Friday, 6 August 2010

Thing 19: "I know a bank where the wild thyme blows"

Marketing feels somehow distasteful, like something that 'businesses' do but that we more refined types shouldn't dirty our hands with.  We were all brought up not to blow our own trumpets*, weren't we?  Well, it's clear that we have to forget that: marketing matters.  In my reading of them, most of the recent online discussions about the role of CILIP and the status of libraries in society have boiled down to 'we need to market ourselves better'.  Marketing is the insidious cousin of advertising.  Advertising (broadly speaking) says "here's a thing, get it", whereas marketing is all about making people aware of you (consciously or subconsciously) now in case they want you later.  It's not immediate; it's a long-term process.

In my current role, I organise public events which have to be advertised likely audience groups, but I also try market my project within the library, within the College, and to other librarians, archivists, museums people, scientists...

I was also (if I may be so bold as the bang my own drum briefly*) the brains (or perhaps the brawn) behind what has become the Open Libraries strand of Open Cambridge.  This is an actual public event (or, rather, several events), but it is also a way of marketing the libraries of Cambridge as interesting, open and important even outsides the confines of the university.
Cambridge Librarians TeachMeet logo
Come in to my wiki, said the spider to the fly...
Recently I've found myself on the organising team of a Cambridge Librarian's TeachMeet, which we've been advertising only Web 2.0 ways so far - a wiki, some blog posts, a fair amount of tweeting, a Delicious tag. But this isn't really *marketing*, for all the fun it's been.

In fact, none of the advertising or marketing I've done thus far has been to anything resembling a very defined strategy or plan, and before camlibtm got off the ground, I'd not really used any *social* media for those ends at all.

The future

I'm currently approaching the end of a three-year project, and I certainly wish I'd embraced some of this sooner.  I think I'd like to have had a project blog, and maybe built up a bit of a following for an 'item' or 'fact' of the week.  I think that some of the public who came to events (and those who couldn't make it) would be interested in that, and it might have helped showcase the project to other heritage institutions.  I don't know how much point there would be in starting that with six months left to go?

Magistra et mater has written a really interesting post about successful and unsuccessful library blogs. She points out that reader involvement can be cultivated by writing posts that invite comment and discussion, and which do not intimidate people out of wanting to air their own opinions.  I think that fear of having an un-commented-upon, and therefore seemingly pointless, blog was one of the reasons that I didn't investigate the idea of marketing my project in that way.  More fool me, I fear.  As Laura pointed out yesterday, it's worth taking the risk of not succeeding, and there is a definite audience (as demonstrated by attendance at public events) who would like to see what's in our archive, so I rather think I've missed a trick.

Oh well, onward, onward.  I'm certainly trying to use Twitter now to spread the word about forthcoming events in which we're involved, including for Open Cambridge and the Festival of Ideas, and (if it gets organised - watch this space...) a Fred Hoyle sci-fi extravaganza in the Autumn.

Photogrpahy is allowed in the library sign
Not a sign you see so often.
I've thought about having a Flickr group for photos of our library.  We actively allow visitors to take photographs of the library (so long as they're for 'personal' use), and there are already quite a few pictures out there.  Encouraging Flickr users to add their photos to our pool would be a way of re-enforcing the (hopefully positive) message of their visit here, reminding them that they came here, giving access to more information about what they saw, and (hopefully) encouraging them to visit another event or to encourage people they know to visit.  In short, it might raise our profile.  But then I looked more closely at the Flickr users with St John's photos easily findable: one works in the Library, one used to work in the College, and one is Sir Cam.  Hmm... will be a bit more work than I initially thought in drumming up an audience there, then.

A Flickr account for images from our collections à la LoC would, I think, be really lovely.  But that would probably have to Get Through A Committee.  Not an insurmountable hurdle, but I'd need to develop a better case for it than "would be really lovely".

I'm going to take some time soon to investigate more special collections using social media, and to evaluate further what makes some more successful than others.  If anyone has any recommendations for ones to watch I'll gladly take suggestions!

*Trumpets? Flumpets? Any other children of the eighties around?  Remember the Flumps?  To this day, I can't say "Keep it under your hat" without adding ", Pootle" on the end.


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