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

The Big Challenge That Taught Me All About Library Marketing

The biggest holiday of the year in my city of Cincinnati is, without question, the opening day of the Cincinnati Reds baseball season.

Yes, you read that correctly. Half a million people turn out to line the streets of our city for a wild parade that lasts two hours and contains nearly 200 entries. Then they all stream down to the riverfront for street parties and concerts that lead up to the opening pitch of the day. Everywhere you go, you see people dressed in red and white, screaming from balconies, waving handmade signs… it’s a day-long pep rally. People dress up their dogs and kids and paint their faces and wear beads. It’s the Mardi Gras of Cincinnati. This has been going on for decades.

Our library has participated in this tradition since before I came to the organization. Every year, we march in the parade. I learned I would be responsible for our entry just a few months after I had joined. I had never organized a parade entry before. I had only ever covered the Reds parade in my time in news and had no idea what it was like on the participation side! But five years later, I’ve got the process down pat. And, I’ve thought a lot lately about how that experience mirrors many other projects in library marketing. Here’s what I’ve learned.

If you decide to partner with another organization, choose wisely. When I learned that I would be organizing my first parade entry, I set out to ask for advice. A co-worker told me that I was expected to partner with a local organization that helps disadvantaged children. So I reached out to them and called a meeting. It was a painful experience. They did not offer as much help as I needed. They barely contributed to the cost and labor of creating the entry. I completed all the paperwork and recruited all the volunteers and staff. On the day of the parade, I worried that we would lose one of their young clients, as they apparently thought I should also supervise the kids they had recruited to be in the parade. This was not the first time I’d been involved in a one-sided partnership project. We’re all been there. The next year, I decided to go it alone. It was actually less work and less stress.

Partnering with the right organization can bring you more resources and can help with the workload. Joining up with the wrong group can make the experience more stressful. That’s true with any library marketing project. Do your homework and choose your partners wisely. Approach with a series of questions in mind: What do you hope to accomplish in this partnership? How much time and money can you contribute to help us reach our goals? How will the work be divided among us? How will approvals and major decisions be handled?

Sometimes simple is best. My first parade float attempt a disaster. I had never created a parade entry by myself before and I am not an artist. I had no idea was I was doing. It was a hot mess of ideas and it looked muddled.

The second year was a little better. I had hired a graphic artist who was enthusiastic about the project. She recreated the Reds ballpark, complete with smokestacks made of discarded books. It was amazing–and it took a ton of time and was difficult to manage, given our low-budget. It looked great but it was very stressful.

The third year, I decided we would simply drive our delivery truck, which we had recently re-wrapped in a beautiful branded design created by another of my graphic artists. The difference in the stress level I felt in the weeks leading up to the parade was amazing. And the entry connected with the crowd better than any handmade float because it was a branded, recognizable vehicle.

You may be tempted to be complex in your library marketing projects. After all, complexity feels more productive. More work equals better work, right? Not necessarily. If you can approach each project in its simplest terms and break it down to the points that have real meaning, then work on reaching that goal, you’ll be more successful than if you try to reach a dozen goals in a multi-pronged approach. Your messages to the customer should also be simplified. Speak clearly, say what you mean, don’t use library jargon, and you’ll do a better job of connecting with your audience. Your graphics should be simple. Your services should be simple. Simple makes it easier for people to use your library and that will lead to increases in circulation, program attendance, and overall satisfaction.

Get your staff excited. The most important critical moment of parade planning is the moment I decide to start recruiting staff members to march with our entry. I have to make sure my pitch to them includes incentives for participating and emphasizes the excitement of the moment and the value to our cardholders. I also have to make sure members of senior leadership participate because staff members notice and feel neglected if there isn’t a member of administration marching with them through the cold or rain or heat (April weather in Ohio is completely unpredictable!). Likewise, in library marketing, you need to get your staff excited about your projects. Take the time to explain why you are doing the work you do and why it will help them in their interactions with cardholders.

