. The second most common fear I hear from libraries considering email marketing is the fear of failure. It’s totally natural. And it’s easy for me to tell you not to be afraid. I don’t work for your boss and I don’t know the expectations of your library. But I truly believe that failure is a natural and necessary part of learning what works for your library. So my best advice is to tell your boss upfront that failure will be a part of the email marketing process. You’ll do your best to avoid it, but you’ll also learn from it when it happens. Be clear that you’ll keep an eye on the successes and failures of your emails, you’ll report periodically with the results of those emails, and you’ll change course once it’s clear that something isn’t working.

Planning is key. Create a planning calendar for your emails in the same way you do for your other promotions. Whenever possible, plan your emails six months in advance. Send emails to promote your programs at least three weeks before the program. Fill the rest of your calendar with your collection-based emails. Leave space for those last-minute emails you might want to add to the calendar.

Timing is everything. Think about your own email box. It gets overloaded during certain times of the year, especially around the holidays and at the beginning and end of the school year (right when most of us are launching summer reading programs). Avoid sending emails during the times when other companies are sending. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid sending emails related to the holidays but do it early. For example, I send my holiday reading book list the week before Thanksgiving to avoid getting lost in the Black Friday and holiday emails.

Write a killer subject line and keep it to seven words or less if you can. Sure, shorter subject lines are harder to write. We’re librarians–we want to make sure people have all the information! But short subject lines will inspire the curiosity of your cardholders. And, more importantly, of the biggest reasons to keep it short is technical. Most email providers have a character cutoff and beyond that, the rest of your subject line is truncated. Here’s some more advice for writing subject lines for library emails.

Be a giver. Your emails should always offer something to your cardholder. They should be as closely matched to the cardholder’s persona as possible. Market your collection, particularly your new materials. Include a short description of the item and a direct link to the catalog. Market your programs in the same way. Include a short description and a link to the event calendar or registration form.

Less text is more. Try to keep the wording of your email to a minimum. A few lines about what you’re offering with a call to action and a link to more information is your best tactic. You don’t have to worry about writing a paragraph. A few, well-crafted sentences and you’re off to the races.

Measure results. You must measure the results of your emails and adjust your strategy if necessary. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. I wrote a whole post about how to measure results. You can read it 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, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

The Big Challenge That Taught Me All About Library Marketing

The biggest holiday of the year in my city of Cincinnati is, without question, the opening day of the Cincinnati Reds baseball season.

Yes, you read that correctly. Half a million people turn out to line the streets of our city for a wild parade that lasts two hours and contains nearly 200 entries. Then they all stream down to the riverfront for street parties and concerts that lead up to the opening pitch of the day. Everywhere you go, you see people dressed in red and white, screaming from balconies, waving handmade signs… it’s a day-long pep rally. People dress up their dogs and kids and paint their faces and wear beads. It’s the Mardi Gras of Cincinnati. This has been going on for decades.

Our library has participated in this tradition since before I came to the organization. Every year, we march in the parade. I learned I would be responsible for our entry just a few months after I had joined. I had never organized a parade entry before. I had only ever covered the Reds parade in my time in news and had no idea what it was like on the participation side! But five years later, I’ve got the process down pat. And, I’ve thought a lot lately about how that experience mirrors many other projects in library marketing. Here’s what I’ve learned.

If you decide to partner with another organization, choose wisely. When I learned that I would be organizing my first parade entry, I set out to ask for advice. A co-worker told me that I was expected to partner with a local organization that helps disadvantaged children. So I reached out to them and called a meeting. It was a painful experience. They did not offer as much help as I needed. They barely contributed to the cost and labor of creating the entry. I completed all the paperwork and recruited all the volunteers and staff. On the day of the parade, I worried that we would lose one of their young clients, as they apparently thought I should also supervise the kids they had recruited to be in the parade. This was not the first time I’d been involved in a one-sided partnership project. We’re all been there. The next year, I decided to go it alone. It was actually less work and less stress.

Partnering with the right organization can bring you more resources and can help with the workload. Joining up with the wrong group can make the experience more stressful. That’s true with any library marketing project. Do your homework and choose your partners wisely. Approach with a series of questions in mind: What do you hope to accomplish in this partnership? How much time and money can you contribute to help us reach our goals? How will the work be divided among us? How will approvals and major decisions be handled?

Sometimes simple is best. My first parade float attempt a disaster. I had never created a parade entry by myself before and I am not an artist. I had no idea was I was doing. It was a hot mess of ideas and it looked muddled.

