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Super Library Marketing: All kinds of marketing ideas for all kinds of libraries.

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The Step-by-Step Method for Figuring Out the Best Time to Send Library Marketing Emails and Why You Should Never Stop Experimenting!

I spend a good portion of my day as a library marketer trying to figure out how my cardholders live their lives. What do they do? When to they do it? What parts of their life are difficult? What parts are enjoyable? When do they have free time?

We do know a lot about the people who use the library, thanks to our own library surveys and great organizations like Pew Research Center. But you can also figure out what your cardholders are doing by email marketing experimentation. And your findings can increase the effectiveness of your marketing.

On the Library Marketing Live Instagram show, Dari from Cook Memorial Public Library District wanted to know how to figure out the best time to schedule marketing email to different audiences. The answer, in general terms, is between 6 p.m. and midnight. But I want to dive a little deeper into how I came to this conclusion and why this might NOT be the case for the people using your library!

If you’re just starting out with email marketing, check with the experts. There are a lot of companies (mostly email marketing software companies) which publish research on the best time of day and the best day of the week to send marketing emails, plus a bunch of other data points. So, start by gathering the latest research from these companies. Some of my favorites are Hubspot, AWeber, and Convertful.

Think about the daily life of your cardholder. If you are sending an email to a group of people who use a particular branch, or who are in a particular age group, try to imagine what they do all day. This generalization method will help you identify points in the day in which your target audience might have time to check their email.

Here’s an example: When I’m sending emails to parents of school-age children, I avoid 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., when parents are usually racing to get their kids ready to go to school. I also avoid 2:30 p.m. to dinner time, because many parents are picking up their kids, running them to extra-curriculars, and tackling homework.  I send marketing emails very early in the morning, like 5 a.m., so they are sitting in their inbox when they wake up but before their kids are up. I also send them after 8 p.m. when most school-age kids are in bed.

When I send emails to teenagers, I never, ever, ever send them in the morning. I exclusively email teenagers at night, and the later the better. That’s because most teens don’t have time to relax until 9:30 p.m. or later, after homework and after-school activities. They will likely check their email right before they fall to sleep at night, and they’re more likely to act on email in the late evenings.

Experiment. Send emails for a 3-6 months period of time. If you’re just starting out, try all hours of the day and night. Keep meticulous records of the results including open, click through, and conversion rates on all your emails.

After your allotted experimentation time, comb through the data and figure out which times of day resulted in the most click-throughs and conversions. Those are your optimum times to send emails! Focus most of your email scheduling on your proven best time of day.

And never stop experimenting. Start another experimentation period of 3-6 months, and then re-analyze data. If you notice a decline in click-through and conversion rates, go back to the drawing board.

My latest six-month analysis shows the best time to send email is between 6 p.m. and midnight, for all age categories and for all card types. This was not always the case. Two years ago, I could send my emails any time of the day EXCEPT between 7 a.m. and noon. But, at the end of 2018, that changed and the only emails that did well were the ones I sent at night.

Why did the effective time change? Because people’s lives change. Your cardholder base changes. The way that email gets delivered by various email providers changes. All of these factors mean that you’ll need to be in a constant state of experimentation. Don’t get married to any one time of day. Have an open mind and be ready to change your email scheduling strategy when the data tells you it’s time to change.

The most important thing is to have good content. If your emails contain stuff that your email audience wants to know about, they will engage with them, no matter what time of day it is. Try and keep your emails short. Focus on a few lines of really compelling text and one or two clear calls to action.

Bonus controversial opinion: I am not a fan of email newsletters. They usually contain too much information and too many calls to action. Their subject matter is usually too broad for their audience. I know a lot of us have to send them because senior leaders love them. But they aren’t an efficient use of email marketing. It would be better to take each section of your newsletter and send it separately to a targeted audience.

Don’t forget to join us for the LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING TALK ON INSTAGRAM every Tuesday at noon ET. We’ll talk about library marketing topics for about 20 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form.

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, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  

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Five Reasons Why You Should Stop Ignoring LinkedIn for Library Marketing Plus Tips to Get Started on Posts

NEW LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING TALK ON INSTAGRAM! Be sure to join me for my first live Instagram Q&A about Library Marketing. The live discussion happens every Tuesday at noon ET (11 a.m. Central and 9 a.m. Pacific) beginning this Tuesday, June 25. Join me to talk about library marketing topics for about 20 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form below. See you there!

Whenever I talk to library marketers about social media success, the conversation usually centers on Facebook and Instagram. Most libraries worry about decreasing organic engagement on Facebook. They’re trying to master stories on Instagram and attract younger users.

I’ll be honest… these conversations frustrate me. That’s because libraries are battling a social media system that’s stacked against us. Facebook and Instagram and both focused on monetization. The truth is they don’t care if nonprofits can’t compete with brands. They only care that they’re making money and gathering data for their advertisers. And I, for one, have had enough.

That’s part of the reason behind a decision we made at our Library to focus a good portion of our efforts for organic social media reach on another platform: LinkedIn. And I want more libraries to use this platform to promote themselves.

