Super Library Marketing! Great marketing ideas for libraries everywhere.

This is NOT What Your Library Marketing Should Focus On

I write a lot of posts filled with advice about what you should do to better market your library. Today, I’m writing one about what you shouldn’t do.

This stems from a frustration over a lot of bad advice I see from marketing experts. In some cases, they’re just making your average snake oil promise of big returns on investment doing one simple thing. Other times, it is aggressively touting techniques that are either too expensive for libraries or just don’t work in our industry.

So when you hear someone tell you to do these four things at your library, ignore them.

You need to go viral. Let me be really clear because this one is a pet peeve of mine. You DO NOT need to go viral. Going viral is a fluke, not a real goal. It’s kind of like winning the lottery. There is no secret to going viral. No one can ever predict when or if it will happen. In fact, when I hear others make promises that “doing this will make you go viral”, I just have to cringe.

Do this instead. Create engaging content that speaks to YOUR audience and forget the rest of the world. If, by chance, you ever do something that does go viral, enjoy it, bask in it, promote it for all it’s worth. Then go back to your normal life with your documented marketing strategy and content goals. You are not a global company. Going viral will bring you fame and brand recognition in markets outside of your service area, but that won’t increase your circulation or program attendance. And I’ve seen a lot of libraries do some cringe-worthy stuff in the name of fame. Don’t waste your energy.

Use growth hacks to increase your social media audience.  It doesn’t matter how many followers your library has on social media. It matters more WHO those followers are. You want people who are within your community and who are engaged with your brand–which means they like, comment, and share your posts.

Do this instead. Be deliberate in your social media. Post meaningful and relevant content. DO NOT BUY followers on any social media platform, ever. Spend your money boosting the posts that will connect with your cardholders and deepen their emotional connection to your library.

Posting on Facebook comes first. Many libraries have a huge following on Facebook and so they concentrate all of their efforts on that one platform. That’s the wrong approach. Facebook is rented land–you don’t own the platform and they have no allegiance to you. They can change their site however they want, anytime they want. Why do we keep rewarding a site that constantly changes its algorithm and makes it more difficult for libraries to hit their target audiences by spending so much time on posting content there?

Do this instead. Diversify your social media strategy. Pick one or two other platforms where you typically see engagement with followers. For most of us, this will be Twitter and Instagram. Create a strategy around those and increase the number and quality of posts you put there. Social media is a moving target and the popularity of social media sites waxes and wanes. Don’t go all in on one platform… that’s like putting all your money in one company in the stock market.

If you write it, they will come. Most of the time, we write a great piece of content and stick it out there in the world on our blog or in a newsletter and we hope or expect people to find it. And then we wonder why our posts get no traction. Writing the post is only half the battle.

Do this instead. Create a strategy for distribution when you fill out your editorial calendar. I do this in a spreadsheet. I decide how I’ll promote each piece of content and then schedule of promotion. It’s not complicated as long as you’re willing to invest time in planning. Marketing expert Andrew Davis advises a tiered strategy–which means that you publish content and then promote it one area at a time, overlapping your amplification efforts. So for instance, you write and publish a blog. You promote it on Facebook. A few days later, you promote it on Twitter. A few days later, you include a blurb and a link in your email newsletter… and so on. If you’re willing to invest a little time in the planning, the execution will run smoothly and you’ll get a longer shelf life, a wider audience, and more engagement from each piece of content.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


Lessons From The Greatest Press Release Ever Written!


When I left journalism for marketing, one of my big worries about switching careers centered on the dreaded press release. Organizations love writing and sending them. They’re usually glowing, self-congratulatory reports of amazing events, awards, and services. They make us feel productive, important, and authoritative.

But journalists hate them. They mock them. They look on most press releases as pretentious attempts at self-promotion by organizations with inflated egos. Most of the time, they file them in their assignment book and never look at them again. I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. I’m not trying to be mean. You deserve to know the truth because you work hard on those releases. It takes a lot of effort to write a release that makes all the invested parties happy and it takes forever to get them approved in the library bureaucracy. But they’re not an effective means of getting our message not–not in the current form, anyway.

I’m not saying we should ditch press releases. I’m pushing you to change the way you write your press release. Commit to writing in a way that will interest journalists and make them want to cover your library. Use storytelling techniques to turn our news into an irresistible story. That’s how we get more press coverage.

