Archive for the ‘marketing’ Tag

Everything she said

If I had just waited a day before writing my marketing post, I could have simply pointed to this fantastic post by Laura over at Laura’s Dark Archive. Laura was one of the people who ran the Oxford 23 Things programme earlier this year and here she is reporting about the 23 Things summer camp with an excellent summary of everything to think about in terms of a social media strategy. Read it!

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Marketing

I have been putting off writing about marketing (Thing 19) for a number of reasons. I have read some great posts on the topic over on other cam23 blogs and wanted to digest and maybe even respond to some of that. It’s a huge topic and I still feel that there is just too much to say, especially when I am aware that I’m falling behind and really, really want to complete all 23 Things in time for that voucher. The specific requirement on the Thing 19 instructions to blog “specifically about one tool or strategy you are going to adopt to promote your service as a result of your participation in Cam23” makes this a difficult topic for someone like me, who is not in a position to make decisions about the use of social media for marketing in my place of work. There are many other people in the same situation, who have dealt with it in a variety of ways – Librarianintraining takes the opportunity to play “fantasy librarian” (and request a larger office), Birdbrain points out that “surely this kind of thing has to go through SMT” (bit of a UL in-joke, but very funny and almost certainly true).

The issue of marketing raises some related questions that I do also want to look at, even though they aren’t directly answering the question posed in the Thing 19 instructions.

The marketing opportunities offered by social media

Social media marketing cartoon

Lots of people have already blogged about this very well. I think that social media do offer new avenues for marketing, especially if you see communication and visibility as important part of how a library markets itself to potential users. A Facebook page (setting aside my personal dislike), a Twitter account, a blog that users can subscribe to via rss feeds, audio podcasts – these are all communication methods that allow libraries to be more visible and to communicate in various media and in a number of online “locations” with users.

There is, as always, an issue of time as many have already pointed out. Many of the social media tools we’ve been looking at require a responsiveness and even an immediacy that does cost in terms of staff time and effort, even if the tool itself is free. A Twitter account is no good if nobody answers the questions that it inevitably will attract. I have found myself that it’s much easier and therefore more appealing to tweet a question to an institution than it is to track down an email address or phone number to ask that same question. Same goes for a Facebook page. If a library sets this up they need to be prepared to devote the staff time and energy in maintaining the content and responding to communication (not just using these as means to “push” publicity messages out to people).

This has all been covered in more detail and with prettier pictures. At the UL, there are already several initiatives on marketing the library using social media (blogs, rss feeds, videos, twitter). So, rather than repeat the same again (with less pretty pictures) or play fantasy librarian about “what I would do if I were in charge”, I’m going to say some other things that I want to say when thinking about marketing, social media and libraries.

Marketing the librarian rather than the library

One aspect of social media is an element of personalisation. Of moving things from a remote, impersonal institutional level (the Library website, the catalogue) to a more personal, immediate, conversational level (the Library twitter account is often a single person, the ability of blogs/Facebook to allow comments, interaction, response, images). I think it’s a good opportunity to think of marketing the librarian (or rather all members of library staff) as well as the library with its resources, databases, facilities, training. It’s the chance to become more visible, engage with people and demonstrate the added value that library staff can offer that way.

Every encounter, training session, question at a reference desk, query to a passing member of staff in the corridor is in essence a marketing opportunity. What social media does is moves this chance encounter, this passing conversation, friendly interaction outside of the library walls and into other arenas. Be where the users are, as everyone says. It’s what Miss Crail already recognised with her marvellous poster (I had to find a way to reproduce it here, I very much hope she doesn’t mind):

Miss Crail's, Your Librarian, Your Friend

courtesy of the marvellous Miss Crail

I’m going to go a step further too. In a very large library like the UL, there is also an issue of internal marketing. Marketing to the rest of the 300+ members of staff who you are and what your work contributes to the library, what services you can offer in your particular role to the rest of the staff. This is much easier if you’re in a very senior position or in a very public-facing position, where you are carrying out training or inductions. It’s harder for other members of staff whose work is less visible (that includes a huge number of people in the UL, it has to be said). While taking part in 23 Things, I’m starting to see the opportunities social media can offer for this internal marketing and communication both within the library and within the wider Cambridge library system. It would have been almost impossible for the various people who have commented on Andy’s “blog post that wouldn’t die” over on Libreaction (it’s long but worth a read if you haven’t already seen it) to have had that discussion in any other media, there’s no email list or event that would allow it (maybe in a discussion at the libraries@cambridge conference but then there’d be people who couldn’t make it, or who were a bit intimidated about speaking up in person at a large event… you see what I mean).

Social media should be explored as a means of offering a personal presence for librarians, for marketing to the rest of the staff in their library (if it’s a large institution or if, like me, you work in a “backroom” kind of function), for marketing to other libraries and library staff in Cambridge and – just as importantly – for marketing the librarian (and thus the library) within the University  to academics and students, as a way of demonstrating what value librarians can add, by showing how librarians can contribute to research and teaching. A blog, a twitter account, whatever it takes.

Since I (reluctantly) joined Twitter, I’ve already answered several cataloguing questions of varying degrees of obscurity and also used it as a (surprising) forum for discussion on RDA cataloguing rules. I’ve been able to use the new contacts and communication methods to point people in the right direction if I can’t answer a question. This is something it can be very hard to do as a cataloguer. It’s good to be “visible” in this way and a huge number of benefits can come of it, both personally, professionally and for the wider library community. It gets us out of the “echo chamber” if we can do it right (or at least get cataloguers out of our own particular version of it, but that’s an idea for another time). It reminds me of the whole concept of “embedded librarians” which works well for subject librarians but not for cataloguing staff – social media offers the opportunity to try to become more “embedded” whenever possible.

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