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Five Totally Doable Things That Make Your Library Content More Shareable

Every content creator fears no one will read their work. By contrast, the most exhilarating thing you can do in marketing is to write something that people read, share, and comment on. I speak from experience. There is no better compliment.

Last week, I told you about the upcoming keynote I’m giving on content marketing and shared some reasons why your library should be creating content. The more I write for this blog, the more I learn about the kinds of content my audience will read AND share. That second part is important. You want to reach new people and make them library fans. But what makes your content shareable?

I have five simple ideas for you. Each of these increase the likelihood that your content gets shared.

Write longer, compelling pieces. Seriously, the whole thing about how your audience only has the attention of a goldfish is bunk. They will read a 2,000-word post from you if it’s compelling.  People read whole books with 50,000 plus words! I don’t know why this myth of the “too-long content piece” exists when there is literally hundreds of years’ worth of proof that it’s not true.

If you tell a story in long form, with authentic quotes, an emotional arch with conflict and resolution, and a clear beginning, middle, and end, it will not feel like a long read. And a piece of content with all of those characteristics is also likely to be memorable. Great stories stick in our minds long after we read them. And memorable posts get shared!

Long form content is also better for your library’s search results. Back in 2012, serpIQ conducted a study involving more than 20,000 keywords. The results showed that the average content length of the top 10 search results was more than 2,000 words.

I have some evidence that this works personally. In 2018, I purposefully started writing longer blog posts here. Most of my posts land at around 1,000 words… not quite up to serpIQ’s standards but about 200-300 more words per post than I wrote in 2017. And guess what happened? My engagement stats increased by nearly 215 percent over 2017!

My library just started a blog two weeks ago. We will experiment with post length. And you can bet that I’ll push our writers to put out longer and more compelling stories, even if that means we have to publish fewer total posts. Write longer, more interesting posts and people will respond.

Be emotional. According to research from the journal Psychological Science, our emotional responses to content play a huge role in our decision to share that content. But all emotions are not created equal. The study shows people will share content that makes them feel fearful, angry, or amused. There is also a ton of evidence to suggest that people like to share content that inspires or contains a surprise.

Conversely, you should avoid creating content with negative emotions like sadness or even contentment, which tend to cause inaction. We don’t want that!

Insert images in your content. You may have noticed I’ve started inserting more images into my posts on this blog. That’s because adding images to your content is proven to increase the likelihood that it is seen and shared. My post popular post ever is this one, which contains three images. Those three images are strategically placed to emphasis the meaning of the words. They also break up the text for a visually pleasing read.

You must also use images on social media when promoting your content. This rule applies to all platforms. Your audience is visual and they want to see images in addition to your important words. The right image–one that evokes emotions or really serves to succinctly illustrate whatever you are saying in your content–will also make your content more shareable.

Write simply and conversationally. The more your audience understands what you’re trying to say, the most likely they are to share your posts. Define unfamiliar or difficult words, titles, or services. Go through the draft of your material and highlight words or terms that may confuse your audience. Then, find a better way to say or explain those words.

Never take it for granted that your reader has been a lifelong user or follower of the library. Words used by librarians to describe services, programs, catalogs, and databases may seem common to you and your staff. They are not common to your reader. Always explain. Then, ask a non-library employee to read your work. I often take my stuff home and ask my husband or my teenage daughter to read it. If they find anything to be confusing or convoluted, I know I need to change it.

Shorten your sentences and paragraphs. Shorter sentences will make it easier for your reader to understand and absorb what you are saying. The same is true with paragraphs. A piece of material with lots of long paragraphs looks thick and off-putting. Readers will skip lengthy paragraphs, according to British grammarian H. W. Fowler. In addition, the Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack Study shows people are more likely to read an entire web page when the paragraphs are short. And if you can get the reader to look at the entire post, it’s more likely that they’ll share the content.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Content is Key to Library Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shrewd Marketers Challenge Conventions. So Should We!

