1. Learn about social media. First and foremost, it is critical that library staff participate in and understand social media by learning about it firsthand. Efforts like the Learning 2.0 program.
YouTube, del.icio.us, Flickr, digg, MySpace, and Technorati are examples of new engines that you need to understand in order to effectively use them to reach your markets.
2. Create a Web 2.0 marketing plan. Web 2.0 marketing efforts can pop up organically and some may already be happening at your library. It is useful to step back and think strategically about where and how you’re going to commit your marketing resources online. Tap into the creativity of your staff and users to create a social media marketing plan. Look at your marketing, customer service, and Web site for natural opportunities and synergies for social media marketing.
Open your mind to radical new ideas that fit the nature of social media. For instance, let your audience create content on your site and pass it along. Try a photo captioner service where they (or you) can submit local photos, add captions, and then share links or send the new photo as a postcard to their friends. Or invite your passionate users to create promotional videos about your library, then use them on your local TV channels and post them online everywhere.
3. Participate! Join the conversation. Social media applications are two-way streets (as opposed to the old one-way messages of standard promotion). There are lots of ways to join in. You can add social tools and services (such as Weblogs, wikis, tagging, video blogs, etc.) to your library Web sites. Enable comments on blogs and allow users to contribute to wikis.
Instead of waiting for our audiences to come to our Web sites or blogs, we can join the conversation wherever it is—on users’ blogs, Web forums, MySpace, course Web sites, team rooms, wikis, etc. (Always respect the norms or conventions for communicating in a particular social medium.)
Discover where your target audiences hang out online and join them. Create a MySpace or Facebook profile for your library like Topeka and Shawnee County (Kan.) Public Library has. (It boasts 1,135 friends!) Build a profile and offer content and services that attract links, contacts, and friends. If your users spend time on Wikipedia, add or improve your library’s entry.
4. Be remarkable. Have something interesting to offer your viewers that they can use, bookmark, and share on- or offline. Social media is a form of viral marketing. Interesting ideas and content get passed along rapidly. Make sure that adding fresh content is a priority whether it’s a new booklist, podcast of an author reading, quirky facts about your community, or a background piece on an upcoming city or organization event.
5. Help your library content travel. Encourage visitors to bookmark and tag your content with a click of a button by posting bookmark buttons on your site. (See samples below.) This can actually be a serious technical challenge for some library sites. It’s important to choose the right content management software so that your Web pages have permanent URLs. Some library search results pages cannot be bookmarked easily; some not at all.
Allow users to repost booklists, book reviews, photos, podcasts, or videos on their own sites.
Creating widgets and toolbars can help keep your library information wherever the users are. John Blyberg developed Go-Go-Google Gadget, which patrons can add to their personal Web pages. Below you can see some downloadable library toolbars.
Post your content on sites like Flickr and YouTube where it’s easy for users to find and share it.
Syndicate everything you can that your audience will find useful. Slice and dice your content for dozens of specialized audiences. Spread the word about what your library has. Make newsfeeds for new materials such as books, DVDs, talking books, and video feeds. Create newsfeeds for your blogs,
blog comments, popular pages, and books just returned. Several libraries have created lists of new books by topic.
6. Be part of the multimedia wave. With more than 100 million video downloads per day, YouTube is too big a marketing opportunity to overlook. Create short videos and post them to YouTube and other video-sharing sites.
Look at creating podcasts. Programs that you’re already doing (story times, book discussions, guest speakers) often lend themselves to being recorded as podcasts. Be sure to set up newsfeeds for releases of audio and video content so your audience can opt in and be notified of new releases.
7. Monitor engagement and learn as you go. Evaluating social media marketing is different than just counting Web site usage or circulation numbers. You want to measure how well your library is doing at engaging the public via social media. And you should measure both the amount and the intensity of the engagement.
Here are some examples of what you need to monitor: How many blog readers do you have? How many comments are posted by how many different visitors? How many people mention your library on their blogs, and how often? Are search engine results predominantly positive or negative? Is your content bookmarked in social bookmarking sites? How many friends and contacts do you have on your profile in social networking sites? How many comments or scrapbook entries are you receiving? How many visitors contribute content to your site (videos, photos, documents, wiki entries)?
Think Creatively, Then Make Good Choices
These are just a few strategies to kick-start your thinking about marketing in a Web 2.0 world. There are a lot of ideas for social media marketing, and the great news for librarians is that they’re usually easy and inexpensive to carry out. The difficulty with Web 2.0 marketing won’t be a lack of strategies and good ideas, but rather choosing which ones to do first.
Marketing this way is fun and creative, and when it really works it can create a big bang. Social media marketing offers you the opportunity to engage your community in new ways and to turn strangers into fans. Fans are your online salespeople who promote your library and its services. If your fans love you and your services, they’ll spread the word.
The key to getting some of the social media airtime is having great, neat stuff that people want to share and discuss. Libraries have treasure troves of great stuff that people love to talk about. Let’s make it easy for our fans to spread the word.