In my sophomore year of high school, I nearly failed my math class.
Geometry at Old Fort High School was taught by Mrs. Hoover, a quiet, unassuming woman with a bouffant hairdo reminiscent of the 1970s. She spent most of the class standing at the chalkboard, diagramming equations to calculate distance and space.
I believe she was doing the best she could do with me. But the numbers and formulas just didn’t sink in. I could not understand them.
I knew I’d be in trouble with my parents if I brought home an F on my midterm report card. So, I decided to take drastic measures.
I was working as a student assistant in the office. When the day of midterm reports came in, I set mine aside. It was easy enough to change my Geometry grade from an F to a B by connecting lines in the letters. I thought I was a genius.
Of course, I was caught. I should have known that my mother, who also taught in the school, would talk to Mrs. Hoover in the teacher’s lounge. I was assigned after-school tutoring several days a week until I eventually brought my grade up to a C.
It’s clear that I’m not good at math. But math is an essential part of my library job. Thankfully, I don’t have to calculate space and distance, at least not in the ways that Geometry requires.
Library promotion does require data analysis. For too long, this was a step that many libraries skipped.
But in the last year, the scales have tipped as more libraries see the benefit of analyzing their promotions. In the most recent Super Library Marketing survey, 55 percent of respondents said they are measuring their promotions to gauge effectiveness. HOORAY!
It would be SO EASY to just chuck the analysis. You are so dang busy. But you must do it because it’s necessary and because the results always reveal something important.
Without data analysis, you are blind to the trends that emerge in your community’s behavior. Your work is more efficient when you know how your cardholders react to messages and how those reactions change over time. So, to begin the new year, I want you to focus on analytics.
It doesn’t need to take you a bunch of time. You don’t have to be a math whiz. Focus on two core principles:
Identify what is working so you can replicate it.
Identify what isn’t working so you can STOP doing that.
Three tips to make data analysis easier for libraries
Tip #1: Record your results soon after you send your promotions.
Make it a habit to document your data as soon as the campaign ends. If you love spreadsheets, this is your chance to put them to use. Here are my recommendations for how soon to record the numbers for the most used promotional tactics.
Emails: three days after the send
Social media: two days after posting
Videos: 30 days after publishing
Blog posts and website promotions: one week after posting
Print flyers and bookmarks promoting events: As soon as the event happens, record attendance and how attendees found out about the event.
Tip #2: Clear your schedule and set manageable time expectations for yourself.
As you begin making a habit of data analysis, you’ll get a good sense of exactly how much time you need to set aside. Then, shut the door of your office (if you have one) and hunker down. It takes discipline but it’s worth it.
Tip #3: Share your results.
Transparency in marketing is a good thing. It helps your co-workers have a clearer understanding of what you are doing when you promote the library.
In my day job at NoveList, we share our metrics each month. And inevitably, someone asks a question about the results that is relevant and insightful.
Library marketers are often so close and precious about their work, that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Your colleagues may look at the results and find some new insight that you missed.
Common digital metrics and why they are important
Social media reach and impressions
These two measurements should be analyzed together. They help you see how big your audience is. They also give you a good picture of the overall engagement of your social media content. But, because they are so closely related, they can be confusing to explain.
Reach is the number of unique users who saw your content on their screens. In basic terms, reach indicates the size of your audience on any social media platform.
Impressions refer to the number of times your content appears on any screen, even if one user saw the content many times. It’s a way to measure whether you are meeting the algorithm’s expectations.
If your posts are resonating with audiences and following the best practices of the platform, your Impression number should be higher than your Reach. If your Reach and Impressions are nearly the same, you know you’ll need to adjust something to make your posts more algorithm friendly.
Social media likes and reactions
Likes and reactions are a way for social media users to express their support for a piece of content. These measurements are proof that your audience connects with your content. Also, every algorithm uses likes and reactions are used as a ranking signal. More reactions lead to a wider audience.
Reactions can also help you refine your posts to increase engagement. For example, if you have an unusually low number of interactions on a post with a very high reach, you might want to consider changing up the text or graphic to make it more appealing to your audience and the algorithm.
