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

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Sensational and Free (or Cheap) Social Media Scheduling Tools

A well thought out social media strategy is only half the battle for library marketers looking to reach audiences without spending budget. Once you decide who you will talk to, and what you will say, it’s time to figure out how to physically get those posts scheduled.

I’ve scoured the web for scheduling tools and tried them out to see which ones will work for libraries. Some tools are better for people who must share accounts with lots of contributors. Others work best for single person teams. Some work well for libraries posting on only a few social media platforms. Some are meant for larger systems with wide strategies.

My list does not include schedulers that only allow you to schedule posts on one platform, like Tweetdeck. That is inefficient for any library system. I also recommend some paid plans, but only the ones that offer the most features for the least amount of money.

Before we get to the list, I want to address a myth about scheduling social media posts. I’ve heard lots of marketing “experts” say that it’s wrong for brands to pre-schedule social media posts. Their argument is that a pre-loaded social media platform is inauthentic. I call bullshit. Your cardholders don’t care if you are posting something live or using a scheduler. If the post comes across as inauthentic, it’s because it’s not written well!

There are good, data-driven reasons for scheduling social media posts. If you’re watching the data and engagement of past posts, you can use your scheduler to give your audience what they want, when they want it. You don’t have to worry that you’ll forget or get distracted. Pre-scheduling also gives you time to create honest and meaningful text and graphics. It’s not lazy. It’s incredibly smart.

Now, there in one warning I must share about scheduling posts in advance. You may run into a situation where you’ve pre-scheduled a post and something happens that makes the post irrelevant. For instance, if you schedule a post to promote an event at a branch and then something happens that causes that branch to close unexpectedly. That’s just something to keep in mind as emergencies arise in your system. Your checklist of things to do in an emergency should include checking your pre-scheduled social media posts.

Here are the tools I think are best for social media post scheduling.

Hootsuite

The free plan lets you schedule on three platforms. You can pre-load 30 messages at a time. My favorite feature is the boost plan. If you have money for social media ads, you can boost posts through Hootsuite instead of going to each individual platform. That’s super convenient. There are also analytics and free social media courses.

Buffer

This site’s free plan also lets you post on three platforms. You can pre-load 10 messages per platform. It includes a link shortener, an image creator, and the ability to upload videos or GIFs. If you want more capability, their most basic “Pro” plan is $10 a month and lets you post on eight platforms and schedule up to 100 posts in advance. One note: you must pay the Pro rate for the analytics capability on Buffer. Analytics are not included in the free plan.

Zoho Social

Their standard plan is the most robust I found in my research. For a little more than $8 a month, two team members can post on eight different channels. The plan includes analytics, the ability to pause and resume posts, a link shortener, and other features. There is a free plan, which lets one person post on all the channels, but you can’t schedule posts ahead of time.

Friends + Me

This site’s free option gives you the ability to schedule on two platforms, with up to five posts on each platform. That’s not super helpful unless you have time every day to schedule posts or are not active on social media. However, the site’s bottom tier paid plan is $7.50 a month and gives you a ton of features– you can pre-load as many as 500 posts to five platforms. 10 people can also use the platform on this plan. I think that’s a good deal.

Crowdfire

Crowdfire’s free plan lets one person post on the big four social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook LinkedIn, and Instagram) with up to ten pre-loaded posts per platform. But I would actually recommend the first level paid plan, call Plus. For about $7.50 a month, you get access to Pinterest and 100 pre-loaded posts, plus a pretty robust analytics tracker, hashtag recommendations, and no ads on the mobile 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, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

 

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How to Manage Your Marketing Without Losing Your Ever-Loving Mind

A library marketer is really a project manager.

That phrase is the best description of our job. We are all planning and managing projects. We are scheduling and executing campaigns. We’re delegating. We manage multiple people who contribute to blog and social media posts. And unless you’re a super organized genius, all that coordination can cause you to lose your sanity.

I sometimes walk into my office in the morning feeling fantastic, and by the time I open my email and see a 30-message thread between departments about a piece of content I need for marketing, I can feel the steam rolling out of my ears.

