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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 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!

 

We Increased Summer Reading Participation by a Whopping 97 Percent! Here Are the Four Easy Changes that Worked.

A summer reading program is the cornerstone event of the year for most public libraries. But in my conversations with other library marketers, there is a central worry: slipping participation numbers.

Our summer programs compete so many other things: camps and vacations, transportation issues and poverty-related issues. We struggled with summer reading participation at my library. Between 2013 and 2017, our registration and check-in numbers steadily declined.

In 2017 and 2018, we made some changes that not only stopped that decline in participation, but actually reversed it–in a big way. In 2018, we saw a 12 percent increase in registration and a 97 percent increase in participation. Yep, you read that right. It was slightly insane!

The changes we made were not revolutionary. They weren’t costly. To me they actually felt a little… vintage. And they were easy. I think that’s why we were so surprised by the results.

These changes were all suggested by our planning committee so I take no credit for coming up with them. But my staff helped implement them. Each one made it easier for us to market summer reading. So if your library is struggling with declining participation, you might consider these options.

Drop the library card requirement. We decided to let anyone participate in summer reading, not just library cardholders. Dropping the requirement to get a library card sounds counter-intuitive, I know. It felt weird! But it opened the program up to a whole population of people, particularly those in under-served communities and those who may not be year-round residents of our service area. It makes your program more inclusive.

Of course, at registration and check-in, our front-line library staff still suggest that those participants get a card. And our new cardholder numbers still increase during the summer. As long as staff are still suggesting people get a card and explaining the many benefits of having one, you can drop the requirement without risking a dip in cardholder sign ups.

Add experiences to your participation elements. Several years ago, we decided to re-brand the program as Summer Adventure. In doing that, we set up new guidelines for what counts as participation. Reading, for certain, is a big part. But our participants can also get credit for doing things!

We created themes for each week of our summer program. They include the arts, nature, sports, and maker and technology. Then, we make suggestions for activities people can complete to earn participation credit. They can attend an event at the Library, go on a nature walk, visit the zoo or a park, draw a picture, build something with LEGOs, write a story… the list is pretty long. So, if someone doesn’t read 20 minutes a day but still completes an activity, they get credit and a prize.

Consider paper tracking. Okay, I know this is going to sound really nuts but hear me out. Many libraries have an app or an online software platform that participants use to track their reading. It seems like that would be exactly what customers want. It’s certainly what I want!

But when our library switched to online tracking, our registration and participation numbers went way down. Many of our under-served community members don’t have access to a computer or Wi-Fi at home. They can’t log in to track their reading and they can’t download or use an app.

In addition, many of our connected participants apparently forget to track their participation electronically. Or they just found the process of downloading the app, putting in their information, and then using it to log their reading to be cumbersome.

We went back to a paper tracker. Actually, we created a passport. It’s small–about the size of a real passport so it fits easily in a purse, backpack, or pocket. It’s about 24 pages long. It has suggestions for activities. It has reading tracking. It has space for doodling. It has blank pages for journaling or other creative writing.

Our participants get a passport at the start of summer. They bring it back to the library every week for a stamp. They love it. The idea of a passport or a printed log they can carry around is fun and it makes their participation tangible. Their reaction to it was totally unexpected. And it might work for you!

Summer Adventure Passport
A customer shared this photo of her child’s passport page last summer.

Make a game out of getting a prize. Last year, our summer planning staff had the craziest idea yet. I’ll be honest: I did not think this would be a popular thing. Boy, I was wrong.

Here was the idea: instead of giving out set prizes at certain levels, we printed scratch-off tickets. When someone completes a prize level, they get a scratch off ticket. Then they get whatever prize is on the scratch-off.

People LOVED the tickets. We had to reorder them twice last year! And we really think this fun element was the big driver of our huge participation numbers in 2018.

Scratch off ticket for Summer Reading
This is what the ticket looks like this year. The prize will be printed in the compass and covered with silver metallic scratch-off material by our printer.

Do you have any fun tips for marketing summer reading? Please share them in the comments section below.

More tips

Three Very Un-Library Ways to Market Summer Reading

Four Ways to Hook Summer Readers Forever

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!

Eight Major Reasons To Add Content To Your Library Marketing {Infographic}

I’m so excited to be the keynote speaker for the Illinois Library Association Marketing Forum Mini-Conference in Chicago in a few weeks. My brain is entirely engulfed in content marketing as I formulate the talk. There are also some big content changes afoot at my library. I’ll talk more about those when we have our campaigns up and running. But, let’s just say that most of my marketing focus in my professional life is on content–why we should do it, how to make it work better, and how to be efficient in our content creation.

The most important part of the speech I’ll give next month is the “why.” Why is content marketing important to libraries? This was actually the focus of one of my early posts here on blog. The argument for content marketing hasn’t changed. You can make all the posters and fliers you want. People don’t pay attention to those push promotional tactics. That’s why marketing seems frustrating.

