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Marketing Research Guides: An Online Experiment with LibGuides. 14th Off-Campus Library Services Conference in Cleveland, OH April 29, 2010 . Mira Foster ( Hesper Wilson ( Nicole Allensworth ( Diane Sands (

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marketing research guides an online experiment with libguides

Marketing Research Guides: An Online Experiment with LibGuides

14th Off-Campus Library Services Conference

in Cleveland, OH April 29, 2010

Mira Foster (

Hesper Wilson (

Nicole Allensworth (

Diane Sands (

J. Paul Leonard Library

San Francisco State University

what we ll cover today
What we’ll cover today…
  • a brief history of research guides-- especially as used at SF State
  • what led us to market our guides
  • discussion of Social Media/Marketing
  • our marketing project
  • overview of statistics-gathering
  • some issues that came up…
  • our conclusions
  • We marketed our LibGuides
  • Our techniques made some impact,BUT
  • Our statistics taught us…
  • Guide usage is causally related to in-person instruction
  • LibGuides ≠ instruction substitute
  • LibGuides = supplement to instruction
  • LibGuides = invitation to relationships
case study
Case Study

San Francisco State University

  • California State University System (23 campuses)
  • Approx. 30,000 students on our campus

J. Paul Leonard Library

  • 20+ librarians
  • 100+ research guides
  • construction and furloughs
student outreach as things stood
Student Outreach – As things stood
  • At the Leonard Library…-lots of in-class instruction (course integrated seminars) -looking for ways to reach more students efficiently
  • Library Literature reports…-poor rate of return for energy spent on guides-some advocate course-specific guides-survey at GWU reveals: users don’t find guides useful (Curtois, Higgins & Kapur, 2005)
libguides to the rescue
LibGuides to the Rescue!
  • In 2007, the LibGuides content management system is introduced, making librarians into “information superheros” !
  • Library Literature reports re LibGuides-librarians’ lives easier-that teaching faculty: -appreciate the resources created  -believe LibGuides have improved student assignments (Horne and Adams, 2009)
we were game
We were Game!
  • Adopted LibGuides in 2007
  • All guides converted by Spring 2009
  • Some guides changed radically, others didn’t
  • One big change: subject liaison (librarian) contact information added to the guides
initial research questions
Initial Research Questions
  • A promising phenomenon

-Rock-star guides

-Online announcements spikes in use

  • We asked ourselves:

-can a LibGuide substitute for in person instruction?

-is there a publicity problem?

-should we market our LibGuides?

-will it make a difference?

relationship marketing rm
Relationship Marketing (RM)
  • Establish and enhance relationships -everyone’s needs are met (Gronroos, 1990)
  • Trusting relationships
  • Liaison model
tenets of wom
Tenets of WOM
  • The conversation is already taking place
  • Authenticity
  • Transparency
  • Individuals not institutions
  • Use all the tools
theory vs practice
Theory vs. Practice
  • Desire to control messaging
  • Institutional vs. individual participation
  • Attracting peers vs. constituents
  • Experimental
    • no consensus yet on which tools / strategies work
research design overview
Research Design Overview
  • 3-month study in Fall 2009
  • Randomized list of guides with a control group and an experimental group (to be marketed)
  • Marketing Team: 7-8 guides per person
  • Librarian Survey: LibGuides in their work, LibGuides in their social media realms
  • Usage data from LibGuides and Google Analytics
marketing methods
Marketing Methods
  • Home Page Feature
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Blog Posting
  • Faculty Emails
  • And fruitless bookmarking early on…
librarian survey results
Librarian Survey Results
  • 14 of 17 Librarians responded
  • Most reported mentioning guides during reference / instruction
  • Many reported displaying or demonstrating guides to students and sending URLs to faculty
  • Instruction correlated to guide use.
homepage feature
Homepage Feature
  • Featured LibGuides: 3 guides per day from marketed group
  • Measurement: Redirect code + Google Analytics
  • 49 links on Library homepage
  • No impact on guide usage
blog posting
Blog Posting
  • Strategically timed announcement on Library blog
  • Few clicks from blog
  • But guide hits during the target period did go up
  • Fall 2009: 18 of 31 marketed guides were tweeted
  • Initial curiosity with first #SFSU tweets
  • Many followers were from our peer group
  • Joined groups and posted links (no integration)
  • Promoting own guide works better
  • Friends were from our peer group
faculty emails
Faculty Emails
  • Strategically timed direct marketing emails to teaching faculty
    • Preservation of significant relationships
    • Some sent by Librarian Liaison, some by Marketing Team
    • Successful both ways

