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Five New Fantastic, Easy Holiday Library Marketing Ideas

Nearly a year ago, I shared my top five holiday marketing ideas for libraries. These ideas work for any size library, in any part of the world. It was one of the most popular posts on this blog.

We all need to be inspired near the end of the year. So I’ve spent some time gathering new ideas for library holiday marketing. The busy holiday season is a great time to try new things. And its important to be on top of your game during this time of year. Our for-profit competition is getting a lot of attention. Libraries are also competing with general customer busyness. Everyone is rushing around so much that it doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day for a trip to the library.

So this year’s list includes some easy ideas that don’t take much time to plan and execute. But these tactics are just a bit out of the ordinary from the usual library marketing strategy. And each can be planned ahead of time to help ease the stress of your own job and that of your staff, because I know you’re just as busy as our cardholders!

Create and release a series of tips for your cardholders on how they can use your library to make their lives a little easier during the holiday. Brainstorm a list of ways your library helps ease the rush and craziness of the holiday season. Then decide on a sequence and schedule for releasing those ideas.

This one can really be planned way ahead of time. You can do everything-create graphics, write social media posts, and shoot and edit your videos ahead long before the holidays. Then, about a week before you start your promotion, tell your cardholders you’re going to be helping them out this holiday. Reveal your plans and tell them exactly when you’ll be releasing each tip, and on what platform. Create excitement and anticipation, then pay it off with your content. Link each tip with the others in your series and get more play through cross-promotion on various social media platforms and your website. Be sure to include an email message or two as part of this campaign.

Try a contest. To drive visits to your buildings during a time of peak busyness, a contest can do the trick. Keep it simple. Solicit some local businesses to donate the prizes… a gift card or a gift basket of goodies. It doesn’t have to be anything big or fancy. Then, encourage people to come into the library to enter. Make it incentive-based. I like to require that people check out an item. When they do, they get an entry from our front-line staff. Then, draw winners! It sounds too good to be true but I’ve done this for three years to drive visits during National Library Card Signup Month and I am here to tell you that it works.

Try Facebook or Instagram live. People are using their devices during the holiday season. And they’re looking for good content. If your library has never tried doing a Facebook live chat or a live Instagram video, you can surprise and delight your cardholders by doing so during the holidays! Have a librarian on hand to answer questions coming in live through the comments about any topic–books, gift-giving, recipes, job hunting… whatever the staff member feels comfortable discussing. It’s free, it drives engagement to your social media platform, it takes very little time to set up and execute, and it is exciting! Be sure to send an email message to your cardholders to let them know when you’ll be going live.

Show what goes on behind the scenes at your library. I’ve talked to a lot of library marketers who have had great success with behind-the-scenes (BTS) content. And if you’ve never done it, the holidays are a great time to start. It can be as simple as showing how you book drop works from the back side. You’d be surprised how fascinating that is for your cardholders.

Showcase your staff. Here’s another simple idea that fascinates cardholders. Interview a diverse group of front-line staff about how they celebrate during the holidays. Or ask staff to name their favorite book of the year, and release that as a special end-of-the year book list. You can cross promote these staff picks on your social platforms and include an email message to cardholders.

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!

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Five Insider Tricks To Improve Your Library’s Voice Search Ranking

One of my most vivid class memories from college happened during my freshman year. A woman visited our communications class to talk about this new thing sweeping the nation: the internet. She said that someday companies would be able to send us information on any product or service we could ever want or need, based on our previous purchases or on search.

Was she psychic? Nope. She was forward-thinking. The internet, and later the introduction of smartphones, caused a huge shift in the way libraries interact with cardholders. And now, we’re about to enter another era of technology change. We’ll need to re-evaluate how we interact with cardholders. Because voice search is going to change everything.

My library is now dabbling in this technology. We created an Alexa skill that allows cardholders to do some very basic things: find out what’s going on at a branch or ask about our hours of operation. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to voice search.

