Many librarians and media specialists don't have the same in-person recruitment and engagement opportunities as they did before the COVID pandemic. In our new normal, spreading the word and driving challenge registration depends heavily on digital marketing tactics. And the earlier you devise a strategy and spread the word, the better!
Start building interest for summer reading in the spring months with these tips to help increase registration and maintain engagement throughout the summer and beyond—even with limited resources.
You likely already do this to some degree, but try to get the word out about summer reading in as many different ways as possible.
Make it easy for anyone that comes to your website to learn about summer reading. A best practice is to have a page on your site dedicated to summer reading that gives readers all the information they need to participate. This year, you might also consider featuring summer reading in a more prominent place on the site. Perhaps add a banner to the home page and other high traffic places to link people directly to the summer reading page.
Send email announcements and reminders leading up to summer reading, and make sure to provide a link to your site for more information. Use community or school newsletters to amplify your list of recipients. If you’ve used Beanstack before, you have a list of email addresses for previous participants available via reports that you can add to your preferred email platform.
Posting on social media is likely already part of your plan, but now is the time to turn up the volume. Social media platforms are seeing record volume, which makes them a great place to meet your target audience, but it can also be hard to ensure that they see your posts amidst so many others. Don’t be afraid to post more often and to try different formats.
If many of your followers are on Instagram, try adding a story to promote your timeline posts. On Facebook, experiment with making an event to promote online summer reading, since the platform automatically suggests events to local users in your community. Maybe even get creative with a TikTok! No matter the format, be sure to provide a strong call to action for people to participate.
Social media posts that feature eye-catching imagery see higher engagement. If you don’t have a graphic designer in-house, there are plenty of online tools that make it easy to create assets yourself. We love Canva for image banners and Animoto for easy videos.
To get the word out beyond people that already subscribe to your emails or follow your social media profiles, try sending out a press release or media advisory. Be sure to mention how important reading challenges are for the community and how reducing summer slide is more critical now than ever. Send your release to local publications like newspapers, blogs, and radio stations to see if any will distribute it.
Sponsorships and Partnerships
Do you have sponsors for your summer reading challenge? If so, draft emails and social posts for your sponsors to send to their audiences to help get more people registered for summer reading. You can offer to feature their logo on your site's landing page to boost awareness for them, too.
If you don't have sponsors lined up yet, reach out to local organizations, businesses, and prominent community members. Forging a partnership with your counterpart at the local school or public library is a great way to amplify your message and get more kids registered, and you can even help each other out by sharing challenge specifics, summer reading lists, and data after the fact.
Keeping Readers Engaged
Once the challenge is launched, you’ll need to keep up the momentum to reach your goals. You can use many of the same channels you used at launch for communication throughout the challenge. Try the following tips for content during your summer reading challenge.
You may not be able to talk to them in person, so have challenge participants join you on social media. Set up a hashtag for your challenge and remind people to post updates about their reading using the hashtag. Check in on the hashtag regularly (along with posts your school or library is tagged or mentioned in), and like, share, or respond to as many as you can.
Be sure to share your progress toward a goal at key points throughout the challenge. Setting up a community goal on your landing page is an easy way to keep track of your progress and motivate readers. Then, set points to share the community's progress, like after the first week, once you reach the halfway mark, and then a countdown to the finish line. Messages and updates will help motivate participates to read as much as they can before the end of the challenge.
We tried to make sure that our recommendations were useful to all clients, including those who do not have the budget for paid promotion. If you do have funds devoted to paid marketing or perhaps funds available to repurpose (maybe you were planning to print paper logs, order customized bookmarks, or host a summer reading event), here are some ways you might use them to increase the impact of your challenge.
Pay It Forward
Instead of simply awarding prizes to individual readers (which may be tricky to hand out anyway, with branches closed), your summer reading challenge can donate to a charity working on COVID-19 relief or a community project. Set a community goal tied to a donation amount—you can give a penny for every minute read or a dollar for every book—it's up to you! Check last year’s participation reports to get an idea of what your budget should be. This can be a great way to increase interest in your challenge, both from readers and from local media outlets.
Boost Social Media Posts
People who like your library’s social media profiles will see your launch posts, but it would be great if you could reach more people within your service area. If you have the budget, try “boosting” your posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Here’s how. Boosting posts can be as inexpensive as you want - try starting with $25! Just be sure to narrow down the audience to people in the location you want to target.
Set Up for Success
You may not be able to rely on some of your tried-and-true strategies for driving summer reading registrations and engagement, but you’ve invested in Beanstack, and that’s a great first step to take your summer reading virtual. We hope these tips are helpful as you start your planning this summer's challenge!