Welcome to Part Two of our three-part series about advertising your library programs. In Part One, we talked about posters: where to put them and how to use them. Today, we're going to talk about a different kind of advertising: the wide world of media and the even wider world of social media.
Ah, the media: newspapers have been the place people go for information for over a century, and though many papers are now read mostly, if not entirely, online, this doesn't mean that they're gone. Try...
- Online newspapers - Have you seen patch.com? They are a large online news resource that covers communities across the United States. In addition to posting their own content, users (that is, us!) can submit our own news, press releases, stories, photos, and events to be posted on their website. Take a look!
- Community Calendars - Many local papers (town-wide, county-wide, or larger) have a calendar of local events. Make sure you get the contact information for the calendar and you can email over the big attractions as they come up.
- News articles - Write up a press release where you justify how your event is The Big Thing in town, and you could get a full story in the paper. Many papers will often print photos, too! How? Well, that's an article in itself, but the best way I've found is to highlight local people: Write about how a local fireman is taking time from his busy schedule to read to children. Write about how the Teen Advisory Board planned this program, for teens and by teens. Write about how the little old lady teaching flower arranging next week has been doing this for fifty years and is sharing her life's work with YOU, the reader, HERE! For FREE! Including photos is also a good way to get attention. Papers will sometimes print a photo with a caption, even when they don't have room for an article.
- News interviews - If something really exciting is going on, some local news stations will send a reporter to talk to you about it. I got onto public access news when we got a turtle for the Children's Room. The local station at my last library always sent a film crew for their Live @ Lawrence Library music programs. Photographers will often come for performers or large events, too. Granted, these are published after the fact, but it brings attention to what your library has to offer, and that is never a bad thing.
- Newsletters - Don't underestimate the power of the written word! My library currently writes a quarterly newsletter that highlights events for all age groups and includes calendars of events, articles written by staff, and book recommendations. These can be brought to local businesses and to town events (see Part One for ideas of where to leave fliers and newsletters!) and be offered at or near your circulation desk for patrons to take.
- Event Calendars - In addition to our online event calendars, I've found it's also incredibly helpful to have monthly event calendars available for patrons to take with them. In the Children's Department (which is my domain), we design them so that one side is a monthly calendar with events listed on each day, and the reverse has a brief description of what each program is. Despite the fact that everyone seems to be online these days, I start getting requests weeks before the new month has started. I've even had families who have told me that they wait until they get the new calendar before planning family events. (I can't tell you how good that feels!)
- The Basics: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. - Sharing information on your own page is good (especially with pictures!), but it's an even better idea to make sure you follow local groups, schools, clubs, etc. online, and send them your information. If you ask nicely, they may share it! This works especially well if they have a presence on Twitter, where you can talk as much as you like (as opposed to Facebook, where you don't want to post too often, lest you overwhelm the reader). Be sure to check your favorite social media outlets for local parent groups, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the like.
- Online Newsletters - There are several ways to send out online newsletters, including MailChimp and Constant Contact. I am not an expert in these fields, but that's okay, because companies that work with mass mailings are experts, and they make things as easy as possible for the librarian-on-the-go. One of the many perks to using a program to mass-mail is the ability to link online. If you write book reviews, you can link the book right to your catalog so that interested parties can immediately put the book on hold (no lost little slips of paper!). Instead of asking patrons to log on and "like" you on social media, you can link right there and they can do it right away! Another upside is the meta-data. How many times is the email opened? Which links are clicked on most often? They will tell you. From this information, you can extrapolate from your patron-base what it is they really like. Lots of book links clicked? You may want to write more reviews. Lots of clicks on the children's programs? Perhaps that department needs its own newsletter. It's all in the data.
- Facebook Events - We have talked a lot about the use of Facebook before, and I'm sure we will again, but have we mentioned how much we like the new Facebook Events feature? Rather than posting one photo to say that a program is coming up, try creating an official Event for it. It still pops up on your wall as soon as you post it, but it will also be available under the "Events" tab on your page, and will be listed as an Upcoming Event for people who say they are interested. People can also subscribe to your events, so you're sure that everyone who wants to will see them, instead of relying on whatever the Facebook algorithm says is okay to show.
- Facebook Ads - I'm all about free, but Facebook Ads give you a huge bang for your buck. For a couple dollars, you can have your information show up as an ad on local people's pages, which will drastically expand your reach. By all accounts I've heard, it is worth the money for your larger events.
OverallIn closing: don't underestimate the power of the media. Expand your presence in print and online, and watch your program attendance grow! Last time, we talked about posters and fliers. In Part 3, we will be discussing some of the more unusual ways to promote your programs. (Silliness - my favorite!)
Did we miss any media angles? Please let us know here or on our Facebook page or Twitter feed.
Don't Forget to Check Out:Part One: Posters, Flyers, and Where to Hang Them
Part Three: Unique Advertising Ideas