The second year was a little better. I had hired a graphic artist who was enthusiastic about the project. She recreated the Reds ballpark, complete with smokestacks made of discarded books. It was amazing–and it took a ton of time and was difficult to manage, given our low-budget. It looked great but it was very stressful.

The third year, I decided we would simply drive our delivery truck, which we had recently re-wrapped in a beautiful branded design created by another of my graphic artists. The difference in the stress level I felt in the weeks leading up to the parade was amazing. And the entry connected with the crowd better than any handmade float because it was a branded, recognizable vehicle.

You may be tempted to be complex in your library marketing projects. After all, complexity feels more productive. More work equals better work, right? Not necessarily. If you can approach each project in its simplest terms and break it down to the points that have real meaning, then work on reaching that goal, you’ll be more successful than if you try to reach a dozen goals in a multi-pronged approach. Your messages to the customer should also be simplified. Speak clearly, say what you mean, don’t use library jargon, and you’ll do a better job of connecting with your audience. Your graphics should be simple. Your services should be simple. Simple makes it easier for people to use your library and that will lead to increases in circulation, program attendance, and overall satisfaction.

Get your staff excited. The most important critical moment of parade planning is the moment I decide to start recruiting staff members to march with our entry. I have to make sure my pitch to them includes incentives for participating and emphasizes the excitement of the moment and the value to our cardholders. I also have to make sure members of senior leadership participate because staff members notice and feel neglected if there isn’t a member of administration marching with them through the cold or rain or heat (April weather in Ohio is completely unpredictable!). Likewise, in library marketing, you need to get your staff excited about your projects. Take the time to explain why you are doing the work you do and why it will help them in their interactions with cardholders.

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.

Unlock the Truth About LinkedIn and Library Marketing

Whenever my staff and I talk about increasing our library marketing reach in the community through social media, one particular staff member always says, “What are we doing on LinkedIn?” For a long time, we all had a little laugh and moved on. We ignored LinkedIn, though this staff member kept telling us it was a platform we needed to pay attention to. But we had a lot to do. Facebook was where most of our cardholders were connecting with us and we struggled to keep up with the demands of creating content for that platform. Plus, we all thought LinkedIn was just for job seekers. We didn’t really view it as a social media platform of the same caliber as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. We posted on LinkedIn sporadically; maybe twice per week at the most.

My social media specialist went on a well-deserved vacation and I took charge of LinkedIn while he was gone. I decided to experiment by posting on the site every weekday. I picked things I thought would resonate with the LinkedIn audience–professionals looking to network, find new jobs, and build connections that will help them advance in their careers.

One day I posted a promotion for an upcoming seminar on small business grants, with a  graphic I created for free on Canva. On another day, I chose to promote a self-help book from our new arrivals feed. We were already posting a “Worker Wednesday” profile each week, highlighting one of our branch staff on our other social media platforms and I posted that on LinkedIn. I also promoted a niche business magazine from our eBranch and a vintage photo of librarians at one of our branches.

The result is that engagement doubled over the course of two weeks and we decided, right then and there, to adjust our strategy and post more often on LinkedIn. Our little experiment showed there was clearly an audience for those messages.

LinkedIn is an important social media platform for libraries. I’ve said this for a while. And any library that’s not posting on LinkedIn is missing a huge opportunity, particularly in light of the recent algorithm changes and the data breach at Facebook and the toxic atmosphere of Twitter.

Here are the top five reasons why our library posts on LinkedIn and why I think your library should too!

It’s professional and polite. There are lots of people posting daily on LinkedIn about all kinds of ideas surrounding work life and yet, somehow, none of the comments on the platform have spiraled into hate-mongering that you might see on other social networks. This is due to the nature of LinkedIn–almost everyone on the site is aware that future employers are always looking at what they say and how they react. They put their best face and ideas forward. And that makes it a great place for libraries to interact with cardholders. You won’t get pulled down into messy and unproductive conversations and the audience is, by nature, receptive to your posts. There are no trolls! And speaking of which…

Less fake accounts, more organic reach. On LinkedIn, you won’t be targeted by fake accounts trying to prod you for likes, comments, and shares or following you simply to get a follow back. Imagine a world where there are no porn accounts masquerading as real people! The people interacting on LinkedIn are all real. And that makes for more genuine, organic interactions with your audience.

You can find great ideas for program and service promotion centered on career development. If you are looking for a place where you can gather ideas to create programs and services that will help grow the professional lives of your users, you should be on LinkedIn every day. Follow major companies and professional coaches to learn more about how career development is growing, spot trends, and find ways to showcase the resources your library can provide to help people looking for a new job or looking to advance their careers.