 

More and more people are using LinkedIn. In a report released by the platform’s owner Microsoft, the company reported that engagement grew 24 percent in the last quarter. That’s huge.

LinkedIn is great for sharing content marketing and making personal connections with your cardholders. The audience on this social platform is smaller and more focused. Users are interested in career development, higher education, workplace issues, self-help ideas, and personal growth.

It’s also a largely positive place. There’s no toxic talk. Users comment in courteous and supportive way. There are also limited ads. It’s a happy place! I’m on LinkedIn several times a day and there are zero trolls.

LinkedIn is a great place for libraries to post content because competition for attention on the platform is small. Most libraries, educational institutions, and government agencies only post job openings on their LinkedIn page. But the platform is the number one choice for content among professionals. If you start posting today, you can grow your followers, create brand awareness, tailor targeted messages, and connect with cardholders without much competition from anyone else.

I know libraries struggle to keep up with all the social media changes but I really, really, really want you to embrace LinkedIn, even if it means you have to drop back your posting on another platform.

Here’s another reason to make the switch: LinkedIn recently improved its analytics tool. They’ll give you a ton of data about the people coming to your page. Next to Google Analytics, I think their metrics are the most in-depth. That’s a huge help to marketers. LinkedIn will tell you the kinds of people who are looking at your library’s content. You can see their industry and location. You can see their job seniority, from unpaid to training to managers and CEOs. You can even see their company size. You can use that information to program your content.

And LinkedIn is now leading the social media platforms with very specific and transparent metrics for content. They’ll tell you how many people look at your content for a specific amount of time or the number of people who click on your links.

My Library posts at least once a day during the week (Monday-Friday) on LinkedIn. We share a variety of content from our own events and collection as well as curated content from other sources. This steady stream of sharing introduces the library and its services to a new audience of people. And we’ve seen exactly the same kind of growth that the platform reports. We began our real push this past April. In that first month,  our posts received 24 percent more engagement that they did the previous month, when we still weren’t posting with regularity. Our unique visitors were up an average of 16 percent a month. And the more we posted, the better it got. This month (June 2019) we saw a 44 percent increase in visitors to our page. Post impressions were up seven percent. It’s not a huge number but a little bit of growth every month is going to add up.

A study by OkDork, which analyzed more than 3,000 LinkedIn posts, found that “how-to” and list posts performed best. It also revealed that long-form content (articles between 1,900-2,000 words) performed the best, as well as content with eight images.

Of course, you should always match your content on social with your library’s overall strategy goals. But here are some other ideas for content to share on LinkedIn.

Share collection items, services, and events that focus on self-help, career advancement, personal wellness, diversity, literacy, architecture, and entrepreneurship. For more ideas about the kinds of content your particular followers will find interesting, check your page’s analytics. The visitors tab will show you which industries your followers are working in. Then you can post content that matches those industries and offer value to your specific followers.

Search trending articles about libraries and the industries your followers work in. Pick your favorite, add a few lines that talk about how the article affects your community or library, and re-share the article.

Post original articles by thought leaders at your library, like your director.

Highlight library staff and give your followers an inside look at what it’s like to work in a library. My library likes to ask the highlighted worker what their favorite Library service or collection item is and then we link to it. It gives us a chance to promote something the library offers in addition to our amazing staff!

Give your partners and the media some love. Whenever one of your partner organizations does something wonderful, you can share their news on LinkedIn just as you would on any other social media platform. Most companies and nonprofit organizations have a LinkedIn page. Likewise, when you get good press, share the stories on LinkedIn just as you would on Twitter or Facebook!

Post your video marketing on LinkedIn. Just as with Instagram and Facebook, video marketing is a big deal on LinkedIn. I recommend uploading the video straight to LinkedIn, rather than linking to your YouTube channel or your website. LinkedIn will give you more organic reach if you post straight to their platform, rather than driving people to another social media site.

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, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  

The Tiny Little Mistakes That Ruin Your Library Marketing Emails AND How to Fix Them!

NEW LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING SHOW ON INSTAGRAM! I’ve decided to try a new thing! I’ll be doing a live Instagram Q&A and discussion about Library Marketing. The sessions will be every Tuesday at noon ET (10 a.m. Central and 9 a.m. Pacific) beginning Tuesday, June 25. Join me to talk about library marketing topics for about 20 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form below. See you there!

I get a lot of library marketing emails. I love to see what other systems are doing. So, I go to their websites and I see if I can get on their mailing lists! It’s fun and it helps me to find new things to promote and new ways to communicate with my audience.

I also get a first-hand look at some of the small boo-boos that other library marketers make in their emails. Email is hard. I’ve been doing email marketing for so long (feels like forever!) that I have made all of these mistakes myself! And I love email marketing, so I’m weirdly obsessed with learning about it. Some of the positive text and design choices that work for library marketing in other promotional pieces, like posters, flyers, websites, and blogs, do not work in email marketing.