I found inspiration recently when I came across this amazing, astounding, awesome press release, sent out BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT no less. The year was 1921 and the U. S. Department of Agriculture had spent nearly a decade and thousands of dollars trying to hunt down a destructive wolf.

A little background is necessary. I first heard this press release read aloud while listening to This American Life with Ira Glass. According to Glass, when settlers arrived in the American west, they killed off the animals that wolves used to feed on– bison, elk, and deer. The wolves starting killing livestock for food. That angered the settlers, so ranchers and the federal government set out to exterminate the wolves. Between 1883 and 1930, more than 80,000 wolves were killed. The government wanted to tell everyone what a good job they were doing and so they put out press releases. Like this one.

Read The Great Wolf is Killed

An amazing piece of press work, it contains four major lessons for libraries looking to write a better press release. If you want to draw journalists in, make them want to cover your library, and get you more press, here’s what you need to do.

      1. Write a story, not a bureaucratic diatribe. Journalists are an audience that you need to engage. They don’t respond to rhetoric and library jargon any more than a general audience does. They want a story, with emotion, drama, good guys, bad guys, and a plot. Write your release as if you are writing the real story for the publication which you are targeting. We know many newspapers and magazines lift copy right from the release–why not make it something they’ll really want to print? They’ll want something with a catchy headline and a story they can tease to their viewers to get them to watch/click/share.
      2. Ditch the dry, fact-based language and be a journalist. Get real quotes from the real stakeholders… stop making up quotes full of inspirational language that no one will really ever say in real life.  Journalists can see right through that. Interview the stakeholders and use their real words in your release.
      3. There is no right length. The wolf release is four pages and 1500+ words long. And it’s perfect. Write the story. If you have 1500 words and they’re riveting, a newsroom will read and print all 1500 words! Focus on writing great, not writing short.
      4. Spend some time coming up with a great headline. “World’s Greatest Animal Criminal is Dead” is a show-stopper. I usually brainstorm headlines in a word document… I just write freely until I’m clean out of ideas. Then I pick my favorite three or four and run them through the same tests I use when creating an email subject line. Then I sit on it awhile and think about it. Do the same with your press release headlines. This isn’t a throwaway task. It’s the first thing a journalist will see… it could be the catalyst for the final decision they make about your story. Don’t waste it!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

I Want To Go To There: How To Be a Better Marketer


Many libraries hire librarians with very little marketing experience to do the marketing. If you’ve found yourself in this position, don’t panic. Anyone can learn to be a marketer. It’s not an easy profession, but if you are new to the job, you can get really good at the work if you commit to seeking and following the best advice and immerse yourself in the world of marketing professional development.

If you’re a trained marketer working for a library, you should always be looking for ways to grow your skills. We can really only hope to compete with our for-profit counterparts if we know what they know. Don’t ever stop learning.

Here are my seven favorite ways to learn new stuff about marketing. Your library may have a subscription, as mine does. What a fantastic resource! There are dozens of video tutorials on all topics related to marketing. They range in length from 45 minutes to three hours or more.  They’re all created by experts, easy to understand, and paced in a way that’s easy to digest. And is always adding new courses so you can learn new skills no matter how long you’ve been a marketer.

Hubspot: Hubspot has a whole range of marketing classes available for free online. There are even tests you can take at the end of each course to become certified a Hubspot marketer. When you’re certified, you have access to a nice widget for your email signature and LinkedIn page. It’s a great way to show your supervisor that you’re seriously committed to growing your knowledge base. And it’s a great way to let anyone you’re working with to know, subtly, that you know what you’re talking about!

Content Marketing Institute: CMI is one of my favorite places to learn new marketing skills. They have a ton of free webinars that can teach you everything you need to know about content marketing.  Their Chief Content Officer magazine is a must-read for marketers. And their blog is chock full of new insights, research, techniques, and tips that will expand your knowledge of the inner workings of marketing and make you a more-rounded marketer.

Read Everybody Writes by Ann Handley.  I think this should be required reading for all marketers. It is simply the best book on the subject of writing… easy to understand with lots of practical advice. It will make you want to write even if you dread the thought!

Watch Amy Schmittauer on YouTube. So at first glance, it seems that Amy is “just” an expert on video and video blogging. She’s so much more. If you subscribe to her YouTube channel, you’ll also be treated to regular posts about strategy, creativity, and finding your inner marketing voice. As marketers, we get so focused on churning out content that we forget the other essential pieces that require more thinking and less doing. Amy will remind you to pay attention to those pieces. Her posts mix practical video advice with inspiration, and that’s an important combination for anyone who works in the marketing space.