I’ve thought a lot lately about how to approach library marketing in a new and fresh way. As my library creates and executes our strategy for summer reading, I am looking at each tactic and wondering if we can improve the marketing of this legendary initiative. According to the American Library Association, summer reading programs began in the 1890s as a way to encourage school children, particularly those in urban areas and not needed for farm work, to read during their summer vacation, use the library, and develop the habit of reading. That’s a long time to be marketing a program and I think the industry might be a bit stuck in terms of how we do it.

For inspiration, I’ve looked over notes from a session I attended at Content Marketing World. It was led by Doug Kessler, co-founder and creative director of Velocity Partners, a B2B marketing agency with offices in the U.S. and England. Doug’s session was inspiring. It was titled Exceptional Content–Challenging the Invisible Conventions of Marketing. I printed out my notes and have read them through each morning, then thinking about the points he made every time I need a brain break.

Kessler focused his session on a concept he calls invisible conventions. We have so many invisible conventions in libraries. These are the ideas and practices that library staffers hold as traditional and unchangeable. If you hear someone say, “But we’ve always done it that way”, you know you’re talking about their invisible conventions. Invisible conventions are powerful.  Kessler says they guide and constrain us without us even knowing it.

We do need conventions.  But we don’t need to be slaves to convention. Kessler says it’s our job as marketers to expose the hidden conventions in our institution and play with them. Libraries can’t be precious about their conventions because your cardholders aren’t.  Conventions are a signal to your cardholders that marketing is involved–even if you’re trying to be sneaky about it. Your customers are smart, and they’ll put up their defense barriers.

Think about how you respond to marketing messages for invisible conventions. We’ve all developed a sense of when the pitch is coming and we run the other way! You don’t want to turn off your cardholders–you want to inspire them. But if you hang on to your invisible conventions for safety, you’ll never move forward in the marketing of your library.

Challenging your invisible conventions isn’t going to make you very popular, Kessler warns. And that’s okay. Your administration, leaders of other departments, even fellow librarians may have a strong reaction when you decide to challenge conventions. They are more comfortable with traditional marketing practices and they want you to create pieces that make them feel comfortable. Be strong. Take the long view. Persuade your co-workers that change is necessary and that safe marketing isn’t going to cut it with your cardholders. Your job is not to make everyone else in the library happy. Your job isn’t to make friends with everyone in you work with. Your job is to serve your cardholders, and you can only do that when you put your cardholders first. If that means you need to throw convention out the window, then it’s the best move. Don’t second guess yourself. When your instincts as a marketer tell you that something needs to change, you are right. Change it.

I’m reminded of advice I heard from another Content Marketing World speaker, Amanda Todorovich of the Cleveland Clinic. She confessed she’s made some people at the hospital unhappy with her relentless focus on the customer. She has a strategy and she often says “no” to people who want her to do conventional marketing. That means there are some folks she works with who don’t like her. Amanda is okay with that because she realizes her job is to serve the patients, not her co-workers. I draw inspiration from her attitude when I’m faced with having a difficult conversation with a co-worker. You can too! (Read my post about Amanda here.)

So how do you turn conventional marketing on its head? By doing more content marketing. Kessler says, thanks to the companies who came before us, the public knows marketing messages are often filled with compulsive and shameless lies (thanks, cigarette companies). Traditional marketing is all about the brand: a one-sided sales message.  Content marketing, by contrast, is all about the audience. Content marketing rewards libraries for telling the truth. It’s focused on utility–how can we best help our cardholders. It delivers value, builds trust, and it gives our cardholders the power!

Kessler left me with a final thought: unconventional marketing can lead to great stories. Be straight, simple, conversational, and relevant. You will change hearts and minds.

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.

Library Marketing Secrets You Can Steal From General Electric

The woman who manages marketing at one of the biggest companies in the United States–and perhaps the world–made a huge impression on me at Content Marketing World. Linda Boff is Chief Marketing Officer at General Electric. You might think a huge brand like GE would be mired in traditional marketing practices and have nothing to teach us about agility and experimentation. You would be wrong.