Project management is like waiting tables. You have multiple customers who all want different things from you. They order at different times and their food comes out at unpredictable intervals. In the meantime, you must keep checking back and making sure they have everything they need for the moment. You must also keep them informed about how their meal is progressing.

It’s the same when for library marketing. We are working on multiple campaigns and we have lots of different customers, internally and externally. So how do you make sure you get all your work done without losing track of projects, content, and posts? It’s not easy.

Many of you have said that project management causes you grief and stress. Many of you don’t have a staff. You are doing this job solo. You’re doing branch work in addition to marketing. Your job is hard.

I have a system, developed over five years of trial and error. I thought I’d share it with you. I hope my tips relieve you of some stress.

Train other library staff to plan. I make it a point to stop by once every month or two to talk to all the departments that contribute to my marketing schedule. I ask them to tell me what is coming up in the next one to three months. At the end of each of those meetings, I make it a point to tell them to let me know if they start planning anything at any point. These “touch-base meetings” sometimes only last 15 minutes but they are incredibly valuable.

To be honest, it took me about a year of doing this to get my coworkers trained to let me in on their plans early. I realized later that most of them thought it best to wait to tell me about an event until they had all the details worked out. Now, they’ll give me a heads-up even if they only know the general subject of the event and the date. That way, I can work it into my schedule ahead of time and plan.

Share your schedule. I noticed that when I shared my promotional schedule with my coworkers, they got a good sense of the kind of work involved in creating a campaign. They started sharing more info with me because they could see the work involved. Don’t be precious with your schedule. Share it… and let everyone see how much work and planning goes into each piece.

Set deadlines and enforce them. I do this for lots of my content, but especially when it comes time for our summer reading program. It’s a massive marketing campaign, the biggest we do all year. I create a schedule by the first week of February. In it, I share the deadlines for each piece of the marketing with everyone involved. This sets clear expectations. I also do this for those who contribute to our quarterly content marketing magazine. I send reminders one month and one week before the submission deadline so it’s clear what I need and when I need it.

Use your calendar. I  put appointment reminders in my Outlook calendar to check on the status of certain projects.  I can look at my calendar each day and remember that I need to check up on certain things. I even put calendar reminders in for things like changing signs or updating content.

Don’t respond immediately to requests. This habit was hard to form but it’s the best discipline I’ve set for myself. When someone comes to be to tell me they need marketing for an event or service, I generally do not drop everything to plan out the marketing. I will put it on my to-do list for the next day, or even the next week. That gives me time to think about the best way to market each request.

Set aside time each week for planning. I have a designated planning day. I set aside a couple of hours on that day to purposefully think through my marketing. I make lists and set deadlines. It makes me more focused and helps me to know I have that time to think about what’s coming down the road.

Say no sometimes. Listen, I know it’s an uncomfortable conversation. I know you want to help everyone. You may feel pressured to do it all. I hate saying no. But sometimes, it is necessary. If the request doesn’t align with the library’s overall strategy, I say no.

Your time is limited. If you try to do everything for everyone, you won’t do anything well. Sometimes, you must say no. It may not make your friends, but it will make you better at your job. You were hired to do what’s best for the 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!

Hustle is Bullshit: How to Beat Stress and Get Happy Again!

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling a bit stressed out.

There are many reasons for that. It’s been an incredibly busy year for my library. We’ve gone through a ton of changes. We endured a public outcry over a potential building sale. We hired a new director–our first new director in 20 years. We passed a levy. And we started a facilities master plan to renovate or rebuild ALL our 41 locations.

I’m tired. I need a break. So why do I feel an incredible sense of guilt walking away from it all, even for just a few days?

It may be because marketing industry thought-leaders are constantly preaching the notion that extreme hustle is the only way to get results. You must post consistently, no matter what. Your audience expects a steady stream of content, no matter what. You have to keep talking or they’ll forget about you.

To some extent, that is true. Audiences do expect consistent content. But they’re also forgiving. And if you are turning out amazing work, a little break in the action can be beneficial to you and to your audience.