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

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Unlock the Truth About LinkedIn and Library Marketing

Whenever my staff and I talk about increasing our library marketing reach in the community through social media, one particular staff member always says, “What are we doing on LinkedIn?” For a long time, we all had a little laugh and moved on. We ignored LinkedIn, though this staff member kept telling us it was a platform we needed to pay attention to. But we had a lot to do. Facebook was where most of our cardholders were connecting with us and we struggled to keep up with the demands of creating content for that platform. Plus, we all thought LinkedIn was just for job seekers. We didn’t really view it as a social media platform of the same caliber as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. We posted on LinkedIn sporadically; maybe twice per week at the most.

My social media specialist went on a well-deserved vacation and I took charge of LinkedIn while he was gone. I decided to experiment by posting on the site every weekday. I picked things I thought would resonate with the LinkedIn audience–professionals looking to network, find new jobs, and build connections that will help them advance in their careers.

One day I posted a promotion for an upcoming seminar on small business grants, with a  graphic I created for free on Canva. On another day, I chose to promote a self-help book from our new arrivals feed. We were already posting a “Worker Wednesday” profile each week, highlighting one of our branch staff on our other social media platforms and I posted that on LinkedIn. I also promoted a niche business magazine from our eBranch and a vintage photo of librarians at one of our branches.

The result is that engagement doubled over the course of two weeks and we decided, right then and there, to adjust our strategy and post more often on LinkedIn. Our little experiment showed there was clearly an audience for those messages.

LinkedIn is an important social media platform for libraries. I’ve said this for a while. And any library that’s not posting on LinkedIn is missing a huge opportunity, particularly in light of the recent algorithm changes and the data breach at Facebook and the toxic atmosphere of Twitter.

Here are the top five reasons why our library posts on LinkedIn and why I think your library should too!

It’s professional and polite. There are lots of people posting daily on LinkedIn about all kinds of ideas surrounding work life and yet, somehow, none of the comments on the platform have spiraled into hate-mongering that you might see on other social networks. This is due to the nature of LinkedIn–almost everyone on the site is aware that future employers are always looking at what they say and how they react. They put their best face and ideas forward. And that makes it a great place for libraries to interact with cardholders. You won’t get pulled down into messy and unproductive conversations and the audience is, by nature, receptive to your posts. There are no trolls! And speaking of which…

Less fake accounts, more organic reach. On LinkedIn, you won’t be targeted by fake accounts trying to prod you for likes, comments, and shares or following you simply to get a follow back. Imagine a world where there are no porn accounts masquerading as real people! The people interacting on LinkedIn are all real. And that makes for more genuine, organic interactions with your audience.

You can find great ideas for program and service promotion centered on career development. If you are looking for a place where you can gather ideas to create programs and services that will help grow the professional lives of your users, you should be on LinkedIn every day. Follow major companies and professional coaches to learn more about how career development is growing, spot trends, and find ways to showcase the resources your library can provide to help people looking for a new job or looking to advance their careers.

It’s a great place to share the story of your library. If you need a place to publish articles about your library, you should do that on LinkedIn. Top performing articles on the platform, according to Newswhip, include posts that help the reader add a positive or remove a negative from their life, job advice, and articles centered on how CEO’s best lead their team. In my personal experience, sharing books about career advancement and profiles of regular library staff members work well with the LinkedIn audience.

It’s a good platform to try something unexpected. I want to share a surprising discovery we made on our library’s own LinkedIn page. Our job and career-related posts generally do well. We get hundreds and sometimes thousands of impressions and dozens to hundreds of link clicks. But in the last few months, we found that posts about exhibits on display at the Main Library are also interesting to the LinkedIn audience! For example, in February, we did a small but cute display of cheesy vintage romantic novels to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We did a simple promotional post on LinkedIn and got more than 1100 impressions. Not bad! RIght now, our Main Library is housing a display of artwork from kids in the Cincinnati City School District and our promotional post about that display is getting even better engagement! So try unconventional posts too. Your LinkedIn followers may respond to something that you can’t predict, like news about an art exhibit!

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

Subject Line Secrets: Get Emails Opened Now!

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I believe in email marketing for libraries. At my library, we’ve used email to communicate with cardholders for more than three years and it’s the most powerful and effective tool I have at my disposal. I try to talk it up with my fellow library marketing professionals when I have the chance. Many institutions have concerns about privacy.They worry about bugging cardholders too often with emails. Those fears are unfounded, and I’ve shared why you needn’t worry in past posts like this one so I won’t rehash it here.

