With a little help from our friends: Facebook boosts in public libraries

It’s a terrible feeling when no one shows up to your programs. After you’ve put in tons of hours of time and effort, bought supplies, set up the room, and opened the doors only to find no one there. It happens to most people every now and then. Most recently, it happened at our first Every Child Ready to Read workshop we held at our Bowdon branch. No one showed, and we were coming up with tons of reasons: the weather was terrible, there’s only 2,000 people in town, it’s a hard program to push, etc. Even though the staff in Bowdon is fantastic and spread the world like wildfire, you can’t force people to show up. But with two more weeks of planned workshops in the pipeline, we couldn’t afford to keep going like we had been.

One thing that Bowdon has, though, is a very engaged social media audience, especially on Facebook. They have the sort of engagement numbers that point to a very involved community. So, we tried something we’d never done before: we boosted one of our Facebook posts. Not a lot; we spent $15. I did it on a Thursday and went home to take a long weekend. When I got back, I had a message that apparently lots of people were seeing it on Facebook because the library was getting all sorts of calls about the program. Between that and a renewed push from the Bowdon staff pushing the program to the community members they are very connected to tipped the balance. We went from no families showing up the first week to four families on week 2. Not a packed house, but we were incredibly pleased with our small victory.

Cracked-Facebook-LogoMost libraries have some sort of social media presence (and if you don’t, you should start one). But, the organic reach of many pages is slowly dwindling. Facebook is a platform meant to attract advertisers, and if you’re not advertising, then you aren’t reaching the full benefits. And you may not be convinced that Facebook is a place to put scarce marketing dollars, but I look at it like this: We spent $200 on paper marketing collateral to be handed out at libraries and outreach events. I have no idea if people saw the brochures, read them, or simply trashed them. But with my $10 on Facebook, I know that only people who live within 10 miles of Bowdon saw my ad, and I know that 1,800 people saw the ad and 50 people interacted with it. Yes, the push cost a little money. But for a special program that is new and different, hitting people on all avenues is vital.

Making a Facebook ad isn’t hard: they make it very easy for you to spend your money. But you can test ads with investments as low as $1. Even with that low an entry threshold, you can put your message in front of people. And because your library is (hopefully) a trusted brand, people will be more likely to receive your message and act on it.

One more example: our Maude P. Ragsdale branch in Hiram wanted to increase their Facebook friends to over 300. They were at about 275 when they started the program. They asked their friends to share the message, and I placed a small boost on the ad just to see what would happen. The message ended up reaching 7,500 people, and in less than one week, they were sitting at 360 friends. 85 more people are now in the rotation to regularly receive organic messages from the branch, and the library got its face out there.

Give boosting a chance. It doesn’t cost much, you can define the market to just people who are good matches to your services, and it places your message where the people are. And that’s the real goal of marketing.

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Author:Mack Freeman

John Mack Freeman is the Marketing and Programming Coordinator for the West Georgia Regional Library system headquartered in Carrollton, GA. He is also the editor of GLBT News, a weekly news blog produced by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association. Originally from Tifton, GA, Mack has a passion for library outreach, marketing, and service to underserved populations.

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