Author Archives: Tiffany McClary

About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.

When Marketing Your Public Library, Encourage Talk

When consumers share information about brands and products they love in social settings, those recommendations often lead to sales. A recent study by Engagement Labs showed that social media conversation is “much different from what people are saying in private conversations with friends and family.” Thus, these real-life conversations are just as important as the ones happening on social media.  

This is no less true for nonprofits and public libraries than it is for major brands. As marketers, we should take steps to cultivate real-world conversations as much as we tend to our social media programs. 

How can you get members of your community talking and sharing news about your library with friends, family and co-workers? Turn to traditional marketing activities to generate excitement about new initiatives or garner support at budget time. Here are a few activities that can spark conversations about the public library in your community: 

Pitch local TV and radio

Although it’s on the decline, local TV news still has more viewers than cable or network news programs, according to Pew Research. The study by Engagement Labs also found that traditional media and advertising – TV, radio, digital – play a significant role in stimulating consumer conversations. While advertising is usually too costly for public library budgets, you still can take advantage of public relations. Take advantage of events and guest speakers, as well as news about your latest community initiative, to pitch compelling news stories to local reporters. 

Go door-to-door

To learn more about residents’ library experiences and promote its services, volunteers for the Bloomington, Ill., Public Library knocked on doors. Not only did they collect valuable data – such as how often a resident visited the library or what prevented them from visiting more often – but they were also able to share information about online resources and library cards. 

Community appearances

Take advantage of local events, such as craft fairs and farmers markets, to set up a table and promote library programs.  

Speaking opportunities

Seek out opportunities to speak to the local PTA, at government town halls, and to local community and business groups. 

Identify and cultivate library champions

Research shows that people are more likely to act on a recommendation from a friend than from advertising. That’s why asking for help from some of your library’s biggest fans is one of the most powerful ways to spread the word. Ned Potter, author of The Library Toolkit, recommends cultivating library champions from each segment of your audience, parents, Baby Boomers, teens, etc., to reach the wider community more effectively. 

Potter also stresses that a top-notch customer experience is the best way to drive word of mouth. “If you’re serving the needs of your given community successfully and with style, they WILL be telling their friends about you,” he says. “They’ll be tweeting about you. They’ll be dropping your name into conversations.” 

 

 

 

5 Twitter Metrics That Will Reshape Your Content Strategy

Trying to figure out how to get more people to follow your Twitter account and reply to your tweets? Twitter’s robust analytics platform can help you get a better understanding of who your followers are, what they’re interested in, and how you can shape your content strategy to engage them more. 

The Tweet Activity Platform is available to all users, but you must log onto http://analytics.twitter.com/ with your username and password to turn it on.  Once you’ve logged in, you’ll find a wealth of analytics tools to help you understand just how effective you’ve been in reaching and engaging the Twitter audience.  Analytics are updated in real-time, so you can adjust your messages immediately. 

These five metrics provide useful insight to shape a more targeted Twitter content strategy. 

1.  Account Statistics  

On the home page, you’ll get an overview of the last 28 days of activity on your Twitter profile. These top-level metrics give a birds’-eye view of your performance, including how often your profile has been viewed, how frequently you’ve been mentioned and if you’re showing steady growth in new followers. 

 

 

2.  Tweet Activity 

Click on the Tweets tab to learn which of your tweets are the best performing. Tweets with the most click-throughs and the highest engagement rates can be reposted at different times over the next few days to generate more engagement. 

 

 

3.  Audience Insights – Followers 

There’s a slew of interesting data on the Audience Insights tab under the Your Followers drop-down about interests, demographics, lifestyle and consumer behavior. Use the insights from these charts to develop content that most interests your followers. Consider, for example: 

  •  Interests. This chart ranks the percent of your audience interested in a particular topic. Rework your strategy to create more content relating to the top 2-3 interests. 
  • Demographics. Do more men or women follow your account? Homeowners or renters? If you find you have a higher percentage of high school graduates following your account, you may want to promote your job interview skills workshops on Twitter. 

 

4.  Audience Insights – Personas 

Also under the Audience Insights tab, select the drop-down for “All Twitter Users.” This data is interesting to look at, but not particularly useful. However, you can filter this data and look at specific “personas.” This is useful data for marketers who want to reach specific demographics. 