Boff has led the company into a new realm of marketing, using tactics that libraries have access to, like podcasts and Facebook Live. Her focus is storytelling–finding the stories within your company and sharing them with your audience. She insists you don’t need a big budget to do what she’s doing. She’s a dynamic speaker and her presentation was one of the more memorable moments in the two-day conference because I ended up coming away with so many ideas for my library marketing. I left the room excited and energized!

Boff says there are five reasons to tell your library’s story: To sell (library translation: improve circulation, visits, and attendance), to inspire, to explain strategy, to reach audiences, and to educate. She told the audience that the success of GE with storytelling relies on a simple formula: Be first on platforms + activate unlikely audiences + find the human in the digital times. She laid out exactly what she means in her main brand storytelling tips.

Know who you are. GE embraces its nerd identity. The company produced a series of videos showcasing its nerd employees. They are professionally produced but you can do the same thing using your iPhone. Remember, it’s the story that’s important–not the production value of your video. In fact, our library produced a similar series of videos back in April for National Library Workers Week. We shot everything on a DSLR camera and edited it using free software available on the internet. Our fans–and our employees–loved the videos.

Identify your secret sauce. What is your tone? How do you come to life? Every brand has to figure out what this means to them. This next part is going to sound really familiar. GE has had to fight to be relevant, contemporary, relatable, and modern. Everyone knows who GE was in the company’s past. Everyone is familiar with GE’s legacy. Boff said one of her marketing goals is to teach people what GE is in the present.  To do this, Boff recommends you need to “show up as a person”–in other words, use real and personal stories about your workers to put a face to your company’s name. GE went to its employee’s children to ask them what their parents do. They told stories and drew pictures explaining their parent’s work. Then GE took those pieces and used them internally and externally. You can see some of those stories here.

 Find unexpected audiences. At South by Southwest, GE created a BBQ incubation area. They set up a BBQ smoker and had data scientists on hand to smoke the meat with exact precision so it came out right every time. They also had their scientists use data to make BBQ sauce, and they let people taste the sauce while hooked up to a scanner so they could see what their brain responded to via scan. Then took the super smoker to college campuses, so instead of the tent and handouts, they had this cool interactive centerpiece. I think that idea could translate for libraries too. Instead of just having a table at events, let’s bring MakerSpace equipment and traveling library collections so people can interact with our “products.”

Experiment early, experiment often. When a new social media platform or technology emerges, don’t hesitate–jump on board quickly and learn all you can about it, says Boff. The cost barrier to entry is always very low at the beginning of any new trend and the audience has no expectations about what you can or should produce. Boff says it’s important to be on the playing field and really skin your knees; you can’t just read about new trends. I really took this point to heart. We now have permission to move forward on new trends–let’s embrace it!

Good content speaks for itself. Boff and her team created GE Podcast Theater. They create long-form, lightly branded podcasts that are full content marketing platforms. GE’s “The Message” podcast was named as one of the New York Times 11 Fiction Podcasts Worth Listening To and was in the #1 spot on iTunes after its release.  Boff says if you are putting great stories out into the world, they’ll do their own marketing with their amazing content.

Stories are right under your nose: The hardest thing is finding stories to tell. GE works had to find stories reach customers, investors, thought leaders, media, AND employees. I’ve talked about finding stories in the library on this blog before in this article and this article. We should always be looking to connect with narratives that inspire all of those audiences. I really loved how Boff emphasized storytelling as a way to grow employee pride. At GE they do this through a YouTube series called In the Wild. It’s entertaining and engaging. Libraries could imitate that on a smaller scale. In fact, my library did that using a GoPro camera! We did time-lapse videos of various jobs and departments in the library and posted them on our YouTube channel. Those videos had more than a thousand views total and continue to draw new people to our YouTube 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, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Why No One Is Seeing Your Stuff and What to Do About It

Some people are just super smart. And you can tell the first time you meet them.

