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


Marketing Obstacles and Issues

How a Last Minute Idea Can Lead to Amazing Library Marketing Results

I have a theory about the kind of person who becomes a journalist. The general news reporter who gets sent to the drug busts and homicides and fires and tornadoes is a junkie of sorts. They like the high that can only be found when you’re racing at breakneck speed to get to a scene before your competitor. They do their best thinking when they’re working on a deadline…a really tight deadline. They love that adrenaline rush.

I was just such a junkie. In fact, my addiction to the breaking news high was one of the reasons it took me so long to leave the business. Even after I was worn to the bone, dog-tired, and miserable, I stayed in TV news because I thought I could not get that high in any other profession. I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a former news colleague. He was covering a major event at my library. He said to me, “I never thought you would leave news for a laid-back job at a library.” And I laughed, out loud. I may have even sounded maniacal. My library is definitely not laid back. And I’m certain, from my many conversations with my dear readers, your job isn’t either!

It’s true that, on most days, I have more time to plan and organize than I did in TV news. Overall, things move at a slower pace through the funnel at my organization–and that’s a good thing. There’s more time to think, be creative, and consider marketing from all angles. There is time to make sure all the pieces of a promotion are in place and crafted as perfectly as possible.

But being a little agile, a little willing to do some marketing on a rushed deadline, is also a good thing. I wish more organizations would open themselves to last-minute marketing. It can be fun and challenging to take ideas that come at the last-minute and bring them to life. You may do some of your best work when you are formulating promotions in a few days or a few hours! A good deadline can push you and your staff to be creative in ways you’ve never imagined.

It’s easy to recognize these quick promotional ideas if you are open to them. Seize an opportunity from a vendor or a partner organization. Recognize when your library has a connection to an event in pop culture. Look for pieces of user-generated content that are so fun and engaging you can’t want to wait to promote them. If it makes sense, if the promotion aligns with your library’s overall strategy, and if you have the time to do it, there’s value in turning a promotional opportunity around in a few days.

You don’t have to be a formal journalist to do this. Anyone can include some flexibility in their marketing schedule. The key lies in planning–which sounds contradictory. But the trick is pretty simple.  When you’re laying out your regular marketing schedule, be sure to deliberately leave holes where you might be able to drop in promotions.

For my library, this drop-in marketing usually happens when we have a great event that’s been planned by a branch at the last minute. This year, I was looking at the calendar and I realized there was a series of anti-bullying puppet shows for young children scheduled at several of our branches. I realized the event was in line with one of the core elements of our library’s overall strategy. I also did about ten minutes of online research and discovered programs of this nature were not available anywhere else in our community. I quickly put together a social media and email promotional plan and launched it in the span of a week. Our emails had a 30 percent open rate, a ten percent click-through rate, and attendance was high.

Most libraries will find it easiest to create a drop-in marketing campaign on social media. Sometimes the idea will become a creative outlet that can drive engagement on your platforms. This was the case when one of our marketing department co-workers noticed that the front covers of many old books compliment or match clothing! She grabbed some books and some staff and posed them together. Her Instagram posts drew new followers and engagement for the library’s account.

Of course, to execute drop-in marketing, you need the approval and trust of your supervisor. So, have the talk ahead of time with your superiors.  You won’t have to turn a last-minute campaign around every week or even every month. But when you do… it will be worth it. Sometimes the gold nuggets of promotion are the ones you can’t plan ahead of time!

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!


Why Libraries Should Stop Worrying About Dark Social!


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

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

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

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

My answer was… I don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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


TV News Coverage Ain’t What it Used to Be. What Now?


For a long time, I lived in a bubble.

I worked in a local television newsroom. I knew about EVERYTHING that was happening in my community, from which convenience store was most often targeted by robbers to where drug dealers were likely to be hanging out to the names and backgrounds of serial pedophiles to the intricate details of the city council fight on parking meter increases. And I could not imagine how people got along in life without knowing all the stuff I knew. I thought my audience hung on every word I wrote. I thought people were religiously watching TV news, just like I did… or at the very least, that they had the TV on while they were cooking dinner or doing homework, or cleaning the toilet. I mean, that’s what our bosses told us. They had ratings data and the data said we were popular.