A break gives you space to recharge your brain and reinvigorate your creative juices. That’s really important for those of us who do this library marketing job without the help of support staff. For your audience, a small break can build anticipation for your work. It can make your audience realize how special your content is, and how much they rely on it.

I listen to the “Lovett or Leave It” podcast. Jon Lovett, the host, recently took a two-week break over the Thanksgiving holiday. His first show back was the funniest it had been in a while. And he talked about how many messages he received from listeners, especially toward the end of his break, about how they were really missing the show. Those message re-invigorated him and made him excited to get back to the microphone. He did some of his best work.

Hustle is bullshit. We’re not robots. We all need self-care. I recently asked some of my readers to share their favorite ways to keep their sanity. Here are some suggestions!

Cara Luddy from the Onondaga County Public Library says, “When you’re frustrated, you are not going to do your best at work. Get up and take a walk around the library, eat something, or make some coffee/tea. If you don’t want to take a break, switch to working on a project that you’re excited about for a little bit. Use the momentum of working on something you really enjoy to build your confidence and help yourself tackle the less desirable parts of your job.

Teresa Tidwell of the Carusthersville Public Library says, “Delegate! Delegate! Delegate!

Erika Hill works at the Provo City Library, shared a really helpful story and example. “I think sometimes as marketers, we try to turn anecdotes into generalizations. DON’T DO IT! For example, we just sent out a satisfaction survey to our patrons. About 2,000 people responded. Of those 2,000 people, 20 people had some negative comments about our website (which are totally valid! Our mobile website is terrible!). I showed those comments to some colleagues, and they started talking about how much “everyone” hated our website. Nope, not “everyone.” 20 people. We have a tendency to do this kind of thing a lot; we take a few negative patron experiences and allow them to be a referendum on our jobs, and it takes a toll! Certainly, we need to listen to feedback. Certainly we need to try to help every patron have a good experience. But just because one person didn’t hear about an event doesn’t mean that I did my job badly.

Amy Tollison works at the Weldon Public Library. She makes a great point, saying, “As I’m sure is true for many of us, marketing is not my only job at the library. If I get tired of working on this, or feel like I’m losing my creativity, I just switch hats and work on one of my other jobs such as programming or materials selection. Sometimes getting out of my chair and doing something physical like shelf reading is helpful. At home, I try to get enough sleep and to spend at least a little time each day doing my favorite thing–reading!

And Elle Mott, who works with me at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, has a great suggestion. “Attend an ongoing library event–just for the fun of it–your engagement will likely elicit genuine passion which will show when later promoting the library plus it will have gotten you out of the business zone for a few minutes.

The best thing sometimes for your mental health and the health of your organization is to take a short break. Reset your mind. Find your creative space. Reset your goals. Get inspired. Then, start again.

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!

This Advice Will Boost Your Library Marketing Email Click-Thru Rates

A few months ago, I wrote a post about email vanity metrics. Those are the statistics like open rates that make us feel good. But if we’re being honest, they’re relatively meaningless.

The meaningful metrics like click-thru and conversion rates are harder to obtain and must be tied to your library’s overall strategy to provide any meaning. Humans naturally like doing the easy stuff! But it’s the hard metrics that make our work valuable and worthwhile.

So, I want to spend the next two posts sharing some of my strategies for improving your library email click-thru and conversion rates. I learned most of these tips through trial and error and a lot of failures. Remember that failure is okay! It teaches us lessons that lead to success.

This week we’ll focus on improving your click-thru rates. The click-thru rate is the percentage of people who, after opening your email, will click on a link. Here’s what I’ve learned about how to improve that rate.

Promote the best possible content. Don’t send an email to promote every program or service your library carries. Choose your promotions strategically. Put the best content into your emails to make it more likely that your cardholders will click on your links.

