Thanks to my awesome intern Sydney, I now have transcripts of several of the podcasts I’ve been interviewed for. The transcript below is from the podcast Library Figures, and we talk about how to empower library staff and grow your social media impact.
Tyler Byrd: Cordelia, it’s going to be so great to have you on the show today. I’ve got to tell you, you came really highly recommended by several of our other podcast guests. So ever since I heard about you, I have been waiting to talk to you about marketing as it relates to libraries and your experience there. So, before we dive into all the juicy details and your thoughts on marketing, why don’t you give us a little intro to who you are?
Cordelia Anderson: Thanks for having me, Tyler.
I’ve been working in marketing and communications for about twenty years in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’ve spent a lot of that time working in libraries. I’ve also worked in education and tourism, but my heart is really with libraries. And so the second time I worked for Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, I spent about ten years building and growing our marketing and communications efforts.
I had a lot of opportunities to spend time with the library community nationally, do some speaking within the library industry and the PR and marketing industries, and got to know my peers around the country. So recently, I launched a consulting business doing work for libraries but also nonprofits, education, and other companies where I can really help them build and grow their marketing and communications efforts to meet their goals.
Tyler Byrd: That is super exciting. Yeah, a big undertaking, but you’ve got to be excited about that.
So, what do you think is the biggest opportunity that libraries have when it comes to marketing?
Cordelia Anderson: Well, I think one of our biggest opportunities really is customer engagement. Libraries have always been very focused on their communities, have always been very focused on their customers. But as we move into kind of a new era of marketing and communications, we really need to shift our mindset from promotion, which I think is a very common term in the library world, to engagement. And whereas promotion is kind of this one-way conversation, it’s this megaphone where you’re shouting out your message through various different channels, engagement is a two-way conversation. It really takes listening as much as you’re talking and learning about your customers, as opposed to pushing out a story through various channels.
I think libraries still have a lot of work to do to put in place the processes and the tools to really do that kind of listening so that they can really engage with their customers at a new level.
Tyler Byrd: I love that. And I think you’re absolutely right about that, and I see that all the time. I see it with social media. I also see it a lot with the website. I feel like library websites, they all too often are putting content on there and just trying to push out as much information as possible versus looking at it as an engagement point and really a digital branch. So, tell me, when you talk about tools and using tools for engagement, what kind of tools are you using?
Cordelia Anderson: There are so many tools, and they can range from super high tech to super high touch. So, on the high tech side, there are a lot of tools that libraries already have, and it’s just a matter of being able to take the time and create that strategic space to use them.
So, for example, website analytics. If you have Google Analytics, back to your example of putting everything on the homepage… If you go in and look at your analytics and see what people are actually clicking on, you will find that probably 80% of that content that you’ve crammed on your homepage is stagnant. That’s a form of listening because you’re paying attention to what people who visit your website are looking for.
If you listen to that, you can actually redesign that page, your homepage, to really emphasize the content that they’re looking for and de-emphasize or restructure the content that they’re not clicking on, or figure out why they’re not clicking on it. Maybe it’s not relevant. Maybe it’s relevant to you, but it’s not relevant to them. So, that’s an example of a more high-tech way.
A more high-touch way would be doing things like focus groups, surveys, where you’re actually directly engaging with the customers to find out how they feel, what they need, what problems are they looking for you to solve. And again, using that information to inform your marketing, to inform your website, and your offerings, too. You may be investing in a resource or a collection that people aren’t interested in, but there’s this whole other area of interest in your community, and you’re not meeting that need.
Tyler Byrd: That’s so true. I talk about with some of our staff all the time if libraries treated their branches like they treat their website, what would that look like? You would walk in the front door, and everything would be in the foyer.
And there would be nothing inside except for maybe some signs that say, “Hey, oh, that book you wanted, you got to go three blocks down the street to get it. And oh, if you don’t find it there, and you want to find maybe the eBook version of that, you got to go four blocks the other way to find it.” And so it’d just be totally overwhelming. But then there would be no one there to help you either, right? So, I love how you’re thinking about that. So, Google Analytics is a really great tool for that. Are there other tools that you’ve looked at for how to look at the content and what is engaging on a site and what’s not engaging?
Cordelia Anderson: Another example would be social media. There are a lot of great tools that are very affordable for monitoring your social media. Years ago, at Charlotte Mecklenburg, we implemented something that we called active listening. We didn’t invent that term, but that’s what we called it. Each of us would take turns, and on certain days, it was our day to closely monitor social media.