Most of your library marketing is meant to drive action by your community members. Link clicks tell you whether people were inspired by your marketing to take an action.
If your promotions get only a few link clicks, you may need to adjust the text or accompanying media to be more enticing to your audience. You might also think about whether the promotion is being sent to the right audience on the right platform.
Video Views and Watch Time
Like social media impressions and reach, views and watch time should be analyzed together. Views can tell whether your video title, thumbnail, and video description are interesting to users. Watch time shows you how engaging the video is.
In my opinion, watch time is more valuable than total views. You’ll be working toward an average watch time of 70-80 percent.
Email open and click-through rates
An email open rate is the percentage of people who receive your email and open it. It can indicate the success of your subject line.
An email click-thru rate is the percentage of people who click on something inside your email. This is the true indication of success for your email. Once they opened the message, were they persuaded to click on your website or catalog by something you said? Compelling text, graphics, photos, and calls to action will all increase your click-thru rate.
Website visitors and bounce rate
As you analyze the success of your library website, record the raw number of visitors to your website. You’ll also want to keep track of the number of new visitors versus the number of returning visitors. And finally, track the length of time visitors spend on your website.
Note: If your main library marketing focus is on the collection, and your main focus is to drive people to your library’s catalog, your time spent on the website may be minimal. In this case, focus on tracking circulation stats for the titles or collection items in your promotions.
Blog views and visitors
Blog views are the total number of people who click on a post. This is a good way to measure the success of your post title and your promotion of the posts.
Blog visitors indicate the total number of people who visited any post on your blog.
In general, you want the number of your views to be twice the number of people who visit your blog. That would tell you that your visitors are clicking on more than one post as they visit your blog because your blog is filled with content that your visitors find interesting!
Can you measure non-digital promotions?
Non-digital library marketing, including print promotions and word-of-mouth marketing, is an effective way to promote your library when used in the right context. It’s true these tactics can’t provide you with the kind of clear, concise data that digital promotions can. But there are ways to measure them.
Google Analytics: view traffic to specific landing pages on your website. You can see how well those print pieces work by filtering for time and date.
Circulation and visitor stats
Whenever possible, use your print marketing messages to drive your community to a digital platform, like your website, where you can collect more detailed data.
A potential downside to library marketing data
There is a balance to strike between data and creativity. Sometimes, the most successful library promotions happen when you take creative risks.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. And don’t let data paralyze you or prevent you from trusting your gut instinct.
The Library Marketing Show, Episode 173: What if I told you, there is a calendar that can help you program all of your library emails for 2023? I’ll share this secret resource and more library email tips.
My favorite library marketing season is about to begin.
The last two months of the year are when a library marketer must do in-depth work that will strengthen your library’s position for the coming year.
Every other business and competitor will be ramping up their sales and discounts as we go into the holiday season. You may be worried that any promotions your library does will get lost in the shuffle.
You should be worried! According to Sprout Social, your audience receives about 2,477 messages per month from retailers between January through October. But in November and December, that number goes up 13 percent to 2,804 messages per month.
That’s why I advocate pulling back on your “regular” push promotions during the last two months of the year. Instead, you can stand out by doing something different: focus on using this time to create a deeper connection with your community.
You’ll do that by strategically building library brand awareness and affinity.
What arebrand awareness and brand affinity?
In its simplest terms, brand awareness is the extent to which your community can recall or recognize your library brand, no matter where they run across it. It means your community members know what you stand for and what you have to offer. Brand affinity, by contrast, is building an emotional connection between your library and your community.
Brand awareness and brand affinity are critically important to your library’s success. We want your community to recognize your content. And we want to create a lasting relationship between your library and your community.
When your library has strong brand awareness and brand affinity, your community members will choose to use your library over your competitors. They’ll recommend your services to friends and family. And they’ll support you with funding and volunteerism.
In fact, a study from eMarketer showed that 64 percent of people cite brand values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a particular brand. (BTW, your library is a brand!)
That’s why it’s crucial to make brand awareness a top priority for your library marketing over the next two months. Here’s how to do that.
Step #1: Inform, educate, and entertain your community.