Many libraries have jumped on board the email marketing train and, like me, are constantly looking for ways to improve open and click-through rates. The first point of entry to a cardholder is the subject line. So I have been researching how to do a better job of grabbing the attention of cardholders as soon as my email comes into their inbox.

The subject line is the most important and most difficult part of the email to create, at least for me! But I have eight tips for writing better subject lines. I’ve used these tips to increase open and click-through rates at my library. Over time, I’ve noticed an increase in engagement from our emails–that translates to more books and other items put on hold and increased program attendance. I believe that’s result of the decision to fine tune our email subject lines.

Tip #1-Save the subject line for last. I write the rest of the email first and tackle the subject line right before I’m ready to send a test message. If you write the body of the email first, you’ll have the tone, the graphics, and the call to action decided by the time you get to the subject line. All of the technical elements of your email will determine what kind of subject line will work best for you. Wait until you’ve got the meat of the email written before you tackle the subject line. By the time you get to it, the subject line might write itself!

Tip #2-Say something to pique their curiosity. I approach each subject line in the same way I approached headlines when I was writing for TV news websites. I search for the most interesting nugget of information in my email, then make that the center of my subject line. In news, we called this “finding the tease-able element.” Find the most curious and unique portion of whatever you are promoting–books, magazines, an event, or an online class–and focus your subject line around that.

Tip #3-Say something urgent. I like to use urgent language during the Big Library Read promotions from Overdrive, when we can offer our cardholders unlimited checkouts of a particular eBook or eAudiobook. This is a limited time offer and using urgent language in the subject line is appropriate. Phrases like Hurry, Limited Time Offer, and Ending Soon are great examples. You can use urgent language to promote programs with a registration cap to create the “fear of missing out”(FOMO) effect in your emails.

Tip #4-Appeal to their desire to save money. We all know the value of library usage for our cardholders. We can’t offer sales or discounts but we can still appeal to the discount nature of our cardholders by reminding them, in the subject line, about how much dough they save using us.

Tip #5-Start with an “alert” phrase. Using words like Alert, Sneak Peek, First Look, and Hey There sounds corny (at least they did to me). You might think they’re so overused by big brands that there is no way a library cardholder will engage with that language. You’d be wrong. I think cardholders are honestly accustomed to very serious library emails which avoid alert language. So when you do use it, it grabs their attention.

Tip #6-Keep it short. Try to stay under ten words or 40 characters. That doesn’t seem like much but you want to make sure that your subject line can be seen in full on every mobile device and in desktop email preview mode. You know from using Twitter that keeping it short will force you to write your best work… so embrace it!

Tip #7-Try alliteration. It’s catchy and it will stick in your cardholders’ head.

Tip #8-Avoid spam triggers. These are words that can trip a cardholders’ automatic spam filter. There are nearly 500 such words. So, instead of listing them all here, I’ll give you a link to this compilation. It’s the best one I’ve found. I urge you to bookmark it… I did! Then do your darndest avoid using these words.

More help with emails!

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

Make it Damn Near Impossible to Ignore Your Emails

Four Secrets For Sending Powerful Library Emails

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

Four Instant Ways to Improve the Most Valuable Page on Your Library Website

I find lately that I’m obsessed of late with library web pages. I’ve set aside time every week to look at how different libraries around the world set up their websites. What do library’s feature or highlight their homepage? How robust is their search engine? What’s in their drop-down menu? How is their library staff set up?

That last question usually ends with me scrolling through a library’s “About Us” page. And it’s there that I really get a sense of that organization, how it views itself, and how it views its relationship to its cardholders. This research brought me recently to this conclusion: Most libraries, including mine, need to update their About Us page.

Your library’s About Us page can be a gateway to all kinds of traffic to your website. Perhaps your analytics show that you aren’t getting any visits to that section of your website and therefore, you might think you don’t need to mess with it. But if you want to increase your market penetration or if you are considering any campaigns or direct marketing messages to increase the number of cardholders you serve, you’re going to want a kick a** About Us page. Likewise, if your library is in the midst of a levy campaign or waging any kind of battle with your city or county over funding, hours, or locations, your About Us page could help you in that battle. And that page will need to look inspire to win new users and funding.