Two years ago at Content Marketing World, I went into the main hall for a keynote presentation. There are 4,000 chairs in that space and somehow, miraculously, I ended up sitting next to Arnie Keunn, CEO of Vertical Measures. Arnie immediately struck up a conversation with me about my work at the library. He seemed genuinely interested and supportive, which surprised me because he mixes with the big fish and I am a really small fish! But he was thoughtful and I could tell the guy knew what he was talking about. Keunn’s agency in Phoenix helps companies to drive more traffic to their content through a number of smart, scientific methods. (Sign up for this newsletter to get weekly insights on SEO and content amplification.)  When I saw that he was speaking at this year’s CMWorld, I signed up for his session.

I find nothing is as frustrating as writing a great article or shooting a beautiful video and then watching the days, hours, and weeks tick by without anyone seeing it. That’s where content amplification comes into play. Content amplification is the use of paid or organic channels to promote existing content to increase how many people see your stuff. You can use these principles on just about anything your library creates for marketing on digital channels, including search, social, blogs, and email.

Why amplify? Keunn says there is only a two percent chance of followers seeing your organic post. YIKES. To get the most reach, put a little money behind your content. I know a lot of libraries, mine included, simply don’t have the budget for paid content amplification (which is a real shame. We need to fix that, right?). But even without the budget, Keunn’s ideas can help to increase the reach of your organic posts.

Step one: Write down your objectives and goals. Are you trying to grow your audience? Do you want to increase traffic or get more people to convert or take an action at the library? Then you’ll want to identify your audience behavior and interests. You can do this by looking at how they interact with your website and by doing surveys and online research. The more you learn about your audience, the more content you can create specifically for them. That increases the likelihood your audience will engage with your content and share it, and that increases your reach. Anyone with knowledge of how the Facebook and Twitter algorithms work will understand this concept–it works for all kinds of content on all kinds of platforms.

Step two: Look at your website analytics to figure out how you should approach your content amplification. Ask yourself a couple of key questions.

Where is my traffic coming from?

Who is taking an action, like placing a hold or registering for a program? Which channels greet the audience? Which help? Where do people go after they take an action–do they head to another page on your website or do they leave? Which web page is their last touch point? (Hint: for most of us, its catalog, catalog, and catalog!).

Once you look at what people are looking at on your website, you’ll start to see the gaps are in the cardholders’ journey. It will become clear to you where your cardholders are going to find information and if they are getting what they need–or do they jump the ship for some other site. Those gaps in content are your opportunities.

Step three: Test, test, test. A piece of content is not a concrete creature. It’s has a thousand parts that can be tested and perfected. You can play around with the look of your graphics, the length of videos, the headlines you use on your blog posts, the length of the blog copy, what words you use in your call to action, how you layout the content, what your landing pages on your website look like, what custom URL’s you create, and how the content looks on desktop versus mobile versus tablet.

Step four: Find your fans on social. Keunn says 71 percent of people purchase a product after learning about a brand on social media or because someone in their social network gave a recommendation. The same concept applies to libraries. If we want to get more people in the door, we need to start asking our biggest fans to talk about us openly on social media.

Need more content to play with? Watch this video from Kuenn!

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, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

Why Marketing to Teenagers is THE MOST IMPORTANT Job You Have Right Now

marketing-to-teens-is-the

Teenagers are the future of my library and yours. But traditional marketing fails to reach these media-savvy kids. So how do libraries build the foundation for a life-long relationship with this demographic?

Here’s the thing: It’s not all about technology!

Teenagers are not alien beings. I have a teenager and an almost teenager… ages 16 and 12. And they are growing up in a different world but they’re not that much different from the adults I interact with. They are not aliens. They’re just people in progress!

But I do look at my girls and think about how their generation is the future of my library. And then I feel anxious because traditional marketing fails to reach these connected, media-savvy kids. A study recently released by the McCarthy Group that showed teens trust their closest friends the most–and marketers the least! So right off the bat, we’re in trouble.

Building the foundation for a life-long library relationship between libraries and teens is tricky. But I’m not giving up and neither should you! Marketing to teenagers is an important job for our libraries–maybe the most important task we face right now.