Follow Andrew and Pete on YouTube. For a dose of practical advice mixed with plain old fun, these two English marketers are just you need to grow your knowledge base and to remind you of why marketing is one of the most rewarding parts of library work. I also recommend you follow them on Twitter. They do a remarkable job of responding to Twitter mentions and comments and that personal interaction makes for the best kind of marketing!

Listen to the Social Media Marketing Podcast from Social Media Examiner.  Social media is a mostly free and effective way to reach library audiences and Michael Stelzner and crew do the best job of explaining big ideas and introducing new techniques for maximizing the time you put into social. I’ve met Michael in person and he honestly cares about his audience, which shows in the way he interviews his guests each week. And when Michael and his team try something that DOESN’T work, they share that too.  You will get a ton of value out of this show.

And… if you have never watched “30 Rock” and don’t understand the title of this blog, please watch this.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

How to Write an Amazing Email Subject Line in Six to Nine Words


First impressions are important. This is true whether you are meeting someone in person for the first time or if you’re sending them communication via email. It’s particularly true for libraries entering the targeted email marketing space (and I really wish you would!) You have between six and eight words to capture the attention of your card holder and get them to open the email or its game over. Which means you have to choose those six to eight words very carefully. And I mean VERY CAREFULLY.

To help drive home my point, I want to share this data from Convince and Convert, via CoScheduler:

35 percent of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.

69 percent of people will report an email as spam based on the subject line alone.

When I craft an email, I spend a lot of time thinking about the subject line–sometimes I think about it for days. I test it and get feedback from others in my office before I send it out. I use a couple of online headline analyzers (mainly CoScheduler’s and this one from the Advance Marketing Institute) to decide how well it will play. Arguably, the subject line is the most important piece of your email and you need to get it right. But the longer you do targeted email messaging, the better you’ll get at crafting them.

There are words and phrases you should avoid, and conversely,  things you can do to really make a subject line work for you. I have these pointers printed out and taped to the wall above my desk. I reference them nearly every time I create an email.  I want to share them with you!

Words You Should Not Use

  1. Your library’s formal name, as in the full name of your system. Why leave your library’s formal name out of the subject line? Mainly because it makes you sound too pushy or sales-like. You want to engage your cardholder with something interesting or emotional–not with your brand.
  2. Re, Fw, Regarding, or In Reference To. It’s too formal and it sounds spammy.
  3. Library jargon like periodicals, database, interlibrary loan, reference, serial, audiovisual, abstract, or resource. Use words that regular people understand–magazines, music, online classes, and helpful information.
  4. Any reference to a vendor service like Overdrive, Hoopla, Freegal, BookFlix, Zinio, etc. As far as your cardholders are concerned, all material comes from the Library. Your cardholders are smart. When they click on the link and they land in the Overdrive section of your website, they’ll be able to figure out how to check stuff out.
  5. Free, Cheap, Save, or Help. I know it’s a great selling point for libraries–there isn’t any other business where you can say that literally everything is free! But unfortunately, these words trigger many email services to mark your message as spam. Include these words in your subject line and your email message will likely land automatically in the junk folder before anyone ever gets the chance to read it. Even without the use of email filters, these words trigger a psychological response from many email receivers that makes them think of spam (thanks for ruining it, big brands!)
  6. Never use ALL CAPS. I don’t think I have to explain why.
  7. Vague greetings like Hi!, What’s Up?, Miss You! and the like. Again, it’s a spam trigger for email filters. And it sounds like you’re not human.

Ways to Make Your Email Subject Line Rock

  1. When you send targeted program emails, try to fit the specific name of the branch or neighborhood in which the program is happening into the subject line. For example, “Play with robots at the Lincoln Park Branch Library” or “Coding classes for adults now at the library in Knotting Hill.”
  2. Keep it short. CoScheduler recommends a word count of about six to nine words or 55 characters in length for greatest impact. Most of your cardholders will look at their email on a mobile device, so a short subject line means they’ll be able to see all of it in the preview window.
  3. Add emotion, particularly positive or encouraging words. People are more likely to respond to a subject line when it conveys a message of positivity and helpfulness. Email recipients also respond to subject lines that convey urgency, curiosity, excitement, and joy.
  4. Use power words like amazing, ultimate, important, challenging, surprising, best, secret and exact.
  5. Use emojis. A report by Experion shows emojis actually increase the likelihood that your email will be opened. They save space on mobile device small screens and they convey emotion. Confession: I have not yet had the guts to do it! But if you do, test your emails to make sure they emojis show up properly on all major devices, and make sure they are in line with the tone and style of your library.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


The Most Important Post: You Need a Marketing Strategy–Now!


