Case Study: Social Media offers a Novel Approach

This past week I had the privilege of being selected as the winner of a contest from the Kansas City Public Library. This contest asked participants to write a personal ad in the voice of a Victorian literary character.

Here’s what I wrote:

“Lovely but somewhat pedantic SWF with a penchant for wanderlust and an inability to choose a standard height seeks gentlemen with a curious sense of humor. Must adore cats and tea parties and understand the significance of white versus red roses. Hat makers will be given preferential treatment. Please send inquires to Wonderland Girl c/o The White Rabbit.”

This entry earned me a heart-shaped box of Christopher Elbow chocolates (which are wonderful if you’ve never had a chance to try them) and a copy of Dr. Jennifer Phegley’s new book, Courtship and Love in Victorian England. Dr. Phegley was the featured author at a library event the same week as the contest and her visit is the reason the library used such an interesting topic.

Now, before you think I’m telling you about this just to brag (honestly, that’s just a very small part of this post), I do have a blog-related reason. When I went to the library to receive my prizes, I requested a sit-down with Jason Harper, the library’s web content developer and social media manager, to discuss their use of social media to “sell” their events through engagements and contests. Since the focus of this blog is this very topic, I thought this a good discussion to post (with the library’s permission of course).

In the course of our talk, Jason gave me a very simple explanation for the library’s social media strategy – quality versus quantity. Essentially, using social media – “tools designed for quick interaction in a huge open stream based on temporal actions” – cannot be just a numbers game. He said, “The library is not into social media for numbers of likes or responses but rather for the life-long loyalty, the emotional connection and meaningful conversation with our patrons and followers.” Essentially, the contests and engagements they hold through social media “have merit if at least one person creates a response and has an increased interest in reading. If that single person is enriched, it was worth it.”

Jason also shared with me some other ways the library has used social media to engage their followers:

  • A “quirky video” to promote the upcoming Meet the Past event at the Kauffman Center. The event will be on Thursday, March 1 and like most library events it is free to the public (although it does require RSVP and a ticket).
  • A contest called “Tweeting Rainbow” which requested followers to Tweet or share on Facebook their favorite children’s books. The prize? A chance to meet LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow and Star Trek fame. (Really sorry I missed this one!)
  • During the LeVar Burton event, the library created a video of him reading Shel Silverstein poems to students from the Derrick Thomas Academy as well as other parts of the afternoon and has it posted on YouTube and their blog.
  • A commercial for the library’s Mobile App (available on Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and Palm OS). Oh yeah – the library has a MOBILE APP – how wonderful to be able to do a catalog search, view your account, find events and more – from your phone or tablet!
  • A “Food for Fines” canned food collection and recipe contest to benefit Harvesters, a Kansas City food bank. The recipe winner received a cookbook collection and Harvesters received all the canned goods. The contest also benefitted those donating canned goods as $1 per item was taken off overdue library fines! Contestants were asked to email their recipes with a photo of the completed meal.
  • A “Tweet-Memoir contest” where Twitter users were asked to tweet their personal memoirs in 120 characters or less. Top three winners won DVD check-out coupons from the Library. This contest was held in conjunction with two events featuring memoir writers, Diane Wei Liang and Michael Perry.
  • A weekly email is sent to subscribers with the next two week’s upcoming events so patrons can plan in advance. E-Newsletters are also available based on book genre and other media.

As you might have noticed from the above links, the public events and contests were wonderfully documented both pre- and post-event on the library’s blog. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even email were utilized to get the word out and get responses. The social media interactions revolve around their events in some manner, getting engagement from library patrons by touching on emotional and meaningful topics. Not focusing on one single social media avenue and offering a plethora of contests, videos and other avenues of engagement, the Kansas City Public Library has increased awareness of its events and services. Congratulations Kansas City Public Library – and keep up the great work!


You can find the Kansas City Public Library online:

Website | Blog | eNewsletters | Facebook | Twitter | Flickr | YouTube | Mobile

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4 comments on “Case Study: Social Media offers a Novel Approach

  1. I really want to say thanks for some of the amazing recommendations you are writing on this site. I feel very fortunate to have used your ideas and look forward to reading more here. Thanks again for all the details!

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