The concept of a revolutionary change in the way About Us web pages are written and formatted is something that gets a lot of discussion in marketing circles for major brands. I hear it all the time at Content Marketing World. Many big companies have moved away from a traditional approach–a long and wordy mission statement in non-conversational language that usually includes goals which have no meaning to the customer. They’re writing in a conversational tone, including specific calls to action for customers, and striving for full transparency. They’re using their About Us page to connect with potential customers, build trust, and communicate what their brand stands for and what the customer can expect from a relationship with that brand. And I think it’s about time for the library world to get on board.

Chicago Public Library’s page is minimalist with clear language and an easy-to-navigate menu.

We should transform our About Us pages into something that really has meaning to our community. This is the web page where decisions are made by all of your stakeholders. You want the page to make potential cardholders feel “at home” and community leaders understand what it is that your library does and why it’s vital.

Here are four ways to transform your About Us page from an abstract section of your website into an amazing marketing tool.

Focus on the cardholder. Here’s a thought that many libraries have a hard time grasping: your About Us page isn’t actually about you. It’s about your cardholders. What is it that your library can do for the cardholder? Take your mission, vision, and values statement, which is likely written in lofty language, and rewrite it in a conversational tone. Or drop it from the page altogether! I know that’s a controversial standpoint but if your mission, vision, values statement is written with a bureaucratic bent, it won’t have any meaning to anyone outside your organization. Instead, think of your About Us page as a conversation between you and a non-library user. How would you, in normal conversation, tell someone about all the things your organization does? That’s what your About Us page should say. You might also take the opportunity to answer the most frequent questions your library gets from new cardholders.

I love how the Columbus Public Library answers the #1 most frequent question right on their About Us page.

Tell your Library’s story. Whether your library has been around for decades or is newly formed, there’s a fantastic story about its birth and its longevity. Tell it on your About Us page, in a paragraph, with inspiring and optimistic language. Keep your bragging to a minimum. If your library has won many awards, you can mention them briefly and put them into the context of how that award translates to better service for your cardholders.

The Perth, Australia library’s About Us page includes all the essentials-how to get a card, sign up for a newsletter, and what is happening today at the library.

Less is more. Many libraries, including mine, have a long list of accomplishments and sub-headers on their About Us page. My library has 19 clickable sub-links!  Pare it down. White space is good. Pick the five most important things you’d want people to know and move the rest to another section of your website. Remember, your About Us page isn’t really about you… it’s about your cardholder. What are the five things a person would need to know to convince them to get a library card or to give you more money?

The Scottsdale, Arizona library takes a minimalist approach and it works!

Visuals are key.  Great, high-resolution photos that show people using your library and the workers who man the buildings are essential. Photos of faces are scientifically proven to be a more effective communication tool that text. Bold, easy to read fonts and primary colors work best for communicating ideas and drawing the eye to the page. Keep text to a minimum and pare down to five concepts that will tell your story.

I like how the Toledo Public Library’s page is heavy on visuals and includes easy-to-navigate sub links written in plain language.

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

The Danger In Doing Library Social Media By Committee and What To Do Instead

This post is in response to a specific topic request made by Jane Cowell, who is the Executive Director of Information and Engagement at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Though I have never met her in person, Jane and I “talk” often on Twitter, where she shares my passion for promoting the good work of libraries around the world. Actually, Jane is way more tireless than I am. Also, isn’t she freaking gorgeous?

Recently Jane asked me to talk about social media and libraries; in particular, she wanted to know whether I thought libraries should do social media by committee or take a centralized approach.

My answer: Both. Kind of.

The committee approach to social media is a favorite in the non-profit world. There are countless articles online about forming and maintaining a social media committee on nonprofit websites. Reading those articles, and talking to people who work in my library, I realize that this committee-based mentality has two origins. One is workload. The social media landscape is crowded and the work to keep content flowing in all channels is an all-consuming business. There’s just too much work for most libraries to get it all done, and done well, with one person. But the committee approach is also an effort to ensure fairness and equality… to give all the stakeholders a voice. That’s a valid reason to do social media by committee.