Time for some real talk.

Most library marketing is an afterthought. A library will schedule programs, create exhibits, plan events, or buy services first, then decide how they’re going to promote it. And that, my friends, is backwards thinking.

When you put product before marketing, you are essentially putting the wants and needs of the library ahead of the cardholders. And that’s just wrong.

Why do libraries forget about marketing strategy? Because doing something feels better than thinking about doing something. Doing something seems productive. The results are immediate and obvious. Thinking about doing something seems like a bad use of time. Creating a strategy requires institutional knowledge, research, critical thinking, and the ability to look at the long view. It seems like a slow, difficult, meaningless step.

But it’s not. It’s not!!!

I want you to stop whatever it is you are doing right now and create a marketing strategy for your library. I’m serious! I don’t care if you’re reading this in June and you’re halfway through your promotional year. I don’t care if you’re knee-deep in summer reading with half your budget spent. I don’t care if you’re not fully staffed. Your 12-month library marketing strategy starts now–no excuses!

I’ve broken it down in seven easy steps. Using this method, it should take you anywhere from 3-8 hours to create a marketing strategy. That’s not a lot of time. I’m not a PhD. I’m not super intelligent. If I can do this stuff, so can you.

The first time you create a marketing strategy, it’s going to be uncomfortable and you might second-guess yourself about 500 time. You might feel like you’re a total fraud. Lean into it. Do the steps. Squirm your way through the first twelve months if you have to. Keep reminding yourself that a library marketing strategy is essential and if you don’t have one yet, you could be putting your whole library in jeopardy.

Here we go!

STEP ONE. Name the library’s overall goals–no more than three. What are the three big things your library wants to accomplish in the next 12 months? This is a conversation you’ll need to have with your director. Prepare to be fascinated. Most library directors have a big picture image of where they want their library to move in the next year. And most are not good at communicating that with employees. So when you sit down and ask your director what they want the library to do in the next year, it’s bound to be an eye-opening conversation.

Write those big goals on a paper and stick them up everywhere in your marketing office. Repeat them. Eat, breathe, and sleep them. Those are your goalposts for the year. Those are your big concerns. What your director wants to accomplish is what you want to accomplish. Everything you do needs to be in service of reaching these goals. If it isn’t, you have my permission to say “no.”

STEP TWO. Look at your current data and write what you know about your current cardholders and the residents of the community you serve right now.  Marketers call this a “situation analysis.” This will give you a starting point for your strategy–a defined beginning as you move through the next 12 months. What does your typical cardholder do with their card? Where do they live?  How do they view your competitors? How does your library currently fulfill a unique position in your community?

STEP THREE. Create a list of all your tactics and assets. Write down all the stuff you use to promote your library. It should include every social media platform you use, every website your library owns, every print publication you send out, plus emails, print collateral, influencers, in-person events, press releases, podcasts, and videos… every single thing you do to communicate with cardholders.

STEP FOUR. Broadly describe how you can leverage the above-listed tactics or assets to move your library toward accomplishing your strategic goals. If you can’t see a way to make any one piece work for your overall marketing goals, drop it. Seriously. I don’t care if you’ve done it for 20 years. Use only the things that can help you to achieve your goals and cut the rest.

Here’s an example of what I mean. You know all those mannequin challenge videos that libraries were releasing toward the end of 2016? They were cute and fun… and they drove me nuts. Creating cute and fun videos is a waste of valuable library marketing time. Those videos did nothing to fulfill the strategic goals of the libraries for which they were made–unless the goal was brand awareness (I’ll argue that that’s a fluffy and non-essential marketing goal for libraries in a future post). The most popular of the videos, done by the New York Public Library, only received about 20,000 views. That’s not very many at all, considering the NYPL’s reach. All the mannequin challenge videos were good, which means they took an enormous amount of planning and production time. And it was a waste. If you have that much time to invest in a video, create one that meets a strategic goal, like virtual story times to enhance early childhood literacy, or how-to videos for people looking to advance their careers. Those types of videos can be fun, engaging, and popular if you put the same amount of energy and planning into them as you would a mannequin challenge.

