To better understand the steps in creating a social media strategy in libraries, we’ve asked Gregg Dodd to talk about his work as Director of Marketing at Columbus Metropolitan Library in the US. He gives us insights on how to use social media to attract users to libraries.
Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) serves the residents of Franklin County in Ohio with 23 locations. The library currently serves 627,000 card holders. CML is well known for signature services and programs like Homework Help, Reading Buddies, Summer Reading Club and Ready for Kindergarten.
Columbus Metropolitan Library Strategic Plan
Columbus Metropolitan Library Strategic Plan
The investments and desired outcomes are defined by the needs in the communities the library serves. The library’s work in its digital channels is driven by the same three strategies.
CML’s Digital Strategy
It is a key investment in the “My Library” strategy to create the next generation library that works for its users.
CML uses multiple digital channels, including social media, to tell the library’s story and drive its strategies. CML’s marketing efforts are centralized through a single department. The CML Marketing Department is responsible for the library’s Digital Strategy. The tactics, goals and desired outcomes of the Digital Strategy are directly connected to the breadth of work of the organization.
When implementing this strategy, we asked ourselves what kind of image and organization we wanted to be. We did not want to segment the library’s brand we’ve worked hard to develop.
We have found this to be an effective strategy as we communicate with users, share marketing messages and position CML as an industry leader. Its effectiveness was evident in our most recent levy campaign and helped share a consistent message to our community.
We know that many library systems allow for separate Facebook pages or accounts for each of their locations. And subsequently, multiple administrators to manage content. CML believes that having multiple pages or accounts segments the library’s brand. We looked at several large brands such as Coke, Starbucks and McDonalds that do not have separate pages. This helped us make this strategic decision.
Managing the message through social media in the library industry can be a challenge, especially for large multi-location systems. Library staff, in general, consider themselves to be “social media savvy.” While library staff know the tools and technology, they sometimes lack the understanding of the organizational priorities and message, and what is trying to be accomplished through social media. This reiterates the importance of a centralized marketing strategy.
CML has more than 71,000 followers on its four social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. We share content of interest to our users daily – even during weekends and holidays. Social media algorithms change frequently which impacts how well our posts perform. We ensure maximum engagement, and awareness of our library, by including a large percentage of posts that have very little focus on our organization. We shift our tactics as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest shift their business practices.
Social media insights have been extremely helpful in guiding when we need to “pay to play” for a critical organizational story or message to reach more of our users. We budget accordingly, and data helps us determine our digital advertising budget.
Successful social media campaigns
One recent successful social media campaign used the hashtag #ReadToYourChildToday. The campaign reached more than 220,000 people through 10 social media posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We spent $2,800 in grant money boosting our posts on Facebook to reach more of CML’s followers as well as mothers ages 18-40 in Columbus. More than 13,500 people engaged with our posts by giving them a ‘thumbs up’, commenting, sharing or clicking to read more.
We also assess the viability of emerging social media channels. For example, we have experimented with Periscope to live stream a few CML events. We are also reviewing Snapchat to determine if it can be a valuable social media channel to raise our library awareness with our users.
Again, data tells us if a social media platform is effective in reaching our audiences but measuring true user engagement is still a challenge, one that many libraries face. CML allocates resources to this goal, and seek out other marketers in varied industries to help us navigate the social media landscape.
Social media can’t be the only marketing channel executed; it must work with the library’s existing marketing channels in order to have the most impact.
Hope you’ve enjoyed Gregg Dodd’s insights on how to create an online presence! To sum up, the social media platform is one of the most important nowadays where all users are online and looking for information. But creating an online strategy is critical when promoting your library to the community! Find out what your community needs, define your image and create a strategic focus. You can read more about the Columbus Metropolitan Library strategic plan here.
What great strategies are you using to promote your library to the community and how are you implementing them? Let us know in the comments.
If you enjoyed the read, let your network know. Help them get new ideas on how to use social media to attract users to libraries, too! We’ll be back next week with another interesting article from the library world! Until then, you can find Princh on Facebook and Twitter.