For collection-based marketing, make sure the books you choose to promote in your email are buzz-worthy, newer, have a great cover (you’d be surprised how much the cover art affects click-thru rates!). For program promotions, of course you’ll choose events that are fun and interesting. But the programs you promote through email should either in demand by your cardholders or unavailable at any other organization or community group in your area. If you are asked to promote new or existing services like databases, movie streaming platforms, or reading recommendation services, pick the best of parts of those services to promote. For example, I recently did a three-month series of emails promoting the Great Courses section of the Kanopy video platform. Instead of trying to promote the entire Great Courses section, I promoted three specific video series–yoga, family history research, and weight loss. Promoting parts of a service makes it easier to target your message. Speaking of which…

Target your message. Click-thru rates skyrocket when the message you send is targeted to the audience most likely to be interested in it. Sounds like common sense, yes? But I still hear from lots of libraries who are afraid to stop sending emails to all their cardholders. If you have the technology to segment your audience, you should do so. Try to target your email messages to about ten percent or less of your existing email list. Don’t worry if that number seems small. If that audience is getting an email about something they’re interested in. you’ll see results in big click thru rates and engagement.

Here’s my strongest example. A few months ago, my library started a short, monthly eNewsletter targeted specifically at young professionals. This newsletter goes to about 300 people once a month. For my library, an email sent to just 300 people is really tiny… that’s only about .10 percent of our total email list. But it pays off! This email gets huge engagement numbers because those 300 people are really, really interested in the contents of the email. In October, the click-thru rate was 37 percent. I wish all my emails were that successful.

Give yourself time to create and revise your emails. This is the maybe the most important step. Plan your email schedule as far in advance as possible. Set aside time to write the copy. Then, walk away.  Come back later-preferably another day-and look over your work. Revise it. Walk away again. Repeat this process until the copy and structure of your email is as good as it possibly can be. Too many of us (myself included) rush through the creative process.

If you recognize that you are the kind of creative person who feels like he or she can never release anything into the word because it’s never perfect enough, set some boundaries. Give yourself a deadline for when you’ll send the email up the chain for approval and tell your supervisor when to expect it so he or she can hold you accountable. That will help you break the endless cycle of revision!

Write like a Buzzfeed blogger, not like a librarian. Write to entice. Make the text interesting. Use conversational language within your emails. Write short sentences. And don’t write too much! Less copy is better. Make your cardholders curious to find out more and then give them the means to do it by doing this next step, which is…

Embed clickable links in more than one location within the email. My personal rule of thumb is to include a link to the book, program, or service about three times in varying places within the email. This gives your cardholder the chance to act at various points as their eyes or mouse or thumbs roam your message. It also increases the chance that they’ll be able to act, if they so choose, by making it super easy for them.

Next read: How to improve your library email marketing conversion rate!

Finally, would you be so kind as to answer a question for me?

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!

One Gigantic Library Email Marketing Mistake To Avoid

This post is a short. That’s because I want to share just one tip this week. No need to blow up the wheel or create a whole new strategy or have a bunch of meetings. This week, there is just one thing I’m asking you to do. But this one thing will completely, utterly, and totally change your library’s email marketing effectiveness for the better. Are you ready? Here it is.

Change your marketing emails from opt-in to opt-out. That means every cardholder who gives your library their email address, in the past or in the future, is on your marketing list. They need to start receiving your marketing emails… immediately. If they want to opt-out, they can (but they won’t!).

Now, I know many libraries will find this to be a radical shift. I’ve been in conversations with libraries as they evaluate the pros and cons of opt-in versus opt-out. It’s clear that many library marketers, particularly those who come from a library science background, are deeply concerned about creating the best experience for their cardholders. They worry about angering their cardholders by sending them emails. They are convinced that library marketing emails are spam and they don’t want to be one of the “bad brands” that sends spam.

I do understand. I don’t blame them for their fears. But I know for a fact that those fears are unfounded.

A library is NOT a normal company. The rules about spam do not apply to you. I don’t mean legally. I mean that your cardholders want your emails.

People love the library. They love what you offer them. They want to know to know what’s going on at the library. They want to know when you have new books. They want to know when you add new services. They want to know when you’re improving buildings. They love watching stories about library workers. They want to know when you publish a podcast. They want to buy tickets when you bring a big author to town. They’ll come to community events where the library has a presence. THEY LOVE YOU.