Okay, rant over.

STEP FIVE. Give a detailed description how each tactic and asset will be used to bring your library’s overall strategic vision to life. Here’s an example. For my print publication, I would write “We will use our quarterly print publication to emphasize the role of the library in helping job seekers find a new, more lucrative, more fulfilling career. We will do this by featuring a cardholder in each issue who used our library’s services to advance their own career, such as by taking our GED course or using our online job resume builder. We’ll do at least one story on a library work as a career. Every quarter, we’ll highlight a service or program that will help our cardholders reach their career goals.”

STEP SIX. Measure success and failure. Accurately document the results of every promotion you do. This will help you to adjust your strategy next year. Failure is okay, by the way. Marketing is an experiment. Sometimes the stuff you do will work, sometimes it won’t. Don’t repeat the things that don’t work! Spend more energy on the things that do work. It’s really that easy, but sometimes you won’t have a clear understanding of what’s working and what’s not working until you see the actual results in numbers on a paper in front of your nose.

STEP SEVEN. Just do it. In my opinion, libraries are too cautious. We wonder why we have a reputation of being traditional and old-fashioned. It’s partly due to the fact that any change is so slow in coming. I fully believe that the time has come for libraries to undertake grand gestures, to take leaps of faith, to be brave and bold. So don’t spend too much time obsessing over every little detail of your strategy. You can refine it as you move through the first twelve months, using the data you gather. It’s never going to be perfect, so once you’ve got a plan in place, just do it!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Write A Library Blog People Will Rave About!


Websites are a big deal for libraries. They run the gamut from simple portals to the catalog to complex Pinterest-like gateways  And every library is searching for the right way to make the most of their website real estate, giving cardholders the most convenient service and making sure they can get the information they want when they need it.

Many libraries are moving beyond catalog-based websites, adding content to their websites and that’s great. Content marketing is a huge opportunity for libraries to cement their brand voice and share ideas and helpful information with cardholders. But before you add a blog or post articles to your website, make sure you have a plan to do it right.

Andy Crestodina, strategic director of Orbitz Media, is a rock star in hiding. He’s quiet, practical, and he loves data. The dude knows how to build websites that drive traffic. And thankfully, he is willing to share those insights. Crestodina gave valuable website-boosting advice to me–and 4,000 other marketers–at Content Marketing World.

“Good content is amazing and bad content is so weak it gets no results at all. There is no middle ground,” Crestodina told the crowd. Oh my goodness, how true is that?

Here are five tips Crestodina says will work to make your library blog a success.

Write for promotional value. Crestodina says if you want to write something that will get more than get a cursory glance from your cardholders, you should try to make most of your posts fall into one of these categories: Opinion forming, authoritative, and original research.

You can write an opinionated post without alienating your audience. Write about what the library stands for and what it stands against. Write about the questions people have about libraries but are afraid to ask. Write about the faults of the library industry. Celebrate the strengths of libraries. All of these topics are compelling, and allow your library to cement your voice and your position in a way that your readers and cardholders will remember. What is it that people in the library world often say but rarely support? That’s the subject of your next article.

This approach works for me every single time I lean into it. My post last week about marketing in a Trump Presidency was one of the most viewed posts I’ve had in a long time. Take a stand. People will respect you for it.

Use your blog as a networking tool. Ask community leaders to write guest posts… school administrators politicians, and other nonprofit organizations. Or interview people. Then, once you publish, send a link to the contributors. They’re likely to share your post and help promote it. Crestodina explains it this way:  “An ally in creation is an ally in promotion.”

Create excitement for your blog post by being consistent. Crestodina says the best way to maintain web traffic to your blog is to make sure people are always waiting for an article to go live. If no one is anticipating what you have to say, you have a problem.

Be deliberate with your keywords. In the blog text you need to include keywords for search and people for social (this is a reason that you see me use the word “library” a bunch in my posts.) Crestodina suggests that you put your keyword phrase in title, header, and body of blog post 2-4 times. Target the topic, not just the key phrase.  If you are concerned about using the right keyword, try It does an amazing job of helping you to narrow your target phrase.

