Psssst! Want to know how to get viewers to watch your library's YouTube videos over a million times? Mooresville (Indiana) Public Library (MPL) might have some suggestions.
MPL serves the citizens of Mooresville and Brown Township (in Morgan County, Indiana), with a 2015 population of 13,044. The MPL YouTube channel currently has 775 videos that, to date, have been viewed 1,083,122 times. That's more views than, for example, videos on the YouTube channels of Los Angeles Public Library (99,931), Seattle Public Library (891,944), and Indianapolis Public Library (213,439), all of which have made fantastic videos. MPL's service population is much smaller than these libraries, but its videos have been watched more. How is that even possible?
MPL began its YouTube channel in January, 2010. Its most popular videos include children's songs, children's read-alouds, book trailers, and music parodies. Why are its videos so successful in reaching an audience? We offer a few possibilities:
- Content Variety: MPL has several types of videos, including book trailers, promo trailers, program trailers, songs and sing-alongs, read-alouds, music parodies, local history, instructional, readers' advisories, and public service announcements. This wide range reaches a diverse viewership that has various interests. The more variety your library videos offer, the more folks will watch.
- Quantity & Ongoing Content: MPL has more videos uploaded to YouTube than the New York Public Library. Plus, MPL continues to add videos each month. Subscribers want new, fresh material, and casual viewers are more likely to stumble upon library videos if there are many from which to choose, thereby raising the possibility of discovery when patrons navigate search engines to find them.
- Duration: Most MPL videos are relatively short. Most of its book trailers run just over a minute. Viewers' attention spans won't be held for much longer, unless the video is a specialty subject that a particular audience is seeking.
- Quality: Most MPL videos are reasonably well constructed, given that the library has absolutely no budget for video projects, and staff (basically, one person) creates them as spare-time activities. Some inexpensive (or, better, yet, free) video and audio editing software, plus a decent video camera and tripod (purchased by the Friends of the Library), along with decent graphics and excellent soundtrack music, can produce some surprisingly good results. A dedicated staff helps, too.
- Social Media Cross-Pollination: MPL pushes its videos using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and its website. Occasionally, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media have also been utilized. Sharing videos across social media increases the likelihood of garnering viewers.
- Contacting Authors: MPL makes a point of sharing its book trailers with authors, all of which (so far) have been thrilled at the free exposure. Authors can be the best publicists for library videos.
- Sheer Luck: Why do some people watch certain videos much more than other, similar videos from among a library's inventory? Is MPL's Animal Alphabet Song, by Miss Jaymi (337,125 views) that much better than Five Little Monkeys (Fingerplay Song), by Miss Michelle (21,515 views)? Is Miss Janet's read-aloud of The Hat, by Jan Brett (9,816 views) more engaging than Miss Janet's read-aloud of The Mitten, by Jan Brett (196 views)? Why would viewers rather watch a book trailer promoting Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne (15,877 views) instead of The Mysterious Island, by Jules Verne (190 views)? There's a great deal of luck involved in reaching the desired audience. Perhaps it's just a case of having a video in the right place at the right time.
In other posts, this blog has offered suggested resources to use in creating library videos, and hopefully these ideas will be useful for those exploring ways to visually engage patrons through YouTube or other social media. As I often say, if a tiny library like MPL can do it, anybody can. When MPL began its social media initiative in 2010, none of its staff knew anything about what they were doing. Maybe they still don't. But one thing's for sure: They weren't afraid to put themselves out there, experimenting and learning along the way. Their reward has been returned over a million-fold. Yours could be, too.
Enjoy experimenting with library videos. Why not have some fun in your job? To quote Michael Palin from episode 23 of Monty Python's Flying Circus (1970): "If you've enjoyed watching the show just half as much as we've enjoyed doing it, then we've enjoyed it twice as much as you."