At Content Marketing World 2018, I attended a session led by Courtney Cox, who is manager of Digital Marketing at Children’s Health. She talked with us about the Google Search box. You’re probably familiar with it. It looks like this:

The answer box is text-based but it’s an important key to getting your library information in front of cardholders doing keyboard-based search inquires AND those using voice search options like Alexa or Suri. How is the answer box connected to voice search? Cox explains that voice search technology reads whatever answer appears first in the Google search. So, if you’re in the answer box, you are in first position and you get read by the voice search technology. That means if you live in the second or third results on Google, you won’t get read out. EVERYTHING ELSE underneath the answer box is ignored. There’s no glory in second place.

Wow. That’s depressing.

Comscore estimates that by 2020, half of all web browsing sessions will be done without a screen. So, what’s a library to do? Here are five steps to take now to move your library into the first position on Google search. These tips will increase the chances that your library will appear in the answer box and connect with more users.

Keyword research: Cox says you need to do real-world keyword research. That means you can use online tools like those I talked about in this post. But you must also talk to customers, face-to-face. Talk to front-line staff. Talk to the call center staff. Find out what customers are saying when they ask questions. What specific words or phrases do they use? Then start incorporating that language into your web content, social content, and all your marketing messages.

Competitor research: Cox suggests you do periodic searches for competing services offered by Amazon, your local bookstore, and online databases. What phrases and words do they use? How long, in words and characters, are their answers? Do they use bulleted lists, tables, or graphics to convey information to their customers?  What aren’t they doing well? All of these questions will inform you as you write searchable text for your website. You should feel free to copy what others are doing well. You can improve on what your competitors are doing poorly! You don’t need a big budget to write more searchable content.

Stop dictating your own content. Cox says we all need to stop brainstorming internally about what you want to write about. Start focusing on what your customers want. We must be answering the questions our customers have.

Create a FAQ page on your library website. Make the page easy to find and promote it throughout the web with blog posts, social media, emails… every marketing method at your disposal. The more people who go to the FAQ page, the higher the search ranking for that page will be, and the more quickly you’ll get into the answer box.

Re-purpose your content–with a purpose. Many libraries are creating videos for marketing purposes (HOORAY!). Now it’s time to take those videos and make them work to improve your search position. Take each of your videos and turn it into text. Post the text on your library blog and promote it in other ways. The more eyes that read the content in its written form, the more likely it is that the content will make its way into the answer box!

We’ve got our work laid out for us. After the conference, I started doing random searches to see where my library shows up in the answer box–and when it doesn’t. In some ways, we’re doing okay.

And in some ways, we have a lot of work to do.

So I’ll be looking for ways to make these five pieces of advice work in my content. And I’ll be paying more attention to the words we use on the website, making them local and specific. I’ll start thinking about what people will say when they use voice search to ask questions about my library. I’ll check these searches again in a few months to see how I’m doing. I urge you to do the same!

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!

The Best Advice for Library Marketing From CMWorld 2018

I wrote this post while sitting in my hotel room at the end of a week in Cleveland, Ohio at Content Marketing World. My brain is packed with ideas. My laptop battery is dead. Everywhere I look, I see orange. My iPhone says I’ve gotten about 13-15,000 steps a day and I didn’t even do my regular morning walk!

Content Marketing World was fantastic. I saw old friends and made new ones. And I’ve got plenty of new material to research and share with my fellow library marketers. But first, I want to share the quick takeaways from the presenters I saw. These are some pieces of advice that you can implement at your library right away.

Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, Content Marketing Institute: 38 percent of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, according to the latest research from the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs. That’s up a bit from 2017 but still not very high. Write down a content marketing strategy for your library. A written strategy helps remind you every day of what you are working on. It makes you accountable for results.

Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute: It only takes three things to be successful in your career. Step one is to write what you want to do. Set specific dates for when you will achieve those goals. And make sure you are serving others in your life.

Andrew Davis, Author, Brandscaping & Town, INC.: We are always told to keep our content short because our audience has the attention of a goldfish. QUIT BLAMING THE FISH. Our audience is capable of paying attention for as long as we can grab and hold their attention.

Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group, and Chief Marketing Officer, CONCURED: Marketing has a marketing problem. We are the cause of that problem because we create stuff that as consumers we wouldn’t consume, stuff no one wants.

Brian Massey, Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences: We must be aware of the bias we have for marketing tactics that have worked in the past. Data will tell you when something isn’t working. Listen to the data!

Cassandra Jowett, Director of Content Marketing, Pathfactory: Services like Netflix, Amazon, and Uber are influencing the way our buyers interact with companies. Everyone expects to have an on-demand experience in all aspects of their lives. We need to accommodate those demands.

Courtney Cox, Manager, Digital Marketing, Children’s Health: By 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen. Voice search will dominate the way we gain information on the internet. That means if you live in the second or third result on Google Searches, you won’t get read out on any voice-activated device. We must place a priority on getting into that first position on Google.

Rachel Schickowski, Employee Engagement Manager, Rockwell Automation: Employee engagement should be a top priority at your library. When employees are engaged, they give a better experience to customers.

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs: The most important part of the newsletter isn’t the news. The most important part is the letter. Editorial content performs way better than straight-up promotional mailings alone.

Dewitt Jones, photographer for National Geographic and other top publications: When passion and creativity exist, discipline and commitment are not an issue. Celebrate what is right with the world.

Kathleen Diamantakis, Managing Director, Strategy, T Brand, The NY Times: Cardholders are looking for something deeper and more meaningful when we engage with brands. They are discontent with content. There is an epidemic of meaninglessness in content.

Andrew and Pete, Founders, Andrew and Pete: There are always going to be bigger marketing teams out there that have bigger audiences, and that dominate search. They have giant budgets. Statistically speaking it’s impossible for your library to be the best. But there is another way to stand out. That’s by being better or different!

Jenny Magic, Senior Digital Strategist, Springbox: When you pitch a new idea or service to your co-workers, you can agree on how to move forward if you involve everyone in the process.  Redefine resistance as a positive thing. Dissent is a source of breakthroughs.

Tim Schmoyer, Founder, Video Creators: YouTube wants you to serve the right video to the right person at the right time. If you craft video content that does that, YouTube will elevate your video and more people will see it.

Margaret Magnarelli, Vice President, Marketing, Monster: In order to really engage our cardholders and get them to be loyal to us, we need to practice empathetic listening. It’s not that we shouldn’t use data to make informed decisions. But if we don’t combine facts with feelings, we’ll sacrifice relationships.

Tina Fey, Actress, Producer, Writer: Trust your gut. It’s always better to put it out there!

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!

The Complete Guide to the Best Library Podcasts

There is an exciting movement in the library marketing world! More libraries are creating podcasts as a way to reach cardholders, tell stories, and share information. My own library is in season three of a podcast, Inside the Writer’s Head. Each month, our Library Foundation’s Writer-in-Residence sits down with authors, publishers, and editors to talk about the writing process. The real value lies in the intimate connection we create with a listener. We usually get about 20 minutes of their undivided attention for these conversations. How often do you get the chance to talk one-on-one with your cardholders for that long?

I recently asked library marketers from around the United States and Canada about their podcasts. They have some amazing insights and advice about how to make the recording, editing, and distribution process work.  One library marketer even responded to my questions by recording her answers in a podcast! Now you can fill your own podcast feed with library shows and be inspired.

Andrew Murphy, Library Director, Sitka Public Library in Sitka, AK
Podcast: Sitka Sounds
How long it’s been in production: Since early 2018

Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Podcasts are a simple, but great medium to offer other library services. Many libraries have conducted oral history projects in the past and I view podcasts as a 21st-century extension of that service that is not limited to oral histories.

What is the goal of your podcast? To offer engaging content to our customers both in Sitka and off our island while including our local community members in the process.

Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? I initiated the service and created a few different series with different audiences in mind but the idea was always to allow all staff, and perhaps even the community members, access to develop their own series. I am in the process of moving to a different library and several staff members are trained and interested in developing different content for the service. Each episode only takes as long as the recording itself and about an equal amount of time to edit and upload.