You want desperately to break through the noise of life and become a subconscious part of your cardholders’ thought process. You want them to think of you every time they face a problem. You want them to remember they can come to you for pretty much anything they need. This is the common struggle for libraries everywhere, no matter their size, staffing, or service area. Honest to goodness, the only way to achieve that is through content marketing. I know this from experience.

There is now a lot of data to back up the assertion that content works. I want to share some of that with you. I’m hoping that, if you are hesitant or nervous about working content marketing into your overall library marketing strategy, these stats will convince you. I truly believe this is an opportunity for libraries that cannot be missed. If we are to survive and thrive as an industry, we need to do more content marketing.

Here are the facts for why content is key to library marketing.

Why Content is Key to Library Marketing

80 percent of people prefer to get information about your library from a series of articles versus an advertisement.

71 percent of people are turned off by content that seems like a sales pitch. Which means, if you are doing mostly traditional promotional marketing, it’s not working.

75 percent of people who find local, helpful information in search results are more likely to visit a physical building. We want to get more bodies inside our libraries. Content is the key.

Only 45 percent of marketers are using storytelling to create a relationship with their audience. Most big brands are still running ads and push promotion. This is our open door. It’s a huge opportunity for libraries. This is how we sneak in and take away audience share… by telling stories. And who doesn’t love a good positive story about a library?

95 percent of people only look at the first page of search results. Optimized content (that’s content that uses keywords that are likely to be picked up by Google and other search engines) is incredibly helpful. If your library’s content appears on the second page or later, people won’t see it.

Blog posts are the content that get the most shares. And if your post is helpful to others, it’s more likely to be shared. 94 percent of readers share a blog post because they think it can be useful to someone they know. And the more often you publish blog content, the more often your content will show up in search, which increases the likelihood that people will find your library while doing a search. Amazing, right?

90 percent of the most successful marketers prioritize educating their audience over promotion their company’s promotional messages. Education is our main industry. Libraries are perfectly aligned to make this work for us.

But here’s a stat that really surprised me. 78 percent of effective content marketers use press releases as part of their strategy. Yep, press releases can be content marketing too. Use your releases to be informative but to really pitch amazing story ideas to the media. If you have a great story and you can make all the elements available to the media, you can let them tell it and take advantage of their built-in audience to spread the word about your library.

These stats come from a variety of great blogs including Impact, Marketing Profs, OptinMonster, Elite Copywriter, Cision, and Forbes. I hope they’ve convinced you to do content marketing at your library.

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 Latest Data on the Biggest Video Library Marketing Questions

Regular readers of this blog know that I love video marketing. So do most marketers. And so do our cardholders.

A study released by Hubspot on video marketing found that video marketing has not yet reached its saturation point. More brands and libraries are creating videos. 87 percent of organizations use video as a marketing tool. That’s because it’s getting easier to convince our senior leaders that video is an effective and vital part of any marketing strategy. 87 percent of consumers say they like seeing videos from brands. It’s interesting, because that number matches the percentage of  brands using videos for marketing! You can read the full report here.

Videos are getting easier and cheaper to shoot, thanks to smartphones. So, you may find that your biggest video marketing problem right now is figuring out what kind of video to create, how long your video should be, and how to make sure your finished video is seen by your cardholders. Those are my biggest issues! I researched the answers to those questions. Here’s what I found.

What kind of video should we create? 

Consumers want to see short, educational videos. That’s a big opportunity for libraries.

To narrow down the most relevant topics for your library marketing educational videos, find out what questions your cardholders are asking of staff. To do that, check the inquiries you get on social media accounts. Talk to front-line staff. And, if your library website users an after-hours chat service or has a help line, ask those employees to give you the top five questions they are asked. Then create a video to answer each of those questions.

Here’s a great example from the Denver Public Library. It’s a short video explaining how to use their self-check-out machines.

If you have the time and equipment, invest in serialized video content designed to educate your community in a new skill, like languages. I love how the Boone County Public Library did this with their “Word of the Week” video series. The series is tied to use of the Mango Languages service.

And I also love this video from the J. Willard Marriott Library which offers a seven minute tour of their building!


Here are some more ideas for library marketing videos.

How long should our videos be?

This answer is a bit more complicated because it really depends on where you are going to post the video. Each of the social media platforms has an optimum video length, according to the latest data.  Here are the bottom line stats:

Instagram: A study by Hubspot revealed that the Instagram videos with the most engagement were those that were less than 30 seconds long.

Facebook: That same Hubspot study says engagement on this platform is highest for videos that run around 60 seconds.

YouTube: Hubspot says engagement is highest for videos that are about two minutes. However, there is a ton of other research that suggests YouTube audiences will watch longer videos if the content of the video is excellent.