Why do teens matter to a library? Duh, they’re the future. Of course, we worry about hooking teens and converting them into lifelong library users. But let’s break that down a bit. Why is it so important that we get teens to use the library and to understand the importance of the library as part of the community?

They are a big segment of our population. More than 12 percent of the people in the United States are between the ages of 10 and 19 years old. That amounts to almost 42 million people… enough people to fill my hometown of Cincinnati 49 times over. We can’t afford to allow a population segment that large to lose interest in the library.

Teens are the gatekeepers to modern trends. They have more information than ever. Style is no longer dictated to teens by TV, movies, and magazines. Teens are deciding trends for themselves. And they’re influencing older generations, passing taste and technology to their parents. They are the driving force behind their family’s technology shift. Why does this matter to libraries? Because a teen who believes their library is an important part of their life will exert an influence over the rest of their family and will affect the library behavior of the entire family.

What are we up against? The internet. I don’t have to tell you that today’s kids are connected. If they want to know something, they Google it. They find directions and order food and clothes online. They watch movies and TV shows online. They research papers online. They live online. A survey from Business Insider found that teens spend an average of 11 hours a day in front of some kind of screen. You can look at that as a constraint or a strength, and your perspective may affect the success of your library marketing efforts. We need to make sure our websites are mobile friendly, that our apps have the best design possible to make it easy for teens to use, and we need to make sure we provide as much content as possible online because that’s where kids are.

They think we’re old-fashioned. I did an unscientific survey of my daughter’s friends, about 15 kids. I asked them which of these words best described their image of the library.  The choices were: reliable, cheerful, trendy, old-fashioned, successful, stodgy, imaginative, and intelligent. The good news is that none of them answered stodgy! But the most frequent answer was old-fashioned. We have an image problem. So part of our approach to marketing to teens is to solve that.

Teens are insanely busy. The American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that teens spend the majority of their day, an average of nine hours, sleeping, seven hours a day in school, two hours of sports or extracurricular activities, two hours watching TV or texting with friends and four hours are split between work, religious activities, eating, grooming, and leisure activities, which includes reading and writing. If you’re having trouble getting teens to attend programs, this is why. It’s got to be really, really good to get them to make time for you in their schedule.

Teens are less loyal to brands and businesses than older generations. They’re not as nostalgic. Teens aren’t just going to use your services because it’s the thing that their parents or grandparents did.

Alright ,so now that you’re completely despondent and you are ready to throw in the towel… let’s figure out how to make this work. We don’t have to give up on teens and, as we mentioned, we don’t want to give up on them! We want them to be a part of the library. So how do we do that?

Next up, I’ll share a total of 13 easy tips that will help you market to teenagers. All of these tips cost little or no money and can be implemented right now in your library! Here’s the first set of tips. 

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.

Amazing Content Marketing Stories About Your Library Are Right Under Your Nose!

Amazing Stories

I love content marketing for libraries and I believe stories are the best way to build a life-long relationship with cardholders. Many of you share my belief. But the real chore of finding and telling those stories can seem a bit daunting. This post is here to help!

There are a couple of things I look for when I am in search of a good content marketing library story.

  1. Emotion. The joy of finding a book, the fear of not getting a job, the frustration of another night of homework without any help… these are all emotions felt by our library’s customers. Other customers can relate to these experiences and empathize. A good emotional story activates many portions of the brain, including sensory, memory, and empathy sectors. The more active the brain is while reading, the more likely it is that the listener/reader will remember the story. Emotion is the most important criteria of a good story. If it makes you feel something, it’s worth pursuing.
  2. Conflict and a resolution. A good story includes some conflict, whether minor or major, and a problem or situation that is resolved.  Without conflict, a story is flat and unmemorable. Look for stories with a beginning, middle, and end including a story arc that leads to a resolution.
  3. Simplicity. A story that’s direct, with less adjectives and more heartfelt and straightforward language is more likely to be remembered by the listener than a complex story with a long, winding narrative and lots of details and unnecessary description. Save the in-depth perceptions for your novel. When writing content for marketing purposes, draw a straight line from beginning, middle, and end and keep the story moving forward with clear language. Avoid industry speak.

