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


teen library marketing

Teens Read Emails. Here’s How To Make Sure They Notice Yours!

I live with two teenagers. They love their mobile devices. They are avid users of social media. They also check their email often.

You might think that’s a fluke. For a long time, I did! I thought that my nagging insistence that was necessary to check their email accounts was paying off. I was a parenting genius! But over the course of the past year, I’ve discovered that most teens are reading their emails… even the teens who aren’t living in my house. So, I’m not a parenting genius. But I can see a huge opportunity for library marketing.

Research backs up my observation. The Pew Institute 2018 study of teens, social media, and technology found that 95 percent of teenagers have access to a smart phone. About 45 percent report they’re using that phone nearly all the time. Email marketing agency Adestra surveyed teens and found that 78 percent use email, while nearly 53 percent admit they buy things from marketing emails! Adestra’s survey also found that more than 67 percent of teens prefer communications from brands to come in email form, especially from a brand they love.

I’m not surprised by this statistic, because it bears out in my work. Every month for the past year, I’ve sent a librarian-recommended book title to teens in an email. Adults get one too. In 2018, the average click-thru rate for the adult email was five percent. But our teen cardholder email had a consistent click-thru rate average of 35 percent.  Even more exciting, the teen title increased in circulation between 300 and 400 percent during most months in 2018. In comparison, the adult title increased in circulation by 150 to 200 percent.

You can make emails work for your teen audience too. I understand it’s intimidating, particularly if you don’t live with teenagers. They can seem like otherworldly creatures. But they are just people, too. Here’s what I’ve learned about emails and teenage cardholders.

Send consistently good content to teens. Your teen cardholders are some of the most dedicated library users in your service population. They love you, and they want to hear from you. Use that to your advantage!

Teen cardholders typically are readers, so send them a monthly email to give them a heads-up about the newest items in your collection. Ask one of your teen librarians to pick out some titles, if you’re not comfortable doing it (I’m certainly not!).

You can also email teens to promote events but be picky. My experience is that teens respond to emails about events like coding classes, free summer camps, and anything involving food. They ignore emails about recurring programs, movie nights, crafting events, or homework or test prep sessions.

Don’t send too many emails. Resist the temptation to send email messages several times a week to your teen audience. I try to only send two or three emails a month to my teen cardholders, no more. So, when they see an email from my library, they know it’s important.

Watch formatting and check every email on a mobile device. Don’t include a bunch of links in your teen emails–to them, it looks like spam. Adestra’s survey of teens and email found that teenagers are more likely to unsubscribe when they see badly formatted text, broken links, or emails that just don’t look clean on their mobile devices. Include no more than three links in each email. Keep the text short. And check every message on your mobile device, because that’s where most teenagers will read their email.

Use emojis, texting language, and puns sparingly–or not at all. This advice feels counter-intuitive. Don’t we want to write in teen’s language? My answer is… no. Teens want to be treated like adults. Frankly, they find it “cringey” when an adult tries to sound like a teenager by using slang or texting language. Resist the urge.

You can appeal to teens by helping to relieve their pain points. For instance, I recently sent an email promoting a new book in our collection that was getting a lot of buzz on the YA reading lists. As I was constructing the email, I overheard one of my daughter’s friends complaining about assigned reading in her English class. So, in my email, I said, “When you’re done reading your assigned book, wouldn’t it be great to finally read something that you actually like?”  It was an effective message. It was clear. And it spoke to my teen cardholders by appealing to their emotional frustrations over assigned reading, without using emojis or hashtags or trying to be cool.

Send email later in the evening. In my three years of email marketing experience, I have noticed that messages sent to teens after 9 p.m. get the best engagement. I started sending my emails late in the evening after a conversation with one of my daughter’s friends. He was sharing his daily schedule with me. He told me about his after-school activities and job and mentioned that he doesn’t get to his homework until 9 p.m. or later. So, I started sending email late in the evening. And it worked!

Adestra’s study says teens will randomly check their email throughout the day and will save emails that seem interesting to them. You may want to test sending emails to teens at different times of the day. But in all my testing, late night emails work best… and I suspect they will for you too!

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!



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.

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