LinkedIn: Many thought leaders in the social media space suggest this platform has the most potential for video growth. LinkedIn suggests marketers keep videos between 30 seconds and five minutes for optimum performance on their site. Essentially, that means they’re not sure which length is best because most brands aren’t posting videos on LinkedIn. And that leaves the door wide open for libraries to experiment and take the lead in getting brand awareness and action from LinkedIn users.

Given these varied recommendations, you may consider making several versions of a video to get the most performance out of your videos. My library recently did this for a video we created called Library Love, where we had librarians read notes of thanks and gratitude written by cardholders. The main video runs four minutes and is housed on our YouTube channel.

Now, you’ll notice that’s a bit longer than the recommended two minutes. But the content is good and we have gotten a lot of engagement. We created shorter versions for the different social media platforms.

How should we promote our videos?

It isn’t enough to post your video on YouTube or your website and forget about it. No matter how short your video is, it still took time and effort to create. You’ll want to make sure people see it. The most effective way to promote your videos, in my opinion, is through emails. Send an email to your cardholders with a link to your video. You might also consider playing your videos at an event. We did this with this same Library Love video. We played it our most recent board meeting, at staff meetings, and for legislators at a recent event. And of course, we’ve already talked about how to optimize video for social media. But if you have the budget and ability, putting a little money behind promotion of your video on social media can help tremendously.

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

 

How a Last Minute Idea Can Lead to Amazing Library Marketing Results

I have a theory about the kind of person who becomes a journalist. The general news reporter who gets sent to the drug busts and homicides and fires and tornadoes is a junkie of sorts. They like the high that can only be found when you’re racing at breakneck speed to get to a scene before your competitor. They do their best thinking when they’re working on a deadline…a really tight deadline. They love that adrenaline rush.

I was just such a junkie. In fact, my addiction to the breaking news high was one of the reasons it took me so long to leave the business. Even after I was worn to the bone, dog-tired, and miserable, I stayed in TV news because I thought I could not get that high in any other profession. I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a former news colleague. He was covering a major event at my library. He said to me, “I never thought you would leave news for a laid-back job at a library.” And I laughed, out loud. I may have even sounded maniacal. My library is definitely not laid back. And I’m certain, from my many conversations with my dear readers, your job isn’t either!

It’s true that, on most days, I have more time to plan and organize than I did in TV news. Overall, things move at a slower pace through the funnel at my organization–and that’s a good thing. There’s more time to think, be creative, and consider marketing from all angles. There is time to make sure all the pieces of a promotion are in place and crafted as perfectly as possible.

But being a little agile, a little willing to do some marketing on a rushed deadline, is also a good thing. I wish more organizations would open themselves to last-minute marketing. It can be fun and challenging to take ideas that come at the last-minute and bring them to life. You may do some of your best work when you are formulating promotions in a few days or a few hours! A good deadline can push you and your staff to be creative in ways you’ve never imagined.

It’s easy to recognize these quick promotional ideas if you are open to them. Seize an opportunity from a vendor or a partner organization. Recognize when your library has a connection to an event in pop culture. Look for pieces of user-generated content that are so fun and engaging you can’t want to wait to promote them. If it makes sense, if the promotion aligns with your library’s overall strategy, and if you have the time to do it, there’s value in turning a promotional opportunity around in a few days.

You don’t have to be a formal journalist to do this. Anyone can include some flexibility in their marketing schedule. The key lies in planning–which sounds contradictory. But the trick is pretty simple.  When you’re laying out your regular marketing schedule, be sure to deliberately leave holes where you might be able to drop in promotions.

For my library, this drop-in marketing usually happens when we have a great event that’s been planned by a branch at the last minute. This year, I was looking at the calendar and I realized there was a series of anti-bullying puppet shows for young children scheduled at several of our branches. I realized the event was in line with one of the core elements of our library’s overall strategy. I also did about ten minutes of online research and discovered programs of this nature were not available anywhere else in our community. I quickly put together a social media and email promotional plan and launched it in the span of a week. Our emails had a 30 percent open rate, a ten percent click-through rate, and attendance was high.

Most libraries will find it easiest to create a drop-in marketing campaign on social media. Sometimes the idea will become a creative outlet that can drive engagement on your platforms. This was the case when one of our marketing department co-workers noticed that the front covers of many old books compliment or match clothing! She grabbed some books and some staff and posed them together. Her Instagram posts drew new followers and engagement for the library’s account.

Of course, to execute drop-in marketing, you need the approval and trust of your supervisor. So, have the talk ahead of time with your superiors.  You won’t have to turn a last-minute campaign around every week or even every month. But when you do… it will be worth it. Sometimes the gold nuggets of promotion are the ones you can’t plan ahead of 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, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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