It’s Tuesday night, and a dozen teenagers are congregating on the plaza in front of your public library. Inside, a swarm of 20-somethings wander around your art exhibit, staring at their phones. A month ago, this type of behavior would have seemed incredibly odd. But by now, we all know Pokémon GO is the hottest game of the summer.
Those laughing, joyous explorers? They’re searching for Pokémon. At your library.
The new mobile game partly trades on nostalgia. It’s an extension of the Pokémon franchise, whose video games, trading cards, and television series were beloved by the Millennial generation during their elementary and middle school days. Your library almost certainly has a copy of the comic book series.
The game design uses augmented reality, which is particularly engaging for players (also known as “trainers”). This technology overlays computer images on a real world environment. In Pokémon GO, images of Pokémon creatures, Poké Balls and other game items overlay real-life places – such as public libraries.
The game is essentially a scavenger hunt, where trainers search for creatures in public places, including landmarks, institutions, and outdoor features, such as lakes and parks. Using GPS technology, the game makers have turned these locations into treasure spots for trainers. By doing so, it encourages players to get outside, walk around, be more social and learn new things about their surroundings.
To get a sense of the scale of this phenomenon, the game topped the download charts within 24 hours of its release, and as of July 14, 26 million Americans were actively playing it. While these numbers alone are impressive, the engagement numbers are what’s eye-popping. Users spend 43 minutes playing each day, more time than they spend on WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat.
The discovery aspect makes it ideal for public library marketing. As trainers gather at your library to catch Pokémon, you can use the game to promote your services. The following five ideas are easy ways to help you attract and engage trainers.
1. Post a Sign Outside
What could be simpler and more effective? Let passersby know you’re a home for Pokémon and welcome gamers inside. But don’t stop there – use the opportunity to engage players further. Set up a Pokémon display inside, and greet trainers as they walk in the door. While they’re rediscovering the books, remind them about the free WiFi you offer and encourage them to sign up for summer reading or a library card.
2. Blog About It
In some places, Pokémon might be found next to specific art exhibits. In Bentonville, AK, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art used this opportunity to blog about it on their website. They posted photographs of the Pokémon near specific pieces of art.
This also creates an opportunity to discuss the work in more detail. If you have creatures guarding books or a piece of artwork, find a way share more about that particular item, even if you simply hang a poster with more information.
3. Promote on Social media
Be sure trainers know which Pokémon creatures and items they can find at your library. Promote this information across all of your social media, including Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and Facebook. Be sure to follow all of the Pokémon accounts, and share your updates using the hashtags: #PokemonGo and #GottaCatchEmAll.
— Brightwood Library (@BrightwoodPL) July 11, 2016
— High Plains Library (@MyHPLD) July 12, 2016
4. Place a Lure
One way to attract more players is to purchase a lure module within the game – they cost 100 PokeCoins (99 cents) for one lure or 680 coins for a pack of 8 modules. When placed at your library, a Lure will attract new Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes. Be sure to make the most of the lure, however, and plan a Pokémon party with some activities to engage them further.
5. Create Pokémon-Themed Activities
Find ways to extend the fun in your library. Create a related activity, such as a craft station where trainers can decorate Poké Balls or make Pokémon cards, as Sarah Bean Thompson writes on the ALA blog. She also created a passive window display where players could share the creatures they caught.
Of course, the first step is to download the game and become a trainer yourself. This will enable you to find out which creatures or items is hiding in or near your library and if it’s a Poké Stop or a Gym.
Then, you can promote your status as a treasure stop in one of the above ways. But beware – there’s a good chance you will become enthralled by playing the game too.