To see this data, click in the box next to “All Twitter Followers.” Twitter will display several filtering options, including ParentsMillennialsGeneration XBaby BoomersSmall Businesses, and more.  

Let’s see what the profile looks like for Millennials on Twitter. They’re most interested in comedy and music. More than half are high school graduates and are married. Thirty-two percent are in professional or technical fields, and 26% are homemakers. Seventy-five percent are homeowners.  

Now compare these interests to the type of content you’ve been producing. What content can you produce or share to better match their interests? By developing content more closely aligned to these interests, you’ll have a better chance of drawing their attention to your public library.  


 

5.  Compare Profiles

Another powerful feature is the ability to compare audiences and thus benchmark your performance. If there is a significant gap between Twitter’s persona profile and the profile of your followers, then it’s likely you aren’t reaching the right audience. With this knowledge, you can take steps to develop content that matches your target audience’s interests. 

 

 

Twitter compiles its persona profiles based on its own data and several of its partners. Hover your mouse over each heading for more details about the data source.  

Twitter Analytics provides valuable insights into both performance and audience preferences. Use these insights to develop a more effective content strategy. 

 

 

In the Tech Age, Libraries Are More Vital Than Ever

“Who goes to libraries anymore?” Since the rise of the internet, we’ve heard this argument again and again. Why are public libraries necessary when we have all the information we could possibly want at our fingertips? 

But two of the most powerful arguments for public libraries are – ironically – technology and information. Many Americans say they need help learning how to use technology and how to sort through and make sense of the enormous volume of information online.   

In fact, 76% of U.S. adults say they would benefit “a lot” from more help with accessing information that can help them make decisions, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of survey data. Respondents specifically called out several needs – several of which public libraries provide – including technology training and help searching online resources for trustworthy information. 

These findings underscore what makes public libraries vital resources for their communities.  

Libraries as Technology Education Centers  

Public libraries are a key resource for people who want to become more digitally literate. According to Pew Research Center, nearly 80% of Americans believe libraries “definitely” should offer technology programs for their communities.  

Although 75% believe libraries are already effective at helping people learn new technologies, there’s always more that can be done. And according to Pew’s latest analysis, many library constituents are expressing the desire for more training on how to use computers, smartphones and the internet. This is important for our communities, because technology skills are highly valued in the job market and greatly enhance a job seeker’s value to potential employers.  

But because they aren’t comfortable with computers or online research, those most likely to benefit from technology help are harder for public library marketers to reach with digital marketing strategies. Traditional marketing activities continue to be the best way to get the word out about your programs. For example, you can:  

  • Post flyers in local business and municipal facilities frequented by this target audience. 
  • Run ads in local newspapers. 
  • Conduct outreach to community groups such as senior centers, the local Y, and clubs. 
  • Build relationships with leaders of multi-cultural organizations, who can help you connect with hard-to-reach audiences. 
  • Use public relations tactics such as posting details of workshops in event listings and reaching out to local reporters. 
  • Work with your township officials and other organizations to include mentions of your events in community newsletters. 

Mobile Access to the Website 

Three out of every four Americans owns a smartphone, so it’s not surprising that library visitors who access the library website are doing so more often from a mobile device. According to the most recent Pew data, 50% of those who visited the website used a mobile device such as a tablet computer or smartphone. That was up from 39% in 2012, which means in 2018, it’s very likely to be an even higher percentage.  

This points to the importance of having a mobile marketing strategy. Your plan for reaching mobile audiences should include the following: 

  • Build your website so that it’s easy to read on the Web. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is to make the site responsive. That is, the content adapts to the dimensions of the device being used. With a responsive site, your content is easy to navigate and read in the browser, on a smartphone and on a tablet. 
  • In fact, all content should be mobile-enabled. That means shorter paragraphs, and clear images.  
  • Pay particular attention to optimizing email newsletters. The majority of emails are read on mobile devices, so be sure your newsletter is mobile-friendly. 
  • Build a presence on social networks that are predominately mobile-based, such Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. 

