The ability to syndicate media and information, as well as involve people socially, make Web 2.0 tools perfect for marketing library events or services. More and more libraries are taking advantage of these cheap and easy options for connecting with patrons. Here are a few ideas for how to use Web 2.0 tools in your library.
Some of the best marketing strategies may be the most simple. Many libraries create newsletters to advertise upcoming events. These work well if you can convince your patrons to actually read them, parsing out the announcement for that book reading they have been eagerly anticipating. But what may work better for some library users is the ability to subscribe to an RSS feed of these announcements. Events are then fed to patrons through an RSS reader (like Google Reader) as they are scheduled. A library can even set up separate RSS feeds for different types of events—for example, a feed for children’s storytime, another for adult literacy classes, and another for upcoming exhibitions.
Blogs are another easy option for communicating library news and services. Blogs can also be used to advertise collections in the library that may otherwise go unnoticed. The San Francisco Public Library has a variety of blogs geared towards specific branches or departments, highlighting the best aspects of their collections. The New York Public Library recently consolidated all of their department blogs to a main page, Blogging@NYPL. If a reader would rather read the posts from a specific writer, however, they are able to subscribe via RSS to that writer’s posts.
One of the best aspects of blogging is the ability to connect with the public. Jill Stover, in her article, “What’s Marketing Got to Do with it?”, points to the Hennepin County Library as an excellent example of libraries using blogs to discuss new initiatives in the library (2007). The library recently posted information on the merger of the Hennepin County Library catalog with that of the former Minneapolis Public Library. Library users were able to comment or ask questions concerning how the merger would affect them. Responses by librarians to these questions ended up serving a dual purpose—they answered the patron’s question while leaving a public record of that answer, allowing answers to be visible to anyone else who may have a similar question.
But as Stover warns, it’s not enough for a library to simply write a blog. They must also invest time and effort reading and responding to other blogs–especially when these blogs are discussing your library. She encourages librarians to “do your own market research by searching for mentions of your library, librarians in general, or topics important to your patron base. You may be surprised by the contexts in which discussions about libraries take place and you’ll also learn a great deal about the lives of your patrons and their perceptions of libraries” (2007). Commenting on other blogs also allows librarians to clarify information about the library or point users towards services they may not have previously been aware of.
Libraries have been using Flickr for some time to post public photos of library programs, allowing the community to share in the library experience. A number of great ideas for how to use Flickr can be found in P.F. Anderson’s article, “31 Flavors–Things to do with Flickr in Libraries” (2007). Some ideas from the article include: creating a library photo tour, embedding photos from Flickr in the library website as a slideshow, and highlighting photos and items from rare collections (Anderson, 2007). The Library of Congress has created “The Commons” on Flickr to share many of their images with the public. Other libraries and museums have partnered with them in this venture and are creating a vibrant photo collection online as well as an example of the breadth of library collections.
Some libraries and library groups have found other creative ways to use Flickr, inviting the community to collaborate on photologs or projects. One example is Library 101, the collaborative project between Michael Porter, David Lee King, and the library community to create a music video utilizing user-generated pictures involving the numbers 1 and 0. As of today, over 500 pictures have been submitted for the project. While most of the participants seem to be fellow librarians, a collaborative project such as this could be used in a public library setting to help build community among library patrons.
Gaming is commonly seen as a way to get teens interested and involved in the library, but they have also started being used with seniors to promote activity and interaction. Dale Lipschultz in, “Gaming@Your Library”, discussed an initiative at the Old Bridge Public Library to match up teen mentors with older adults, forging connections between the two groups while simultaneously teaching leadership skills to teens as they lead these older adults through various games. By channeling this interest in gaming towards other aspects of the library (perhaps by supplying books or magazines with gaming references), libraries can capitalize on the increase in traffic that gaming brings in.
Libraries are increasingly finding themselves in the role of video producer. These videos are often either informative, showing off the various features of the library, or collaborative, involving library patrons (young and old) in their creation. More often of late, these videos can be hugely entertaining. I recently stumbled upon two creative examples, using video to announce upcoming events and/or library services. The first, from the Collingswood Public Library, uses a silent movie theme to announce a fun run benefiting a library teen space.
The second video is from the Orange County Public Library. In this video, G.I. Joe figurines are used as spokespeople, discussing the benefits of the library’s iPhone interface. It is informative while showing off the library’s sense of humor and targets the younger demographic that is most likely to interact with the library using new technology.
But it is not enough to just create a video and stick it up on the library website, according to Aaron Schmidt and Sarah Houghton-Jan in their article, “How to Drive Traffic to Your Website” (2008). They suggest that libraries take advantage of free online video hosting services such as YouTube and Blip.tv. Both of the videos shown here can also be found on YouTube. The Orange County Public Library has even set up their own YouTube page, allowing library patrons to easily locate all of their videos.
Finally, Twitter and Facebook are a free and easy ways to broadcast important library information. The Missouri River Regional Library is currently using an application called Twitterfeed to pull previously published information from their Flickr pages, blog, press releases, and events pages and publish them again on their Twitter account (n.a, 2007). Libraries with Facebook accounts can advertise upcoming events, photos, and services to fans, showing up in individual’s news feed.
These are but a few ways libraries can leverage the power of Web 2.0 to reach out and connect with their patrons. Most of these services are quick, easy, and often free. In a time of tight budgets, libraries need to utilize these cheap but effective marketing strategies.
Anderson, P.F. (2007). 31 Flavors–things to do with Flickr in libraries. Webjunction. Retrieved August 1, 2009 from http://www.webjunction.org/marketing/articles/content/450126?_OCLC_ARTICLE%20%20%20%20S_getContentFromWJ=true
Lipschultz, D. (2009). Gaming @ Your Library. American Libraries, v. 40 (1/2), 40-3. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.
n.a. (2007). Twitter and the Missouri River Regional Library. Webjunction. Retrieved August 1, 2009 from http://www.webjunction.org/marketing/articles/content/449819?_OCLC_ARTICLE%20%20%20%20S_getContentFromWJ=true
Schmidt, A. & Houghton-Jan, S. (2008). How to drive traffic to your website. Information Today. Retrieved August 1, 2009 from http://www.infotoday.com/mls/nov08/Schmidt_Houghton-Jan.shtml.
Stover, J. (2007). What’s marketing got to do with it?. Webjunction. Retrieved August 1, 2009 from http://www.webjunction.org/marketing/articles/content/444514?_OCLC_ARTICLE%20%20%20%20S_getContentFromWJ=true.