But there are some clear disadvantages to this approach. And if you’re already shaking your head in disagreement, and feel tempted to click away, please read to the end because, at my library, we have managed to find a good way to make a centralized approach work while building team buy-in and I’ll share it with you!

First, let me lay out the problems with the committee approach. My three concerns are:

Your brand voice gets lost. When multiple people are posting on social media for the same library, each post will be infused with a different vocabulary, tone, and feel. Your library needs a standard focus on strategy and vocabulary. When the social media accounts are handled by a centralized person or department, particularly if that department is marketing, the library’s voice is consistent. You use the same words, you have the same conversational tone with your readers, and each post is connected to the library’s mission, vision, and values. The centralized department can make sure each post supports the overall strategy of the library.

The security of your accounts is at risk. The more people who have access to your social media accounts, the more you risk that one of those accounts will be compromised. I know we all trust our coworkers (or at least I hope you do!). But when multiple people are accessing multiple accounts (and saving multiple passwords on multiple computers), the chances that a compromise will happen increases. Keeping your social media centralized reduces this risk.

You risk more mistakes. The more people who post, the more chances that a word will be misspelled, that a date will be wrong, that the information in the post will be incorrect, or that redundant posts will happen. Assigning one central person to handle all social media accounts means that person can act as an editor, reading each post in the scheduler before it goes out, checking to make sure links work and images aren’t broken, and keeping track of promotions so the same event or service isn’t mentioned three times in one day.

There is a way to mix a centralized and committee approach to social media and this is how we handle social media at my library. Create a social media team of contributors who submit post ideas to a centralized social media coordinator. The coordinator is empowered to change or reject the posts submitted by the contributor team and is responsible for taking the contributions and putting them into the scheduler. The coordinator should also be in constant communications with the contributors to foster an open working relationship with them and to share everything he or she knows about the current social media landscape.

My library recruits staff member at each of our 40 branch locations to contribute ideas to us. These contributors are not social media specialists–most are trained librarians who have only ever used social media for personal reasons. My social media specialist visits one branch every week. She goes there to recruit new contributors and talk to the current members about trends in social media. She helps them craft better posts and gives them tips on taking photos of branch displays, events, and more. And she shares the marketing department’s social media strategy with the contributors so they can create posts that support our mission. The contributors know we might not use every post they suggest but the more we work with them to share best practices and improve their social media savvy, the better the posts have become.

I feel strongly that this hybrid approach is the best way to meld both mindsets, safeguard the security of your accounts, get varied and interesting content to post to your social media accounts, and stay connected with your staff and readers.

More help with library social media

Safeguarding the security of your social media accounts

How libraries are using social media–a study by Techsoup

Ten tips to master social media at your library by Ebsco

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

Snapchat Is Not Dead and You Need It For Superior Library Marketing

As social media platforms often do, Snapchat recently did a major update and basically changed everything, from the user experience to the layout to the way you find and follow people and brands.

Sigh.

I am a heavy Snapchat user in my personal life. In my role as a library marketer, I am in charge of posting and data analysis on the platform. So I’m on it many times a day. I’ve also taken part in #ChatSnap on Twitter (it’s a weekly chat about Snapchat!) and I’ve read Chelsea Pietz’s book, Talking in Pictures: How Snapchat Changed Cameras, Communication, and Communities. I’m familiar and comfortable with the platform.

My first impression of the change was this–Snapchat is moving back to its original mission of promoting personal connections and conversations between individuals. Which is not good news for most brands. Most companies are preparing for a pay-to-play move by Snapchat. I expect that, at some point in the near future, Snapchat will offer marketers the chance to buy their way into the main feed of their followers and those who don’t pay will get little or no organic reach (think Facebook).

But for now, we should all be moving our libraries in a new direction to work better in the updated Snapchat. With the change, getting personally connected to your followers is now even more important. That’s because the new Snapchat algorithm sorts a users’ feed based on the people they interact with most often, putting the most frequent connections at the top of the feed. So, if you are talking and having conversations with your followers, they’re more likely to see your stories posts. If you don’t take the time to engage personally with users, you’ll be pushed to the bottom of the feed.

