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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!

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.

How To Be a Journalist: Six Library Marketing Writing Tips

Sometimes, I really miss being a journalist.

My former profession was difficult. It was grinding. It sometimes felt abusive. I’m a pretty positive person but honestly, after 19 years of working on stories about crime, drugs, death, families in crisis, and dealing with all the viewers (or trolls, depending on your perspective) who came with the advent of social media to comment on our stories, I was feeling pretty beat up. My mental health was one of the reasons I left journalism to work in a library.

But I also kind of miss the work. There is a great joy and satisfaction that comes from telling stories about people who otherwise wouldn’t have a voice. To do it well and honestly is a reward and a privilege.

Lucky for me, marketers have realized the power of storytelling. The embrace of content marketing in library marketing departments means that we are using well-crafted stories about our customers, employees, and organizations to spread our message, educate cardholders, fight for more funding, and impact our communities. Which is why I was excited to attend a session led by Michelle Park Lazette at Content Marketing World. She works as a writer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. If anyone can sympathize with the bureaucracy, technical language, and sensitive subjects that a library content marketer will need to write about, it’s someone who works in another government agency!

Michelle gave a bunch of tips for writing pieces that will really get the attention of your cardholders. Her approach centers on the journalist mindset–find the stories, tell the stories, explain the stories in a language your cardholder will understand, peak your cardholders emotions. Here are the top six lessons I learned in Michelle’s session. I’ve written a bunch of articles since attending her session, including a cover story for our quarterly magazine, and my writing has already improved. (Thanks, Michelle!)

Use the chicken test with every possible story. Ask yourself: Does my audience care about the chickens? Can my audience see themselves as the chickens? Are the chickens crossing the road now or are they about to? Does anyone care if they did it five years ago? Why and to whom does it matter that chickens are crossing the road?

Dig up fresh, differentiated ideas.   Start with the truth your employees and cardholders witness and broaden the scope with industry context. Localize with your insights and experiences. If you are bucking the trend, go ahead and say it. Look at surveys for content ideas. Reveal the story behind the numbers. You must monitor your data to find stories. With events, help an audience that was there AND the audience that wasn’t there. Do pre-event Q&A’s.  Changing customers tastes and budgets can be content ideas.

Start your piece with the powerful words. Michelle gave us an example in her own writing. She was putting together a piece on a customer of the Federal Reserve and shared her opening line: “If Lynn Tatum was staying in this depressing place, she was going to make it better.” Use details to take the reader along for the ride. Always ask follow-up questions.

Humble yourself before you subject matter experts. If you don’t know what a term means or how something works, ask. Regularly ask what the experts in the field-librarians, library directors, publishers, are seeing. What are cardholders struggling with? What are they, the experts, struggling with? What brings them joy? How do their jobs work? All of these questions can lead you to great stories which you can share with your cardholders.

Take it all in. When you write, set the scene. What does the place where you are doing the interview look like, smell like, sound like? Including these little details may seem completely unimportant, but it helps the reader experience more of the emotion with you. It makes them feel as if they were there!

Help the reader along. Try to convince your experts that jargon serves no one but them. Find new ways to explain things. (My biggest library marketing example: I never say “periodical” in my writing. They are magazines and newspapers.)

Finally, Michelle left us with one thought which I’ve printed out and taped to the wall of my office. If you are the 17th person to say or do something, are you delivering value? Deliver different and people will be so moved by your content that they’ll be compelled to share your content. 

Go to Michelle’s Twitter account to see examples of her work and to be inspired.

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.

Focus on the Content, Not the Container

My entire perspective on library marketing changed this week while listening to a 20-minute podcast episode.

Jay Acunzo’s Unthinkable podcast highlights marketers who are changing the way their companies interact with their customers for the better. He’s tired of average content marketing. Each week he finds and interviews a marketer who is doing exceptional work–work that is Unthinkable.

During the episode titled Why You Should Focus More on the Insides of Your Content, the life-altering moment came in one of those interviews. One of Jay’s guests said: Marketers need to focus more on the content and less on the container.

When I market a library service or feature, I start with my promotional calendar. I determine whether an email campaign is appropriate. I decide if I should write an article for Library Links. I ask myself:  Do we need signs? Do we need social media promotion? Do we put something on the website? I schedule everything. And then I write all the pieces. I’m totally focused on the containers–the eblast, the Links article, the website, etc.–first.

Doing it the way Jay suggests means I should figure out what I’m going to say about the promotional item and then decide which containers will deliver that message to my audience in the most effective way. Content Before Container.

But why is this approach the better way to market? When you focus first on the content, you are emphasizing the message. You put your customer first–not your own promotional needs. You’re thinking more about the insides of your message, not the way it will be delivered and that means you are likely to be more creative. You will end up delivering your message to your audience in the way that they need it to be delivered. You’re putting the message and your cardholders first and not putting your library first. And that’s how we differentiate ourselves from the competition.