Then I left TV news to work for the library. I started living like a real person. And I realized that most people don’t watch TV news anymore. They read newspapers and listen to radio news reports even less. Most people get nearly all their news from social media–Facebook in particular.

A study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism recently found TV viewing in the United Kingdom and the United States has declined three to four percent per year on average since 2012. If the trend continues, TV news viewing will see an overall decline of 25 to 30 percent over ten years.

When TV ratings go down, stations can’t charge as much for their advertising. Profits decrease and most stations will cut staff to cut costs.  That means fewer reporters and photographers to cover stories.

What does that mean for libraries? With a diminishing audience and a shrinking newsroom, getting your library’s story on the local TV news isn’t as easy or effective as it once was, as much as it pains me to say it.

So libraries often find they can’t get news coverage, especially on TV. What do we do?

Seeking a news audience to spread your library story is like building your house on rented land. You have no control over what is said in the story, how it’s promoted, and where it ends up after it airs. And you’re chasing the chance to be seen by a smaller and smaller audience. Why? Because it’s the thing we’ve always done?

Now, more than ever, is the time for libraries to embrace content marketing. There are easy and cheap ways to do this. Turn your blog into a content marketing machine, by regularly publishing stories that you once pitched to your local TV news station or newspaper. The same can be done with your print publication. Stop putting out a straight calendar of events and start adding stories about your customers, your librarians, and your service in a unique and exciting ways.

My library, unfortunately, does not have a blog as of this writing but we do have a quarterly publication and we fill as much of it as we can to publish the stories we would have once sent out as press releases to our media friends. The most beautiful part of this arrangement is that we get to control the narrative… the story is told by us in the most positive way. We don’t have to worry that our news friends will surprise us with a negative angle to their story. We don’t have to hope they’ll do a good job of promoting the story before it airs and place it in an easy-to-find location on their website. We control the story and distribution.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t pitch stories to the news. But we should no longer rely on news coverage to reach audiences who don’t know anything about us. Publishing your own story on your blog or in print gives you the chance to do distribution on social media, setting a target audience and reaching people who might not have a library card. EVERYONE is on social media these days–particularly Facebook–and creating a targeted boosted post on Facebook is easy and cheap.

And it may be more effective than ever.  A Pew Research Center study recently reported that four in ten adults get their news online. While TV remains the most popular place to find news content, its influence is slipping. The study found mobile news consumption has increased, with 72 percent of U.S. adults saying they get news on mobile devices, up from 54 percent in 2013.

So incorporate content marketing on your own website and use the easy, cheap social media distribution models to get your story in front of new eyes. It’s more effective, it costs less, and it cuts out the middle man, giving you control over the story and the chance to connect quickly with library fans, new audiences or people who haven’t used their library card in a long time.

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.




Protect Your Library Social Media Accounts From a Security Breach


I listened to two episodes of the Social Media Examiner podcast that put the fear of God into me and created more work for my social media specialist (sorry Adam). The scenario that had me going to Code Red was about security. It was a two-part series. The first part was an interview with a social media star who lost control of ALL of her accounts in the span of an hour, and who lived a hellish nightmare trying to gain control back. The second part was actually a recount by Social Media Examiner of a day in which they lost control of their own Facebook business account.

If it can happen to Social Media Examiner, it can happen to you. More than 80 percent of U.S. companies have been successfully hacked, according to a Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey released just last year. Smaller companies and nonprofits are more vulnerable because they don’t devote as much resources to protect their data.

Here’s the truth: most of us think a social media security breach will never happen to us (myself included before I listened to these episodes). We couldn’t be more wrong. Imagine the nightmare of having your library’s accounts compromised and hackers posting all manner of things IN YOUR LIBRARY’S NAME.

Having anti-virus software and malware protectors on your computers is only half the battle. You still need to take steps to protect yourself and your library from compromise. Start here:

  1. Use two-step authentication when possible. It’s annoying and it takes longer but it’s the best way to make sure your accounts aren’t compromised. Most platforms will ask you to enter a randomly generated code every time you log in. Take the extra step… it’s better to choose safety over convenience.
  2. Limit access to your social media accounts. If you have a large team of people who post for you, you may consider trimming as much as possible. Some platforms like Facebook or scheduling apps like Sprout will let you assign “roles” to people who allow them limited access to posting but not full access to privacy and security settings. You can also ask your social media team to send posts, written and including graphics, to a special inbox or a Google Drive and let one person have access to the actual accounts, pulling those pre-made posts. Don’t give full access to accounts to anyone without great consideration.
  3. Change your passwords often, making up different, obscure passwords for each social media platform. Again, it’s an inconvenience but it’s the best way to make sure passwords won’t be hijacked and to keep hackers guessing.