This is not to say that you need to engage with every single user every single day. My personal way to approach this is to send Snapchat messages or chats once or twice a week to a group of users. I do it alphabetically so it’s easier to keep track of who I’ve messaged. I might just ask a question like, “What are you reading this weekend?” or “Did you know you can get a passport at the library?” and then send it to 20 or so followers. Even if they don’t respond, the very act of reaching out from my end is enough to bump my stories up in their general feed. It literally takes five minutes of my time.

My Library is still appearing in the main feed for our users. This is also true for the long list of libraries which I follow on Snapchat. I’m not exactly sure why libraries are distinguished as friends instead of brands, which are now in the Discover tab, but I’m not going to complain or bring attention to it!! I haven’t seen any drop in the number of views on my posts to the Library account.

And for all the talk that the change will drive users away from the platform, data shows us usage hasn’t dropped. Stifel’s social media usage tracker shows Snapchat’s audience reach dropped by only about 0.1 percent in February. In an article posted in US News and World Report,  Analyst John Egbert says Snap seems to have lost only about 90,000 of its 187 million global daily active users in February. 18 percent of U.S. social media users are on Snapchat and users spend an average of 30 minutes a day on the platform. That number is higher for millennials. You can get updated Snapchat user stats here. It’s pretty fascinating and when I feel like I might be wasting my time on the platform, I just read these.

The bottom line is libraries should still be active on Snapchat. But it shouldn’t be your top priority. There are other platforms–namely Facebook and Instagram–where your time is better served. Use Snapchat to share videos of special occasions, news about new books, profile a Book of the Day, and practice your video and storytelling skills. Don’t devote major resources to it.

A post I wrote about Snapchat last year still applies and you can use it to help you brainstorm ways to connect with followers on the platform. It is important to have a presence of some sort on Snapchat. If you haven’t yet claimed your account, you should. You should be posting at least once a week. And you should offer to answer questions or provide help to your followers on the platform. We have to go where our cardholders are in order to best serve them.

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

Five Excellent Ways To Improve Every Sign in Your Library

I have a love/hate relationship with library signage.

Part of my job as a marketing professional in a major metropolitan public library is to conduct signage evaluations and to make changes or improvements to the signs in our 41 locations. As a customer, I know how helpful the right kind of signage can be, and my perspective as a customer helps me to understand the importance of the task. But to be honest, it’s probably one of my least favorite job requirements. That’s because I’ve found that signs seem like a simple thing but are, in truth, very complicated. My coworkers and my cardholders have passionate feelings about them.

Good signage serves as a silent employee to draw cardholders to your location, direct traffic inside your building, and answer basic customer questions. Signs can actually be a part of your library’s overall strategy and should certainly be worked into your marketing strategy each year. Ask yourself: What are your library’s overall goals, and how can signs help to meet those goals?

The task of tackling your library’s signage is much easier when you have brand specifications documented. The color, size, and language should be consistent throughout the building and multiple locations. Once you have that document created and have decided how signage will help you to execute your library’s goals, here are five tips to keep in mind as you work on signage for each building.

Tip #1: Less is more. Too many signs in a branch, particularly in a small location, can create clutter and can actually cause confusion. And too much signage can actually annoy your cardholders, particularly if most of your signs are bombarding them with marketing messages. Just as white space works to create breadth and depth for a website or a graphic, well-spaced signage in a branch creates flow. About 75 percent of the signs in your library locations should be wayfaring only–directing cardholders to important service points in the building. The other 25 percent can be selective marketing–promoting services and items that are of interest to your cardholders or that might be of interest to them, based on their patterns of checkout.

Tip #2: Match the signage display to the user of each physical space. Make sure that in your children’s area, the signs, shelves, and computers are all lowered to be a child’s level. Create larger signs for the section that holds your large print items. Place teen signs where the teens hang out, like near charging stations or computers. Use a combination of large and small signs to blend with the space requirements in your library and to keep your signage from becoming monotonous, without being overpowering.  Use a bold font and keep colors and designs simple.