You are not going to spam people or make them mad by sending them emails. Unwavering cardholder loyalty is the one, big advantage libraries have over their competitors in the profit world. And we should use it!

My argument for opt-out emails comes from lots of experience. My library is fortunate to have a good-sized staff in our marketing department. We send marketing emails nearly every day of the week. These emails do not go to all cardholders. We segment our cardholders based on several factors, including how they use their card, where they live, their age, and more We have a rather large service area. So, most weeks, I send tens of thousands of my cardholders. And my library’s unsubscribe rate is ZERO percent.

No kidding.  I see about 10-15 unsubscribes for every 10-thousand emails I send. Across the non-profit world, the average unsubscribe rate is about .19 percent, according to Smart Insights.

I worked the library outreach table at a book festival last week. Without prompting, customers asked about the library’s marketing emails. One lady said she heard her friends talking about them and wondered why she wasn’t receiving them! Several others mentioned they learned about new books and services from our emails. I had people GIVING ME their email addresses to check their status.

Do you think customers of other companies ask about their emails or talk about them with fondness to other customers?  I never have, and I sign up for A LOT of marketing emails from other companies.

Change that one thing and start sending your emails to every customer. They want to hear from you!

Now, I need your help. I want to write a post about self-care for the library marketer. What do you do to make sure you don’t lose your mind when you market your library? Please fill out this form to share your tips for other library marketers. What do you do at work and at home to maintain your sanity? If you don’t wish to share your name or where you work, just say so in the appropriate lines. Thanks!

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

The Best Thing You Can Do is Leave the Safety of Your Desk

I had an amazingly and scary experience this week.

My library is in the very first stages of comprehensive facilities plan. With money from a levy passed by our county voters in May, we’re going to renovate or rebuild ALL 41 library locations.

I’m trying hard not to not have a panic attack reading that sentence back to myself.

When complete, these projects will likely change the course of our library forever. As a first step in that massive undertaking, our board of trustees hired an architectural consulting firm to gather ideas and insight from our cardholders. As part of this opinion-gathering process, our library is holding community forums and structured question-and-answer meetings at each branch over the course of the next year. If you’re counting, that’s 80 plus chances for us to interact with the public and ask them directly what they want their library to be. MY GOSH, what a gift. Am I right? It’s a huge task but it’s also a huge opportunity!

I volunteered to work the forum boards during the first of our community meetings, and to help with logistics at the second one. Both opportunities gave me the chance to get out of my basement office and actually talk face to face with the people who receive, consume, and respond to my marketing messages. And it was amazing.

I’m serious. I learned all kinds of interesting stuff just from talking to people. I found out what they think about the layout of libraries, the frequency of email messages, the reasons they got a library card, their favorite parts of the collection, their impression of our staff, and their dreams for the services they want us to provide. It was gold mine of information.

Honestly, I’ve never actually done drugs, but I felt high was I left my first shift. I ran into one of my good friends who works as front-line staff and I gushed to her about how amazing it was to actually talk to people. She said, “Hey, you should just come hang out at the desk with me. People will tell you exactly what they think of our marketing if you ask them, and you’ll learn so much about our cardholders.”

And I realized in that moment, for all the research and thinking and strategic planning and data analysis that I do, I might be missing one of the most important aspects of library marketing–my cardholders. I *think* I know what they want and need. I’ve got survey results and conversion data and social media engagement statistics that tell me about the people our library serves. But, before last week, I cannot remember the last time I actually talked to a customer about the library.

That changes now.

I don’t really have to worry about forcing myself outside my comfort zone over the next year. All I must do is sign up to be a part of each of those community forums as they are scheduled. But after that, I’m going to have to make sure that I get out and talk to people. I have learned that direct interaction with customers is exceedingly valuable.

I hope you are better at this than I have been. Maybe you’re reading this and saying, “Duh, Angela.” If so, my hat goes off to you. I’m learning this lesson late. But I thought it was important to share it with you.