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 Serving Your Cardholders Spaghetti: Get Personal


Imagine you are going to dinner with someone special. You decide to visit your favorite Italian restaurant. A waiter seats you. The music is playing softly. Candles are flickering. The wine is fantastic. You’re primed for a spectacular meal.

But instead of handing you a menu, a waiter appears and simply places a plate of spaghetti and meatballs in front of you. He looks at you expectantly, waiting for you to bite in and express your appreciation.

But you don’t like spaghetti. Maybe you’re gluten-free. Maybe you prefer penne with pesto. Maybe you had dreams of a big, cheesy calzone.  Spaghetti is not what you had in mind this evening. You’re disappointed and upset and you end up walking out, vowing never to visit this crazy backwards restaurant again.

It’s common sense to treat restaurant customers like individuals, with individual tastes. You would never open a one-dish-fits-all restaurant and expect it to do well. So why do library marketers often treat their cardholders like they all love or want the same thing?


We have a lot to excuses for why we don’t get more personal with our marketing messages to library cardholders. Most often, we blame our budget. We don’t have the money to buy software that would allow us to deliver personalized messages to thousands of cardholders.

It’s true that targeted email marketing is the most effective method I’ve come across for delivering the right message at the right time to the right customer. And it’s true that it usually costs some money to do it right. But it’s not the only way to do personalized marketing. There are two other effective methods that cost nothing or next to nothing.

Personalized social media marketing: Simply put, this is making a concerted effort to keep an eye on as many social media channels as possible for as many hours of the day as possible to answer customer questions and feedback on your library and services. Customer service through social is extremely important. If possible, your head of marketing should be non-exempt and should  be available to monitor social media channels during off-hours. I know that’s a lot to ask but it’s what customers expect us to do. It’s what our competitors do. If you really want to compete with Amazon, Netflix, and your neighborhood store, you’ll need to monitor your social channels as often as possible and respond to questions or comments as quickly as possible. That’s all there is to it.  For some amazing examples and inspiration, read this post.

In-person marketing: Front-line library staff are your marketing partners. When you have an important message for a certain segment of your cardholder population, you should enlist the front-line staff to help you deliver it.

Recently at my library, we welcomed author Lee Child for a book signing and talk. To help build excitement for the event, we created bookmarks that we put inside every Child book checked out during the month of November. Then, when cardholders came to pick up their holds or when they grabbed a Child book from the shelf, our front-line staff members started a conversation with the cardholder, giving them more information and talking up the event. We had 350 people at our author event, even though the evening was cold and it was pouring rain. It was that personal contact with cardholders that helped to make the difference. It helps to make sure cardholders remember the event, because they remembered the personal pitch made to them by front-line staff.

Don’t let fear or worry stop you from doing personal marketing. There are easy and free ways to deliver relevant, meaningful messages to your cardholders and to build relationships and make connections they’ll remember.

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.

Seven Seriously Super Ways to Target Teens at Your Library


This is the third and final part of our three-blog series on marketing to teenagers. Before you read this post, be sure to read this one and this one.

Okay, here are seven more ideas for targeting the elusive teen and bringing them into your library.

Showcase the library’s value. This generation is the product of tumultuous economic times. The recession hit during their formative years, making the circumspect about spending. In addition, they’re big into supporting socially conscious brands.


A few years ago, my daughter and her friends and every teenage girl I spotted on the street started buying and wearing shirts from a company called Ivory Ella. This online clothing store is affiliated with the Save the Elephants campaign and they give a portion of their proceeds to that group. My daughter and her friends loved the designs of the shirts but what they really connected with was the cause.

Libraries are a socially conscious organization but I don’t think we spend enough time explaining that to teens. And we should.