12 Months of Public Library Marketing Ideas

We begin each new year with high hopes. We set resolutions, and we’re determined to carry them out. Unfortunately, research shows we’re usually unsuccessful. About 45% of Americans say they always make New Year’s resolutions, yet just 8% of us keep them 

Gretchen Rubin, the author of “The Happiness Project,” offers a few tips for sticking to your New Year’s resolution. These four are easily adaptable to public library marketing:  

  • Create specific goals 
  • Monitor your progress
  • Hold yourself accountable – publicly 
  • Avoid the urge that something has to be “perfect” before it can be “done” 

So, in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, as we enter the holiday season and close out 2017, here are a few ideas you can adopt for your marketing program, one for each month of the upcoming year.  

January 

Expand your newsletter subscriber list. Try one – or more – of these 25 ideas from marketing software company, Hubspot. Tip #11 is a very easy change to make!  

February 

Create a Snapchat campaign. This ultimate guide from Business Insider can get you started. Libraries will find the ideas for building anticipation, telling stories, and combining video and images most useful.  

March 

Take an online marketing course. WebJunction offers several courses and webinars specifically designed for public library staff. If you are a LibraryLinkNJ member, you can try one of the many online learning options from Lynda.com free of charge.

April 

Incorporate video into your marketing. If you haven’t yet invested in a video strategy, it’s time. In 2014, 64% of consumer Internet traffic was to videos. In 2019, that number is expected to be 80%-90% of all consumer Internet traffic.  

May 

Start a live broadcast. Facebook Live has exploded this year…. Interactive streaming video services Periscope and Meerkat gained traction last year, and some say they are set to explode this year. Always wanted to have your own TV talk show? Here’s your chance. 

June 

Make your website mobile-ready. As you’ve probably noticed, everywhere you go, people have their eyes glued to their smartphones. So it should come as no surprise that mobile Internet usage exceeded desktop usage way back in 2014. A mobile friendly site will make it easier for your visitors to read your content on their phones.  

July 

Post more frequently to your blog. Not sure what to write about, especially on a weekly schedule? A blog is a fantastic outlet for sharing news, educational instruction and proof that your library adds value to the community. Start with these great content ideas. 

August 

Commit to writing better email newsletter subject lines. They’re so important, yet how often do we dash them off quickly, with little thought? A great subject line will entice more people to read your newsletter. Try these ideas for making yours stand out in the crowded inbox. 

September 

Research and experiment with an emerging trend. Early adopters of emerging trends are usually retail businesses or major corporations. But these tools have potential for public libraries too. Here are 10 Marketing Trends to Think About for 2018.

October 

Create serial content. We don’t need anyone to tell us how powerful storytelling can be. But the public’s growing appetite for serial storytelling is exciting and instructive. There are several inventive ways to start your own local “serial” focused on a single topic: create a weekly event series at the library, on your blog or perhaps through a podcast.  

November 

Hire a freelancer. The “gig economy” – where freelance writers, artists and experts of all types provide their services on a cost-effective, project basis – can provide public libraries with services they wouldn’t normally be able to afford. Dip your toe in by commissioning an image through Fiverr for just $5.  

December 

Measure your 2018 marketing results. Have your resolutions paid off? Do you gain more Facebook followers and newsletter subscribers? Did your blog help you get your budget passed? If you’re not sure how to measure marketing success, here is an oldie but goodie tip list and infographic that hopefully will help.  

 

You can adopt any or all of these resolutions. Do one each month, or start them all from the beginning of the year. Keep me posted throughout the year on your progress in the comments below! 

 

Instagram or Snapchat: Which is Best for Marketing Your Public Library?

Social media marketing is one of the best ways for the public library to engage younger generations, but trying to be everywhere at once takes time and resources that many libraries don’t have. If capturing the attention of teens and young adults is one of your marketing goals, try focusing on just one social media channel. This approach can reduce the burden on resources and be highly effective – as long as you choose the right channel. 

But which one should you choose? Snapchat continues to grow in popularity, nipping at the heels of competitor Instagram. According to a semi-annual survey by Piper Jaffrey, 47% of teens say Snapchat is their preferred social media platform, up 12% from last year. One in four teens say they prefer Instagram.  

On the other hand, Instagram is still very popular with teens and Millennials, and it has a much larger footprint, with 400 million daily users compared to Snapchat’s 173 million, Recode reports.   

While both are visual platforms, with many of the same features, there are differences. Here’s what to know about each. 