The good news is that these little problems are easily fixed! Tiny adjustments in the text and design of your email can improve your click-through rates and effectiveness. Check this list against what you’re doing now and start reaping the benefits of improved email design!

Problem: too many images: A clean design is crucial to engagement. Too many images or too much text is off-putting to your email recipient.

The most common email programs like Yahoo and Outlook will NOT automatically download images. In fact, only Gmail downloads images automatically. With all other providers, the email recipient receiver must consciously click a prompt in order to download an image. That means if your image is conveying most of the key message in your email, your receiver likely won’t see it.  They will miss the information and the call to action, and your email is useless.

Solution: Create an email that is mainly text-based. I have found an 80-20 mix works best: 80 percent of my email is text, 20 percent is image-based. The image I use compliments the text. Its purpose is to create emotion or set the mood of the email. It’s there to inspire. It doesn’t convey key messages and it doesn’t contain the call to action.

Problem: too much text. An email that contains several long paragraphs of information is off-putting to recipients. It gives the impression that your email will take a long time to read.

The email scheduling platform Boomerang studied results of about 20 million emails sent using their software. They found that the optimal length of a marketing email is between 50 and 125 words. A study by Constant Contact of more than 2.1 million customers found emails with approximately 20 lines of text or 200 or so words had the highest click-through rates.

Excessive text can also send negative signals to spam filters. Too much text added to excessive punctuation or large images could keep your emails from ever arriving in an inbox.

Solution: Limit your email text to 200 words or less. The recipient should be able to read all the information in your email in about 15 seconds. If you have more information to share, use your call to action to indicate that there’s more to know about your subject. Then send your recipient to a landing page where they can get all the information they need.

Problem: Text that is too small. Keep in mind the growing number of people who will read your email on a mobile device. You want to make sure they can actually see your words. An 11 or 12 point font size is too small to be seen clearly on a screen.

Solution: Increase your text size.  Email font should never be below 18 point in size.  You should also use the bold option to make the most important information stand out.

Problem: Wishy-washy calls to action.  A compelling call to action is one of the best ways to increase the click-through rates of your library marketing. Some library marketing emails also contain too many CTAs.

Solution: Use positive, active language in your CTA. “Register” “Read This Book”, “Learn More”, “Join Us”, “Donate”, and “Get Started” are some of my favorites. I put my CTAs in a square red box that looks like a button to compel my recipients to click on them. I embed the CTA in my image as well and use the “alt text” to convey the CTA in case someone’s eye skims the email. I try to keep my CTAs to one per email.

One image, with the main text in bold at 18 point found. A few sentences and a clear call to action.

Problem: Ignoring mobile responsiveness.  Mobile opens accounted for 46 percent of all email opens according to the latest research from Litmus. If your emails aren’t optimized for mobile, you are missing a huge potential audience, particularly women and young people.

Solution: Optimize your emails for mobile to make them responsive. Most email marketing programs offer mobile responsive templates. My library uses Savannah by OrangeBoy. We switched to all responsive templates in January of this year. I’ve seen a nine percent increase in click-through rates. I count that as a win!

Problem: No system for proofing your emails in different kinds of email boxes. Your email design might look great in your creation software. But if you send it without testing it, you may find that your email becomes a kind of monster creature! It may show up a a jumbled mess of images and text. This happens because every email inbox will convert your email differently.

Solution: Test your email to make sure your message displays correctly for your recipients. Find people that you trust you have different providers… someone with Gmail, someone on Outlook, someone on Yahoo, and so on. Send them the message and ask them to check for warped images, font problems, and extra spaces.

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, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  

Nine Free Online Writing Tools To Help Add Clarity and Creativity to Your Writing Every Day!

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately! Library marketing often means cranking out text for a variety of promotional pieces. Sometimes it’s a long form article. Sometimes it’s a few lines in an email. Sometimes it’s a speech. Sometimes you’re trying to convince the public or lawmakers to give you more money.

Writing is hard. Writing for a lot of different audiences is hard. Cranking out text on command is hard. Library marketers are always crunched for time. Sometimes we’re so exhausted that our creativity is nowhere to be found. But we still need to make sure the meaning of our text is clear and emotional.

That’s where online writing tools come in handy. They can help your writing have more of an impact. They can help you craft sentences that are clear and concise, even when the subject matter is not! They can help you figure out a headline that will draw readers in. They can help you discover just the right word to make your meaning clear.

I use writing tools Every. Single. Day. Here are my favorites! They’re all free.

Before You Write

Blog About: Sometimes the most difficult part of writing is coming up with an idea! This site has thousands of fill-in-the-blank prompts that can help you brainstorm your next topic. It’s a great place to visit when you’re suffering from writer’s block.

Ubersuggest.io: This site was created by Neil Patel, who is somewhat of an internet marketing genius (subscribe to the podcast Marketing School to see what I mean). This tool helps with keyword suggestions, content ideas, and back link data.