How do you measure or quantify success? I don’t value success solely on stats and how many listens each episode receives. Our oral history project with Nancy Ricketts is being preserved by the State Library of Alaska. Obviously, they found value in the content itself – even if the series doesn’t attract a lot of immediate listeners. My hope for all the content is to preserve it for posterity. One of our series features local writers sharing their work. I believe the content has the potential to have a great value many years from now. Perhaps the grandchildren of the writers will find some meaning it or perhaps one of the writers will become world renown. It also functions like a time capsule for the culture of local writers in Sitka.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Invest in a good microphone.

Gregory McCormick, Manager, Cultural and Special Event Programming and Digital Media Team, Toronto Public Library, Toronto, ON, Canada
Podcast: Four series in production, none have finalized titles yet.
Launched: We are aiming to launch 2-3 series in the fall.

Why did your library decide to start a podcast? To support one of our strategic priorities to make as much content accessible to as many people as possible.

What is the goal of your podcast? To increase reach and to support books and literature. We also have specific goals for each podcast such as appealing to specific communities or to link library service.

Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? I am the executive producer of all of them but we have other producers involved in varying capacities. Episodes take anywhere from a few hours to a week to produce.

How do you measure or quantify success? Listeners/audience, social media buzz.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Don’t underestimate the time and staffing necessary. Very time-consuming.

Jenna Hassell, Community Relations and Marketing Coordinator, Jacksonville Public Library, Jacksonville, FL.
Podcast: 
Completely Booked
Launched: 
June 11, 2018

Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Our library has recorded a weekly segment for our local NPR stations Radio Reading Service frequency for the blind and visually impaired for many years. Our marketing department recently took over the recording of this segment and was having a good time writing the script each week and using our Jax Makerspace recording equipment to record it. Because of this, we decided that a podcast would a great fit for our department and invested in the equipment to start one.

What is the goal of your podcast? To bring information and stories to our customers and community in the format they want to receive it. We also want to give local residents a platform to tell their stories and have them archived.

Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? The podcast is created by me and my co-host, who is a part-time social media specialist in our department. Our full-time graphic designer produces and edits the show. We truly would not have started this project if we did not have our graphic designer on staff who knew audio editing really well already. We spend about 45 minutes with the guests we interview, then we spend about 10 minutes recording the intro and outro with just the two hosts. Our producer spends about an hour and a half to two hours editing the episodes and adding the theme music he created himself. So we spend about three hours on each episode.

How do you measure or quantify success? We are currently only looking at total listens. However, in our first episode, we talked about a local artist who had work in our current gallery exhibit. Someone who listened to that episode came into the library to view the work and ended up buying one of his pieces. We think that is a pretty incredible success story.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Make sure you have hosts who mesh well and are comfortable together. It can be intimidating talking on a mic. But when the two people talking are comfortable and are just themselves, it is much more enjoyable to listen to. Don’t rely too heavily on promotion. People listen to podcasts to be entertained and to be informed, not to be preached at or persuaded to come to your library program. A subtle plug or an interesting story about someone who used your services goes a lot farther.

Christie Lassen, Director of Communications and Partnerships, Howard County Library System, Ellicott City, MD.
Podcast: HiJinx
Launched: October 2016

Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Our previous CEO suggested the idea, and I asked two members of my team to brainstorm ideas. Dennis Wood and Victoria Goodman jumped at the opportunity to co-host.

What is the goal of your podcast? Our goal is to attract nationally known guests in connection with the podcast’s focus. We tie it back to the library with either someone from our system or from the larger community. For example, our very first podcast featured Forrest Pritchard, the well-known farmer and bestselling author, a local farmer who attends a weekly farmers market at one of our branches, and a local farm-to-table restaurant owner.

Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? Podcasts are created by two members of the Communications team: Dennis Wood and Victoria Goodman. Research, scripting, hosting and post-production takes between 25-30 hours per episode.

How do you measure or quantify success? In addition to tracking the number of listeners, we gauge our success on the caliber of guests we attract. In addition, the podcast won a MarCom Gold award and honorable mention by Hermes Creative Awards.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? When trying to find guests, don’t be afraid to ask for an interview. The worse they can say is “no”.

