Wake County Public Libraries: A Marketing Critique

Wake County Public Libraries, located in Wake County, North Carolina, has definitely attempted to embrace the idea of social media. They have a very definite online presence via Facebook, Twitter, and blogs found on their website.

What is the library doing to market themselves online?

The most basic online presence that the library has is the website. The website has the standard items you’d want to see – the ability to access your own account, the ability to search the library’s catalog, sections specific to interlibrary loan and digital media, as well as events and demographic-specific sections (ie kids, teens, or research). One thing I really like about the website is the “Ask WCPL” section – it’s a knowledgebase of questions that have been previously answered, but easily gives you a way to ask your own question if the answer you’re looking for isn’t found.

Part of the website is a “Blogs” page. The library maintains 5 blogs, and the main blogs page tells you who the intended audience is. One is for news, one is for kids to discuss what they’re reading for mock Newberry awards, and two are for teens. My favorite blog on the list is the last one – it’s a “Book-a-Day”. Library staff blog about a different book every single day.

The library also has a Facebook page. This page is updated every few days with news and events that are relevant or specific to the library. There is also a collection of photos that are primarily from the Summer Reading Kickoff. My favorite part of the Facebook page is the “Book News” section – it’s an archive of monthly newsletters that detail the new acquisitions of the library.

WCPL also uses Twitter. There aren’t always tweets posted daily, but they always have a purpose. Events and news items are posted, but the primary focus of the Twitter account seems to be book recommendations. WCPL also occasionally interacts with patrons using replies or retweets.

Finally, WCPL also has a YouTube page. The videos uploaded on this page fall into two categories – a series of patron interviews called “Why I Love My Library” and video tutorials for technology. The video tutorials cover topics like using Overdrive on a mobile device or how to download ebooks.

What are they doing right in their marketing efforts? Where are they falling short?

While I love that WCPL are embracing the idea of social media, the scarcity and inconsistency in posting lead me to believe that there is no focused effort or plan in place to manage these social media tools. The sheer fact that they have taken the time to get started is a step in the right direction. By using these tools, they are actively trying to be a part of the community that they serve. Where they fall short is the inconsistency in posting and the lapses in posting. The Facebook content is lacking – they have never used the events function, and there are often days between postings. One thing they do well is to respond to patrons who post on the Facebook Wall. Their efforts with Twitter are nominally better – I really like the book recommendations and links to news about e-readers (but why aren’t these same items found on their Facebook page?). Most of their blogs are frequently updated (especially the “Book-a-Day” one), except the two teen blogs haven’t had a new post in several weeks. This is something to be concerned about because when you stop posting new content, readers stop coming by.

What do you think of their branding efforts? Have they built a strong and consistent brand online?

I see no efforts at branding. The library system itself, as far as I can tell, has no logo or graphic representation. Both the website and the Twitter account exclusively use the Wake County logo. The Facebook page tried to be more original and tied to the library specifically, but it falls short – especially since it’s not something that’s seen anywhere else. Overall, there is nothing that screams Wake County Public Libraries when you see it.

If the library hired you as a social media marketing consultant, what would you suggest to them?

The first thing I would suggest is a plan. I would ask the library staff who their target audience is and what information they want to convey via social media. I would suggest that information be the primary goal of these accounts. Information comes in many forms, particularly in these mediums, so I would post news articles of interest and event information. I would also continue to post book recommendations, but I would post them on both accounts, not just Twitter. While it is true that there is overlap between the users of each, there are those who only use one account or the other.

I would also post the questions asked at the reference desk (real or virtual) – I may even suggest posting the answers, as if it were a Q&A session (this sort of thing works best in the Twitter format). It wouldn’t hurt to occasionally post an FAQ with a link directing back to the knowledgebase on the website. The goal of this would be two-fold: 1) to interact with the community at large and 2) to build trust within the community that the library really is there to help you find information.

While it’s nearly impossible to have a “Social Media Librarian” or one who is dedicated to running the social media of a library, someone should have the reins of these accounts and should find the time to actively use them every single day.


Posted on October 12, 2011, in LIBR 246 Web 2.0 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hi Mandi,

    Wow! Enjoyed your critique and found a number of your points so useful that I want to package them up and take them with me into my library career! (I suppose that is very much the point 🙂

    Your suggestions to this library system are excellent; like, “Have a plan!” I can see how staff could think they could instantly start reaching a socially tech-savvy demographic just by opening an account on Twitter/Flickr/Facebook. But the plan helps an organization communicate more effectively, and work smarter. Like we’ve learned in other communication lessons, “Know your audience.” And your words make me think that we don’t need to be afraid of duplicating our messages in multiple mediums. Post the same thing on all of your accounts! I’m willing to try sending out the same Twitter message a few times during the day, too. If other Twitter users are like me, there’s a really good chance that I may not see a single tweet from my local library because it gets pushed down the page by the 150 other tweets that pour in in a morning. Maybe that’s bad form (is it?), but I like the shrewdness of it. Let us librarians be shrewd in getting the message out 🙂

    I was impressed that WCPL is strong in the area of replying to its users on Facebook. As a FB fan of my library system, I would feel validated and valued if a library staff member took the time to reply to me to a comment I make. I can see how that would go a long way to building relationships and support within the community!

    Thanks, Mandi!

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