Dear International Relations Faculty,

For your students doing research International Relations this semester there is a library research guide available at It provides information on how to take advantage of our library's sites and sources. 

We'd appreciate it if you would send this link to your students.  It might be especially useful next week when librarians are on furlough. 

  • LibGuides provides them…
  • Google Analytics offer a good supplement


springshare stats pro con
Springshare Stats: Pro & Con
  • Easy to use; can view stats for all guides or individual tabs/pages, links, and files within a specific guide; no need to use html or scripts
  • More tabs/pages equals more hits counted
  • LibGuide Usage Statistics do not demarcate between the guide author and guide user
  • Only monthly figures are available
google analytics pro con
Google Analytics: Pro & Con
  • Lots of info available (where users are, how they get to us, what software/hardware/connection they’re using, etc.)
  • Daily counts!
  • Number of unique visitors as opposed to total # of visits (i.e., counting editor visits over and over)
  • Harder to navigate
  • And… do you want Google to have info about your site?
results overall
Results Overall
  • Control group: 27% increase
results overall25
Results Overall
  • Marketed guides: 63% increase
whither research guides
Whither Research Guides?
  • Pedagogical problem:
    • LibGuides site vs. Library site?
    • Teaching site architecture
  • Authorship problem
  • Inconsistent coverage and use
    • Subject vs. course guides
    • Different librarian attention
time time time
  • The time librarians spend teaching increases the use of their guides
  • Social marketing brings users to librarians with whom they spend more time

flickr liceo_respighi

cult of personality
Cult of Personality
  • Marketing products vs. marketing librarians
  • Surrogate marketing Surrogate librarians?
  • SF State: Primacy of the subject liaison
conclusions marketing
Conclusions: Marketing
  • Marketing a product would have worked better if our library was marketed with a brand.
  • Marketing librarians (brand You!) is easier in online social marketing.
  • The only strategies that appeared to work were those that:
    • Used existing relationship channels (faculty emails)
    • Forged new relationships (instruction)
conclusions for our library
Conclusions for Our Library
  • LibGuides are not a substitute for in-person instruction.
  • LibGuides are a supplement to in-person instruction.
  • Marketing More relationships
  • Marketing more use
suggestions for us for you
Suggestions (for us… for you?)
  • Create “marketing materials” for librarians to use themselves
  • Build a library brand
  • Market librarians
  • Most striking finding: Direct causal relationship between in-person instruction and number of visits to guides
selected references see conference proceedings for full bibliography
Selected References (see conference proceedings for full bibliography)
  • Courtois, M. P., Higgins, M. E., & Kapur, A. (2005). Was this guide helpful? Users' perceptions of subject guides. Reference Services Review, 33(2), 188-196. doi: 10.1108/00907320510597381
  • Gronroos, C. (1990). Service management and marketing. Managing the moments of truth in service competition, Lexington, MA: Free Press/Lexington Books.
  • Horne, A., & Adams, S. (2009). Do the outcomes justify the buzz?: An assessment of LibGuides at Cornell University and Princeton University. Presented at the Association of Academic and Research Libraries, Seattle, WA. Retrieved from 
  • SF State Libguides:
  • SF State Library Web Site:
  • Springshare LibGuides - Web 2.0 for Library 2.0. Retrieved December 17, 2009, from
image credits
Image Credits
  • Owls: From Bahman Farzad's photostream
  • Word-of-Mouth hand-drawn diagram: From tomlobo's photostream
  • Red Man with question:Diane Sands, SF State Librarian illustrator
  • Time Time Time warped clock: From Liceo Scientifico Respighi's photostream