Archives for Marketing:
April 23rd, 2009 Brian Herzog
I was reminded recently that situations are not always what they appear.
This photo is one of my favorite on the internet - it looks confused and incomprehensible at first, but then, from the right point of view, it takes on perfect and surprising clarity.
This shift is sort of the point that Seth
Rogin Godin is makes in the video below (recently on BoingBoing). Something might start out with the best of intentions, but in reality comes out horribly broken. This can happen for many reasons, but the end result is the same: it is no good.
It's difficult to play out potential scenarios beforehand, and trying to anticipate every possibility can paralyze something before it even begins. But it's worth some effort, and it's also important to build in flexibility and allow for mid-stream course corrections.
Of course, that's not always possible. When starting something new, try to work out who the users will be, and what their needs are, and then incorporate that into the available resources. And if things aren't working, start to stray, or just plain break, take some time to get input, reassess, and try to fix it. But don't be afraid to scrap the whole thing and start over - try something, learn from it, and try something else.
April 14th, 2009 Brian Herzog
Twitter has been around for a long time, so all the press it has gotten recently surprised me. Personally, I never really had much interest in it, so I just more or less ignored it.
Until a few months ago, that is, when I found a way to use it for the library.
The snowfall and storms this winter seemed particularly bad, and we had quite a few early closings or delayed openings. Whenever this happens, one of the ways we get the message out is to announce the change in hours prominently on our homepage.
However, it's the library director who makes the decision to close the library, but she had no easy way to update the homepage from home. She hasn't coded in html for years, and installing an editor and ftp program - and then her having to remember how to do everything - seemed like an unnecessary barrier. So, she asked me to find an easier way for her to update the homepage.
Ah-ha, I thought - I know libraries are displaying their Twitter feeds on their homepage, so why can't we?
I signed up for a Twitter account, learned how to customize the feed display, and added it to the library's homepage. I set the feed to only display one message, and after some trial and error figured out how to send a blank message (use the html code ). That way, after the storm passes, we could send a blank message to remove the announcement from the homepage.
Then, to make it as easy as possible for my director to update from home, I also created a Twittermail account. Using Twittermail, all she needs to do is send an email message to our account, and whatever she types into the subject line with then display on our website (centered on the very top of the page). Neat.
When I demo'ed it for her, it worked like a charm, and she was very happy. But of course, we haven't had a snowstorm since.
And see, that's the problem - I created this Twitter feed for a very specific purpose, and we haven't had much of a need for it yet. However, since I created it, seven people have started following the library on Twitter.
We don't promote it, so how'd they find it? They must have gone looking. If our patrons are expecting us to be on Twitter, and voluntarily pay attention to us, doesn't it make sense that this is a tool we should be using? To me, it does.
So, in addition to storm closings, I've lately been trying to think of other "announcements" that deserve top billing on the library's homepage - just so I don't feel guilty about these Twitter followers not getting their library tweets.
This is very much a case of "if you build it, they will come." Now I need to live up to the implied second half of that saying, "when they come, make sure it's worth their while."
April 7th, 2009 Brian Herzog
The Mass.gov website has a lot of great information, and being a librarian in Massachusetts, I use it all the time. However, one thing it does very poorly is URLs.
The powers that be at Mass.gov recently launched a new section of the website, devoted to the Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment Plan for the state's economy. What's the URL, you ask? This:
A recent promotional email introduced the site's resources, and listed the URL. My first thought was, wow, that pretty much guarantees it won't get used. Perhaps it's the Marketing degree in me, but if something doesn't have a catch name, or at least a moderately decipherable one, it automatically has less chance of succeeding.
I'm sure whatever CMS software the state uses is to blame for the ugly URLs, but they certainly have the power to do better. To wit: about a week later, a second email went out saying the new URL for the website was Mass.gov/recovery - perfect.
I use redirects on the library's website, and am glad that the state is too (and I'm sure it took more than my complaint email to do it).
But in addition to local redirects, URL shortening services like tinyURL.com, icanhaz.com and others can also help. Their popularity seems to have shot up with Twitter, but I use them in email instead of having monstrous URLs wrapping to multiple lines and thus not working. There are drawbacks to these services, but now that custom URLs are possible, I feel a little more comfortable using them with patrons.
It'd be great if all domains offered these short URL redirect services, and were limited just to that domain. That way, anyone could turn one of the standard Mass.gov long URL into a nice and clean Mass.gov-based useful URL, while at the same time not redirect a Mass.gov short URL to a porn site. I checked around and didn't see such software, but I'm going to keep looking.
Tags: domain, domains, icanhaz, libraries, Library, link, links, mass, mass.gov, public, short, shorteners, shortening, tinyurl, url, url shortener, urls
March 10th, 2009 Brian Herzog
I use a couple Google Alerts to try to keep on top of websites that mentioned the Chelmsford Library or just Chelmsford, MA in general.