The most effective way to build brand awareness and affinity is to position your library as a place that adds value to your community. You do this by helping people solve problems.
For this to work, you’ll spend 8 weeks strategically educating and informing your audiences. This is called content marketing. It’s a strength that libraries have, and we don’t do this kind of marketing often enough.
Create and release a series of tips for your cardholders on how they can use your library to make their lives a little easier during the holiday. Brainstorm a list of ways your library helps ease the rush and craziness of the holiday season. Then decide on a sequence and schedule for releasing those ideas.
Create the promotional collateral to go with it: bookmarks, graphics for your website, email, social media, and short videos. Then, tell your cardholders you’re going to be helping them out this holiday. Reveal your plans and tell them exactly when you’ll be releasing each tip and on what platform. Create excitement and anticipation, then pay it off with your content.
Your tips can include:
Ideas for holiday gifts, recipes, and more–especially if they are literary-themed or items in your library of things that can be tested out before they make a purchase.
A special phone line or email inbox where you can take questions from community members who need help picking out a gift, cooking a big meal, or figuring out etiquette questions like which fork to use.
Curated lists of collection items for decorating, entertaining, wrapping gifts, and cooking.
A quick video tutorial on how to use their card to get free access to Consumer Reports.
Step #2: Promote your mission, vision, and values.
Libraries spend so much time marketing what we do that we don’t often talk about why we do it. In fact, I’d argue that we take it for granted that our community members know the importance of our work. So, during your two-month brand awareness and affinity campaign, make it a point to talk and promote your library’s mission, vision, and values.
Have a staff member or patrons (or both) write a blog post on the impact of the library. Here is a great example. Repurpose those stories for social media posts and print pieces like bookmarks featuring quotes from real-life library users.
You can gather patron stories by asking email subscribers to share how your library’s work has impacted their lives. When I worked for the Cincinnati Library, I sent an email to a portion of my cardholder base and asked them to share such a story. Our library received more than 900 responses! I was then able to pick a few of the best stories. Those patrons were more than happy to share them with the world at large.
Step #3: Show the contrast between your library and your competitors.
Start checking your competitors’ websites and ads as soon as they begin their holiday marketing. Figure out what their offers are and how you can counteract those offers with free stuff!
Other companies have employees. Libraries have experts who truly care about the work they are doing and the impact they have on the community.
That’s why your staff is one of your most valuable resources. They are what makes your library stand out from your competitors. Spend the next two months making sure your community understands the value of your staff.
Interview staff about their work, and why they got into this industry. Ask them to share the story of a time when they helped a community member. Then share those stories on your blog, on social media, and in emails. The Lane Library at Stanford University is a great example of how to write a profile.
You can also ask staff members to name their favorite book of the year. Release that as a special end-of-the-year booklist. You can cross-promote these staff picks on your social platforms and include an email message to cardholders. Make sure you ask all staff members to participate… even the cleaning staff!
Step #5: Re-educate your cardholders about all your library has to offer.
Your library should create a series of emails sent to cardholders once a week for the next eight weeks. Those emails will re-introduce your cardholders to the best features of your library. It will inspire them to use their cards again.
To create this campaign, you’ll make two lists. The first will be for the most popular resources at your library. This could include things like your Makerspace, popular storytimes, laptop terminals, or your extensive e-book collection.
Next, make a list of your library’s hidden treasures. These may be items or services that you know will solve problems for your community. This list should include things that are unique to your library, like online Homework Help, your small business resources, your vast historical resources, or your Library of Things.
Finally, look at the two lists you’ve created and narrow your focus. You want to highlight the best and most helpful things at your library without overwhelming your recipients. Choose to promote one resource from your list of popular items and one from your list of hidden library treasures for each of the emails you send.
The first time I went to a conference, I made a plan.
I decided which sessions I would attend weeks before the conference began. I studied the floor map of the convention center so I could plot the best way to get from room to room. I made a list of local restaurants and tourist attractions within walking distance of my hotel so that I could make the most of my free time.
Am I bonkers? Nope. I am a planner.
A plan provides a guide for action. It ensures goals are met and time and resources are used wisely.
There are times when spontaneity is called for. But library marketing is not one of them. A marketing plan is key for the success of any type of library promotion.