Neil just added a new feature that lets you search your competitors to see what they’re doing! I was able to search some neighboring libraries to see how much traffic is going to their sites and what keywords are driving that traffic. Then I decided to check out the information for my own library.  I can use that data to insert keywords into our blog posts that will continue to drive traffic or bring new visitors to our website!

During Writing

Atlas: This website presents you with research and data which you can use to back up any claims you are making in your writing. It’s easiest for me to explain by showing you. I did a search for “libraries.”

The results come up in chart form. Cool, right?

Now, there are limitations. For one, all the data comes from one source, Quartz Media, so the charts only pull data from their publications and media properties. You have to attribute your charts to Quartz. And they have a lot of holes in their research. For instance, when I searched “hunger” and “childhood literacy,” I got no results. But they do have a lot of info on a lot of other topics that might be of interest to your library marketing audience, like careers, reading, and publishing.

HemingwayAppI use this text editor all the time! You can either write inside the program or you can copy and paste your draft into their site. Then you get a ton of suggestions on words to change or cut to make your writing clearer and bolder. This is great if you don’t have a person serving as your editor.

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor This is a fascinating tool. Its basic premise is that, in order to write clearly, you should try to only include the ten-hundred most commonly used words in the English language.

Here’s how it works: You copy and paste a bit of text, or type directly into the tool, and then hit enter. It will point out all words you should change to be more conversational. For fun, I pasted in my first-draft version of a paragraph from earlier in this post: Writing is hard. Writing for a lot of different audiences and cranking out text on command is even harder. Library marketers are always crunched for time. Sometimes we’re so exhausted that our creativity is nowhere to be found. But we still need to make sure our words do exactly what they’re intended to do. 

Up-Goer suggested I replace these words: AUDIENCES, CRANKING, TEXT, COMMAND, LIBRARY, MARKETERS, CRUNCHED, EXHAUSTED, CREATIVITY, NOWHERE, INTENDED.

Why does this matter? It helps you to write more conversationally. It will help you to review the language you are using so you can really make sure your writing is going to make sense to the average reader.

Obviously, you don’t have to change your text based on every suggestion. I changed several of the words in that paragraph for the final draft of this post and ignored the rest of the suggestions. I like it because it forces me to rethink the way I write. It makes me consider whether my words are truly the best way to express my thoughts and feelings to my library marketing audience.

Grammarly. It’s not a substitute for a human editor but it’s a great way to give your pieces a first look for spelling and grammar errors, sentence structure problems, run-on sentences, and punctuation issues. You can add words using the personal dictionary function, which is helpful for those quirky instances that may be part of your library style guide. For instance, my library always capitalizes Library so I’m constantly fighting other apps over this randomly capitalized word in the middle of a sentence!

Cliché Finder: This tool is pretty self-explanatory. It highlights clichés in your text so you can avoid overused expressions. If clichés are your pet peeve (as they are mine), then this tool will be your new favorite!

Before You Publish

LibreOffice: I recently discovered this free, open-source software extension. It’s like Windows, but prettier and easier to use! It’s compatible with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher. Once you get your actual writing done, this software will help you to organize your documents, add charts, and beef up your presentations so they look more polished.

Sharethrough Headline Analyzer: This is my new favorite headline tool. Type your proposed headline in. You’ll get a score, and tips on ways to improve your headlines. Every headline on this blog since the beginning of 2019 has been polished using this tool. I believe it’s one of the reasons traffic is up on my site. I use it for headlines on my print publications for the library as well.

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, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  

Four Sneaky Ideas to Insert Marketing Tactics Into Your Everyday Work as a Librarian

I need your help! In a few weeks, I’m giving a short online seminar to library directors about marketing! I have 15 minutes to convince them to throw their full support behind library marketing. I really want this talk to impact the way library directors think about your work. So… please let me know what you want library directors to know about library marketing. Fill out the form before you even read this post. It’s anonymous! Thank you!

Librarians are busy folks. You’re on the front lines, trying to work with cardholders and community members. You’re looking up information. You’re connecting people with social service resources. You’re filling out paperwork, creating curriculum for story time, and putting up displays. And you’re doing about 100 other things that I don’t know about because I’m not a librarian.

I worry about how much libraries lean on librarians to do their own marketing. Senior staff might believe spending money to hire staff for marketing is not a good use of their limited funds. But it’s not good for the librarians and it’s not good for the library.

I also can’t change the world in one blog post. What I can do is help the librarians in my readership to strategize to make marketing part of their regular duties. Here are four things that you can do that are already part of your job. These are marketing tactics, though you may not have thought of them that way before!

Merchandising. Merchandising is a form of marketing that focuses on presenting the items in your branch in the way that will compel people to interact with them. Every display, every sign, every decision on the arrangement space in your branch is a chance to market your library.

I know that the decision many libraries made to switch from using the Dewey Decimal system to a more categorized approach for arranging items pains library purists. But it pays off.  Library visitors are accustomed to browsing in stores by categories. By mimicking that display effect, libraries make it easier for people to find the items they want and need. We want to be as easy to use (or easier) than our for-profit competitors.

