Marketing Best Practices For Libraries

Recently while scanning social media, as us millennials tend to do, I saw a friend’s post about an upcoming craft beer event. Being a bit of a beer geek myself, I checked it out and it seemed cool! The event would feature two fermentationally-minded experts from breweries that I enjoy, nerding out about the chemical changes that take place when beer ages in wooden barrels. What’s not to love?

But then, as is generally the case for beer-related events, I braced myself for the price tag when I clicked the event link. To my surprise, it was actually free and the venue was a Denver Public Library branch near my home. Not that I needed another excuse to head to my local library, but this certainly did not hurt.

When you think about it, this move by Denver Public Libraries is really, really smart. In a state that is deliciously oversaturated with breweries, inserting themselves into the local beer culture is a perfect idea. Plus, it will undoubtedly bring in some visitors who are not the regular library patron crowd, which is a win for, well, everyone.

Hosting events that serve local interests (or even larger trends, like the Pokémon Go craze of 2016) should be a part of their marketing plans. But there’s much more to an effective library marketing strategy, and that will be the focus of this post. Whether you are starting from scratch, or you’ve got a strategy in place, this high-level guide will help to formulate or refine your marketing program. Ready? Read on!

Essential marketing tactics for any library

Support library programs with hosted events

We’ve written before about the huge assortment of mostly or completely free programs offered by the libraries in our communities. Unfortunately, many go unnoticed by the public. To help support these resources, and raise awareness of the library in general, consider hosting various events that compliment these programs. A few ideas:

  • Support your software training program by hosting a hands-on technology demo event with a local electronics store
  • Raise awareness of e-book downloads by conducting an e-book club on a platform like Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting (or Twitter!)
  • Have local business experts speak to community members who are interested in starting a small business
  • If your facility offers services to job hunters, host a job fair

These are, of course, in addition to the reading events, book signings and other events that most libraries regularly hold. And as you probably know, hosting any event will require a fair amount of logistical and promotional leg work. But the reward of increased awareness and traffic will likely be worth it. Heck, you might even get some free attention from the local press!

Reevaluate who your audience is, and market accordingly

Reaching your diverse audience is not a one-size-fits-all effort. Be mindful of who your audience is and how those folks prefer to be marketed to. For digital-first audiences (typically Millennials and Gen Z), connect to them in the spaces they spend time online—social media will be helpful here. However, this approach will typically be less successful when targeting older generations where community message boards, direct mail, or email might be more appropriate.

Let your patrons market for you

Anecdotes are an immensely powerful marketing tool. Most of us respond much more favorably to recommendations from our parents, friends, and even complete strangers (think reviews on Yelp or Trip Advisor) than even the best marketing copy.

This tactic works by shifting focus away from the library and onto your patrons. Invite passionate patrons to advocate on your behalf either in person or on social media. Include written testimonials on your website. If you have the means, record video testimonials for use across all appropriate channels (social media and websites for sure!).

Get and stay social

Social media contributes an enormous amount of headaches, but despite the struggles, it is a crucial component to any marketing strategy. There is a lot of valuable advice out there-—frankly much better than we have time for in this post—so here’s a starting point from Helen Todd, CEO of marketing agency Sociality Squared:

“‘Keep in mind that there are a lot of different [social media] channels out there, and they all have different cultures,’ she said. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a library will need to create entirely different content for its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube accounts, but content does need to be creatively repurposed for each channel.”

Wondering how often to post? Helen had this to say:

“at least one post per day for library Facebook accounts and spacing posts at least three hours apart during days with multiple posts…­Instagram can be time intensive…so one to three posts per day. For Twitter, ‘the more the merrier.’”

Read the entire writeup on library promotion here.

One huge opportunity that is largely overlooked is the value of engaging directly with patrons on social media. Facilitate discussions with your posts, and respond as quickly as possible when a patron leaves a comment that warrants a response.

Utilize free online courses and resources

There are tons of free marketing resources and training resources available online. For example, HubSpot Academy is free to use and offers courses and certifications on things like social media, blogging and email marketing. In most cases, the courses are broken down into bite-size sections so it’s easy to fit in a lesson anytime you find yourself with a few free minutes.

So, If you’re new to this or just need a refresher course, this is an excellent place to start.

Get organized! (Insert Dewey Decimal System joke here)

By now you might be looking at all of these ideas wondering how, in addition to actually doing the work, you’re going to keep it organized. The good news is that there are many resources available online to help develop, organize, and schedule your marketing plans. Since there are many excellent plans available (this one is excellent), we won’t make our own. But, here’s one piece of advice for building your strategy: while these guides will point you in the right direction, none will be exactly right for your organization. Treat the strategy like a starting point, then experiment, improvise and adapt the strategy based on what delivers results for you.

And also, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If multiple daily social media posts, semi-daily blog posts, and weekly events are too much for your team, then start smaller and build up later if you determine you have the capacity.

Use the Flonomics Library Experience Manager to monitor and improve your marketing efforts

Once you’ve put all the effort of executing your strategy, the work is really only half done. This is where a Library Experience Manager really shines. Working in tandem with a people counting system, this tool captures traffic data as patrons enter the library, and as they move throughout the space. This online dashboard then provides real-time, historical, and predictive traffic reports. This way, after you’ve completed a marketing campaign or hosted an event, you can view patron counts and other traffic data points to determine if your marketing led to a sizeable traffic increase. This is, of course, on top of the multitude of other uses for people counting in any library space.

Do you have questions about library marketing strategies, or how a Library Experience Manager could help improve your efforts? Get in touch with us!