Kanya Lyons, Public Information Specialist Sr., Office of Programs and Partnerships, Austin Public Library, Austin, TX.  
Podcast: Volumes
Launched: September 2015

Just to be different, she responded to my questions with a podcast! Listen to her answers here.

Angela Hursh, Content Team Leader-Marketing, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, OH (that’s me!)  
Podcast: Inside the Writer’s Head
Launched: December 2016

Why did your library decide to start a podcast? Every year, our Library Foundation chooses a Writer-in-Residence. Our Adult Programming Manager helps that person create a schedule of learning-oriented events for their tenure. During the second year of the Writer-in-Residence program, we launched our MakerSpace, which has a full-service recording studio. We thought it would be a great way to use that new equipment and reach a new audience.

What is the goal of your podcast? To inspire potential and current writers.

Who creates it and how time-consuming is each episode from start to finish? The Writer-in-Residence is in control of the content and production. We use our MakerSpace audio booth to record their interviews. Our social media specialist takes the audio file and edits it out any errors or retakes, then adds the intro, tag, and theme music. The recording takes about an hour. The editing takes one to two hours.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to library podcasters? Promotion is key. We send a link to the podcast out to our cardholders via email each month and listens go way up after that email goes out.

Here are some other library marketing podcasts I love. I hope you do too!

Library Matters, produced by the Montgomery County Library in Maryland.

Check It Out, produced by the Sno-Isle Libraries in Washington state.

The Librarian Is In, produced by the New York Public Library.

Dewey Decibel, produced by the American Library Association.

Professional Book Nerds, produced by Overdrive.

The Library Podcast, produced by Turbitt & Duck.

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!

Introducing the Nine Blogs That Will Make You a Better Library Marketer

(Read time: 2 minutes, 28 seconds)

I am a fan of blogs. God bless the internet, it’s the best way to keep up to date on everything–food, fashion, the news, and the changes in library marketing. And, as much as I am also a fan of books of all kinds, I am not a fan of marketing books! The landscape of this profession changes fast. Unless it’s a philosophical take on marketing, most marketing books feel out of date within a year or two of publication.

Instead, I get my advice from blogs. So I’ve listed the nine blogs I recommend you read to stay on abreast of all the news in marketing. For the best use of your time, sign up for the email newsletters offered by these sites. Most will let you choose which topics you like to hear about and will send you content at the frequency that’s best for you. Set aside time on your calendar every day to read the content shared by these blogs. It’ll be time well spent. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order.

The Content Strategist

This blog features interesting articles broken into categories like storytelling, strategy, and ROI. They also post inspirational articles, which I love to save and read on days when I feel like my work is not having the impact it could or should.

Content Marketing Institute

At first glance, you might be intimidated. This blog is aimed at C-Suite or executive level marketers. But it’s good to read this advice even when you’re a little guy! There are always pieces of their strategy and bits of advice you can pick up and mold to work for your library. And the writers of this blog always seem to see the trends in consumer and business marketing before any other experts. Also, when you sign up for this newsletter you’ll get notifications about CMI’s free webinars. They have the most helpful webinars of any company in the marketing space.

Coschedule

I found this blog after using their online tool for writing better headlines. It’s among my favorites. Coschedule creates a lot of useful templates and writes easy-to-read, concise instructions on how to use them and how to improve your marketing.

The Daily Carnage

I read this one for laughs, good advice, and a lesson on how to write with humor and still be taken seriously.

Hubspot

Hubspot also gives away a lot of free templates and online courses that have tremendous value. Their blog posts cover a range of topics and are fun and insightful.

Mashable Marketing

One of my favorites by far. Their content is easy to read and interesting. They cover topics from social media to graphic elements to equipment to how pop culture affects marketing. It’s also written very, very well. This website is daily appointment reading for me!

PR Daily

If you sign up or bookmark just one blog from this post, this should be it. It’s essential for library marketing. This blog contains everything you need to know about public relations and the media. You have my permission to stop reading and subscribe to this one now. Then come back. Please.