I don’t mean just passively waiting for someone to message us but actually reading what people are posting and almost anticipating what people are going to need before they even have to ask. If you see a conversation going on on social media saying, “Oh, I’m having trouble accessing this resource,” you can step in and really help. And then even up-sell people on even more resources.
That was one way that we were able to use a tool. In our case, we used Sprout Social to aggregate our social media, make it a little bit easier to monitor so that we could also do other things during the day. But social media is a really important place because, again, it’s not a channel. It’s not a one-way conversation. It’s a two-way.
Tyler Byrd: Yeah, and it’s definitely moving even more in that direction, when you look at. The Facebook bots and some of the things that they’re doing there. So, how do you do that though? I’m curious. You have Sprout Social in your case. But if I’m a library, and I want to start engaging my patrons a little bit better on social media and being proactive about that, is it that I just hire someone, and I have them sit down and stare at that Facebook page all day? Or is there a better way to go about it?
Cordelia Anderson: Yes. And I think with the proliferation of social media and of channels, we’re going to continually struggle with that, because we’re always adding, but we’re very rarely taking away.
I’ll give you kind of a silly example: snow days. When our library system would close for a snow day, it used to be we just had a phone recording we had to update. And then it was phone recording plus website. And then it was phone recording, plus website, plus news channel websites. Then we added social media. Then we added… And we just kept adding. So, then you’d have a snow day, and there’s like 20 different places where you have to communicate that you’re closed.
It’s the same way no matter what the message is. If you keep adding, then there’s always that sort of liability of if you miss one channel or you miss something coming through one place, that’s a lost opportunity, and it could even be a reputation risk.
Tyler Byrd: Yeah, it would be frustrating. It’s like calling your phone company and being on hold or transferred around and never getting the answer you want and then later being hung up on or not replied to. I see what you’re saying. Even social media… We had Myspace. And then we went to Twitter, and then Facebook, and then YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat. We’re constantly rolling out new channels and new sources. And it’s easy to get behind and get excited about trying something new. But fundamentally, you’ve really got to focus on your core.
Cordelia Anderson: Yeah, I think we got to the point where if we were going to add something, we needed a strong business case for adding that. And also to commit the resources of time and man hours to maintain that and do a really good job at it. And I still think that’s important.
I want to go back to your question about calling a company and getting transferred around. That still happens, too, in libraries. And that’s another thing that I think in our library world, we’re pushing out marketing messages saying one thing, but we don’t always have control as the marketers over what that customer experience is when they respond to our message.
I think that’s another area that libraries are really going to have to work on if we want to continue to evolve and grow in this new century. Because if you promise, “Hey, we’re welcoming to all,” and then somebody calls, and they get treated poorly or bounced around, they don’t feel welcomed. They don’t feel like they’re getting what they need. And they may just turn around and go to Google. And we don’t want that.
Tyler Byrd: So, that makes a ton of sense. And I totally agree with you. Going back to this idea of using it as an engagement point versus just a broadcasting tool, that has… You’ve come to that point, I have to imagine, because of experience that you’ve had and that you’ve seen some success there in actually engaging with the users and focusing on engagement. So, what are the successes that you’ve seen as you’ve changed and moved in that direction from a strategy standpoint?
Cordelia Anderson: Well, I think customization is a big piece of it. So, when I was at Charlotte Mecklenburg, we worked with Orange Boy, which is a platform that allows you to segment your audience based on what services they use and to put them into different clusters. And so we used the clusters to target people with messaging that was more relevant to them. And we found the more targeted the message, the higher the click rate, the higher the open rate without fail.
And that didn’t just include the clusters. We also used geographic data. So, people who live near a particular branch were much more likely to open an email that mentioned that branch in the subject line. And we found that both with email marketing and with social media marketing as well. So, if we did say a targeted Facebook boost based on peoples’ interests tied to a program or service that was related to those interests, we saw much higher engagement levels with that content than if it was more of a general ad or general e-blast.
Tyler Byrd: I was actually just talking to our last podcast guest about email marketing and Orange Boy and some of the things that they’re doing there. And so I think that’s a good add on for anyone who listened to that episode. And if you haven’t, go back and check it out. It was episode four. Very, very informative.
So, you’re looking at social media. People are interacting with your Facebook posts and engaging with those posts. Do you have any tips for librarians that are looking at this right now and saying, “Hey, what are some good ways to engage?” Is it times of day, or frequency, or ways to comment back, or the items that you give them? What would you tell them?
