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Convince Your Critics: How To Spin a Negative Library Review


In the world of consumer reviews, libraries have it pretty easy. Most of our cardholders love us and rave about everything we do. It’s good to be beloved.

But we do have our critics. And it’s hard to know how to handle the situation when an irate, antagonistic library user posts a negative review on a social media site or website for all the world to see. Your immediate reaction is to jump into firefighter mode, drag out the fully charged hose, and put out the flames… pronto.

But I want you to take a step back (and a big, deep breath) and find the opportunity in that negative review. It’s your chance to turn that angry user into an evangelist for your library. If that sounds like an extreme possibility, I want you to read this post by Jay Baer. And if you like that post, I want you to read Baer’s book, Hug Your Haters. I bet your library has a copy. Jay’s got some really great ideas for turning negative reviews into positive customer experiences.  I use all three of his main ideas–seek out your haters, leave no complaint unanswered, create a process for responding to hateful comments–in my department. It works and here’s why: having a process in place for handling complaints is an agent of calm for you and your staff members. It’s like your crisis communication plan–if you put together a plan for dealing with critics before you’re confronted with one, you can put your emotional reaction aside (how DARE they complain about FREE LIBRARY SERVICES!!!) and react calmly, rationally, and with empathy.

Having a plan for dealing with haters also improves your library’s credibility.  When you are searching to buy a new product or service, I bet you check out customer reviews. If all you see are positive write-ups and no complaints, doesn’t that make you a little suspicious? A negative comment or two makes you look human and lets customers know that they can give you honest feedback without the fear of being censored.

I don’t care if your library is giving away $10 bills with every checkout, someone is going to find something to complain about and they’ll probably do it online.  But when the complainers know they’ll be heard and their issues addressed as much as they possibly can be, they are more willing to give construction feedback about your organization.

And that’s good for you too. How are you supposed to know whether the product or service you are offering is meeting the needs of your cardholders? You are not a mind reader. You need customers to tell you what they like and dislike so you can make adjustments.  When you respond to critics, you show that you value all your customers and you are working on a daily basis to make their lives better. They’ll be happy to know that–and you can bet they’ll tell their friends about you.

More helpful tips for dealing with negative comments and reviews

Don’t censor. Unless the comment violates your social media or website standards of behavior in some grave way, don’t hide the comment and don’t want to respond negatively.

Respond as quickly as possible.  It’s important to address the issue as soon as you can or run the risk of other haters hijacking the thread and turning one bad review into a free-for-all.

If the problem cannot be solved easily, take it offline.  Apologize and address the complainer with empathy, then ask them to contact you by email. “I’m sorry to hear you are having this problem. We want to make it right.  Could you email me at **** and give me some more details about your experience? Then I can make sure your issue gets in front of the right person and is addressed.”

Realize that you cannot please everyone. Every once in a while, someone will complain about something and you will not be able to fix the problem.  Apologize, explain your library’s side of the situation as best you can, and move on.

Do you have an experience about a negative comment or review that you feel you handled well… or handled poorly? Any tips for dealing with critics? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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..

Social Media Works! Positive News for the Naysayers



I feel compelled to respond to a post by the amazing and insightful site Nonprofit for Good, which I follow religiously. Because I completely disagree. In the post, 12 Not-So-Great Realities About Nonprofits and Social, the author lays out a dozen negatives that many nonprofits (and businesses for that matter) have to deal with every day on social media.

Here’s my big problem with the post.–it offers no solutions to these problems, which does a disservice to readers. Anyone who has worked in social or uses it for their nonprofit or business knows that social media, like many other business activities, has negatives and positives and the best way to mitigate the negatives is to find solutions. I felt it was overly pessimistic and I’m worried the post will dissuade nonprofits and libraries from investing in social media. So let me offer some positive feedback on the points in the post.

Nonprofits have spent years promoting Facebook and get rewarded with a 3% organic reach. True. Businesses have had the same experience. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, my friends. As Joe Pulizzi says, you should never build your audience on rented land. Unfortunately, many nonprofits and libraries fell into that routine and now have a very hard time changing course. Facebook, like every other social platform, has every right to change the rules whenever they want. It’s their platform. As Joe further points out, you should operate under the assumption that, when you wake up every morning, the rules of any or all the social media platforms may have changed. So what do you do? Create a social media strategy. Armed with that, you’ll be able to focus your efforts on the social platforms that will work best for your audience, set performance goals, and keep your workload efficient. My library has clear objectives for what each post should do. And we meet our goals more than 90 percent of the time.

Nonprofit social media managers are bombarded with depressing content and nonprofit social media managers have to deal with weird, random, mean people on Twitter.  So does everyone else. And it is manageable, as the post mentions in passing. You can’t control what everyone else is doing… you can only control what your organization is doing. Focus on the positive. Hug your haters.

Nonprofits have to pay full price for advertising on social media. The author and I agree on this point, although the cost of ads for Facebook and Twitter is relatively inexpensive and totally worth it to get to the targeted audience–the people who will really want to see your message.

Instagram and Snapchat have no tangible ROI. They will if you have a social media strategy. Also, as marketing expert Jay Acunzo points out, the constant need to seek a tangible ROI may be the downfall of marketing strategies. Building a loyal audience takes time and sometimes can’t be measured by traditional means. The bottom line isn’t always the end of the line.