It sounds so easy. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

Here are some resources for library marketers searching for help with their content marketing.

Content Marketing Institute: My favorite content marketing website. They do free webinars about the practice. Subscribe to CCO magazine–it’s free. Attend Content Marketing World with me! Attend their #CMWorld Twitter chat every Tuesday at noon to interact with top marketing experts and get your questions personally answered. And listen to their podcasts. You’ll understand more about content marketing and how it works.

Plus these blog posts about content marketing:

What the Hell is Content Marketing and Why Should We Do It?

Amazing Content Marketing Stories about Your Library are Right Under Your Nose

How One Library is Using Content Marketing to Capture the Imagination

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

 

 

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

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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.

Advice for Jedi Library Marketing from Luke Skywalker

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I was in the same room as Luke Skywalker.

When I heard Mark Hamill was keynoting Content Marketing World, I may or may not have squealed out loud. Repeatedly.

When he walked onto the stage, the energy in the room went up by about 1000 megawatts. 4000 marketers got to their feet and cheered. I could not post anything on social media for 20 minutes, there was such a drag on the WiFi from everyone else!

What the heck was Luke Skywalker doing at a marketing conference? Show business is all about marketing and actors are more than men and women who stand up in front of a camera and read lines. They have to know how to appeal to audiences through unique storytelling and emotional engagement. That’s the oldest and purest form of marketing.

Hamill is every bit as gracious as you would imagine. And he had five great insights that apply to library marketing.

Love your job or don’t do it. Mark Hamill loves making and marketing films. He told us about how he enjoyed coming to the publicity department to watch the studio create marketing materials to promote the Star Wars series. During the latest movie, he thought of new ways to market the movie on Twitter, including a funny incident where he promised to unveil the trailer for Star Wars: Episode VIII on a certain day. When the day arrived, he shared a video of his trailer… his dressing room trailer. “How they thought we’d have a trailer ready for a movie we hadn’t even begun to shoot yet, I don’t know,” said Hamill.  Hamill said he was fascinated by the creative process involved in marketing a movie series with super fans who salivate, analyze, memorize, and deconstruct every single line. He says that energy made the work he had to do on camera more exciting. When you love your job and you are passionate about it, your library will benefit. If you have the privilege of hiring staff, make sure they’re passionate and energetic too.

Don’t be afraid of change or learning new things.  George Lucas told Hamill, “The thing is, in show business, nobody knows anything. The business is always changing and evolving.” That’s true for libraries too and Hamill says that’s a confidence booster for all of us. You need tenacity in any business, including library marketing. Said Hamill, “Sometimes I think tenacity is more important as talent, or at least as important. Can you survive all the failures?” In the end, Hamill says you must believe in yourself, work hard, never give up, and you can do anything.

If you hit a creative wall, take a break from it. You don’t have to have all the answers all the time. The answers will come to you when you aren’t thinking about it. Try to imagine what people want, keeping in mind that those wants may be very different from what your library is planning to promote.  Your marketing should create an emotional response in your cardholders. If it isn’t doing that, go back to the drawing board and keep thinking! Hamill says he also always tries to find a way to re-purpose old ideas with his own lens. Everyone comes at things with a different perspective. Follow your instincts. Trust yourself.

Understand the different facets that go into your library’s operation and function. If you’ve never worked on the front line with staff, take a few hours to job shadow someone at a branch. When you have a chance to sit down with a senior leader, ask questions about their job, the concerns, their hopes, and the direction they want to see the library take. Hamill wants us to remember that what we do is composite art. Marketing isn’t a disconnected endeavor. It supports and is supported by countless other people within the library system. You’ll do your best work when you know how all the pieces fit together.

Know that you’ll never be satisfied. Just aim to be less dissatisfied. Your work will never be perfect. The best you can hope for is to improve with each promotion. You never know what great thing is waiting for you around the corner. Hamill left us with this parting thought: “I never expected to be in a galaxy far, far away as I rocket toward Social Security, that’s for sure.”

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.

Give People What They Really Want: Why You Should Market Services

GIVEHave you thought lately about why people sign up for a library card? I had the chance to work a booth at a public celebration where people could sign up for their first library card. I learned so much from interacting with patrons. And the story I heard, over and over again, was how excited these new cardholders were to get their hands on the books and resources that they knew they can check out, for free, from their library.

That’s what we should be promoting.

The most research study of library usage by the Pew Research Institute, published in September 2015, shows that 66 percent of library cardholders use their card to check out items… books, magazines, CDs, and more. Only 17 percent of library cardholders say they use their card to attend programs, classes, or lectures.

I’m not advocating that you stop promoting programs altogether. What I’m advocating is that you choose your program promotions carefully, based on your library’s overall strategic goals, and stop promoting all programs all the time. Intersperse your program marketing with collection based or service based marketing. I have talked before about collection marketing before on this blog and I know I will again! But our library has also had success with service-based marketing. It works because it’s what people really want from their library. Here’s a great example.