Keep up on technology and trends but don’t chase the shiny new toy. Tech and trends change every day. We need to be aware of what’s new and how it works but we don’t necessarily have to use every new tool that comes our way. Set aside 30–60 minutes a week to research tech trends, YouTubers, and the world of teens in general. Take a step back and think about your strategy for every new piece of technology or social media platform that comes along. Before you decide to put some time into something, ask yourself–what is your goal?

Two years ago, we bought our teen an iPhone. I was psyched that I would be able to find her anytime, anywhere thanks to texting! It went smoothly–until she stopped answering my texts. I got mad. I confronted her. “Mom,” she said calmly, “No one texts anymore. We Snapchat.” Does that mean I should immediately go start snapping on the library account to connect with teens? Not necessarily.

Instead of running to work the next day and posting, I talked with the teen librarians, did some research, and decided to move forward with Snapchat. We would post only twice a week and our goal would be brand awareness. We’re not taxing our resources and we’re experimenting to see what works. And we’ve left ourselves room to pull back if it becomes clear that it’s not working.

Shiny new toys are awesome and fun. But sometimes the fun is short-lived. Be smart with your resources and make the right decisions for your library cardholders.

Be fluid with your marketing strategy for teens. Library marketing is about serving your cardholders needs. That means we need to let go of our ideas about where we think communication should be happening and what it should look like. We must be customer-focused. What do they want? What do they need? Where do they need us to deliver it? Library marketing is not about us–it’s about them! Teens at one branch might be super engaged. Teens at another branch might be apathetic. You’ll need to be aware of the way teens in your system are engaging with your library and try to be as flexible as possible with your strategy.


Remember our homework help example from part two? A couple of the teens with whom I shared these ideas thought it would be even more helpful to have homework help late at night. They pointed out that most teens get to their homework after sports and extracurricular activities are finished… between 8 p.m. and midnight. So what they really need is a way to connect to a person after hours. They also suggested that libraries schedule teen programs later to accommodate their schedule. Another teen suggested libraries bring the portable elements of their Maker Spaces into classrooms to do demonstrations, instead of asking teens to come to the library to check them out, at least for the first time. And the teens all said that they prefer to do things in groups with other teens, so they wanted us to do more group-oriented programming and to market to their group of friends.

All of these suggestions have a common thread. These teens are asking the library to meet them where they are with the kind of experience they want. We really need to be more customer focused if we’re going to win them over.

Don’t forget the adults in their life. My library received a grant for a program that teaches teens how to handle their finances wisely. During the first round of this two-year program, we tried targeting our message directly at teens. And while we did have teens attending the programs, the numbers were not as high as I wanted.

So when round two came, we pivoted and started targeting the parents and teachers. We used mainly the same tactics–fliers, posters, emails, social media posts, and a few ads. But we changed the message, and it worked–attendance rose.

It makes sense to market a teen program to parents and their other adult connections, especially if it’s educational. Kids are more likely to attend those programs if a parent or teacher makes a commitment for them. Encourage teachers to offer extra credit to students who attend educational library programs.

We did a promotion for our Teen Art contest, which ran through October, and we promoted the program to teens but also to educators and to parents. We had 136 entries this year, about 50 more than last year. Adults encouraged reluctant kids to participate–they even offered incentives for them to do so–and that’s valuable marketing for us.


You are competing for their time… their schedules are jammed so make your programs really count. Less is more. You’ll want to do programs that kids can’t find anywhere else. They can play video games and make crafts at home. But the Library has points of differentiation. You may have a Maker Space with equipment that kids don’t have access to elsewhere. Create programs for teens around that. My library did this kind of program as a kickoff to our Summer Learning program. We let the kids come into the library after hours to use the MakerSpace equipment and we turned it into a party. The party was full and the kids had a blast.  In addition, we held two teen writing camps, partnering with a local university to bring in instructors who did a free week-long workshop with teens who want to learn how to write. BOTH were filled up in a matter of days.

Don’t overlook visuals. This is the age of Instagram, Snapchat, and infographics. These kids have grown up in a world of photos. Make sure your messages include a visual component. Take a photography class or train one of your staff members to take great photos and use those in your marketing. This is what teens expect. They don’t want clip art and they don’t want all text.