I set these up in the hopes of connecting to people in the community, or people talking about Chelmsford. I thought if someone mentioned the town, a local event, or the library on their blog or website, I might be able to comment and contribute on behalf of the library (but it's also an interesting way to find out what's happening in town - example).
A recent alert led me to the website of the New England Real Estate Team where I saw, big as day right on the top of their website, a photo of the library. I was kind of surprised at first, but then I was happy that a realtor is using the library as a selling point for the town. It certainly is, and it's also a nice looking building.
I think this is great, and I wonder if it would be worth it to encourage other local businesses to use the library's image to promote their services or Chelmsford. It certainly wouldn't make sense for every business, but it's nice to know that at least one feels we're worth showing off.
Now they just need to link to our website, in addition to the local schools.
Tags: advertising, building, business, businesses, libraries, Library, local, Marketing, promote, promotion, public, realtor, realtors
November 4th, 2008 Brian Herzog
For the third year in a row, my library is conducting a One Book program. The way we choose the book is to have a committee narrow down all suggestions to three finalists, and then let townspeople vote (today, election day) to decide the winner.
The voting is done by visiting the schools and passing out ballots, and also by setting up tables at some of the actual polling places around town. We do this not only to get the townspeople to vote, but also to raise awareness of the program and the library.
This year, we're also doing online voting. We created a "ballot" on our website (more on this below), and also set up a "voting booth" just inside the the library's front door. We evaluated five different options for free online polls, and in the end decided to use PollDaddy (it's also what Elizabeth Thomsen recommends).
[Note: for the purposes of this post, I'm linking to example polls, not our real polls - I don't want our totals being thrown off, after all]
Review of Online Poll Options
I want to point out that all of these polling websites provided the code to embed the poll right in our website (an example of making the library website more interactive and interesting by providing "information in context").
Each poll also had pros and cons, and here's a quick rundown of what we liked and didn't like. Keep in mind that these preferences are based on our needs for running a voting project - for a different kind of poll, we'd have different criteria.
- Pro: control over layout (can add book covers or catalog links); prevents repeat voting
- Con: results loads in different page (includes ads)
- Pro: most visually-appealing
- Con: requires flash plug-in; interface slightly confusing; can't change look; links to other peoples' polls; does not prevent repeat voting
- Pro: control over layout (can add book covers and catalog links); prevents repeat voting
- Con: results loads in different page (includes ads)
- Pro: most features and options
- Con: have to create an account; too powerful for this simple application
- Pro: randomizes order; results shown on same page; prevents repeat voting; can add book covers
- Con: can't change layout after selection style; have to create an account
One Book Online Voting
So based on these criteria, we went with PollDaddy. The only major omission after I got everything set up was that there was nowhere to include summaries of the books (unless it was part of the book cover image). Because of this, each ballot had to be two columns, one with summaries and one with the voting. Not perfect, but acceptable.
Something else I liked about PollDaddy were all the options it offered, and we had to use them differently in this case. Although our website ballot and library voting booth ballot essentially look the same, I had to create different polls to run each. The reason for this is that we don't allow multiple votes on the website ballot, but since we're using the same computer for the library voting booth (shown here), we did need to allow multiple voting.
Other settings we're using for these polls are to randomize the answers, set a closing date of midnight tonight, turn off comments (un-2.0, I know, but comments are not needed in this case), and to embed the book covers to make checking the right radio button easier. I really like that the results are displayed on the same page as the ballot, so the patron is always within our website, and isn't exposed to someone else's advertisements.
So far, the polls have been open for about four hours, and the voting is going well. The library voting booth is definitely attracting attention. Not only am I looking forward to finding out which book won, but also how many votes we get through the website.
Tags: chelmsford, free, libraries, Library, One Book, online, poll, polls, public, vote, voting
April 24th, 2008 Brian Herzog
Now that April 15th has passed, I've started taking down my library's tax forms display, and all the signs in the library pointing to it.
I found the sign pictured here taped to the library's front door, which got me thinking about good and bad library signs. This is definitely a bad sign - questionable colors, second sign taped over top, and remnants of tape from when it was hung last year. I hadn't noticed this one before, which is what I get for using the staff entrance (we should all use the patron entrance more often to see what the public sees). I'm all for recycling, but we can definitely do better.
When it comes to signs, I think the fewer the better. Over the last two years, I have secretly been taking down signs in my library - no one has seemed to notice, and the library looks a lot cleaner.
I'm always interested in signs and marketing, so here are other examples of good and bad library signs - check out the Library Signage flickr group for more:
- Don't Touch Sign - not only overly-negative, but counter-productive
- No Cutting or Gluing - I guess the sign just supports a policy, so it's actually the policy I don't understand
- Don't Move Tables - I don't like how totally inflexible this one is; librarians don't always think of everything
- Turn Off Cell Phone! - way too negative! And emphatic!
- Cell Phones are Silent - I like the funny graphic, and that the words don't outlaw cell phones entirely, but I'm not a fan of the big red circle-slash, and in this case it sends a mixed message