It’s a time-consuming process but I’ve put merchandising first on this list because it is the most important and impactful way that librarians can market their branch. If you haven’t thought about re-arranging the materials in your branch, now is a great time to start. And to get some help, I recommend the slides from a presentation from Allison Fiscus of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. She recently did an online seminar. Her presentation includes data that shows how merchandising positively effects the customer experience. She included a lot of visuals to help you understand her concepts. You can find them here.

Exceptional customer service. A lot of big brands have focused on improving customer service as a marketing tactic. If you are working on the front-line of your library, you have a unique opportunity to interact with cardholders.

The marketing buzz phrase for doing this is “surprise and delight.” We want to surprise our cardholders with service that exceeds their expectations. When we do that, they feel delighted with us! (Isn’t that just a sunny thought?) Delighted cardholders are more likely to spread the word to their friends and family about our system and the services we provide. They may be compelled to talk about us positively on social media, give us great reviews on Google Business, and support our work through donations or volunteerism. These are all marketing wins!

Good customer service is a competitive edge for libraries. If we can create an environment of inclusive and open access where people truly feel supported and cared for, we’ll have the clear advantage over for-profit competitors. One-on-one help is time-consuming, but it will pay off. We’ll build a reputation as a warm and inviting space. When’s the last time you heard Amazon or Best Buy described in those terms?

Library staff must make the commitment to provide good customer service. It’s not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. To help you, I love this free guide from Hubspot. It’s got templates and a ton of great information that you can use to improve your own customer service skills.

I also recommend you read this interview with Dan Gingiss, an expert at customer service. He’s written a great book with tips about customer service in social media and his interview has lots of ideas for improving library customer service to make our industry more competitive.

Word of mouth promotion. I get a lot of requests from librarians in my system who want our marketing department to promote their event or service. Posters and emails and fliers work, but the most effective method of marketing, in my experience, is word of mouth. You need to be telling your cardholders about your branch, events, and services. Talk to them!

Librarians are in a better position to sell people on their services and events than a for-profit business. That’s because you are a trusted member of the community. Librarians are admired and your opinions are valued more than the average person. Use that advantage to help “sell” the things that your branch offers!

I know word of mouth promotion seems time-consuming.  But consider this. Data tells us that you have to get your message in front of your cardholder an average of SEVEN TIMES before they’ll be compelled to act on it. But when you have a direct conversation with a cardholder about your library, you are making a compelling and personal case. 75 percent of people don’t believe the advertisements they read but 92 percent believe brand recommendations they receive from trusted sources. Librarians are trusted! So just talk to people.

Sharing on your personal social media. Yes, you should be sharing posts from your library’s social media channels on your own personal channel. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Just pick the promotions you feel most personally passionate about. Hit the “share” button and add a line about why this particular event or service is meaningful to you.

Your recommendations are trusted because of your position. It’s not unethical to share your employer’s promotional social posts. I know you feel passionate about the work your library is doing. Don’t be shy. Share your enthusiasm!

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, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  

How Can You Tell If People Want To Read Your Library’s Print Newsletter or Magazine? Some Not Exactly Scientific Ideas!

I love my library’s print publication, Library Links. It’s full of stories about the library, its staff, and its cardholders. It’s fun to write. It fun to watch it transform from a bunch of Word documents into a legitimate magazine. It’s satisfying to put it into the world every three months.

But for all the personal satisfaction I derive from creating it, I sometimes wonder if it’s a good use of my time. How do I know that it’s actually something people want to read? How do I know if it’s effective? It’s impossible to track the return on investment of print promotions. Or is it?

I know many library marketers face this same dilemma. Most libraries have a newsletter or magazine of some form. The strategies for each of these print pieces vary. The audience varies. The budget varies.

But we must measure the return on investment of all of our marketing, including print pieces. So how do you do that? Here are some of the ways I use to measure the effectiveness of my print magazine.

Track who actually wants to read your publication. Many libraries print thousands of copies of their publication. Then they send them out automatically to all the people living in their service area. They might also send copies home with each child in their school district. I totally understand that tactic. But my bet is that more than half of those publications end up in the trash. It’s like sending un-targeted email messages. If someone isn’t already engaged with the library, the sad truth is they aren’t going to read your newsletter. That’s a shame, because it’s a waste of money for the library and a waste of time for you and your staff.

A better approach is to ask readers to opt-in to the publication. There are a couple of ways to do this. Ask people to sign up for it, either when they sign up for a library card or through an email campaign. You could send your print publication to anyone who donates your library’s fundraising groups. You can put copies out in your branches. You can also distribute copies to partner organizations with locations that have a lot of foot traffic, like museums and theaters.

Then, quite simply, count how many copies you have to print to meet the demand of your mailing and distribution lists. If people are seeking out your publication–if they are making any kind of effort to get a copy– that’s a good sign that it’s effective.

I’ve noticed that if my library releases a great issue of Links with a compelling cover story and lots of great content, people clamor for copies. We might have to visit our partner organizations again to give them more copies for distribution. We sometimes have cardholders who approach branch staff to ask when the next issue is coming out. My goal is always to run out of copies!