Tip #3: Your library materials make the best displays. Use them instead of signs. Think about how your local bookstore will display books. They often turn them front-facing. Why? Book covers are a visual cue and publishers spend thousands of dollars creating beautiful and eye-catching covers. Use these designs to create a visually pleasing display instead of a sign. A good display will not even need a sign–it should be obvious to the cardholder what you are trying to market to them.

Tip #4: Use customer-friendly, positive language. Cardholders prefer conversational language in all our marketing, so it makes sense to incorporate that into your signage. Some examples are:

Replace self-check or circulation with checkout.

Replace reference with information.

Replace periodicals with magazines.

Replace juvenile with children’s and teens.

I know this is controversial but I’m saying it anyway. Drop the Dewey decimal system from your end panels and arrange your fiction and nonfiction items alphabetically. And incorporate positive language into your signs. Don’t tell customers what they can’t do. Rather, tell them what they can do or how they can enjoy a particular space or item in the collection.

Tip #5: Don’t forget the signs on the outside of your building. Your main sign should say LIBRARY in large letters. Save the actual name of the building, particularly if it’s a long name, for smaller letters by the door. Make sure your open and close times are large and clear and in an easy to spot location. The same goes for the signage for any outdoor services like book drops or drive-thru windows. Make sure the signs are as large as is allowed by your local government.

Bonus tips: Don’t rely on signs to convey everything you want to tell the customer. Hire staff who are willing to speak with customers and show customers where items are located with patience and kindness. And set a schedule for re-evaluating and refreshing your signage–once a year, if you can handle 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 LinkedInInstagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

More Amazing Tips For Guaranteed Success on YouTube

Video is an important tactic for library marketing. I really believe that. To help you make the leap to video, I’ve created a tutorial to help you set up and run your library’s YouTube channel. This post, and the one published last week, feature tips from Jonathan Stanley, who is the creative manager of online video content and production for Lowe’s. I attended a session led by Jonathan at Content Marketing World. Read part one here. It talks about cleaning up your current YouTube channel and creating a schedule and strategy for your library’s video marketing.

The next step is to decide which of the three basic types of videos you’ll want to create. They are:

Help Content: Also known as the “how-to” video, you can create this kind of video by searching your website analytics to see what your cardholders are looking for when they visit your site. What questions do they have? What services are they using? What web pages do they go to most often and what do they do once they get to those pages? You should also do a check of keywords used in searches in connection with your library, so you can see what people who might be potential customers are searching for. This keyword research will uncover the questions your customers and potential customers have. Then, use video to answer those questions! Help content builds traffic to your YouTube channel and library website. Here’s a great example that could be easily replicated by any library.

Hub Content: These videos are part of an ongoing series. They’re episodic or formulaic and recur consistently. They’re the “must watch” variety of videos we talked about in part one of this tutorial, like the “How to Cake It” series. These videos get people to keep coming back to your YouTube channel to consume more content. You can use hub content to start to build your brand’s voice and to really define what your library stands for. Once you decide on your publication schedule and the formula, these videos are pretty easy to churn out.

My library has an ongoing hub content series, called Virtual Storytime. We publish these once a month. They are have a basic formula and take about an hour to shoot and an hour to edit. They are easily replicated by any library.

Hero Content: These are the big productions that you probably think of when you think of YouTube videos. They should be used for a major launch of a product or service, the opening of a new building, or some other major event. Done really well, these may be the best performing videos on your channel. But they also take the most time (and money) to produce, so save them for major announcements.

Jonathan has a fourth type of video he thinks works well. He calls it Herd Content. To create herd content, ask your library cardholders what kind of videos they want to see from your library and then produce them! Herd content will increase engagement and make your cardholders feel like you’re giving them the help they need. Herd content is video your cardholders will actually use!

And now, after you’ve created your video, Jonathan has the following tips:

Choose the thumbnail picture for your video carefully. The thumbnail picture is the billboard advertisement for your video. Research shows that faces are more likely to be clicked on by YouTube users so choose a face over an object. If you are creating a series of videos, be consistent with the look of your thumbnail pictures (like you’ll notice my library does for our Virtual Storytime series). Settle on a look for the thumbnail and then replicate it for all the videos in the series. For another example of a channel that does a good job choosing thumbnails, check out Adam Ruins Everything.

