Going Virtual? Going Viral? 19 Strategies for Success


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GOING VIRTUAL—or going viral—with events at your library?

We were recently invited by the American Library Association to share our success strategies as part of a panel discussion featuring five libraries nationwide, Going Virtual: Programs and Insights from a Time of Crisis (October 20, 2021, at 11 am CT). Our Promotions Manager Evelyn Shapiro will be talking about “The History of Witchcraft,” a library webinar that went viral, reaching 2.4 million people worldwide.

19 Strategies for Success When Your Event Goes Virtual—or Viral

1 · For marketing, select an iconic image you can use for branding everything—newsletter stories, library lobby screens, event pages, emails.

2 · Carry your branding into the Zoom room with a beautiful start screen so when people arrive, they know they are in the right place.

3 · Managing comments and questions in real time is worth it—that’s a huge part of creating a memorable experience for participants.

4 · Use a single page on your website to link to all your livestreams, e.g. champaign.org/live

5 · Create vanity links to share long, unruly URLs like catalog links, e.g. bit.ly/cpl-history-of-witchcraft (This link led to 2,460 clicks into our catalog!)

6 · Tailor your messaging for the online venue: “Sign up to get the Zoom link: champaign.org/events” or “Broadcast live! champaign.org/live

7 · When partnering, leverage each other’s strengths—including Zoom room capacity and marketing savvy.

8 · Stay flexible leading up to the event so you can adjust marketing messaging as you go.

9 · Schedule a run-through to check tech, plan transitions, test lighting, and capture a recording to use as a backup.

10 · Coach your presenters on lighting and pacing if needed.

11 · Join the Programming Librarian Interest Group (21K members) on Facebook to crowdsource ideas and celebrate successes. The group is sponsored by the American Library Association. Join on Facebook »

12 · You never know who will be tuning in. Our audience for “The History of Witchcraft” included subject experts, scholars, armchair historians, vintage booklovers, and people who were just curious about learning more and having fun.

13 · Plan for extra staff to help on event day. During “The History of Witchcraft” livestream, we  had eight staff members responding to comments, forwarding questions to the event host, and deleting spam and links to fake ticket sale scams, with 3,000 people tuning in via multiple channels—Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook.

14 · Take advantage of real-time communications channels for anyone working behind the scenes; we used a  Microsoft Teams chat to link people working in different staff areas of the library, from home, and at the public service desk.

15 · Make the most of your recorded content after the event. Publish on your YouTube channel, create playlists, and stream on your website. Interest in this event quadrupled our subscribers on YouTube. The recording has been viewed 23,000 times.

16 · Maximize adjacency effect; your posts will get more views than usual when scheduled next to viral content

17 · Keep the conversation going—in the comments and after the event is over.

18 · Public libraries bring connections to the community and marketing savvy to the table. We know how to connect with audiences of different ages and backgrounds, and in the case of a history webinar, people who are not scholars.

19 · Dream big!


Going Virtual book cover

Looking to learn more about going virtual at your library? The American Library Association published a book, Going Virtual: Programs and Insights from a Time of Crisis (ALA Editions, March 2021), featuring examples from 90+ libraries across the US, including Champaign Public Library.


Evelyn Shapiro portrait

Evelyn Shapiro, Promotions Manager · October 13, 2021

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