Cordelia Anderson: Well, I think if you’re really doing that listening, it will start to become clear to you. So, for example, we noticed that very simple posts would get really high levels of engagement. Of those was… I forget which staff member started it, but it was a post that said, “It’s Friday. What are you reading this weekend?” And that was it. And people loved it because we were asking them a question and letting them talk about themselves. And again, the audience is so used to being spoken to, they’re not used to being asked.
And so people who followed our library were really, really engaged and wanted to share what books they were reading. And the other people would get in on the thread and say, “Oh, I’m reading that, too. And I also recommend this other book.” And these are complete strangers, but now we’ve created a community on our Facebook page that wasn’t there before because we simply asked a question. And we never would have known that if we hadn’t paid attention to the engagement statistics the first few times we did that. So, that’s one really simple example.
Tyler Byrd: Okay. Yeah, so it almost becomes a resource for your patrons where they can go and get more information than just if those people weren’t there and interacting or more information than what just the staff is posting up there on the site essentially. When you’re looking at that in the past, how did you manage that from context of staffing? Was that just you? Was it the marketing team, three or four people? Was it all the branch managers? How many people did you have monitoring that social media on an ongoing basis and engaging with them?
Cordelia Anderson: I’ve talked to a lot of libraries, and there are many, many different ways to do this. Where we landed was a sort of mixture of centralized and decentralized.
I used to explain it like this – accountability and governance were centralized under the marketing department, but content creation was decentralized across a team of about 20 people that were employed in all different kinds of roles throughout the system. And that way, we were able to engage our staff. Because some of them were really brilliant in the social media sphere. They were great content creators or great curators of content.
And they were able to help us do a lot more than we would have been able to do on our own as the marketing department. But the monitoring side of things… We definitely juggled that between the three or four of us and really making sure we were still accountable that everything was working and part of the library’s voice and all of that. And it’s a push, pull. Because the more people you invite to the party, the more different types of content and things you’re going to get. But I always liked that variety. And I always felt it was a good balance.
Tyler Byrd: So, did you give them any kind of guiding principles or rules that they had to follow when you gave them access and asked them to start engaging and posting?
Cordelia Anderson: Yes. And I will just add, this took years. Whenever I talk about this kind of thing, I don’t want to create exhaustion for the people who are listening like, “I’ve got to do all this?!?!” It takes time. And it’s okay that it takes time. So, this took several years. But we started with a policy. And one of my staff members, I’ll never forget, she said to me, “This looks like a big list of NO. We need to give them the big list of YES, too.” You need the policy. But on top of that, let’s give them the “yes list” of things that they can do.
And so we created that “yes list,” and we called it our “social media toolkit” or “social media guidelines.” It had several names during various evolutions over the years. So when people would become initiated into the social media team, it was a formal team. They had to get permission from their manager. They had to commit a certain number of hours a month. And we would do onboarding with them where we would go over these guidelines, and we would share them through the intranet, etc., so that they would have access to them.
Because we knew, this isn’t their full-time job. This is a librarian at a branch. They’re going to be manning a desk a lot of the time. They’re not sitting there thinking about social media all day. So, we tried to make it very easy for them, give them training, give them support. Then let them bring their own creativity to the role. But absolutely, creativity within guidelines is kind of the best, I think, way to tackle that.
Tyler Byrd: I like that it’s a very formal process. And so your output is going to be a lot more consistent than just granting access and saying, “Okay, go post whatever you want.” So, within that… What were some of those guidelines that you gave, and what were some of the “yeses” that you said that they could do? Was it, “Yes, you can post book covers. Yes, you can post on Monday but not Tuesday.” What were some of those?
Cordelia Anderson: Yeah, so, not to be too tool-focused, we did really toward the end there…we asked that everybody use the Sprout Social scheduling tool. Because then you can see who else is posting when. And so you’re not posting right on top of someone else. Because there’s nothing more frustrating than creating a really brilliant post, and then two minutes later, someone else has thrown something up on Facebook or Twitter and pushed your post down, thus not giving it the opportunity to be seen.
So, that was really a good guideline, in terms of scheduling, to say, “Everybody schedule in the same place, and that way we can see what else is scheduled and make sure it thematically makes sense.” And then the marketing team could go in and say, “You know, I’m going to bump this post back an hour because we have a gap here with nothing, so that this will then give space for this other post that’s on a totally different topic to come out at the appropriate time.”