What exactly is a library marketing plan?
A library marketing plan is a tool you use to help to achieve your library’s overall goals. It lays out the steps involved in getting a promotion out into the world. It helps you decide how and when promotional work will be done for a pre-determined time in a specific way.
A library marketing plan also ensures everyone knows the end goal of your marketing efforts. It sets deadlines. It keeps people accountable. And it clarifies how you will measure your results.
You don’t need a plan for everything you promote at your library. You do need a plan if you are creating a campaign that lasts for more than several weeks.
How to put your marketing plan together
Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a list of free project planning websites. They will help you with the execution of your plan. At the bottom of this post, you’ll also find a customizable template to download. It’s based off the library marketing plan spreadsheet I used for years.
Know the thing you are promoting inside and out.
Be sure you can answer every single question about the thing you are promoting. You must become an expert on the event, service, or item you will promote.
Ask yourself, what problem will this solve for my patrons? How easy is it to use? What are the features that can’t be found at any of my competitors?
Clearly define your end goal.
Use the SMART goal framework to ensure you and your co-workers know exactly what you are aiming to achieve. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
So, if you are looking to increase brand awareness, set an actual, measurable end goal like: “Within the next 6 months, we want 50 percent of residents living within a 30-mile radius of our Main Library to know that we have renovated the building and to be able to name at least one new service available at the library.”
Determine your target audience.
Many library marketers say their target audience is “our cardholders.” Be more specific.
How old are they?
How often do they use the library?
Fill out your picture of your target audience with as many demographic characteristics as you can. This gives you and everyone working on the plan a picture of who you are trying to reach.
Analyze your competitors.
Research anyone providing a similar program, service, or product. Ask:
What are they doing well?
What are they doing poorly?
What are the things that differentiate your library from their business?
These are your marketing advantages. You can use this information to create messaging that tells your target audience why they should use your library service, instead of a competitor.
Create the message.
Get the message or elevator pitch for your promotion set. It’s the most important part of your plan. You need it to create all the tactics you will use to promote your library.
Choose your tactics.
Go through all the available channels at your disposal for marketing and decide which ones will work best to reach your end goals.
You do not have to use everything that’s available to you. Sometimes, a video will work well and sometimes an email will do a better job. Not every promotion needs print materials, a press release, or a digital sign.
You know best how your target audience reacts to each tactic and which will bring you the best results. If you have a budget, decide how you’ll spend it during this step.
Set the schedule.
Every library has a different approach to its promotional schedule. I am a fan of tiered distribution of marketing. The approach takes advantage of a consumer cycle of excitement. Here’s how it works:
Release one or two promotional tactics at the beginning of your promotional cycle, like a social media post and a press release. The promotion gets some play, and excitement builds in the consumer base. It gets shared and people talk about it… and then the excitement dies out.
Release the second tactic, like an email, and the people who see the email get excited and start talking about it and sharing it, and then their excitement dies out.
Release a video, and that builds excitement and gets shared, and the excitement then dies out. And so on!
When you use the tiered distribution approach, you get a longer promotional thread. Your promotions will be more successful because the excitement around them builds over time, not in one big burst.
It is also easier on the person running the marketing! It gives you a small break in between each tactic and creates time for you to measure the success of each tactic individually.
Delegate jobs and deadlines for appropriate staff. If you need help from another library department, assign their deadline now so they have plenty of time to get you the information you need.
Don’t forget to measure and record the reaction to each piece of your marketing plan. Analyze what worked and what did not, so you can put that knowledge to use next time.
Free or cheap project management solutions
Clickup: the free plan will work for small libraries. The unlimited plan is very affordable and would work well for medium to large libraries.
SmartSheet: their lowest plan tier is a little more expensive than ClickUp but has more integrations.
Asana: this is what my employer NoveList uses. It makes is easy to assign tasks and deadlines.
Marketing plan template
I’ve created a customizable marketing plan spreadsheet. It includes my suggestions for the timing of promotional tactics for an event or service promotion.
You can delete or add columns based on the tactics available to your library and the size of your library. Download it here.