Don’t forget the collection! Kids still love to read… don’t let anyone tell you any differently. And teens want to know about new books and stuff coming to the library just like adult. You can hook up with a company that does targeted email messaging for your library, or build and email lists of interested teens who want to hear about the latest books first. Create a new reads shelf in your teen section inside your physical branch and get teens to work with you to create fun book lists.

Teenagers are an enigma but they are not unreachable. And they are certainly a group we need to focus more energy on if we want our library to succeed now and in the future.
These kids are worth it and it is up to us to make sure that they walk into adulthood with a personal connection to their library because, as you will know, a library is the door to all kinds of success in all stages of life.

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.

Five Super Easy Ways to Hook Teen Cardholders for Life!


Before you read this post, read this one.

Okay, now you’re ready to tackle marketing to teens. It’s an important demographic and we need to focus our efforts on them to secure the future of our libraries.

And if you are wondering, I actually ran these ideas past a group of teenagers ranging in age from 14 to 18. So you know I’m not just making this up. I got approval from real teenagers.

So, the number one most important rule of marketing to teens is…


Don’t market to them.

They HATE marketing messages and they are masters at dodging them. They pay for Spotify, Netflix, and YouTube Red to avoid ads. They can spot an ad or a pitch a million miles away and they run screaming when we try to reach them through traditional marketing messages.

A study by the McCarthy group showed 84 percent of teens don’t like advertising and are much more trusting of information sources that are not actively focused on selling messages.

Well, that’s not very encouraging Angela. What do we do?

We build personal relationships with our teen cardholders. If you’ve spent any time with marketers, this is one of those things you heard them say all the time, particularly if they’re a student of content marketing. It sounds new-agey and difficult. I mean, they’re teenagers… can you even connect with them?

Yes. You will have to be patient and build a relationship with them over time in many places, including social media and in-person. This kind of marketing is counter intuitive to the traditional marketing mind. The traditional marketing mind pushes out messages like a machine. Have a program, create a flier, poster, bookmark, give them out to everyone who looks like they might slightly be within the realm of possibility as a participant, and hope that they show up.

If we really want to succeed, we need to focus our efforts and be more personal in our programming and our marketing. It takes more time but they’ll remember how that connection makes them feel every time they think about the library and that’s what we want… that feeling will be a thread through their lives.

Example: School work is hard. A lot of teens are taking advanced college level classes and their parents can’t help them with the material. They need help. Your library probably has some kind of homework help service and you probably market it the traditional way, through print poster and fliers that give out at the library or at their school saying, “Come use our homework help program!” What normally happens? They read it and they throw it away.

What if we offered to come into classrooms and teach teens how to find resources online, both from the library and from other sources, which they can use to help them with their homework. What if we showed them how to find research sources online that are vetted… not Wikipedia and not Google.

Number one, you’re creating a valuable partnership with your local school district. You’re helping the school by helping their students to improve their grades. You’ve solved the problem of getting teens to come to your library for a program on homework help because you’re catching them at school, where they have to be anyway, as part of their normal day. And you’re showing teens that the library is a place where people care about them and want to help them succeed in life.

There are dozens of innovative ways to market to teens through content marketing and in-person events. This kind of more personal marketing helps them to figure out solutions the main problems in their life. This sounds counter intuitive because you’re not directly marketing your library. But here’s why it works: you’re building trust and trust is the basis of any long-term relationship. We want young adults to know that when they have a problem in life, they can turn to the library to help them solve it. This is how we hook teens for life.


Don’t try to be cool. Teenagers know that other teenagers are not running the marketing department of the local library. They recognize that adults speak to them in a different tone and manner than their peers. So don’t try to work slang or cool phrases into your marketing–they’ll see right through that and it might come off as corny or insincere. Instead, be direct, be conversational, and don’t talk down to them.

Teens are diverse, so your marketing must be. Walk through any high school cafeteria and you’ll realize that teens have widely different tastes in just about everything-music, movies, clothes, etc. Also they are diverse in age… a 13 year old’s interests are vastly different from an 18-year-old. So we do we lump all teens into one marketing group?

If you can pinpoint exactly what kind of teen will be interested in the program or service you need to promote, you can do a better job of marketing. Before you print anything or create any graphics, create a persona. How old is the teen you’re targeting? What kind of student are they? What do they like to do after school? Are they a regular library visitor or do they barely ever walk through your doors? These questions can help you create a narrowly focused target audience so your marketing will be more effective.