Tyler Byrd: So, within that, you’re not… If I hear you right, it’s not that they’re logging in, and they’re saying, “I have a brilliant idea, and I want to get it on Facebook right now this instant.” It’s really, “I have something that I think is going to be great, and I’m going to schedule it for maybe tomorrow or next week, whenever the schedule allows for.” And that gives your marketing team that opportunity to kind of go vet it and just make sure and check the box. And then it’s really kind of giving that consistency from content. Is that correct?
Cordelia Anderson: Yes. And again, this is evolving best practices over time. So, we didn’t come out of the gate doing it this way. This was how we learned and evolved over time to figure this out. I think around the time that I left Charlotte Mecklenburg, they were moving into a slightly more formalized processes even than that, using the tools that we had available. So, that’s the other nice thing is that as the tools get better, your control and ability to curate content gets better, too.
Tyler Byrd: So, how big was your team? This team of social media activists and engagers? How many people were on it?
Cordelia Anderson: The social media team was around 20 people. And like I said, our marketing team, including me, was four. And then we had a great marketing person with our foundation who often contributed content and helped us monitor as well.
Tyler Byrd: And then how many social media platforms were you actively working with?
Cordelia Anderson: Oh, goodness. Well, when I started in 2008, I think we had about 200. And then between that and 2010, I think we downsized to about 20. And again, that was a two-year period, and it took time, and it took a lot of conversations. And it wasn’t popular for a long time. But I think over time, as we then were able to grow more purposefully after we did the initial, what I would call “right-sizing” of our social media, I think people began to see the value of putting more effort into higher quality, fewer channels than broadcasting everywhere.
We still had Myspace. We had to downsize.
Tyler Byrd: I still have Myspace. I haven’t probably logged in ten years, but I don’t know how you get rid of it anymore. So, how often would the team post? And is that one post a day? Is it three posts a day or ten posts? Or just kind of what…? If you’re scheduling out, did you have some sort of strategy about the quantity of posts that were going out per day?
Cordelia Anderson: Yeah. We tried to maintain a balance. But it just varies. It depends on a lot of different things. If there’s a trending topic, and a lot of people are talking about it, you may be posting more because you’re trying to tie in. And that’s kind of the other thing that, I think, is really fun to do is to look at what’s happening out in the world outside of libraries and have your posts talk about that. And then bring it back to the library.
So, for example, we have a very popular comic con in Charlotte called HeroesCon. And so when HeroesCon is in town, we may have a booth at Heroes Con talking about the library. But there’s a huge social media conversation happening about HeroesCon and about superheroes, and Marvel movies, and all of this. And that is a great opportunity to go in and engage with all of those people in that space to say, “Hey, did you know libraries have all of this? Libraries have movies. Libraries have digital content. They have the comic books, the graphic novels.” And so, again, during that weekend, you may have a higher volume of messaging because you’re tying into a topic that’s trending in your community.
But there may be other times where it’s a slightly lower volume because there’s not as much going on. And I think that’s part of the natural ebb and flow. It’s just like in our personal lives. You may look at Facebook five times one day, and one time the next day, and then skip it because you got busy or whatever. So, as long as you’re maintaining an overall flow, I don’t think it has to be this rigid rule like, “this many posts per day.” What you don’t want to have is several days with nothing or one day with a hundred posts. Obviously you want to maintain some kind of balance and equilibrium.
Tyler Byrd: Okay. So, anything you’d say that…in all the experiences that you’re into that you would suggest people avoid, or roadblocks, obstacles that maybe they could get around?
Cordelia Anderson: In social media or in general?
Tyler Byrd: In social media. And building that social media team, and choosing who’s on it, and what posts to create, or what kind of guidelines to set, or tools, or even platforms that they’re going to be posting through.
Cordelia Anderson: Just like with a website and other things, you want to have good governance. And governance includes your policy, your procedures, how you’re going to do things, how you’re going to manage the content, and really spell that out for people and don’t make them guess. And then once you have a strong governance, you can then be creative within that. And so I think that’s where you want to start is think big picture. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to have greater engagement? Are you trying to raise awareness of what your library is doing in the community? Are you trying to grow cardholders or followers? Maybe it’s all of those things.
Beginning with the end in mind with social media, I think, is really important. Because it’s very easy to get excited about the platform or focused on the platform. But the platform is just a way to reach people to achieve your goals. And so what you want to do is start with those goals, get your governance in place, then get people engaged in achieving those goals within that governance. And then the beauty of it that makes it really fun is because of all the different platforms, you’re engaging with people in different ways and different audiences.