The Town Hall Library in North Lake, Wisconsin occupies a quaint white building with black shutters that looks like it might have once been a church. It serves a population of about 10,000 residents and its website says it’s “known for its friendly service and varied collection”.
The library’s summer reading program has two more weeks to go. But Town Hall Library is already taking the data from the program and putting it to use in its promotions.
The Library created a Facebook post that leads to an infographic, which lays out the number of participants, visitors, programs, and pages or books read in plain, easy-to-understand details.
Libraries have long counted circulation statistics, program attendance, minutes logged during summer reading, and the number of visitors who walk in and out of their building on any given day.
They’ve taken those stats and created videos and infographics. They’ve used those numbers to win awards. And they share that data to prove their value to their community, donors, legislators, and whoever controls their budget.
I wish libraries would measure their digital marketing with the same dedication. That data is crucial to figuring out which library promotions are working.
Metrics are the key to confidence in library marketing.
When I ask libraries if they measure their digital promotions, here are the three most common answers I receive.
My co-workers often describe me as “a data nerd.” And it’s true. But I’ll share a secret with you. My love of numbers is rooted in insecurity.
That’s because promoting your library can be scary. I often don’t know exactly which of my choices will work.
And when I’m facing a decision that could either lead me to a successful promotion or a total failure, I lean on the numbers to help me decide.
If you are not tracking the results of your digital library marketing, you are setting yourself up for failure. You may think you are doing a decent job.
Measurement of digital library marketing is necessary and transformative.
Metrics are a game changer for your digital marketing.
They tell you what is working so you can replicate that success. They tell you what isn’t working so you can stop doing those things.
They give you the proof, in the form of data, to back up your decisions. They can justify more budget for things you need to reach your audience.
And most important, data holds information about when and where your specific audience wants to receive promotional messages from your library. You’ll also learn their favorite types of content.
Digital marketing metrics every library must track
On a basic level, every library should consistently track the following metrics.
Open rate: the percentage of people who receive your email and open it.
Click-thru rate: the percent of people who click on something inside your email.
Actions taken by email subscribers: did they register for a program, check out a book, or use a database after receiving your email?
Reach: total number of people who see your content.
Impressions: the number of times your content is displayed. Impressions will always be higher than reach because your content may be displayed more than once to the same people. That might sound like a waste of time. But a high impression count means the social media platform you are using thinks your content is so good, that they want to make certain people see it!
Engagement: the number of times people take an action, such as liking, commenting, or sharing your post.
Number of visitors to your website
Number of new visitors versus the number of returning visitors
The length of time visitors spend on your website
Traffic sources that determine how visitors find your website
What this data will reveal about your digital library promotions
At the basic level, measuring your promotions will ensure that you are using your valuable time and energy in the place where it will be the most effective.
Data can also help you make sure you create more effective promotions! Leslie Marinelli is Communications Manager at Forsyth County Public Library. She’s been closely monitoring the data around her email marketing.
She noticed her library’s subscriber list got smaller and smaller each month, even though her library was signing up a substantial number of new cardholders every month.
Because she was monitoring her email metrics, she was able to uncover a hole in her subscriber list process. Fixing that process led to an increase in subscribers to her email list each month. And that means more people in her community will discover what the library can offer them.
Make measurement part of your daily library work schedule.
Block off five minutes in every workday to gather or analyze the metrics of your marketing and promotions. Honestly, it only takes five minutes a day.
Check the basic numbers listed above. Every. Single. Day.
Pretty soon, you’ll notice patterns. You’ll be able to predict the types of content that get the most engagement. You might also notice that promotions on certain days of the week get better results.
At the end of your first month, ask yourself what is working and what isn’t. And adjust your promotions accordingly.
The Library Marketing Show, Episode 153: In this episode, I will try to put to rest a question that continues to permeate the library marketing world.
Libraries are defenders of truth, democracy, and privacy. And in that noble quest, they sometimes hurt themselves by repeating the false myth that they cannot send emails to their patrons because it’s an invasion of privacy.
Email marketing is not an invasion of privacy. I’ll explain why and what you can do even if there are laws (not privacy-related!) that limit the amount of emails you can send.