It’s not entirely scientific but an opt-in approach to your print publication can give you an idea of whether the publication is effective. And why spend money and time printing something that isn’t read?

Hashtags and emails: Ask readers to post a social media comment on a story or an event in your print publication. Give them a unique hashtag to use when they post their comment. Then count how many comments you receive. You can also ask readers to send an email with their comments to a special inbox. Then you can count the number of emails you receive.

Custom URLs and sub-domains on your website: I like to create Bit.ly URLs for sub-pages on my website that allow me to track traffic to those pages that are specific to readers of my print publication. For instance, my library has a web page that explains our passport service. For our upcoming issue of Library Links, I created the URL cinlib.org/passport. I’m not using that URL in any other promotions. So once the issue is out, I can see exactly how much of the traffic driven to that page came from my Links readers.

If your marketing department is also in charge of your website, create vanity sub-domains and use those URLs only in your print publications to help you track readers. If you decide to go that route, you can use Google Analytics to watch traffic to those sites. Create a custom tracking URL (How to Track Library Marketing with Google Analytics URL Builder). This will let you sort out the traffic coming to that particular webpage and determine what percentage is directly driven there by your print publication.

Secret: This same idea can be used on all your library’s print pieces, including posters, bookmarks, and other handouts. If you feel like your library is doing too much print marketing, you can get some hard data to back up your claim by tracking it through digital means.

Re-purpose your content and track engagement. Many of the stories we publish in Links are re-purposed a month or so later for social media posts, blog posts, and other content purposes. This helps us to get more out of the stories and gives us another way to measure whether the story is interesting to our audience. Plus it gives us a way to reach new audiences and make people aware of Library Links so they’ll want a real print copy.

Ideas for More Engaging Print Content

Amazing Content Marketing Stories About Your Library Are Right Under Your Nose!

How My Library Pivoted Its Event Newsletter Into a Content Marketing Magazine

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, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  

The Five Most Pressing Social Media Problems Faced by Every Library Marketer

This may mean I’m weird but one of my favorite things to do is check for information about social media on the Social Media Today website. And I’m a little obsessed with their monthly statistics report, which they publish in easy-to-digest infographic form. I spend a few minutes each month looking that report over just to make sure my library is still justified in posting on social media. I can also get new ideas for library marketing engagement on social media based on trends. This is fun for me. So yeah, I’m weird.

Data is always helpful. But social media is moving target. And many library marketers are busy doing other tasks as part of their job descriptions. We want to use our time efficiently.  And we want to be effective.

I’ve gathered the most pressing questions about social media from some of my readers. Let’s lay out some answers and resources to help make your job easier.

What social media platforms should we post on? The answer to this really comes down to your strategy. What is your library trying to accomplish? Who is your target audience?

I love that monthly report from Social Media Today because it tells me why people use each social media platform. You can use that report to decide where you should post based on your library’s strategy and goals.

You must also consider how much time your library is willing to invest on social media. My library posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest because each of those platforms aligns with some portion of our library’s overall strategy. But I am not going to lie to you: that’s a lot of work. I’m lucky to have several staffers who work together to post. And it’s still really hard for us to keep up.

Smaller libraries will want to concentrate on the platform or platforms that will give their library the most benefit. Quality is better than quantity. It’s okay to only post on one platform!

Further reading

The Top 21 Social Media Sites to Consider

How often should I post on social media? Posting on social media is a scientific attempt. You should set a reliable cadence. You’ll want to be consistent with your posts. Track the results and adjust your posting schedule based on the results.

Based on our experience at my library, here’s what I recommend as a starting point:

Facebook: No more than once a day

LinkedIn: Once or twice a day

Instagram stories: At least once a day

Instagram feed: Two to three times a week

Twitter: Five to 12 Tweets a day, plus retweets and responses. On Twitter, you should repeat tweets at intervals. The feed is a moving target and unless someone is scrolling through at the exact moment your tweet goes out, they’ll miss it. Users rarely go to a page to see a library’s full schedule of Tweets!  It’s also okay to post 24 hours a day. There are people who are awake at 2 a.m. scrolling through Twitter!

Pinterest: Several organic Pins each day (something created by you and leading to your library’s website) plus as many curated Pins as you need to stay aligned with your strategy. An easy way to get those organic Pins onto your boards is to Pin the best new books from your collection. If you have a blog, you can also post content from that.

Further reading

How Often to Post on Social Media

The Truth about How Often to Post on Social Media

Does our library need to buy a Facebook ad to get any organic reach and, if so, how much should we spend? The short answer to this is yes. You’ll need to spend money on Facebook ads or boost your Facebook posts to see any significant organic traffic for your other Facebook posts. That’s the sad fact of it. (can you tell my enthusiasm for Facebook is waning?)

That said, you don’t have to spend much money at all. Most libraries can spend about $2-3 a day to boost a post or promote an event and see results. Facebook gives you a lot of control and help in choosing a target audience. As always, you’ll have to look at your library’s overall strategy to determine which posts to spend money on.