For example, I was sort of afraid of Instagram for a long time, or I didn’t understand it. I’m like, “Why do we need Instagram? People could just post photos on Facebook.” And it took a couple of my staff members to really educate me over time. Instagram is a different audience than Facebook, and the type of content people are looking for are really engaging photos. So, you’re not going to post the same ad on Instagram that you would post on Facebook. So, that’s what makes it fun. Because it’s that variety and diversity. But it takes thought, and it takes, again, going back to those big picture goals.
Tyler Byrd: Yeah, so be intentional about it and prepare. Okay, I’ve got a couple of quick questions for you. These are on the spot, and I definitely didn’t send these to you beforehand, so this will be interesting. What’s your favorite marketing blog, or what source do you go to that you would point other people to?
Cordelia Anderson: Well, I am a podcast junkie, so I listen to a lot of podcasts. And they’re not necessarily about marketing. Because, again, marketing is really about people, and I’m really interested in people, and how people think, and how they function in the world. So, right now, I’ve been listening to a podcast called U-Turns that’s all about people who are having a big change in life. There’s another one called Elevate Network that’s for sort of women in the business world. And again, that’s really interesting to me. I’ve always worked in kind of female-dominated industries, whether that be PR, marketing, or libraries. So, those are two that I listen to a lot in very regular succession. Because I’m driving a lot or when I’m doing activities or tasks like yard work. I just like to constantly be learning. So, podcasts are a big resource for me.
Tyler Byrd: What’s a book that you haven’t read yet but you want to?
Cordelia Anderson: Because there is about a hundred on there. Well, I am right now reading one that I wanted to read for a long time, which is Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, which people have just been telling me about nonstop. And it’s so, so good. I cannot evangelize for that one enough. I really want to read Michelle Obama’s new book, Becoming, because I got to see her at ALA and I really loved everything she had to say.
Tyler Byrd: Cool. Okay. Tell me, print or digital? What’s your preference?
Cordelia Anderson: Audiobooks.
Tyler Byrd: Favorite library service?
Cordelia Anderson: Right now, I’m actually taking advantage of some of the small business resources, because, again, I just started my business. So, I think that’s sort of an unsung library service. But other than that, I would just say digital audiobooks. That is my life.
Tyler Byrd: Perfect. All right, anything else you’d like to leave our listeners with?
Cordelia Anderson: Keep doing the great work that you’re doing in libraries. Libraries are a wonderful resource. It sometimes feels like an uphill battle, I think, for library marketing people because we’re trying to do our daily jobs, and promote, and engage. And then we’re also constantly running up against this relevancy question in libraries like, “Do we still need libraries in today’s world, when we have Google?” We’ve all heard this question a hundred times. Just know that the work is valuable, and it’s meaningful, and that we can chip away at that. And don’t get too discouraged. That’s what I would say to my fellow library marketing people.
Tyler Byrd: I love it. Thank you. So, tell me, would you share with our listeners…if someone is listening, and they wanted to reach out and touch base with you because they had questions or to talk to you about marketing…how can they get hold of you?
Tyler Byrd: Perfect. All right. We’ll get those in the show notes for everyone who’s listening and definitely reach out, because this is going to be great. And Cordelia has got a ton of experience that I think everyone would be…definitely could benefit from. Cordelia, thank you so much for taking the time again today. I really appreciate you joining me for the show.
Cordelia Anderson: Yes, thank you.
Tyler Byrd: All right, before we head all, just a couple more quick things. If you know somebody that you think would be a great guest on this podcast, and you’d like to hear us interview them, I’d love the opportunity. Send me their name and their contact information at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’ll do all the hard work of reaching out and getting them scheduled so that all of our listeners will have the opportunity to learn more from them about the great marketing strategies that they might be using. We’re constantly looking for new guests and great guests on the show, and I would really appreciate the opportunity to meet with your connections and get them up here to learn more.
Second, if you’re enjoying the podcast episodes and so far you like what you hear on Library Figures and the content, head over to iTunes. You can subscribe to the podcast to get future episodes. And while you’re there, if you could give us a five-start rating, that’d go a long way in letting us know that you like the content, and you like the show, and we should continue doing it. All right, until next time, all. I look forward to being on the air again and the next great interview we’ll have up. Take care. We’ll see you next time.