Don’t be a dummy like me and stay locked in your basement office, separated from your cardholders. Get out of your comfort zone and talk to your cardholders. Set up a regular calendar reminder and spend an hour with your front-line staff. You could just observe. Or you could ask questions. You’ll learn so much. You’ll make the cardholders feel valued. And you’ll be demonstrating your commitment to customers to your fellow staff members. You can’t be any more engaged than that!

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!

Avoid Email Vanity! Here Are the Results You Should Measure

I love email marketing. It’s one of the most effective tools in the modern library marketer’s toolbox. Emails are a direct way to interact with your cardholders and your community. They are easy to create. You can share stories, collection items, explain new services, and promote events directly with your audience. And library cardholders love getting emails from us. We don’t have to worry about unsubscribe rates the way other industries do.

Many libraries are now emailing their cardholders. And they’re reporting success with those campaigns. I’m so happy! But I’m also worried about something I hear often in conversation with other library marketers. I’m worried that we’re focused on the wrong measure of success–open rates. I’ve attended two events with other library marketers this summer. At both, there were deep and interesting discussions about success in email marketing. But at both events, the conversation about success centered on how to raise open rates.

Now, I have a confession to make. When I started targeted email marketing back in January of 2015, I was obsessed with my email open rates. And so were thousands of marketers in industries across the world. During my first trip to Content Marketing World, I attended several sessions on email marketing and every speaker mentioned open rates as a measure of success.

Open rates do mean something. They are a sign of customer loyalty. A high open rate means that your cardholders are eager to see what you’ve sent them. And that’s good. But it’s kind of like buying a house because it’s got a beautiful exterior. You may sign all the paperwork, open the front door and find all the walls are unfinished! Open rate is a vanity metric. It makes you feel good. But it’s what happens AFTER your cardholders open your email that counts.

I’m not suggesting you ignore open rates. They do give you information you can use to improve your emails. If your open rates are high, and your click-thru rates are low, you can be certain that you are writing compelling email subject lines (Good job, you!). You have a loyal and eager audience. But the content you are sending to your cardholders isn’t what they want. Now you can fix that problem!

Keep tabs on your open rate. But you should focus on two other valuable ways to really measure the success of your emails.

Click-through rates: The higher this number is, the more excited I get. It means that my cardholders opened an email, saw something they liked, and took an action! Most of the time, my library emails direct cardholders to do one of two things: click a link for a specific item in our collection or go to the event calendar where they can register or put an upcoming event on their calendar. Convincing a cardholder to take one of those actions is a huge victory. It also gives me data about what that particular cardholder is interested in. And I can use that information to craft future emails that are also compelling for that cardholder.

Conversion rates: A conversion rate is the most accurate way to measure email effectiveness. It is the percentage of people who take an action after clicking through an email. For example, let’s say 100 people click-through to look at a book I’ve promoted by email. If 50 of those 100 people put the book on hold, my conversion rate is 50 percent. Once I know what my average conversion rate is for a certain type of email, I can set goals to raise that conversion rate. I can  accurately compare my emails to one another.  I might see a high conversion rate for a certain genre of book and look for similar books to market to that cardholder. I might notice a spike in registration rates for a particular kind of program coming from an email and look for similar kinds of programs to market to my cardholders. Conversion rate is the most accurate measurement for determining the likes and dislikes of your cardholders.

For more on tracking the success of your email marketing, you can also read this article. And if you want to learn more about targeted email marketing and get more secrets for library email success, don’t forget the free webinar 

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!

Be the Best Library Marketer! Take These Free Courses

I love to learn. I’m lucky that my library ties performance management goals to learning. So, I am professionally rewarded for doing something I love. But the real value is seen by my cardholders. When I learn new ways to do my job, I do a better job of connecting with my audience. There is also a value for my staff members. When I learn new marketing techniques, I can pass that knowledge on to my direct reports. Learning has a ripple effect–everyone benefits!

Most library marketers face two major obstacles to continuous learning. The first, of course, is time. We’re all so busy that we can’t setting aside the time to take an online or in-person course. Also, most libraries don’t have a budget for professional growth and development (unless you want to get your Library Science degree.) But continued professional learning opportunities are a priority. If your library is going to stay competitive and creative, you need to be a continuous learner.