And keep your messages age appropriate. You may also have to narrow the focus of your teen program or event. The more specific you can get, the more your event or message will relate to an audience and the more than audience will engage with your library.

Build relationships with people who can help you. For my library system, the best marketing tool I have to reach teens is the teen librarians. These men and women interact with our young people every day. They know their names, their interests, their transportation situation, their struggles in school… all the things I can never uncover even with the best marketing survey possible. Keep your teen librarians in the loop about programs and services you are promoting and ask them to make one-on-one contact with some of the more influential teens at their branches. Leverage the trust that the teen librarians have with the kids by asking them to make personal pitches for marketing initiatives for teens. Word of mouth and influencer marketing is a successful tactic for teens. If you have time, ask your teen librarians to run ideas by their customers to get some preliminary feedback. Listen to their ideas and opinions, then base your decisions on their original input blended with your marketing expertise. Teens want to be respected and treated like an adult. They want their opinion to matter.

Here’s an example of how this worked for us. Teen Read Week happens every year, and I’ve never really been able to get teens to engage on social or on our website with marketing messages for that week because I’ve always been very general with my marketing message. “Hey teens, it’s Teen Read Week. You should… read.”

This year, I decided to create a specific book list for teens. Really, it was a list of reading recommendations for them put together by other teens. I sent an email out to our teen librarians with a form, asking them to ask teens at their library to fill it out.

We compiled the responses into a book list which was our main promotional focus during Teen Read Week. We did social media posts and we created an email that we sent to our teenagers with a direct link to the list. The email gave us a 29 percent increase in circulation for the books in the list. This list did well because teens love to be asked for their opinions about books and they’re more likely to read something suggested to them by another teenager.

Use brand ambassadors because teens care about what other people are thinking. If you can convince influential teens to use the library, then their influence will spread and going to the library becomes cool.

Next Monday, I’ll send the second part of this list of marketing tips to target teen 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.

Three Pieces of Advice Library Marketers Can Use Right Now


This is the time of the year when I start to formulate strategies for the next 12 months for all aspects of my team’s work, including social media, content marketing, contacting the press, and targeted email messaging.

Three of the keynote speakers at Content Marketing World had a lot to say about the future of marketing and looking back over my notes from the conference is helping me a great deal as I formulate the path for next year. I think these thoughts will help you too! Are you creating a strategy? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment or shoot me an email so we can have an in-depth conversation!

Ann Handley, Head of Content at MarketingProfs and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everybody Writes. Slow down. There is value in plotting and being more deliberate and thoughtful. The key is to slow down at the right moment. How do you know what those moments are? Ask yourself these questions:

So what? Why does that matter? When you figure out the point of empathy in your marketing, you’ll stop pushing messages out to your audience and start engaging with them instead. And that leads to better long-term results. We’re in it for the long game, people. Libraries are institutions that last for generations. We don’t have to worry about making our quarterly profits. We have to worry about gaining and keeping our cardholders active for a lifetime. In a way, that’s a scarier goal, but it’s vital to our success. And that leads me to Ann’s second piece of advice.

Wait, what? There is immense pressure to hustle. We feel like we need to be sprinting all the time. We don’t spend enough time on the preparation. Why are we doing this? What is our long-term plan? Ask yourself… will our library marketing sustain us? Opt for sustainability over speed. Are you proud of what you are creating? Does it feed your soul? If the answers to these questions are “no”, then stop doing that thing. I know saying “no” is scary and it feels wrong. But you were hired to market your library because you know what you’re doing. You’re an expert at this. Remind your organization of your ability by exercising your right to make decisions about what marketing will best serve your library.

Mitch Joel, President of Mirum and author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete. The library world is in a major state of disruption. Our funding is cut. Our competition is innovating. Just this month, Amazon Prime started offering free eBooks to users as part of the Prime service. Audible and local bookstores are drawing more customers and we’re losing them.