It’s a great place to share the story of your library. If you need a place to publish articles about your library, you should do that on LinkedIn. Top performing articles on the platform, according to Newswhip, include posts that help the reader add a positive or remove a negative from their life, job advice, and articles centered on how CEO’s best lead their team. In my personal experience, sharing books about career advancement and profiles of regular library staff members work well with the LinkedIn audience.

It’s a good platform to try something unexpected. I want to share a surprising discovery we made on our library’s own LinkedIn page. Our job and career-related posts generally do well. We get hundreds and sometimes thousands of impressions and dozens to hundreds of link clicks. But in the last few months, we found that posts about exhibits on display at the Main Library are also interesting to the LinkedIn audience! For example, in February, we did a small but cute display of cheesy vintage romantic novels to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We did a simple promotional post on LinkedIn and got more than 1100 impressions. Not bad! RIght now, our Main Library is housing a display of artwork from kids in the Cincinnati City School District and our promotional post about that display is getting even better engagement! So try unconventional posts too. Your LinkedIn followers may respond to something that you can’t predict, like news about an art exhibit!

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.

Subject Line Secrets: Get Emails Opened Now!

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I believe in email marketing for libraries. At my library, we’ve used email to communicate with cardholders for more than three years and it’s the most powerful and effective tool I have at my disposal. I try to talk it up with my fellow library marketing professionals when I have the chance. Many institutions have concerns about privacy.They worry about bugging cardholders too often with emails. Those fears are unfounded, and I’ve shared why you needn’t worry in past posts like this one so I won’t rehash it here.

Many libraries have jumped on board the email marketing train and, like me, are constantly looking for ways to improve open and click-through rates. The first point of entry to a cardholder is the subject line. So I have been researching how to do a better job of grabbing the attention of cardholders as soon as my email comes into their inbox.

The subject line is the most important and most difficult part of the email to create, at least for me! But I have eight tips for writing better subject lines. I’ve used these tips to increase open and click-through rates at my library. Over time, I’ve noticed an increase in engagement from our emails–that translates to more books and other items put on hold and increased program attendance. I believe that’s result of the decision to fine tune our email subject lines.

Tip #1-Save the subject line for last. I write the rest of the email first and tackle the subject line right before I’m ready to send a test message. If you write the body of the email first, you’ll have the tone, the graphics, and the call to action decided by the time you get to the subject line. All of the technical elements of your email will determine what kind of subject line will work best for you. Wait until you’ve got the meat of the email written before you tackle the subject line. By the time you get to it, the subject line might write itself!

Tip #2-Say something to pique their curiosity. I approach each subject line in the same way I approached headlines when I was writing for TV news websites. I search for the most interesting nugget of information in my email, then make that the center of my subject line. In news, we called this “finding the tease-able element.” Find the most curious and unique portion of whatever you are promoting–books, magazines, an event, or an online class–and focus your subject line around that.

Tip #3-Say something urgent. I like to use urgent language during the Big Library Read promotions from Overdrive, when we can offer our cardholders unlimited checkouts of a particular eBook or eAudiobook. This is a limited time offer and using urgent language in the subject line is appropriate. Phrases like Hurry, Limited Time Offer, and Ending Soon are great examples. You can use urgent language to promote programs with a registration cap to create the “fear of missing out”(FOMO) effect in your emails.

Tip #4-Appeal to their desire to save money. We all know the value of library usage for our cardholders. We can’t offer sales or discounts but we can still appeal to the discount nature of our cardholders by reminding them, in the subject line, about how much dough they save using us.

Tip #5-Start with an “alert” phrase. Using words like Alert, Sneak Peek, First Look, and Hey There sounds corny (at least they did to me). You might think they’re so overused by big brands that there is no way a library cardholder will engage with that language. You’d be wrong. I think cardholders are honestly accustomed to very serious library emails which avoid alert language. So when you do use it, it grabs their attention.

Tip #6-Keep it short. Try to stay under ten words or 40 characters. That doesn’t seem like much but you want to make sure that your subject line can be seen in full on every mobile device and in desktop email preview mode. You know from using Twitter that keeping it short will force you to write your best work… so embrace it!

Tip #7-Try alliteration. It’s catchy and it will stick in your cardholders’ head.

Tip #8-Avoid spam triggers. These are words that can trip a cardholders’ automatic spam filter. There are nearly 500 such words. So, instead of listing them all here, I’ll give you a link to this compilation. It’s the best one I’ve found. I urge you to bookmark it… I did! Then do your darndest avoid using these words.

More help with emails!

How to Write an Amazing Subject Line in Six to Nine Words

Make it Damn Near Impossible to Ignore Your Emails

Four Secrets For Sending Powerful Library Emails

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.

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.

Sigh.

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.

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