Be sure to support your video as soon as you post it with promotion to drive traffic to your channel. The first 48 hours are critical to overall success. YouTube will reward you for something called “positive velocity”, which is total number of views your video gets AND the total amount of time your viewers actually spend watching the video in the first 48 hours. A negative number will actually hurt the next video you post, so you have to start supporting your video with promotion as soon as you post.

Stick with it! Most YouTube channels grow slowly at first. Don’t be frustrated by slow growth, as long as you are growing subscribers. Be sure to directly ask viewers to subscribe. Ask for comments too… they’ll drive more traffic to your YouTube channel.

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

YouTube Fundamentals to Guarantee Library Marketing Results

Now that you understand the importance of video marketing for your library and you know how to create a video that will be interesting, suspenseful, and drive cardholders back to your channel for more content, let’s spend some time talking about the pros and cons of putting everything on YouTube–and what you can do to make your YouTube channel the best it can be for you and your cardholders.

This post is full of tips I learned from Jonathan Stanley, who is the creative manager of online video content and production for Lowe’s. I attended a session led by Jonathan at Content Marketing World and I left with pages of notes!

YouTube is a great option for posting and sharing library marketing videos. Jonathan says it’s the #2 search engine in the world (wow!) and it has billions of users. You can put your library marketing videos on your website but, according to Jonathan, the reality is that you also need to post your videos on YouTube. That’s because YouTube is the home of next generation of influencers, including that elusive and coveted demographic–teenagers! It’s where people go to watch videos these days (myself included). So your library must have a strong presence there.

To make your YouTube channel the best it can possibly be, your first task is to clean it up. Do not let your YouTube channel become a video dumping ground. Check all the videos on the channel right now and get rid of the videos that contain out-of-date information or that promote programs and services your library no longer provides. For the remaining videos, go in and do some editing to optimize the ability of users to find and watch those videos. You can do that by renaming the videos, rewriting the video descriptions, and updating the keywords.

Once you’ve cleaned up your channel, it’s time to start adding new videos. Jonathan says the production value of your library marketing videos doesn’t matter all that much. Consumer distrust of companies is at an all-time high. Most YouTube viewers equate slick video production with an advertisement, and they really hate ads. So Jonathan encourages you not to worry so much about every aspect of video production and instead focus on the quality of the storytelling because that will strike viewers as authentic and valuable, and they’ll be more likely to watch.

As an example, Jonathan shared a video Lowe’s created about the correct way to use a tape measure. It’s slick and well-produced.

To date, this video has gotten more than 50,000 views and 152 likes. However, Lowe’s noticed their video is out-performed by this homemade video, shot in a workshop.

It has bad lighting and varying audio levels. But it has been viewed more than 17 million times and has more than 29,000 likes! Why? It’s more authentic. So don’t worry too much about the look of your video. Instead, make sure the content is so good that people can’t help but watch it.

Next, Jonathan says you should create a schedule so that you post consistently and map out a plan to publicize your videos. His example comes from a series called “How to Cake It.” The creator, Yolanda Gampp, posts a new video every Tuesday.

The thing Jonathan wants you to focus on here is the way Yolanda sets a cadence. She’s built her audience by creating a sense of anticipation for her videos and by delivering on that anticipation. You could set your cadence at any level you can support on a consistent basis but you should tell your audience when to expect a new video and then deliver on it. You should also create a publicity schedule so that audiences on other channels will head to your YouTube channel to check it out.

Finally, Jonathan says you should always be testing! Experiment with different content types, formulas, and talent. You might fail right away, and that’s okay. The things that are not working for your audience will become clear pretty fast and you can pivot away from those failing ideas just as quickly. You also don’t need to spend years scripting your video. Write it, shoot it, put it out there, and see how it works. Then adjust your strategy for the next video.

Jonathan suggests you start using the YouTube Creator Academy. It’s a series of free courses designed to help you make better videos and use the YouTube platform to your advantage.

Read part two of this series here.

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

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