Now, here’s how you can find stories that fit these criteria.

    1. Ask library workers to be on the lookout for great story ideas. I find a personal approach gets you better results with your fellow staff members. The next time you’re at an all-managers meeting, visiting another branch, or enjoying lunch with a fellow employee, ask them about life in their branch. Ask them to describe their customers. Inevitably, they’ll have one or two specific examples of people who have an unbridled enthusiasm for their location, or whom the branch staff has helped with a specific problem. Ask open-ended questions like, “How did that make you feel?” “Tell me how the situation was resolved.” Or make open-ended statements like, “That must have been a terribly difficult question for you to answer.” Then be silent as a cue for response. When you’ve identified a story with emotion, conflict, and resolution, ask if you can email the staffer later for more details.
    2. Crowd sourcing. This is a fancy way of suggesting that you periodically ask your cardholders specific questions like “Tell us about a time when your library helped you find some information you thought you’d never be able to uncover.” Or “Tell us your favorite library memory from your childhood.” Set up a form on your website and solicit cardholder stories on social media and in your email and printed newsletters.
    3. Social listening. This technique brought me a cover story for the next issue of Library Links published by my library. A Twitter comment flagged by our social media specialist led us to a man who planned to visit all 41 of our library branches in one day with his son. We immediately reached out to the man and interviewed him about his experience.  It’s an amazing story that other cardholders will enjoy reading when Links hits homes on Aug. 8.  And they’ll likely remember this crazy guy who drove all over the county in the space of a day, taking selfies and checking out a book at each location. It’s great library awareness for us! And we would have missed it had we not trained our social media specialist to flag tagged comments for potential stories.
    4. Library calendar events. Most library marketers have the regular calendar year events, like National Children’s Book Day, National eBooks Day, and National Summer Learning Day penciled in and marked for promotion. But instead of promoting mere calendar events, go one step further and tell stories by finding cardholders with an interesting angle. I do this through social listening. Here’s an example: we had a woman tweet us to thank us and share a photo of her child at a storytime. I tweeted her back and asked her if I could contact her offline. Then I sent her a couple of interview questions via email. I also asked for a photo of her family. I came away with a story about how our new evening storytimes meant that she and her family could enjoy a trip to the library together after work. This story appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Library Links (check page three). I also troll the program calendar periodically for unusual events but, instead of just writing about the event, I contact the speaker or presenter and interview them about in-depth questions about their program, their life, and their work. Our staff also does interviews with popular authors about their new books, their lives, and their writing process. Our cardholders love those profiles. They promote our library without promoting our library!

Content marketing gives you a chance to tell your library’s story without making a direct pitch. It increases brand awareness and improves your library’s image. And stories are fun to tell!

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.

STOP: Before You Do Any Content Marketing, Get a Strategy


null (1)Content Marketing for Libraries is the focus of this blog. Every week, I urge you to use relevant and valuable content to reach your cardholders, build their trust, earn their loyalty and respect, and inspire them to action. You agree, right? So what is the next step in this journey?

Strategy.

There. You don’t have to read any further. You now have the key to make  your library content marketing work. Create a strategy. Done.

Why aren’t more library marketers formulating, writing down, and sticking to a content strategy? Is it fear? Is it time?  Is it indecision?

It doesn’t matter. These are excuses, to be frank. I want the industry to thrive. And so I’m pleading with you—please, please, please—get a strategy for your library content marketing.

Why am I so passionate about this? Let me share some insight from the 2015 Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland. Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the event and an insanely smart and sweet guy, began by sharing some research recently completed by his company, Content Marketing Institute.

First, if you don’t have a strategy, you are not alone.  Only 32% of marketers in all industries have a documented content strategy.  It’s scary and elusive and frustrating to all marketers everywhere. But it’s still worth the effort. Because 79% of marketers who have a documented strategy with clear success metrics said their content marketing was effective. WOW.

