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Magazines > Marketing Library Services > March/April 2007

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MLS - Marketing Library Services
Vol. 21 No. 2 — Mar./Apr. 2007
Cover Story

Seven Strategies for Marketing in a Web 2.0 World
By Darlene Fichter

When you start to talk about marketing library products and services, the four P’s of marketing come to mind: product, pricing, promotion, and placement. Traditional marketing plans identified the product or service features that would satisfy the wants and needs of consumers, as well as the right price, the method of promotion, and the merchandizing or distribution. Many librarians focus their marketing energy and time around promotional activities including advertising, special events, publicity, and brand awareness. But in today’s world, marketing managers need to have Web 2.0 strategies and techniques as part of their library marketing plans.

Traditional marketing is a controlled process where messages are developed, crafted, and delivered by a PR person. With Web 2.0, this pyramid-of-influence model is being inverted online by peer-to-peer communication. Every employee is a trusted spokesperson about the library in the eyes of the customer. In fact, information from peers is highly trusted. Edelman’s Trust Barometer study found that for the first time in the U.S., trust in “a person like me” increased from 20 percent in 2003 to 68 percent today.1 Studies by Forrester, Intelliseek, and Compete also show similar trends with more than 50 percent of consumers turning to their peers and the information that they’re creating online to form their opinions.

Web 2.0 technologies are a disruptive force that’s changing the way that messages about products and brands are delivered and received. The rise of social media powered by Web 2.0 is a dramatic change for marketing just as the printing press was for communications. Wikipedia defines social media as “the online tools and platforms that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other.”

In Web 1.0 world, we viewed Internet marketing just like other marketing channels. We could design a marketing plan, target our audience, and choose appropriate vehicles to get our message out: print ads, radio and TV spots, banners, posters, newsletters, direct mail. Internet banner ads, text ads, and online press kits were additional channels. With Web 2.0, we need to consider not only the new means of reaching our online audience but also the new nature of the social Web. Many librarians have started Weblogs and others are dabbling with social media tools such as wikis, podcasts, videocasting, photo sharing sites, social bookmarking, and so on. Some librarians are creating profiles in MySpace and Facebook, and are appearing in virtual worlds like Second Life.

Traditional marketing channels, by their very nature, were highly controlled, one-way messages—created by the library and directed at the consumer. With Web 2.0, you don’t control the message—everyone can create and shape the message. The nature of social media is profoundly different from standard channels such as print, radio, and TV. Web 2.0 channels might be better seen as marketing “engines” rather than “channels”—“engines” can energize and add power to your message and spread it in a viral fashion. “Word-of-mouth” marketing is amplified online where it’s easy to pass on a message to hundreds of contacts and friends around the world in a fraction of a second.

Online: We Can’t Control It but Can Affect It

So what should a marketer do in an era where customers freely discuss your products and services? People post compliments and complaints that can be discovered by thousands of Internet users. Peers listen to and trust these reviews. If you’re in charge of marketing for your library, this should be something that keeps you up at night as you ponder the best approaches to developing and protecting your library’s brand online. You can measure your library’s brand and credibility by reviewing your search results, which are increasingly being populated from information circulated and reposted by consumers. What is the “street value” of your library online?

One of the best ways to shepherd your brand online is to actively listen to and participate in the conversations about your library. You can’t control the message, but you can improve the conversation about your brand online. By actively listening you can learn what your customers care about and get smarter about designing and delivering services that delight your audience.

Seven Ways to Market via Web 2.0

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 ( developed by Helene Blowers for the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County are great ways to start to explore social software. Fundamentally, marketing in a Web 2.0 world requires us to think in both new and old ways at the same time.

YouTube,, 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.

Darlene Fichter is head of the Indigenous Studies Portal at the University of Saskatchewan Library in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. She has a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and an M.L.S. from the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Fichter frequently speaks on the topics of usability, social software, and emerging technologies. Her Web page is at and her email address is


1.“‘A Person Like Me’ Now Most Credible Spokesperson For Companies; Trust In Employees Significantly Higher Than In CEOs, Edelman Trust Barometer Finds,”
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