  • Planned vs. Real-Time Posts: Instagram may appeal more to cautious public library marketers, who want to carefully curate their images. Tools such as Hootsuite will allow you to schedule Instagram posts in advance. By contrast, Snapchat emphasizes spur-of-the-moment, candid images, which may appeal more to marketers who have a greater level of comfort with social media. On the upside, content on Snapchat will disappear in 24 hours. 

 

  • Storytelling Feature: Both platforms have a “story” feature, which marketers can use to preview a library event, share “a day in the life,” or create a slideshow of library highlights. Snapchat pioneered this feature, but Instagram adopted it last August. Within five months of launch, the Story feature had reached 200 million Instagram users. Today, the feature has 250 million daily users compared to 166 million for Snapchat, according to marketing platform Domo. 

 

  • Geolocation: Each platform allows you to add your library’s location. On Instagram, geotags will store your latitude and longitude, and while most institutions will be named already, you can add your library if it doesn’t appear in the list. Geotags are searchable, which is valuable because it helps users discover your Instagram account. However, Snapchat approaches geolocation differently. It uses geofilters, which are fun, artistic overlays promoting your library. Geofilters for public spaces are created by artists and the community. You can submit your own here 

 

One good way to get a handle on which app is more popular in your community is to survey local teens and Millennials in your community. The results should help you narrow your choice and choose the one that will best help you reach your public library’s marketing goals.  

For more information about how teens and Millennials use both platforms, check out Domo’s infographic here. 

Is It Time to Reinvent Your Library Brand?

For most Americans, the enduring image of the public library is that of rows of books. Yet, the modern library is so much more than what’s on our shelves. Across the nation, public libraries have added new services and expanded their hours, and they are much more like community centers than simply reading rooms. 

Today, we offer meeting spaces, technology access, workshops, classes, help with job searches, and business research resources. All over the state of New Jersey, the public library is becoming the center of the community. 

In fact, the New York Times sums up our new role eloquently: “No longer just repositories for books, public libraries have reinvented themselves as one-stop community centers that aim to offer something for everyone. In so doing, they are reaffirming their role as an essential part of civic life in America by making themselves indispensable to new generations of patrons.”  

But, we have a major challenge: Not everyone knows about this renaissance in the library. In a survey conducted last year by the Pew Research Center, for example, 38% of Americans said they did not know if their library offered online career and job-related resources, even though 62% of libraries around the country do. 

If we want to attract more visitors to our libraries, our brands should reflect our new role. As we reinvent our spaces, we also need to update our brands to help everyone in our communities recognize and understand the full range of services we offer. 

But what does this mean, exactly? Branding efforts can be monumentally expensive, and unlike the big consumer brands, many libraries don’t have the resources to commit to such a big project. We’d rather focus our budgets on more services for the community. 

The good news is that there’s a lot we can do on our own, without a substantial budget. Here are just a few ideas for redefining your brand with limited resources. (Keep an eye out: We’ll cover many of these topics in detail in upcoming posts.) 

  • Survey your community and get their feedback about your brand. Tools like SurveyMonkey are easy to use and free. Be sure to gather perspectives of both users and non-users alike. 
  • Redefine your brand from the inside out. Work with your team to brainstorm and write a new mission, promise, and customer experience. 
  • Write a new brand story. Storytelling is a highly effective marketing strategy. Success stories – for example, how the library has helped a job seeker find work – are more likely to be shared widely and can help people better understand what you do. 
  • Ask your community to design a new logo. Launch a contest, as the Monmouth County Library did in 2014, to find a new design that better reflects the full range of services. 

Keep in mind that the most important aspect of any re-branding effort is involving the public. Be sure to gather feedback about your ideas before rolling out a revamped brand. Gaining buy-in from the community, board members, and staff will help your new look and message be a greater success. 

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4 Ways to Raise Awareness About Library Learning Programs

Libraries are centers of learning. We’re committed to constantly raising the bar, always finding new ways to serve the educational needs of all members of our communities. The sharing of knowledge, after all, is in our DNA.  

Yet, according to the 2016 Pew Research Center’s Libraries and Learning report, a significant share of respondents isn’t aware of the educational programs offered by U.S. public libraries.   

For example, although 90% of public libraries have e-book lending programs, nearly one in four respondents said they weren’t aware if their library offered them. Forty-seven percent said they weren’t aware if their library offered programs on starting a new business, even though 33% of libraries nationwide do. And while 62% of libraries offer online career or job resources, only 41% of survey respondents said they knew their library offered these materials. 