Kristina Halvorson, author and CEO of Brain Traffic, took the stage for a keynote address and asked a wonderfully relevant question: “ If you weren’t spending money on content, where would you spend it? What do your customers want?” That’s all you need to think about when creating your documented content marketing strategy. What do your cardholders want? What problems do they need to solve? How can you help them? It’s not rocket science. Your librarians do that every day! That’s our strategy.

Here’s something else to consider. Halvorson says, “Strategy is a decision to take a path. It’s a decision to say no to certain things. It’s a decision to choose tactics and to have a shared outcome. If your marketing strategy is, “We will deliver content our customers can’t get enough of,” you’re doing it wrong. That’s not a strategy. That is a vision. Instead, Halvorson says you need to make business outcomes and customer satisfaction your goal. Ask yourself:  Where is your library now? Where do you want to be? The path to get from the first point to the second point is your strategy.

Creating a strategy may seem like an insurmountable task. The word “strategy” conjures up images of a daunting, intense, complicated process. We’ll blame the marketing consultants for making it seem more difficult than it is. If I can do it, so can you.

When approaching my own strategy, I find it helps to have a series of questions to ask myself. I write out the answers and those help me see the whole picture and form a strategy. So here’s what you can ask yourself.

What are our key opportunities?

What are our core challenges?

What are the assumptions we make based on info we don’t have and can’t get?

What are our risks?

What are our success metrics?

Who is our audience and why do they listen to us?

Which is the audience that doesn’t listen to us now… but should?

What is the purpose of the ways we are currently communicating with our 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 LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

Dear Library Marketers: You Will Never Be Perfect–and It’s Okay

YOU WILL NEVER BE PERFECT AND

I learned a skill as a journalist which has been invaluable to me as a marketer. As a journalist, I was an expert at knowing when to let go of a piece of content and send it out into space, even though it may be imperfect.

It’s the nature of the news business. You have a deadline and when the deadline arrives, you go to air or to print with as much information as you have. Sometimes a little information is better than none, and you rest in the knowledge that you can revisit the story later to add new details and give it more meat.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to adjust to as a marketer is the constant reshaping of promotional messages and campaigns to try to achieve perfection. Each article or email goes through several rounds of review by several departments.

All the scrutiny has its advantages. Many eyes looking over a piece of material allows for mistakes and problems to be caught before they leave the library. It gives the marketing department a chance to see how their message will be perceived by different people with different perspectives.

But there are also pitfalls. The message can be reshaped by people with less experience in marketing, people who wish to add words or phrases that aren’t customer-friendly, that contain too much “library speak”. The message can be diluted by departments with a personal agenda. There comes a point at which all the scrutiny becomes crippling. People start over thinking words and images and your message never reaches its intended audience because it disappears in the quicksand of the search for perfection.

The best content isn’t perfect. That is what makes it good. Imperfection makes it human. When you write from the heart without analyzing every word and phrase, your message feels more authentic. Don’t sabotage your own marketing efforts by waiting for the moment when every single detail is right. I give you permission to move forward. And because the piece of content belongs to you, it will be up to you to defend its release, even when others don’t think it’s perfect enough. There are three points on which you can rest your argument for release.

1. Is your message moving your strategy forward?

2. Is your message compelling?

3. Does the message have proper grammar and punctuation?

If the answer is yet to these three questions, it’s time to let go.

Marketing is one giant experiment, really. Even when you release a piece of content that isn’t perfect, you will still learn plenty from it and you’ll be able to adjust and reconfigure your attempts on the next go-around.

Don’t get bogged down in the quest for perfection. Be human. Be authentic. Be true to your library voice. And just get the message out there! Your imperfect message may lead to some perfect insight into your customers. A real conversation between a library and its cardholders is never a bad thing!

Do you have an example of a time when an imperfect message brought you some perfect insight into your customers? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Subscribe to this blog for updates every time I post. Click on the little “Follow” at the top left of this page.

Connect with me on Twitter. I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn,  Instagram and Pinterest.

Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

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