Give away all your best advice and back up your claims.  Crestodina says you will endear yourself to your cardholders by constantly sharing your expertise with them. But don’t ask them to take your word at face value… never make a claim without supporting with evidence. In addition, collect cardholder testimonials and put them on every page of content for proof that you know what you’re talking about and others trust and believe your library.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Now is the Time: How to Market Your Library During the Trump Presidency


We take it for granted that people know what libraries do on a daily basis, beyond lending books. I’m here to tell you that your cardholders likely don’t understand all the ways your library contributes to their community. They don’t know that you have meeting space. They don’t know you do outreach work. They don’t know about your literacy initiatives, your job and career readiness programs, and your library’s dedication to the free and open access of information to all people. Now is the time to make sure they understand.

For many of our cardholders, the world is changing drastically under President Trump. They feel less safe and secure. They may be the target of hateful rhetoric in public and private forums. With the proliferation of inaccurate news, they can’t figure out whether they can believe anything they read. In the midst of this chaos, I see an opportunity–and a duty–in this historic moment for libraries.

It’s time for your library to launch a content marketing initiative designed to educate the public about the importance of your institution. And I don’t mean that in the broad sense of the word. We’re going to have to be specific. There are four big points that all libraries need to emphasize to our communities. We can do this together, through stories published on our blogs, eNewsletters, and in our print publications. We must all work together toward re-educating the public about the library’s important role in American society. These are the four big points we need to make in our marketing during Trump’s Presidency.

Make sure your public understands libraries are open and inclusive places where anyone is welcome and all information is shared openly, without judgement. Librarians are proud of their industry’s commitment to free and fair access of information to all. Those of us working inside the library world have always known this was the case but it’s time to emphasize and reaffirm this commitment publicly to our cardholders. Don’t assume they know it. You need to tell your cardholders that your collection is diverse, that your librarian’s are non-judgmental, and that your building is a safe public space shared by everyone, no matter their beliefs.

Emphasize your library’s privacy policy. Many in your community are likely worried about the government’s wide-reaching ability to track and analyze data gathered by looking at social media accounts, emails, and the like.  But unlike many companies, libraries are fiercely protective of their cardholders’ privacy. Now is the time to let your cardholders know that your library is committed to making sure they can use the collection without worrying about whether anyone will be able see what they’re reading, watching, or listening to.

Market your library’s ability to provide factual information in an age of inaccuracy. A Pew Research Center study conducted in the spring of 2016 found that 37 percent of Americans feel that public libraries contribute “a lot” to their ability to discern which information they can trust, a 13-point increase from a survey conducted at a similar point in 2015. My library decided to dedicate the cover story of our upcoming issue of Library Links (releasing on Feb. 6) to explain how our librarians can help the public to fact-check. We listed several databases with remote access and made sure the readers know they can call, chat, or email us anytime or set up an appointment with a librarian who will help them do the research they need. This is a valuable service that isn’t offered anywhere else and we should be sure the public knows about it.

Make sure your public knows that your library’s primary goal has been, and always will be, to promote literacy in your community–and why that is important. This is the most important tenant of our profession. Increased literacy for everyone improves every aspect of community life. Find ways to make sure your cardholders know that this will continue to be a point of emphasis for your institution and why they should care.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Why Libraries Should Stop Worrying About Dark Social!


Dark social sounds menacing, like a bad guy from a comic book or a low-budget science fiction action movie. But the reality isn’t a sexy or as dangerous as it sounds.

Dark social refers to the practice of sharing content privately. When your cardholders or fans cut and paste a link to one of your blog posts, or cut and paste a social media post, or write an entirely new post without tagging you or sharing your post, that’s dark social.

It’s happening to your library more often that you realize. A June 2016 report from RadiumOne shows 82 percent of the blog posts and web content shared on mobile devices falls under the category of dark social. People are sharing your stuff, but instead of retweeting or quoting your tweets, they writing their own unique messages in apps, email, or text.

Dark social came up in an American Library Association panel discussion I had with Dana Braccia of Library Systems & Services, LLC, and Kim Crowder of the Indianapolis Public Library. One of our fantastic audience members asked us about dark social and how we handle it.

My answer was… I don’t.

Sure, dark social is frustrating for marketers because we can’t see what’s being said about us on all platforms (admit it, you obsessively check for mentions of your library in Google Alerts and on the Twitter timeline). We aren’t in control of the narrative. We see that people are coming to our website or blog but we don’t know where the traffic originates. We might see an uptick in use of a service or in circulation of a particular item and we can’t figure out why it’s happening.