Social Media Examiner

When I interview candidates for a social media position, I asked them where they get their news about social media. If they name this blog, they get a big A+ from me. Read it AND listen to Michael Stelzner’s podcast to get the best advice on social media from the industry’s best minds.

Spin Sucks

This blog offers a lot of helpful PR advice with a mix of fun posts designed to stretch your creative brain and general marketing advice. I really look forward to their daily email newsletter. I always learn something!

What is your favorite marketing blog? Please share the name in the comments so I can read it too!

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.

 

Shrewd Marketers Challenge Conventions. So Should We!

I’ve thought a lot lately about how to approach library marketing in a new and fresh way. As my library creates and executes our strategy for summer reading, I am looking at each tactic and wondering if we can improve the marketing of this legendary initiative. According to the American Library Association, summer reading programs began in the 1890s as a way to encourage school children, particularly those in urban areas and not needed for farm work, to read during their summer vacation, use the library, and develop the habit of reading. That’s a long time to be marketing a program and I think the industry might be a bit stuck in terms of how we do it.

For inspiration, I’ve looked over notes from a session I attended at Content Marketing World. It was led by Doug Kessler, co-founder and creative director of Velocity Partners, a B2B marketing agency with offices in the U.S. and England. Doug’s session was inspiring. It was titled Exceptional Content–Challenging the Invisible Conventions of Marketing. I printed out my notes and have read them through each morning, then thinking about the points he made every time I need a brain break.

Kessler focused his session on a concept he calls invisible conventions. We have so many invisible conventions in libraries. These are the ideas and practices that library staffers hold as traditional and unchangeable. If you hear someone say, “But we’ve always done it that way”, you know you’re talking about their invisible conventions. Invisible conventions are powerful.  Kessler says they guide and constrain us without us even knowing it.

We do need conventions.  But we don’t need to be slaves to convention. Kessler says it’s our job as marketers to expose the hidden conventions in our institution and play with them. Libraries can’t be precious about their conventions because your cardholders aren’t.  Conventions are a signal to your cardholders that marketing is involved–even if you’re trying to be sneaky about it. Your customers are smart, and they’ll put up their defense barriers.

Think about how you respond to marketing messages for invisible conventions. We’ve all developed a sense of when the pitch is coming and we run the other way! You don’t want to turn off your cardholders–you want to inspire them. But if you hang on to your invisible conventions for safety, you’ll never move forward in the marketing of your library.

Challenging your invisible conventions isn’t going to make you very popular, Kessler warns. And that’s okay. Your administration, leaders of other departments, even fellow librarians may have a strong reaction when you decide to challenge conventions. They are more comfortable with traditional marketing practices and they want you to create pieces that make them feel comfortable. Be strong. Take the long view. Persuade your co-workers that change is necessary and that safe marketing isn’t going to cut it with your cardholders. Your job is not to make everyone else in the library happy. Your job isn’t to make friends with everyone in you work with. Your job is to serve your cardholders, and you can only do that when you put your cardholders first. If that means you need to throw convention out the window, then it’s the best move. Don’t second guess yourself. When your instincts as a marketer tell you that something needs to change, you are right. Change it.

I’m reminded of advice I heard from another Content Marketing World speaker, Amanda Todorovich of the Cleveland Clinic. She confessed she’s made some people at the hospital unhappy with her relentless focus on the customer. She has a strategy and she often says “no” to people who want her to do conventional marketing. That means there are some folks she works with who don’t like her. Amanda is okay with that because she realizes her job is to serve the patients, not her co-workers. I draw inspiration from her attitude when I’m faced with having a difficult conversation with a co-worker. You can too! (Read my post about Amanda here.)

So how do you turn conventional marketing on its head? By doing more content marketing. Kessler says, thanks to the companies who came before us, the public knows marketing messages are often filled with compulsive and shameless lies (thanks, cigarette companies). Traditional marketing is all about the brand: a one-sided sales message.  Content marketing, by contrast, is all about the audience. Content marketing rewards libraries for telling the truth. It’s focused on utility–how can we best help our cardholders. It delivers value, builds trust, and it gives our cardholders the power!