You are not a videographer or broadcast reporter, but to be good at the Next Big Things you have to be. Not necessarily. There are, without a doubt, some people in your nonprofit or library who are naturals on camera. If you’re not comfortable with that role, find people who are. They’ll shine, it’ll build morale, your cardholders will get a chance to get to know your staff better, and your videos will be memorable. It’s not hard to learn the basics of video production these days, thanks to and YouTube. I suggest you subscribe to Amy Schmittauer’s fantastic channel, which is all about video and social and easy ways to incorporate both into your library marketing strategy. There are also a number of free webinars with great pointers on how to create videos. You can turn to Social Media Examiner‘s blog, podcast, and YouTube channels for inspiration and practical tips. Finally, as a former broadcast TV journalist, I can tell you that practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Nonprofit social media managers live, work, and play social media 24/7. That’s easily manageable. And not necessarily true. Most social managers I know do go offline once work is finished. Unless they love social and stay on all day. Then, good for them!

Social media often distracts nonprofits from other more important, more ROI-producing online tools. Here we are with the ROI again. If you have a social strategy, this isn’t a problem for you anymore. I do agree with the author about targeted email messaging. I’m a huge fan of email marketing, also done within a specific strategy.

Your nonprofit doesn’t have the budget to invest in social media staff or premium social media tools. Tools are not that important. my library spends a couple of hundred bucks a year for a Sprout Social account. If you’re really strapped, you can use Tweetdeck. It’s free. Use Twitter Analytics, also free, to help you figure out the basics on engagement. Expensive tools don’t make for a good social media outcome. A staff is important. Even if you don’t have the money for a full-time social staffer, I bet there is someone within your organization who is willing to help. Or get an intern! Then empower that person to post the right content. You don’t have to pay to do that. You just need a strategy! I may be banging the drum repeatedly here but it’s important.

Posting on social media day after day can become monotonous and boring. It’s clear the author isn’t really a fan of social and doesn’t have a passion for it. He or she might want to consider another job.

Going viral only exists for the .0000001%. Which is why this should never be your goal. Going viral is a lightning strike. It rarely happens to anyone. Please get a social media strategy and, armed with that, you’ll never have to worry about winning the lottery because you’ll build your social audience, driving them to your owned properties, and that, my friends, is job security.

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.

What I Learned About Library Marketing From an Amusement Park


I recently spent the day at Cedar Point, one of the largest and most renowned amusement parks in America. Nestled on the shores of Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio, this park is known as America’s Roller Coast because of its amazing array of death-defying thrill rides.

I find myself viewing every experience with an eye toward marketing. I’m always looking to see what other businesses, both big and small, are doing right and wrong and what I can learn that will help my library marketing.

That's me in the purple pants.
That’s me in the purple pants.

There are huge differences between the inner workings of a library and an amusement park. But I took home more than a sense of adventure and a photo of myself screaming like an idiot while riding the world’s first floorless coaster! Here’s what I learned:

  1. Make your website easy to navigate and put the information that guests want front and center. There are several ways to buy tickets on the Cedar Point homepage…all are in plain sight and are easy to spot. Everything else is divided into categories with headlines that reflect the way real guests would talk. If you have trouble figuring out how to organize your website for the ease of your customers, it’s a good idea to ask your staff to make a list of the questions which guests ask throughout the day. Then turn those into website pages.
  2. Signage should be clear and minimal. Cedar Point has signs marking the entrances of rides… and that’s it! That might seem counter-intuitive. The park is huge and the map is, frankly, not much help. But there was no wayfaring signage anywhere and it didn’t slow us down. In fact, it encouraged us to roam and explore. And we knew when we saw a sign, it meant something. Libraries put too many signs in too many places, making it confusing for customers who eventually tune out all that visual overload. Choose your sign placement carefully and strategically, and when in doubt, minimize. If you’re worried that people will get lost, then remember the next lesson…
  3. Staff members should always be available to help customers! Every staff member at Cedar Point appears to be trained to answer a variety of questions, from how to find rides and restrooms to height restrictions to food booth locations.  If we needed any help, all we had to do was ask. What a treat! This easy, comfortable staff interaction made the day so much better. We knew if we had any problems, the staff would have our backs.
  4. Monitor social media all the time–no excuses. Now we come to the part of our visit that was a little disappointing. My family chose to buy VIP viewing tickets for the fireworks show in the evening. We decided to go on July 3 because frankly I thought the park would be crazy busy on the 4th! We got admission, parking, a seat on the beach for the fireworks and an all you can eat hamburger and hot dog buffet for a great price.  However, the fireworks show was disappointing. It only lasted ten minutes. We had watched the show the night before from our rental cottage and it was at least 20 minutes long. So I tweeted the park’s official account, asking why the show was so short. I got no response. I tweeted again the next day. No response. On July 5, I tweeted one more time, suggesting the social media folks read Jay Baer’s Hug Your Haters. That finally got a response from the Director of Communications.The fact that it took three days to get a response on social media is inexcusable.  Your customers will expect an answer from you in a reasonable amount of time. A recent study by Eptica shows 64 percent of customers who use Twitter to communicate with companies expect a response within the hour. Assign someone to watch social media accounts regularly throughout the day and evening, every day of the week, even on holidays. That’s the only way we’ll be able to compete with, and beat, big-box book and media stores and give our customers with the experience they demand.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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