Is this really a bad thing? Do we need to create a process for dealing with it? I don’t think so. Any kind of sharing of any content is good for your library. If your cardholders are fans and are sharing news and information about you and your services privately, then so be it.  Although it’s lovely to be able to precisely track all web content, libraries are not under the same ROI obligations as our friends in the for-profit business world. We benefit from any kind of web traffic. I don’t think it’s as much of a problem for libraries as it is for consumer brands, nor do I think it’s happening as often as the data shows in the RadiumOne survey above. This is a subjective observation based on my analysis of web traffic to our site.

I did a lot of research to make sure my hunch about this was right. I looked for articles on dark social, all published within the last year, from well-established marketing expert websites (the best were this one and this one). And it’s clear that this is a big worry for companies, particularly those with a funnel model for sales. If you read those posts, you’ll notice the authors suggest that companies create partnerships with platforms like WhatsApp and Snapchat to help communicate their brand message and keep the conversation within their brand’s control. Those partnerships are tricky and expensive and I didn’t see any evidence that they’ve worked for anyone, and I’m certain it’s not worth the time or money for your library.

You can use short links and Google tracking URL’s to help track the source of your web traffic. And you can make sure that you embed social media sharing buttons on your website to make it easy for library cardholders to share your stuff on social and through email. And you should make sure your library’s unique branch voice is clearly a part of everything you create. You can create unique graphics to go with each piece of content and those graphics can be branded so that anytime they are shared, their original source–you–is clearly visible. That’s about all you can do, my friends. Beyond that… you’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Don’t worry about dark social so much. Libraries are blessed that this is another instance in which the worries of the profit consumer market don’t apply to us.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


The Top Seven Websites to Find Free Stock Photos for Your Library


A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes. That’s so true in marketing, where the visual you create to go with whatever message you are trying to promote is often the first thing a potential cardholder will see. The quality of that visual determines whether that cardholder engages with your content–or moves on. Visuals count.

Many marketing experts, including my friends at Content Marketing World, contend stock photos are to be avoided because they don’t create authentic branding for your library. I agree. But most libraries, mine included, don’t have a budget to hire a photographer for every campaign or content marketing initiative. So we have to rely on free stock photos.

But libraries must navigate the tricky legal maze of copyright issues associated with free stock images. This website has a great FAQ on copyright issues surrounding stock photos. It’s mandatory reading for every library marketer. Do not use Google Images, because of copyright infringement danger. Your library can’t afford a lawsuit or fine.

You can combine free stock photos and authentic photography. If your library has, you have a ton of free options for photography classes! Buy a good DSLR camera and practice, practice, practice! There will be instances when you’ll need a photo that’s specific to your library so this skill will come in handy.

But sometimes you just need a stock photo. So I’ve created a small but powerful list of websites where you can find high quality, free stock photos.

Unsplash: An amazing site with a huge selection of high-resolution photos. They’re licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute, and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash. You don’t need to create an account to download.

Pexels: Before I discovered Unsplash, this was my favorite site. I use it for marketing for my church and presentations at library conferences. It contains some amazing high-quality work. There is no attribution needed and you don’t need an account to download the photos. These photos are also licensed under CC0.

Free Images: This site contains nearly 400,000 images in dozens of categories. You can easily check the usage rights for each image to learn how you can use it and whether you’ll need to attribute it with a photo credit.

Pixabay: All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required and there are hundreds of thousands of photos and videos to choose from.

Freepik: Freepik helps you to find free vector art, illustrations, icons, PSD, and photos for using in websites, banners, presentations, and magazines. The majority of the resources offered at Freepik can be used for free; you just have to credit the author of the illustration to Freepik. This is a great resource for libraries with limited graphic design resources but who need to build infographics or other designs that are non-photo related.

Freerange: Another source for thousands of free stock photos and images. You’ll need to create an account to download anything but the quality is high. The images may be used in commercial projects like websites, advertising, books, videos, and other commercial presentations. You don’t have to credit the photographer. You cannot put the images on anything you plan to resell-like T-shirts, mugs, or other library swag.

Canva: Finally, if you haven’t discovered the amazing world of Canva, allow me to introduce you. I use this site to build all my social media graphics for my church marketing, my presentations, and some for the library when we’re in a pinch. The site does include free photos which you can incorporate into your graphics–you just need to select the type of graphic you wish to create first. All the graphics you see on this blog were created using Canva. Use of the graphics and photos on the website is mostly free… some graphics and photos cost $1 each.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


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