Further reading

Facebook for Nonprofits-10 Tips

Why Facebook is a Waste of Time and Money for Nonprofits

How can I get more followers on my social media accounts? Please stop focusing on follower counts. I want libraries to focus instead on engagement. It’s kind of like speaking at a conference. You might be thrilled at the prospect of talking to a huge group of people. But if half of your audience is yawning or looking at their phones, what is the point? It’s much more meaningful to speak in front of a small room of people who are riveted by what you have to say.

That’s how I look at social media followers. I don’t care how many followers my library has on any social account. I want people who want to engage with our content. Focus on shares, likes, and comments for posts and not the number of followers.

Further reading

Why You Social Media Follower Count Doesn’t Matter

Should we have a team of people posting to social media or should we take a centralized approach? I am an advocate of centralized social media posting. If you have one or two staffers who post to all your social media accounts, you can preserve the brand voice and protect the security of your accounts. However, one or two people cannot know everything that’s going on in your library system. So create a team of contributors, who send post suggestions, photos, and videos.

Further reading

Protect Your Library Social Media Accounts From a Security Breach

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, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

Be Quietly Relentless! A Guide for How to Win Senior Leadership Support for Your Library Marketing Ideas

At a recent conference I attended, one of the big topics of discussion centered on senior library leadership. My new friends were wondering about how to get support for their marketing ideas and initiatives from the folks that run their libraries.

That’s one of the main areas of angst for library marketers at nearly every event I attend. How do you convince the people with all the power to give the okay for your marketing ideas?

It happens at every library. For five years, I lobbied our library’s senior leadership for a customer-facing blog. Five years is a long time.  And the thing I learned is that you must have patience. I also learned how to live with frustration. That doesn’t sound ideal. But its reality.

And I learned that you can ask for something, but to make a good case, you must craft a clear message that demonstrates how your idea will work. Basically, you have to market your idea to your senior leaders! Here are some tips on that process.

Understand your leadership’s priorities. What top-line problems are your director and senior leadership trying to solve at your library?  What is your library’s strategy? If you can clearly identify the pain points of your library leaders, you can show how your marketing ideas can help solve those problems.

Pick one marketing idea to pitch. What is the one marketing tactic you believe will give your library the best result? Do you want to start email marketing? Do you want more budget for advertising? Do you want to start a print content marketing magazine? Pick the tactic that you believe will have the most benefit for your library. Focus is key when pitching ideas to library leadership.

Create a complete plan. Plan your pitch in as much detail as possible. You’ll want to educate your senior leaders about what the tactic is and how it works in marketing.

I started my pitch by creating a document outlining the reasons why a blog is an effective marketing tool. To beef up my pitch document, I addressed these areas.

  • Supporting data and research. Include testimonies from other library marketers already using the tactic. Outline their positive experiences and the benefits. These first-hand experiences go a long way in strengthening your case. I asked other library marketers about the benefits of a blog. I also asked about the problems they encountered and how they solved those problems so I would have clear answers if senior leaders brought up these potential pitfalls.
  • Go over how you’ll use already existing resources to make this tactic work. If there will be a cost, be clear about that. But also show why spending money on the tactic will bring your library a clear return on investment or even save your library money in the long run. For my example, I talked about how the blog would increase SEO and allow us to reach new audiences. I argued that it would save us money in advertising, build brand support and recognition, and increase cardholder awareness of everything the library has to offer. I also created an editorial calendar to help the senior leaders envision the kinds of stories we would tell and the cadence at which we would write and release those stories. I did a time study with my staff and identified staff members who would be able to devote time to writing posts or soliciting content from other staff members and outside organizations. Finally, I created examples of promotions so the senior leaders could see how we would promote the blog.
  • Be sure to include clear information about how you will measure the success of the tactic. I included data about views and time spent on the website from successful blogs in similar industries.
  • Include a few lines about what may happen to your library if you don’t adopt the marketing tactic you propose. Talk about what your competitors are doing and how your tactic will help you compete in an increasingly crowded market.

Consider just doing it and asking for forgiveness later. When I started at the Library, I wanted to change our quarterly newsletter into a content marketing magazine. At the time, it was just a list of programs and events happening at the Library. I knew that if I asked outright, my leaders would say “no”. A change in the content of the newsletter would be too scary to consider.

So… I took the initiative. I took out some events and added in a few content marketing articles. You better believe that I was nervous when I sent the proof up the chain for approval. But it worked. In fact, the senior leaders commented on how much they liked the pivot. It was a gamble, but it paid off.

If you have confidence that your idea is worth merit, you might consider just moving forward without asking permission, particularly if there is no outright cost to the tactic. Sometimes, it just takes seeing your idea in action for a senior leader to realize its value and potential.

I don’t want to be the cause of a library marketing rebellion. But I also want us to assert ourselves more. We were hired because we are capable. Use your confidence and stand firm in your convictions in the workplace.

