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8 Library Marketing Trends for 2021 You Can't Ignore

Take a moment to think about technology's impact on your library's marketing efforts and how you can leverage it. What new communication tools or channels can you use? Can you automate, personalize, and streamline your marketing? Are you effectively improving member acquisition and their user experience?

The pandemic has accelerated the modernization of digital marketing in the library sector. Consequently, virtual events and services are here to stay. To stay ahead of the curve, here are eight digital marketing trends for 2021 you should watch out for as you plan and budget your campaign strategies in these challenging times.

1. Increase Emphasis on Patron and Supporter Retention Campaigns

In 2021, libraries will need to elevate their efforts to retain members as your members embrace streaming options and virtual programming from competing institutions and services. Proactive libraries understand that it takes less money to keep existing members content and will dedicate more effort in keeping them. Investing in a customer relationship database (CRM) that engages library members throughout their journey will become key to preserving your member base. Having detailed information on your members' preferences will enable you to better target messaging to engage in your services, events, and programming.

2. Libraries Will Further Invest in Chatbots to Improve Patron Experience

Many libraries will consider investing in a chatbot — they're effective software programs that interact with your website visitors and members. Chatbots communicate naturally with library patrons viewing the site and can answer their questions in real time. In 2021, we expect to see library chatbots further leverage AI to automate and personalize member responses. Here is a list of the more popular chatbots.

3. More Libraries Will Leverage Private Messaging Apps to Connect Directly with Patrons and Supporters

As 2021 approaches, many libraries will shift their focus to investing in private messaging apps. Smartphone apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and WeChat have already gained massive popularity in the education sector and consumer and business world. Instead of using emails, cutting-edge libraries will begin to adapt private apps as well as private messaging groups such as Slack to engage users one-on-one and within targeted groups and forums.

4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Will Become More Important to Driving Website Visitors

SEO is a powerful digital marketing tool for libraries. In essence, Google is a library of information, and it is your library's job to nurture people from Google to your library's website. Google's latest algorithm update, BERT, has made a substantial impact on the SEO world. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It's a deep learning algorithm that's related to natural language processing.

Like a seasoned librarian, Google is always aiming to improve its ability to understand the complex nuances of language and the searcher's intent. According to Google, BERT will affect complicated search queries that rely on context. If your library website is not very well written and lacks clear messaging, you may see a dip in your website traffic. In 2021, it will be critical for libraries to run an SEO wellness report and audit of their content to benchmark their search result positioning and develop a plan to increase their ranking.

5. Personalization Becomes Central to Your Email and Website Communications

Many libraries are dabbling in personalization as corporate giants like Amazon and Netflix have paved the way in the space through the use of personalized marketing and recommendations. To keep in step, libraries will seek to embrace personalization and scale their growth and member experience. They will analyze member behaviors and promote books and services based on predictive analytics and the member's past engagement history.

The primary benefit of personalized marketing is having the control to target and select segments of library members of all kinds. And by collecting user data from these lists in your CRM, you're better positioned to create more relevant and effective email campaigns based on your patrons' habits, interests, and behaviors. For example, if your targeted library audience likes nostalgic movies and classic books, you can embed pop culture references from that period when sending your emails, creating your blog posts, or even in your newsletter opt-in form to deliver a more personalized experience with your library content.

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6. Omnichannel Marketing Will Become the Centerpiece of Library Communications

Omnichannel library marketing is the practice of marketing across multiple platforms, including member email, newsletter, apps, social media, and the announcements on your website. This approach enables libraries to connect with members on multiple digital endpoints, effectively offering a better member experience.

If a member is interested in children's storytelling, you can target them about an upcoming reading at your library. Deliver a seamless, consistent voice and cohesive brand message across all your library channels promoting the event, related books, and audio. ClickZ reports that omnichannel marketing drives over 300 percent more engagement than a single-channel approach.

7. Video-Based Social Media Will Be Key to Reaching New Audiences

TikTok is a video-based social media app that has experienced explosive growth and should be on every library marketer's radar. eMarketer reports that TikTok will reach 52.2 million users by 2021. Growth could slow given competition from other platforms and the questions it faces on censorship and data privacy. However, other platforms are ready to fill the gap.

To that point, Instagram recently launched a boomerang looping effect that mimics a similar feature on TikTok. Both platforms focus on short-video-inspired storytelling, which can be leveraged by libraries to promote their services, books, and video.

The New York Public Library recently launched Insta Novels. They reimagine Instagram's Stories feature as a new platform for some of the most iconic stories ever written. Insta Novels launched in 2018 on the library's Instagram account (@nypl). The program aims to make great stories even more widely available.

Five Insta Novels have been released:

All stories are available to read in the Highlights section of the library's Instagram account (@nypl).

8. Marketing Automation Software Will Consolidate Library Marketing Tools

Marketing automation is all about using software to automate your marketing activities. Library marketing departments will seek to automate and integrate all of their siloed and repetitive tasks such as email marketing, social media posting, and even ad campaigns. In this way, they can provide a targeted and tailored experience for their members. The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier and will enable you to optimize and synchronize your marketing across all of your key channels and stages of engagement.

Continuing to lead by example, The New York Public Library was one of the first libraries to invest in marketing automation by licensing is a world leader in marketing automation, personalization, and omnichannel marketing and has a market cap of over $9 billion. Its software is affordable, and certain service levels are free.

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About the Author

Joseph DiGiovanni is the co-founder of Tapp Networks, LLC. Tapp is a mission-driven digital innovation agency that serves nonprofits worldwide seeking to accelerate their social impact through the latest advances in marketing technology.