Marketing and Social Media: A Guide for Libraries, Archives, and Museums

By Christie Koontz and Lorri Mon. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. 310 pp. $55.00 (paperback) ISBN 978-0-810-89081-7.

From the beginning it has been the fate of libraries, museums, and archives to be in the world but not of it. That near universal measure of success – profit – they proudly eschew. For some of the same reasons, the traditional ideas, techniques, and structures of marketing have been approached with uncertainty, if at all. Not only must the unfamiliarity with and objection to the use of ideas developed for commercial purposes be first overcome, but questions must then be answered about how these ideas ought to be modified for service in the realm of the informational non-profit. Marketing and Social Media: A Guide for Libraries, Archives, and Museums is a practical and systematic guide to the strategies and techniques aimed at marketing these unique organizations. It is the comprehensive, step-by-step approach and real-world examples and ideas that make this such a useful book.

To market from the library, museum, or archive standpoint requires a revaluation. Even where such institutions actively promote their efforts to the public, it is, as Koontz and Mon observe, usually done without the marketing mindset, the scaffolding for thinking about implementation and evaluation of eventual success of failure, and the terminology evolved to express the nuances of such ideas. While organizations will promote events, collections, and services, usually they will do so wholly free of said framework of thought, so promotion is done with only a vague aim in mind and without plan or means for evaluation. Marketing and Social Media begins with just such a revaluation. Instead of patron, visitor, or user, they are to be referred to as customers. This immediate assault on traditional vocabulary is a surprise. The change in perception is, in one sense, disorienting, even disconcerting with its suggestion of commercialism. “What can we gain by using the word customer? Perspective” (3). This new lens, the customer viewpoint, immediately helps us in adopting the change in attitude necessary in order to make the most of marketing efforts. Viewing the world as made of customers, segments, and competitors is not necessarily more or less correct than other viewpoints, but is instead a useful tool for helping to introduce our services to more of the people we wish to serve.

When an organization proceeds in marketing itself without such a marketing mindset, efforts are often ineffective. When they are effective, such efforts may well be aimed in a direction that is not really desirable, or with results that only seem effective but which cannot be measured exactly, and which will prove difficult, or impossible, to reproduce in the future. Opposed to typical, instinctual marketing efforts, Koontz and Mon are systematic. Along with its practicality, the systematic nature of the book is its most valuable feature. At every stage, the authors encourage clearly defined terms, planning, and testability. Broadly, the marketing approach itself is divided into four steps: marketing research, segmentation, mix, and evaluation, which are further elaborated in later chapters (67). The application of a marketing framework to the often diffuse avenue of social media is especially revealing. Chapters conclude with a discussion, summary, and key terms. This section – the discussion questions especially – serves as a framework for actually implementing marketing and social media strategies. Examples helpfully illustrate the themes of the chapters in which they are included, as well as give ideas for practical use. Notes on those additional publications cited throughout the chapter serve as avenues for expanding certain elements, ideas, or techniques in one’s own marketing plans. Chapter 13 consists entirely of case studies written by students of the authors as well as the authors themselves, each addressing some particular institution. The scientific treatment of marketing is an important and underappreciated idea; Marketing and Social Media serves as both textbook and guide to the subject.

The triangulation of traditional marketing with the informational non-profit and social media provides an invaluable focus. The authors convincingly argue that there is ample opportunity for libraries, archives, and museums to take the next step of professionally implementing, and reaping the rewards of, marketing and social media techniques. Additional possibilities also remain to be considered. The authors note the distinctions developed between marketing and non-profit marketing (65-66). Could a still more precise, and effective, view point be waiting to be developed for informational non-profits? Could the use of social media be more effectively refined to serve the educational goals of these organizations? Importantly, a large part of the template offered by this book is experimental and involves the process of answering these questions in a more localized sense. More theoretical questions are not discussed. For instance, what the effect of entering the competitive marketplace – so often seen as inevitable, unavoidable – might be to ideal institutions. As Koontz and Mon note, by not choosing to compete, such organizations may well lose out; however, by choosing to compete on the basis of popularity, they also subject themselves to evaluation on these terms, and, possibly, eventual redefinition of their own identities. Although this book is not focused on speculation, by opening the avenues of marketing it encourages many such questions. Overall, Marketing and Social Media: A Guide for Libraries, Archives, and Museums is an excellent guide and introduction to effective marketing and social media as well as a template for further discoveries on how to best market particular libraries, museums, and archives.

Peter Ward

West Islip, New York