Such low levels of awareness point to a need for more marketing of these services. Fortunately, the Pew report includes additional data that can help libraries develop more effective awareness campaigns. 

Pew also broke down its findings by demographic, and these insights indicate the need for more targeted awareness campaigns. For example, those most likely to say they don’t know if their local libraries lend e-books are men, rural residents, and those without college degrees. And the data indicate “men, blacks, Hispanics, people living in households earning less than $30,000, and those whose education stopped with a high school diploma” are unaware their libraries have career-related resources. 

These insights about audiences are critically important. By pinpointing groups with low awareness, we can segment our audiences and design marketing activities to reach each group more effectively. Consider these steps to build a more targeted program. 

Start with research.

Try to gain a better understanding of the pain points and motivations of your target audience. While secondary research is a useful place to start, the most valuable –and accurate – information is gained by directly questioning your target audience. Interviews and surveys are low-cost and easy methods any library can use, and you may be surprised by what you learn. Often, direct feedback will challenge what we think we know. For example, some groups may tell you they don’t read the main newspaper in town. Instead, they may be more influenced by what they hear at religious or community gatherings.  

Advertising.

We don’t often think of incorporating advertising into our public library marketing campaigns because of its high cost. Traditional advertising, such as newspaper ads, billboards or television, is often out of reach for many library budgets. And while digital and social media advertising may be more affordable, it may not be particularly effective in reaching some groups. 

Low-income families, for example, may not have ready access to digital devices. In this case, a limited advertising campaign could have a high return on investment. During their work commute, members of this audience are likely to encounter bus stop or local billboard advertising more frequently than other types of media. Advertising in these places may have a greater impact – and be a better use of budget. 

Community outreach.

Culture plays an important role in influencing outcomes. In ethnic communities, work with influential community leaders to build grass roots momentum. Activities that generate interest and awareness include community events, public service announcements, and town halls. 

Local employers.

Create opportunities to partner with businesses in and near your community. Employers of all sizes value the opportunity to build workforce skills. Promote your services in break rooms or through information sessions in the workplace. 

 

The results of the Pew survey illustrate an important point about marketing: It’s not one size fits all. Marketing to different audiences requires unique strategies for each. By segmenting our audiences and designing messages and campaign activities specific to each, we’re more likely to be successful at raising awareness. 

If You Want to Save Time, Then Try IFTTT

How many times have you wondered: If only there was an easy way to… save email attachments, promote blog posts on Facebook, take notes in a meeting – or any number of tasks that take up your time. Well, I have good news! There is a tool to help you streamline or automate certain tasks. It’s called IFTTT (rhymes with “shift”), and it can increase your productivity.

IFTTT stands for “if this then that,” and it’s used to connect apps in a way that streamlines tasks. Its simple formulas are called Recipes, and they include two Ingredients: Triggers and Actions.

For example: 

If “this” (Trigger: Post an Instagram photo) then “that” (Action: Save photo to Dropbox). 

These Recipes are created by app developers and users alike. In fact, one of the attractions of IFTTT is that users can create their own Recipes and share them with other users, essentially crowd-sourcing productivity ideas.  

IFTTT Recipes run in the background, automatically saving your email attachments to Dropbox or Google Drive, tracking shipments, or turning your home lights on or off at certain times.  

While many of the activities relate to personal productivity, IFTTT offers plenty for streamlining work tasks. Here are seven that you’re certain to find worthwhile. 

1. Save Gmail attachments.

Whenever you receive a new email in Gmail with an attachment, it will be automatically saved to a folder in Google Drive or another drive you designate.

2. Share new blog posts to a Facebook Page.

Set up this Recipe, and every time you publish a new blog post on WordPress, it will be automatically shared to a Facebook Page. Other Recipes conduct the same function for other social media sites, including Twitter and Pinterest. 

3. Build a Twitter list from a specific hashtag.

This Recipe keeps a running list of who is talking about your event or campaign using a relevant hashtag. It’s particularly useful for engagement because it automatically tracks everyone who has shown an interest in what you’re doing. Another benefit is that it automates a tedious part of the process for reporting and measuring marketing activities.  