Kessler left me with a final thought: unconventional marketing can lead to great stories. Be straight, simple, conversational, and relevant. You will change hearts and minds.

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.

Manipulating Cardholder Feelings to Get Results

A cardholder recently leveled an accusation against my marketing department for making her feel all the feels.

Here’s the brief story: our library is trying to raise money for a facilities plan. We have several Carnegie-era branches that are not yet accessible to those with disabilities. So we’ve started a content marketing campaign to educate our cardholders and the residents of our service area about the problem, as we will be asking them for money to fund the facilities plan. In our first video portion of the campaign, we interviewed a veteran who cannot get into the library branch in his neighborhood.

When we released the video, one of the viewers sent us a message. She said, “How dare you  manipulate my emotions and try to make me feel sorry for this guy.” I think this person was trying to make us feel guilty for marketing to her.

Sorry, not sorry.

Emotional marketing is effective. We have seen it work time and again for our library and other libraries. You may remember the story of the Leeds Library campaign, which used story-driven emotional marketing to change that community’s perception of the modern library and its value. Leeds won an award for their campaign, and one judge commented, “We loved the application of real-life, personal journeys to draw on the emotions, capture the imagination and change the perceptions of the audience.”

Effective marketing appeals to emotions, not logic, reason, or even facts. This is particularly effective in the world now, where social media algorithms are cutting into our organic reach. If we want better unpaid reach, we need to constantly engage our audience. To constantly engage our audience, we need them to take an action on every post. To get them to take action, we need to motivate them through emotion.

Research from the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, published in Current Biology, says humans really feel just four basic emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted. The kind of messages that get us engagement are all based on these basic emotions. When you feel happy or angry, you want to share that emotion with others in your social network. When you feel sad, you empathize with the subject your sadness and feel a motivation to help ease their suffering. When you are afraid, you want to take action to ease your fear.

Your most loyal cardholders are likely already emotionally connected to your brand, particularly if you work in a school or public library. The people who already use your library on a regular basis know it’s value. I bet you have superfans, and you know who they are. So what do you do with all that emotion? How do you make it work in your library’s marketing?

Ask loyal customers to share their stories with you. Conduct interviews with those passionate customers by email or on video and use those answers in many ways. Video marketing is the best way to capture emotion. There is no substitute for talking to someone on camera, for hearing their voice and seeing their facial expressions as they talk about your library. You don’t need fancy equipment. Pull out your cell phone, have them stand facing a window or head outside for a few minutes to take advantage of the natural light, and then ask them some emotionally charged questions about their library experience.

What is your favorite library memory?

Tell me about how the library has changed your life.

How would you feel if the library suddenly closed tomorrow?

If a  neighbor asked you to describe how you feel about the library, what would you say?

Ask your staff to share their stories with you. The next time you’re at an all-managers meeting, visiting another branch, or enjoying lunch with a fellow employee, ask them about life in their branch. Ask them to describe their customers. Inevitably, they’ll have one or two specific examples of people who have an unbridled enthusiasm for their location, or whom the branch staff has helped with a specific problem. Once again, pull out your phone, find some good lighting, and ask open-ended questions like:

How did that request by that cardholder make you feel?

Tell me how the situation was resolved.

Did you worry about how you would handle that request?

What is your relationship with the customer now?

And for good measure, I always ask, What compelled you to look for work in a library?

You can post these emotional marketing videos as a whole edited piece or in sections. You can turn the quotes into a printed piece for your newsletter or email list. You can create digital slides or posters in your branches using the quotes. My library used this tactic last year for a series of videos we called Customer Impact stories. We posted them on YouTube and on Facebook and is was one of our first pieces of video content marketing. The audience and our staff LOVED them. We broke them down and used them in our Library Links publication and in other ways, and they prompted more customers and staff to come forward with more amazing stories. It wasn’t hard and it didn’t take a long time to put together. It was effective. Score!

Adding emotional marketing to your regular promotional schedule keeps your cardholders engaged and feeling all the feels whenever they think of your library. It’s not something to apologize for. It’s something to be proud of.

