LJ's Bubble Room blogger identifies 13 cultural shifts that libraries can turn into opportunities to reach patrons
By Alison Circle -- Library Journal, 10/1/2009
Five years ago, when I first came to Libraryland, I felt a strong, wary, and mistrustful vibe attached to marketing. It was perceived as irrelevant, a flash in the pan, without intrinsic value. Libraries had managed long enough without marketing, thank you very much, and things are fine the way they are.
Since then, however, I've sensed a shift, a curiosity around the edges as libraries have awakened to the sea change in our culture regarding information and technology and the expansion of our global reach. Even the most skeptical among us are starting to see that marketing can help libraries compound their relevance and add new value.
One bad habit in Libraryland is that too often we look exclusively at libraries for ideas and trends. For example, when redesigning web sites, we look at other libraries, not trendsetting retailers or innovative nonprofits. We're guilty of a little too much me-too-ism. As a marketing professional, I see trends everywhere, ideas ripe for libraries to pluck and make their own in order to demonstrate that we are still here and better than ever. All I see is opportunity.
In no particular order, here is a baker's dozen of trends I'm watching.
How many times have your friends (or you!) scoffed at Twitter and said something like, “I just don't care that much about the stupid details of other people's lives.” Guess what? I don't either, but pay attention to Twitter. Here's why:
You can speak directly to your customers. Tell them what you want them to know about you.
Instant polling, Twitter provides a free and immediate ability to find out what your customers think about decisions you make as an organization.
Loyalty, If people are interested enough in your brand personality to follow the library on Twitter, these are your über-advocates, and they are your new best friends.
Astonishingly, in the six months between January and June 2009, the Dell Computers Outlet earned $1 million in sales from customers who came to the site only from Twitter. During Ohio's recent budget debacle that slashed state funding for libraries, Twitter functioned as the engine driving the public to voice outrage and opposition. Word on the budget hit the Twitter world even before libraries had a chance to formulate a coordinated response.
2. Value. Value. Value
Move over “location.” The optimal word today is value. Value used to be a code word for the skanky remainder bin of slightly damaged products at the outlet store. Today, sure, everyone is looking for a good deal. But businesses and organizations are turning key information and knowledge into actions that generate an enhanced customer relationship.
Historically, libraries understood their value proposition clearly: books (information and knowledge). But today, that is not enough.