Time and money are no problem with this seven websites I’ve discovered. Each contains free classes where you can learn new marketing skills. Almost all take about an hour a session. So now, you have no reason not to keep up to date with changes in the industry, become a better writer, improve your email skills, and practice content marketing strategies!

Lynda.com. My favorite website for professional development courses, because you can basically learn anything you need to do a better job at library marketing. There are courses on social media, GDPR, photography, graphic design, ideation, time management, generational marketing, using Excel… etc. Thousands of libraries across the country offer Lynda.com for free to their cardholders. Your library, or one near you, probably offers access. It’s under-utilized. USE IT!! Courses are well-constructed. Skill levels are marked so you can gauge whether the course is right for your needs. Most classes run about an hour and a half. If you only watch one a month, that’s more than 12 hours of training you’ll get over a year!

Hubspot Academy. I’ve completed two courses in the Hubspot Academy–Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing. They were free. Each class is about 45 minutes and comes with free downloads to supplement the online portion. At the end of each class, you take a practice quiz to test your skills. At the end of the course, you take a test and if you pass, you receive a certification that you can put on your resume, social media accounts, and LinkedIn profiles.

Copyblogger’s Internet Marketing for Smart People. I just learned about this! It’s a free, 20-part course that covers four areas of digital marketing: relationships, content marketing, copywriting, and product marketing. I’m planning to take this course in a few months and I’m super excited. It comes with weekly newsletters. And I’m familiar with Copyblogger from their blog and social media presence, so I know their expertise will add value to my library marketing.

edX: I also love this site, which offers free online courses from top universities around the world. Their marketing course offerings are impressive! You can take classes in market segmentation, data analysis, and social media. There’s even a public library marketing course offered by the University of Michigan. Most classes are free, but you can pay about $50 and work toward a certification, which is great for your resume! Courses take about two to three hours a week for about a month to complete.

Udemy: Here’s another site I just stumbled across. Filter the search options to show you free marketing classes. There are pages and pages of options, from evaluating digital marketing statistics to how to write your own social media strategy.

Facebook Blueprint: That’s right. Facebook offers a whole host of free courses to help you figure out the best way to use their product. They’ll teach you pretty much anything you want to know about Facebook and Instagram, including how to use Messenger, build awareness, and promote your Library’s app. I know it’s easy to be cynical about anything Facebook offers for free. But this is legit, and it makes sense for them from a business perspective. The better you are at using their platform, the better the experience will be for your user. So take advantage!

Skillshare: I like the “trending marketing courses” section, which contains new and popular course. If you want to see what’s changing in the industry and be current on your skills, start with that section first.  Courses take about an hour and are easy to follow with beautiful graphics. Some courses are taught by well-known marketing professionals, like Gary Vaynerchuk and Rand Fishkin.

For more ideas about how to improve your marketing skills, read this post about How to Become a Better Library Marketer.

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!

Call It What It Is: Toledo Public Library Explains Their New Brand Strategy

A couple of weeks ago, a Tweet from the deputy director of the Toledo Public Library caught my eye.

Our marketing manager here at the library is leading a charge to “call things what they are” to reduce confusion for customers. We should be doing more of this in libraries and resist the urge for cutesy branding.

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Jason went on to explain, “When I joined the library three plus years ago, we had just launched a kind of umbrella branding for all of our making activities at the library. We called it Make U. It was clever, had a nice logo, and generally served a purpose… for us. Three years later, it’s still a confusing ‘second brand’ for our library (one of many tertiary brands, actually). Terri Carroll (our marketing manager) is working really hard to make the library’s brand the key identifier for all things library. Every time we roll out a new program or service, we have the urge to give it cute or clever branding. It’s just more education we have to do with our customers. So rather than trying to constantly educate people about our new brands, services, and programs, we focus on the library’s brand: a welcoming and accessible space where anyone has access to resources they need to make their lives, their communities, and their futures better. Now we call Make U what it is…tech tools. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Terri in the short time she’s been with us about how we cut through a very noisy marketplace to reach people where they are when they need us.”