4. Create a Google Calendar view of your Buffer schedule.

For users of social media management tool, Buffer, this Recipe integrates your account with your Google calendar. With it, you don’t need to log into Buffer separately just to view upcoming posts. You schedule a post, and the Recipe adds a new event to your Google Calendar on the date and time the update is scheduled to go live.  

5. Transcribe voicemail to Evernote (with link to original audio).

We don’t always have the time to stop and listen to voicemail, but with this Recipe, your voicemail is transcribed to text and sent to Evernote, where you can read it. It’s especially useful if you’re in a meeting or a spot that makes it hard to play back audio messages. 

6. Automatically share your new videos to a Facebook Page.

This Recipe will help you to keep your communities in sync — when you upload a new public video the link will be posted on your Facebook Page.

7. Automatically create a meeting notes document in Evernote.

If you use Evernote as your notepad during meetings, this Recipe creates a new document for the meeting automatically, as soon as the event is scheduled in your calendar.   

These are just a few of the IFTTT Recipes that can streamline your daily activities and save you precious moments. It’s also just a sampling of what IFTTT can do. Check more out here: https://ifttt.com/search

If you don’t find the Recipe you need in its collection, you can simply build it yourself, which makes the time-saving possibilities nearly endless.

 

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The Internet of Things is Here: What It Means for Your Library

It’s incredible to think about how much our libraries have changed over the last two decades, thanks to the advancement of technology and the Web. But it’s becoming easier to see how public libraries will look different in the next few years as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a bigger part of our everyday lives. 

Already, Amazon is experimenting with a no-line, no-checkout store, and smart devices are available for everything from regulating thermostats, lighting, and even window blinds. These “things” connect to the Internet, enabling users to monitor and change settings from wherever they are or even to automate tasks. 

Smart devices like these are all but certain to change how our libraries operate, from book checkout to reaching under-served communities. In 2015, the OCLC informally polled 100 librarians about the changes the IoT might bring to libraries. Respondents had plenty of ideas.  

They foresee physical spaces that are easier for staff to manage, especially if rooms could self-regulate climate and availability. Inventory management would be streamlined, as books and other items hold more information about how they are being used. Smart books, gaming, augmented reality, and object-based learning were all cited as developments that create potential for new educational opportunities.  

Libraries already are integrating IoT technologies. For example, Hillsboro Public Library in Oregon introduced a self-service kiosk that is located in its community’s central plaza. Its stocked with new and popular books and movies, says ALA’s ilovelibraries blog. The library monitors the Book-O-Mat from its main branch just a few miles away. 

How can public library staff adapt their libraries to the coming IoT tsunami? Here are five ways to ride this technology wave. 

 

1. Stay ahead of IoT advancements 

Become the community resource for the IoT by staying ahead of new developments and challenges as much as possible. Follow technology resources such as TechCrunch and Fast Company, which track new initiatives in IT and across the business world. For information specific to libraries, the ALA’s Libraries of the Future blog focuses on how smart devices and IoT are implemented by your peers across the country.  

2. Develop training programs 

Artificial intelligence will create more jobs – about half a million – than it eliminates by 2020, analyst firm Gartner predicts. Just as they do today, public libraries will play an important role in preparing students for jobs of the future through workshops, classes, reference materials and ad hoc instruction. 

3. Play a role in building it  

As the experts in information and metadata, librarians will be called upon to help illuminate connections and improve the “smarts” of actual objects. They will provide the context and help make sense of layers of information.  

4. Think about how physical space and services can change 

As space, books and other items become fully networked, there will be amazing possibilities for new services and for re-imagining the library space. For example, physical space and artifacts can become more interactive, and the library collection may become more distributed or extended – as objects in one library connect to those in another. 

5. Keep privacy and security top of mind 

As with all things technology, IoT does raise some concerns, most notably around privacy and security. Public libraries will have to evaluate smart devices thoroughly to protect both employees and library users.   

 

Our imaginations have barely scratched the surface, and at this point, it’s still hard to grasp the extent to which the IoT will reshape our libraries. But one thing is certain: Fascinating developments are on the horizon. 

Who Are We? Defining the Public Library Brand

Branding isn’t relevant only in the corporate world. Even the smallest public library can benefit from a clearly defined brand. 

Branding helps people understand what you do, why you do it, how your “customers” benefit, and what sets you apart from your competition. Who you are – your identity – is rooted in the answers to these questions. It becomes the umbrella under which all your marketing campaigns are developed. 