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.

 

Inspiring Advice From An Expert Blogger

A few months ago, I asked readers whether their library had a blog. 61 percent of respondents said no. I have to include myself in that statistic. And the more I think about it, the more that bothers me.

Blog-less libraries are missing a HUGE opportunity. A blog has a number of promotional advantages that simply cannot be replicated with any other type of tactic. And to make my case, I am going to share insights with you from a session at Content Marketing World–one that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about in the months since the conference.

Amanda Todorovich is the Director of Content Marketing at the Cleveland Clinic. She’s the 2016 winner of the Content Marketer of the Year from the Content Marketing Institute and she runs the most visited hospital blog in the United States, Health Essentials. Her session was all about the Cleveland Clinic blog and its success. And her story made me want a blog for my library.

Amanda says a blog is the best promotional tool because it creates brand awareness and relationships with current and potential customers. The goal of the Cleveland Clinic blog is to create a space in which the hospital is top of mind all the time with people looking for health information. Think about this: the hospital cannot create demand for their services. So they aim to provide credible health information at all times so that, in the unfortunate moment when someone is sick or injured, the first place they think of is the Cleveland Clinic.

That principle applies to libraries as well. There are times when a library cardholder may not need their library, but we want to stay top of mind with them so that they’ll turn to us when they do need books, or help with a struggling reader in their home, a passport, a voter registration form, help to create a resume, or whatever problem they might have. Libraries are not just about programs and books and there is a lot of value to offer your cardholders beyond those two basic services.

But Amanda also says in order for your blog to work, you have to stand strong. Your blog cannot be all things to all people. You’ll have to decide on your mission, write it down, and stick to it. This doesn’t mean that you are ignoring certain cardholders. It means that your blog has one focus, one mission and that everything you write–no matter the audience–drives at completing that mission. For example, Health Essentials mission is to engage users in daily conversation using health, wellness and clinical content that is unique to Cleveland Clinic. They’re not ignoring anyone. Rather, they are focusing all their energy on delivering on that mission to all of their potential patients and patient families. See the difference?

Blogs have a value beyond pure promotion. Using the right keywords and paying attention to metadata, tags, and links will help boost your position in search traffic. That means people will be able to find you first during a search. Some big brands pay big money for great search results placement. Can you imagine what would happen if; every time someone searches Google for a book, a DVD, or information that they land on your library’s blog? The impact would be mind-blowing.

Some library marketers are already taking this advice to heart, including Brook Savoie, who works for Lafourche Public Library in Thibodaux, Louisiana. She told me, “Our librarians take turns writing a post weekly. The purpose is to just bring more awareness to things that we do! It works well for me for social media, because I can share these blog posts weekly with our audiences without having to create any content myself.”

So, step one is convincing you, your staff, and your administration, to launch a blog. It’s worth it. You can do it. Here are Amanda’s other tips for blog success.

Focus on creating better posts, not more posts. You don’t have to post every day. Just pick a CONSISTENT schedule. Create a list of topics and then write. That’s what I do with this blog. I spend roughly three hours a week on this blog and that’s really only because I am my own editor. If I could just write and revise a draft and then hand it off to another person to edit, it wouldn’t take much time at all. I spend about ten minutes crafting and testing headlines. I spend about ten minutes making the graphic. I spend about ten minutes scheduling all the distribution. I write on the weekend and it feels like it doesn’t take much time at all.

Be willing to say no. Amanda says she doesn’t have a lot of friends outside her team because she says no to a lot of requests by other departments for blog posts. The hospital blog is focused on the needs of their readers, not on the needs of the organization and that’s why it works. When your customers are the center of your universe, you are providing them with value and they’ll keep coming back to you. You are beholden to your cardholders, and they should be your only concern.

Measure and test and test again. Never be content with the results, even when they seem good. Ask “what if” all the time–it could lead you to an extraordinary idea that takes your blog to the next level. Testing actually keeps blog writing interesting and keeps life exciting (I AGREE).

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.

 

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.

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