This is a major hurdle for my team and library marketer’s across the country! At my Library, I’ve counted no less than TEN branded services. And each one requires education for the staff and public. The names are cute but their meaning is obtuse.

Library marketers struggle with branding. We need to do a better job of defining who we are. We must create a consistent emotional connection with our cardholders if we’re going to compete with the likes of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Netflix, and Google.

Jason’s co-worker, Toledo Public Library Marketing Manager Terri Carroll, graciously agreed to share her insights on the process.

So many libraries have a set of tertiary brands for their various programs and services. Why is that a problem? Each day, our current and potential customers are bombarded with media messages from well-funded and sophisticated retail, fast food, snack food, entertainment, sports, news, and service companies. While these organizations aren’t competing with us to provide library services, they are competing with libraries for people’s time and attention. If libraries hope to have people notice our message in a noisy marketplace, it is imperative we have one clear brand that makes it easy for people to know who we are and what value we provide. Tertiary brands dilute our message and make it more challenging to connect with customers.

Before the redesign, the Toledo Public Library struggled to bring a host of tertiary brands together to create one cohesive brand.

What prompted you to decide to focus less on giving everything a cutesy name and instead develop and nurture an umbrella brand? I started working at the Library in November and was struck by the fact that each program had its own look and message. The emphasis was on program names and unique graphics, rather than the Library as a whole. For example, a great deal of energy was spent on “logos” for programs such as Kindergarten Kickstart, Ready to Read, and Make U instead of thinking about messaging that clearly connects a valuable service (early literacy or access to technology) with the Library. This approach puts the burden of connecting the dots about the Library’s value and relevance on our customers. It also keeps the Marketing team from thinking strategically as they instead spend energy making everything look different. This is an unfortunate use of resources. Having things look similar within a brand compliance strategy makes it easier for customers to identify Library materials and messaging.

Terri laid out brand elements to create a clear and consistent message that can be understood by staff and library cardholders.

Have you seen positive results from this type of strategy yet?  We’ve been working on implementing this strategy since December, so it is tough to extrapolate data yet. For now, positive anecdotal comments to Library staff and leadership such as, “The Library is doing so much,” (when in fact we are doing a similar amount of work) and increased earned media attention are indicators of success. Ultimately, we should realize increases in circulation, door count, and program attendance as well as community and regional stakeholder invitations to be at the table on important issues, speaking opportunities, organizational partnership creations, and election results.

How can other library marketers make the case to their stakeholders, like their board of trustees, the senior leaders, and their staff, that developing a strong brand sense is more productive than creating brands individually as services are unveiled? Stakeholders repeatedly express interest in making sure the community knows about everything the Library does. I have invested a lot of time meeting with all of our internal stakeholders to show them how strong brand management is necessary to meet that goal.

My staff and I also work to keep a focus on making sure all materials and messages are customer-focused. We ask ourselves and our colleagues if our materials and messaging are giving customers all the information they need to engage with the Library. Focusing on how customers understand our Marketing keeps everyone externally (brand) focused and not internally (tertiary brand) focused.

A clear, consistent look helps Toledo Public Library create a connection and makes it easier for their cardholders to recognize their messages.

Do you have any other advice for library marketers looking to strengthen their own brands? It is essential to have senior leadership support for strong brand management. If people are used to the tertiary brands and have enjoyed the creative process (either working with Marketing and/or doing their own design work at the department or branch level), moving to brand compliance can be painful. If those concerns/complaints are taken to senior leadership and exceptions are granted, then the entire brand strategy is compromised.

It is also important to expect some resistance and be willing to talk with people about their questions and concerns. In these conversations, something that seems to really resonate is when I say that we don’t want to re-educate people every time they see something from the Library. We want people to immediately identify a Library program or service. And while staff sees all the materials and, may in fact get a bit tired of the same colors and fonts, this easy identification and brand recognition is essential for customers who are wading through a marketplace of messages and materials.

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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