But Joel says don’t confuse disruption for destruction. We can gain back our footing in this state of disruption by integrating content marketing into our marketing strategy. Joel says content marketers purpose is to transform. It’s about making sure our cardholders realize we’re a dynamic, nontraditional organization with resources that can help them in all areas of their life. It’s about educating cardholders. Our competitors aren’t doing that, and content marketing gives us the chance to differentiate ourselves.

I’m with Joel but the transformation doesn’t happen quickly. It takes patience and consistency and this is where most libraries and businesses fail. However, if you create a consistent and clear message, over time, you’ll transform the image of your library. That’s priceless and it’s a change that will bring you so many other benefits.

How do we do it? Joel suggests that you get really focused. Most marketers think they have to churn out lots and lots of content, but they just end up churning out a lot of crap. So do a small amount but do it really well. Create the best content you can imagine for your library. Become the place where people in your industry turn for great content examples. And, says Joel, depth wins. When you explore topics in-depth, you will gain ground because most libraries don’t do that! (For inspiration on in-depth content, listen to the Longform podcast.)

Lars Silberbauer, Global Senior Director of Social Media and Video at Lego. Silberbauer says the best thing a marketer can do is engage the consumer. Libraries need to get close to their cardholders, to observe and understand their behavior. That’s how we make a connection and build a relationship. Listen and understand their needs.

Silberbauer is also a big fan of responding to customers in real-time and understanding moments that happen between your organization and cardholder right now. Silberbauer says that if we don’t have a continuous give and take relationship with the people using our library, they’ll be charmed by our competitors and we’ll lose them forever. I agree.

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.

My Big Fat Failure and What I Learned From It

My Big Fat

I have a library marketing routine. Every six months, I go through all the promotions we’ve done and take a hard look at what worked and what didn’t. I adjust my email sending schedule and my promotional plans for the next six months based on the data I’ve gleaned from cardholders who’ve interacted with our messages and promotions.

This time, within about ten minutes of starting this process, I was reminded of what could be considered our library’s biggest promotional failure to date. It was an experiment, so the sting is lessened by the knowledge that we intended for this campaign to be a learning experience.

Yea, Ang, keep telling yourself that.

We have one library in our system with a cardholder cluster distribution that is something of a miracle. This branch is a perfect representative of our entire system as a whole. It makes it an amazing test subject for any promotion.

So our idea was to convince occasional users of that branch–people who only come in every couple of months–to come back to the branch by offering them a free gift in exchange for checking out any item. It was January and snow was swirling and we had these amazing library-branded snow scrapers. Maybe that sounds lame to you but trust me, at outreach events, those babies are flying off the table. In any case, we actually did not identify the free gift in the promotion. Our overall library strategic goal this year was to increase physical visits to the branch, and this promotion fell in line with that strategy.

So we identified the target audience with the help of Orangeboy, Inc., the company that manages our email promotions. Through them, we were able to pinpoint occasional users. We took a two-prong approach. We sent those cardholders a postcard, asking them to come into the branch with the postcard for their free gift. We also sent them a targeted email a week after the postcard, which you can see below.



We sent the email during a time period identified as successful for library emails in our system–on a Wednesday night at 7 p.m. 735 people got the email and the postcard.

The email’s vanity metrics were pretty good…  51.29% open rate and 5.57% click thru rate. But the overall results–getting people to come in and use the branch–was not exciting. 6.6% of recipients came in to claim a prize. Eight were email recipients. 41 people brought in their postcard.

What did we learn from this? Well, a couple of things may have been at play. Perhaps occasionals don’t use the library often because they can’t get to it physically. Perhaps they just don’t want to enter the building. A digital campaign–driving occasional users to our eBranch in exchange for a gift–may be more effective, although we’d have to work out the logistics of getting a gift to someone who doesn’t want to come into a branch.  Perhaps it was the timing. The weather turned out to be pretty miserable, with record-breaking snowfall in the week after the postcard went out.  The week in which the email was sent was mild. However, if we tried it in the spring or summer, we may have better luck.

And although I generally look at this as a failed promotion, I can say that we convinced 49 people who haven’t used the library in a long time to do so!  Circulation at that branch increased by at least 49 items that month. It just seems like a lot of money and effort for a small result.

Still, we’ll keep experimenting with unique ways to draw our old customers back to our branch. Have you done something similar? Tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to hear how your library is working to increase physical visitors.

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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