But how can a public library define a strong brand? Gather your team and work together to answer the following questions.  

1. What is Our Mission? 

While largely aspirational, missions encapsulate the end goal of an organization. For example, Charity Water’s purpose is to bring clean and safe water to people in developing nations. An example of a public library mission might be “to educate our community.” Another option: Make technology freely accessible to every member of the community.  

2. What Is Our Promise to Library Users?  

Before customers interact with a business, they need to understand what’s in it for them (otherwise known in marketing circles as “WIIFM” – what’s in it for me). Essentially, it’s how a customer benefits. Insurance company Geico, for example, promises customers “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance.” Similarly, a public library could promise to be the “hub of our community.”  

3. What Kind of Customer Experience Do We Want to Provide? 

The customer experience is the embodiment of its promise. Many businesses distinguish themselves by the experiences they deliver their customers. Think about the way Apple describes its products compared to how Microsoft describes its services, or how different the IKEA shopping experience is from shopping at Nordstrom’s. For a public library, this means developing programming and resources that support your promise.    

4. What Do Users Expect from Our Public Library?  

What do you want your customers to believe about you? Fans of Pixar, the animation company, have come to expect only original stories from this studio, and that’s the reason they flock to theaters with every new release. One of the challenges for today’s public libraries is that customer perceptions of the library are rooted in old ideas: for example, the library is a place to borrow books. Yet, we know our libraries offer so much more. It’s such an incredible disconnect. Today’s library brands should aim to change this perception.  

Once you have a clear idea of what your brand is, the next step is to infuse it throughout your library: 

  • Educate your staff about how the brand aligns with the type of visitor experience you want to achieve. 
  • Encapsulate the idea into a tagline.  
  • Draft talking points they can use in discussion with visitors, donors and advocates.  

 5. What Makes Our Library Distinctive? 

One of the biggest challenges for any business is standing out in its industry. With more hundreds of community-focused organizations in New Jersey, how will your library be distinctive?  

A distinctive brand results from the combination of the factors described above: mission, promise, customer experience, and expectations. For many brands, this distinction is revealed through logos and taglines. Coca-Cola’s is a recognizable, world-wide brand because of its logo. Work with a designer to incorporate your brand concept into a distinctive library logo and implement this look across all of your marketing materials. 

A clearly defined and articulated brand will make it easier to raise awareness about events and activities as your community comes to associate your brand with your services. This instant recognition increases the likelihood they’ll open your emails, read your social posts, and attend your events. Branding may feel like a big project when you start it, but it’s one that will continue to pay off for many years. 

Getting It All Done: 7 Practical Tips for Public Library Bloggers

In my last blog post, I covered a few strategic questions you should consider before starting a public library blog. With your plan in place, you’re likely to have some more practical questions about writing and publishing posts.  

The following Q&A focuses on the production process. The answers will help you plan your editorial calendar and allocate resources to get it all done.  

1. Do I have to write it all myself? 

No! You can divide the work among your staff, asking each to write a post once every several weeks. It’s a great way to give everyone a chance to share his or her unique expertise. You can also invite local politicians, trustees, local authors, public educators, and others to contribute as guest bloggers. 

2. Is there an optimum length for a blog post?  

Most experts believe 500-700 words is a good length, but there is no real consensus. There are several SEO experts who recommend long-form content – more than 2,000 words – as the best length for search rankings and engagement. But the truth is really somewhere in-between. Your blog may need a mix of short and long-form content. Choose the length that works best for the topic, the audience, and you. However, keep in mind you do need to give Google something to work with, so at a minimum, aim for 300 words or more. 

3. How long should it take to write and publish a post? 

Depending upon how fast you write, a well-crafted post will take about three to five hours to draft, edit, format, publish, and promote.  

4. What are the advantages of referencing other blogs in my posts? 

It’s always a good idea to credit others when you use their work. In blogging, linking back to the original reference not only builds good will, but it makes other bloggers aware of your work. If they like your blog, they may reference it in the future. This introduces their readers to your blog, potentially increasing your readership. 

To reference, quote the source of the information, and embed the link in your text. 