Remember the senior leaders have a boss too. Even the director has someone who he or she answers to… the board, the community, the city manager, etc. This may be why your most senior leaders seem to be afraid to take risks or try new things. The fear of failure may be holding your leaders back. That’s normal. But it’s also an opportunity for you, particularly if it seems like your library is stuck in a pattern of failure or if you’re facing major opposition from community groups. If you can show that the fear of change is holding your library back, you may be able to convince your leaders that it’s worth the risk of trying.

Don’t give up. Look, it took me five years to get a blog. It was frustrating. There were many moments when I thought I should just give up. But I kept asking. A change in senior leadership, or in priorities or a random conversation between your senior leaders and someone at another library is all it takes to do the trick. Don’t be annoying. But be quietly relentless!!

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, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

 

Everything You Need to Know to Create an Effective Marketing Plan for Any Library Promotion

I love planning. I am the queen of to-do lists. I am addicted to reminder notifications. I’m a fan of the Excel spreadsheet.

I rarely go into any situation without a plan. The same is true for my library marketing. I create a marketing plan for everything. And so should you.

A marketing plan has a lot of advantages. It ensures everyone knows the end of goal of your marketing efforts. It defines roles for all the stakeholders. It sets deadlines. It keeps people accountable. And it clarifies how you will measure your results.

Why a marketing plan is important

A marketing plan is NOT a strategy. A strategy is the path you decide to take to achieve your library’s long-term overall business goals: increased circulation, increased program attendance, brand awareness, etc. You can have an overall library marketing strategy that guides your actions for six months, a year, or longer.

A marketing plan lays out all the steps involved in one particular promotion. Everything in the plan should tie into the strategy. It must help to achieve your library’s overall goals. But the plan lasts for a shorter period, involves more specifics, and covers just one promotion.

You don’t need a plan for everything you market at your library. You do need a plan if you are creating a campaign that lasts for a month or more.

And here’s how to put one together.

Know the thing you are promoting inside and out. Be sure you can answer every single question known to man about the thing you are marketing. If it’s a new database, use it… a lot. Have non-librarians use it and then ask them to tell you what questions they have. Read and re-read the tutorials. Becoming an expert on the thing you promote means you can explain it to your target audience in a simple and clear way.

Clearly define your end goal. Use business terms. If you are looking to increase brand awareness, set an actual, measurable end goal like: “We want 50 percent of residents living within a 30-mile radius of our Main Library to know that we have renovated the building and to be able to name at least one new service available at the renovated Main Library.”

Don’t be vague. A defined goal keeps you accountable.

Determine your target audience. Many library marketers say their target audience is “our cardholders.” Be more specific. Which cardholders? How old are they? How often do they use the library? What exactly do they do? Do they have children? What’s their transportation situation?

Add in as many demographic characteristics as you can. This gives you and everyone working on the plan a picture of who you are trying to reach.

Analyze competitors. Research anyone providing a similar program, service, or product. What are they doing well? What are they doing poorly? What are the things that differentiate your library from their business? These are your marketing advantages.

Create the message. This might seem crazy, especially if the marketing campaign isn’t set to launch right away. You can adjust the wording later. But getting the message down in writing now, with everything fresh in your mind, an efficient and effective way to make sure all the main pieces of your marketing plan mesh right from the start. It also gives you time to make sure your main marketing message is clear, concise, and correct.

Choose your tactics. Go through all the available avenues at your disposable for marketing and decide which ones will work best to reach your end goals. You do not have to use everything that’s available to you. Not every promotion needs print materials or a press release or a digital sign. Sometimes, a video will work well and sometimes an email will do a better job. You know best how your core cardholder audience reacts to each tactic and which will bring you the best results. If you have budget, decide how you’ll spend it during this step.

Set the schedule. I am a huge fan of tiered distribution of marketing. The approach takes advantage of a consumer cycle of excitement. You release one or two promotional tactics at the beginning of your promotional cycle, like a social media post and a press release. The promotion gets some play, and excitement builds in the consumer base. It gets shared and people talk about it… and then the excitement dies out.

Then, you release the second tactic, like an email, and the people who see the email get excited and start talking about it and sharing it, and then their excitement dies out.

Then you release a video, and that builds excitement and gets shared, and the excitement then dies out. And so on!

When you use the tiered distribution approach, you get a longer promotional thread. Your promotions will be more successful because the excitement around them builds over time, not in one big burst. This method has led to increased success for my library marketing. It also easier on the person running the marketing! It gives you a small break in between each tactic and creates time for you to measure the success of each tactic individually.

But you need to schedule your promotions, especially if you are using a tiered approach, so you can make sure you have room for them in your regular schedule. It also helps to create a picture in your own mind of how this marketing campaign will play out. Again, you can adjust this later if you need to. Nothing is ever set in stone at my library!

Assign tasks. Delegate jobs and deadlines for appropriate staff. If you need help from another library department, assign their deadline now so they have plenty of time to get you the information you need.

Measure results. Don’t forget to measure and record the reaction to each piece of your marketing plan. Analyze what worked and what did not, so you can put that knowledge to use next time.

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, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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