We have a great new reading recommendation service at our library called Book Hookup. It provides cardholders with three book recommendations, based on their literary tastes.  We decided this spring, once the service was running smoothly and all processes were in place, to begin to market to our customers. As we worked out the kinks of the service, we put signs in branches and had a few requests trickle in from cardholders who either saw the signs or ran across the service on our website.

For the major marketing play, we initiated a  plan for a multi-tiered approach. We sent targeted email messages to cardholders in specific clusters whom we thought would want to use the service: print book lovers, people who use the full breadth and depth of the library collection, and people who use both eBooks and print books. We sent these three emails over the course of three weeks, at a rate of one per week.

A few weeks after the emails, we started displaying a slide that advocated the use of the Book Hookup service on our digital screens at all branches year-round. We scheduled regular, rotating social media messages encouraging the use of the service. And on occasion, we put a graphic on our homepage reminding our cardholders that this service is available.

What happened? From the targeted email messages ALONE we gathered more than 900 requests for book recommendations. Throughout the following months, requests continue to  trickle in, but spike when we put the service in the forefront of social media or on the homepage.

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This fall, we are planning another set of email messages, aimed at all of our email personas, from eBook users to audiobook lovers to people who haven’t used the library for six months or more. My theory is that I’m more likely to convince one person who hasn’t checked anything out in six months to use a service than to attend a program. And my job is to get them back through the door of library usage so that I can market other things to them. If I can turn a non-user or inactive user into a user, that’s a huge win.

I challenge you to look at your services to find out what your cardholders use. Ask yourself what they might use if they knew their library card would give them access to it. A couple of great services for libraries to market are Consumer Reports, The New York Times, Mango Languages, and Lynda.com. If you have any of these resources, you should be marketing them to your cardholders. That’s the stuff people want!!

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.

Improve Your Writing With Seven Tools

Write Amazing Library (1)

You’ve banished your fear of writing to become a better library marketer. You’ve learned how to unearth amazing content marketing stories about your library. Now, it’s time to get good at the real writing part of the equation. I’ve picked out seven tools to help you. Some are blog posts, some are eBooks and books, some are podcasts. You’ll be able to get through all seven in less than two weeks time and you will emerge inspired and ready to write!

Begin with the Beginner’s Guide to Storytelling from Quicksprout. The whole eBook is full of insightful and inspiring tips for writers, but this chapter really applies to the series we’ve recently covered on the blog. It explains every aspect of brand storytelling and includes exercises to help you structure your story, find your library brand voice, and create a style guide.

Go deeper into technique with Writtent.com’s 15 Storytelling Techniques for an Amazing Brand Story. With more advice for mastering pace, story pattern, and adding visuals through descriptive language, this post is a must-read for anyone who writes content marketing for libraries. It includes great examples of each lesson, including a write-up on the most creative inter-office memo in the history of corporate America. What does that have to do with library content marketing? Just read it. You’ll understand.

Not a fan of writing? Then you’ll appreciate Content Marketing for People Who Hate Writing from Contently. This post is full of great examples of content marketing efforts that involved very little long-form writing. Think about how much information and brand awareness is packed into product packaging. Could your library duplicate that? I think it’s worth thinking about!

Read or listen to the book Everybody Writes by Ann Handley. It’s life-changing. I’m only putting the Amazon link in here to help you to find the book in your library. I guarantee you have it and if you have Overdrive, you’ll have the audiobook version. You MUST read this. It is inspiring. It eliminates fear. Writing is something you can do, and Handley will show you how it’s possible.

The Periodic Table of Storytelling: MY NEW FAVORITE DISCOVERY!  Each element is clickable and explained in detail. They’re based on TV tropes but it’s completely translatable into other storytelling genres, including content marketing. There are also suggestions for putting elements together to make unforgettable stories. Send this one to every member of your team and make a point to read one element each day until you’ve read them all, as an exercise for stretching your creative mind. It’s just plain fun to read and will spawn all kinds of great discussions about popular culture and stories among your staff.

Get help with your editing using Grammarly. It’s not a substitute for a human editor but it’s a great way to give your pieces a first look for spelling and grammar errors, sentence structure problems, run-on sentences, and punctuation issues. You can add words using the personal dictionary function, which is helpful for those quirky instances that may be part of your library style guide. For instance, my library always capitalizes Library so I’m constantly fighting other apps and trying to explain why I’ve got a randomly capitalized word in the middle of a sentence!

Finally, be inspired by smart people and listen to the Longform podcast. Each week, hosts Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky, and Evan Ratliff interview a non-fiction writer about their life, their process, and their fears about writing. It’s a fascinating conversation and I love it because Lammer, Linksky, and Ratliff unearth the truth about writing… it’s gritty, raw stages and the hopes and fears of other writers. It will make you feel like a kindred spirit to your brethren toiling to put words onto paper.

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

 

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