5. Should I always include an image in my post? 

Yes, it’s very important to include images because visuals draw the reader’s attention. Research from BuzzSumo shows blog posts with an image once every 75-100 words received twice as many social media shares as articles with fewer images. On Facebook, posts with images get 2.3 times more interaction than those without. When you publish your post, use an image to promote it. 

Another benefit of images: Since we are a visual society, images increase our understanding of complex topics. Pictures, charts and infographics are very effective at conveying messages quickly, which is especially valuable as consumer attention spans shrink. 

6. How do I encourage readers to visit my other posts and pages? 

With each blog post, you can drive readers to other parts of your website by linking internally. This strategy keeps visitors on your website longer and also introduces them to other valuable content they might find useful. Embed links in your text to event registration pages, information about library collections, or older blog posts, for example. 

7. How do I get people to sign up for my email newsletter from my blog? 

There are dozens of newsletter plug-ins that will help you capture new subscribers. Some add a persistent subscription form on the sidebar of your blog or force a pop-up subscription form at regular intervals. According to SiteProNews, fewer than 30% of your website visitors will come back to your site unless a chance to subscribe is given to them. Thus, if you’ve set a goal to increase newsletter subscribers, installing one of these plug-ins is essential. 

As with many projects, getting started is the hard part. But once you have established your production process and worked out the kinks, you’ll find it will become part of your regular routine very quickly.  

 

Strategy Q&A: 7 Ideas to Kickstart Your Public Library Blog

A blog really is a small publication. Just like a magazine publisher, blog owners must have a content focus, a publishing process, and an understanding of how to “make money,” so to speak. (Businesses hope the blog will convert readers to buyers; libraries hope it will encourage more people to use library services, for example.)  

Behind every great blog is a strategy that defines all of the above. Whether you already have a blog or are just getting started, be sure to consider the following questions. They will help you refine your strategy so you can get as much out of your blog as you put into it. 

Do I need a blog? 

Not necessarily. If your target audiences don’t read blogs regularly, then blogging may be a low-priority tactic. 

But there are other advantages of regular blogging that make it worth considering: 

  • Google favors frequently updated websites. If your blog lives on your website, a steady stream of blog posts will help you rank higher in search results.   
  • Each time you publish new content and share it in social media, you are driving more traffic back to your website.  
  • A blog keeps your community informed and helps you build connections with target audiences. 

How will writing a blog help my library? 

Before you write your first post, decide what it should achieve for your library.  Are you trying to create awareness among a specific audience? Build your email list? Keep the community updated? Setting a clear goal will dictate design and content decisions and ensure consistency in execution. 

What do we want visitors to do after reading the blog? 

Think about what you want visitors to do after they finish reading a post. For example, blogs are a good way to drive web traffic to other parts of your website. A useful objective might be to increase page views of your job resources section. You can then tailor your content and internal linking strategies to achieve these results.  

How do I decide what to write about? 

Blog content depends upon the audience you’re trying to reach, and it should be very focused on what members of that audience want to read. For example, if keeping the community updated is a goal, your blog content should focus on the latest events, new additions to the collection, fundraising, and staff profiles. If you want to reach moms, your content should focus on story hours, tips for teaching kids to read, and the hottest new children’s books.  

How often should I blog? 

Frequently published blogs naturally get more traffic. But with limited time and resources, it may not be possible to commit to several posts a week. However, consistency is more important than quantity. Most blogs do very well by publishing once a week. Your audience will come to expect your post, and over time, you’ll build a loyal audience. 

Do I really need to hire a web developer to design my blog? 

Not necessarily, but it is a good idea to work with one to set it up properly. Still, there are plenty of free blogging platforms, including WordPress.com, SquareSpace, and Wix.com. This may be an easy way to get started, but keep in mind there are real SEO benefits to having your blog integrated into your library website. 

How do I know if my blog is successful? 

The simplest way to gauge success is by measuring the volume of web traffic to your blog. But that won’t necessarily tell you if you’ve met your marketing objective. Consider these metrics: an increase in community awareness, higher attendance at events, or more subscribers to your newsletter.  

In addition, Google Analytics provides insightful detail about readership, including number of views, how much time readers spend on the blog, and if they visit any registration pages after reading your posts. If you’re unfamiliar with Google Analytics, you can take the free Beginners Course at Google Analytics Academy to learn more. 

 

Working through the answers to each of the questions above will help you build a solid foundation and blogging strategy, before you ever write a word.