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2010 Viral and Social Marketing
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Viral and Social Marketing Hall of Fame 2010
New York Public Libraryís 'Donít Close the Book on Libraries' Campaign
Campaign website

MarketingSherpa Summary:
Faced with a drastic budget cut from the city, the New York Public Library studied up on how to call attention to its dwindling resources. The team recruited an improvisational group to shoot a viral video in the library, which they heavily promoted via email and social media channels. The buzz spilled into online and traditional media, and donations exceeded the team’s goals -- twice over.

The New York Public Library
Launch date of campaign:
May 18, 2010
Target audience/demographic: Patrons, New Yorkers, library lovers

The primary goal of the campaign was to bring awareness to a $37 million city budget reduction, the harshest in the history of The New York Public Library. We wanted to get patrons, New Yorkers and library lovers to take action by either submitting a letter to elected officials or by making a donation.

Campaign Description:
The campaign theme was "Don't Close the Book on Libraries," which was represented in the creative with an iconic book with red hazard stripes. The creative was used throughout the library's website, on all library social media presences, in print ads and on fliers used in the branch libraries.

To give the campaign an edge, the Library asked Improv Everywhere to do a stunt at the library, which was released via a blog post on the group's website and in two tweets one week into the campaign. The group’s "Who You Gonna Call?" YouTube video featured the Ghostbusters returning to the library. It spread quickly via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and mainstream media, and was featured in our action alerts.

Channels Used:
The "Don't Close the Book" campaign was heavily promoted on Twitter using the hashtag #SaveNYPL, on Facebook, as well as the Library's email list, which together accounted for one-third of online submission and donations.

In addition to that we promoted it through:
o Print advertising
o Facebook ads
o Google AdWords
o Public relations

Measurement Tactics:
The campaign's results were measured by the number of letters submitted and dollars raised. The campaign microsite used analytics-based goals and tagging to measure the impact and contributions of individual sources.

How the Audience Helped Spread the Message:
Content promoting the campaign was re-tweeted and shared heavily on Twitter and Facebook. Interactions on Facebook were the highest in our history.

The "Who You Gonna Call?" video was promoted by the more than 4,000 subscribers of Improv Everywhere's blog and re-tweeted nearly a thousand times on Twitter.

Media mentions included WNBC’s 11 p.m. news and MSNBC’s "Morning Joe." It was also featured on the front page of The New York Times online, the front page of the Huffington Post, Flavorwire/Flavorpill video of the day, and also on Gothamist, New Yorker online, New York magazine online, the front page of Boing Boing and Mashable, LA Times online, Mediabistro, Gizmodo, Wired, TechCrunch, IMDB News and 30 other major blogs.


- The campaign worked so well we had increase our letter and dollar goal twice. Currently, we have received more than 115,000 letters and more than $120,000 in donations.

- Between May 7 and June 16, the campaign microsite had nearly 69,000 visitors, the campaign URL was shared in nearly 1,000 tweets and the "Who You Gonna Call?" video was viewed more than 2 million times.

- The overall site conversion rate was 30.94%.

- The true outcome of the campaign is still unknown because the final City budget has not been released.

- It has been viewed by more than 2 million people so far.

*Editors Note: According to the campaign website "Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg and the [New York] City Council restored enough funding to avoid closing libraries or having them open as few as three days a week...We would not be at this point without your remarkable advocacy efforts."

How Results Changed Over Time:
The launch of the "Who You Gonna Call?" video caused a spike in referrals to the microsite and resulted in nearly 4,000 visits that day -- more than twice the daily average.

After one day (May 19), the video already had 257,000 views and was the fifth most viewed video that day.

Campaign momentum was sustained through a daily tweet series, repeated email messages using behavioral targeting and press mentions as well as op eds.

Biggest Lesson:
We were surprised how well the video was received. Even though the effects of the video on the "Don't Close the Book" campaign were not that substantial in terms of letters written and donations, it was a great success for the brand. It was helpful to work with a partner such as Improv Everywhere, who has a loyal following. Using a familiar pop-culture angle certainly helped as well.

We learned that one has to be careful with over-messaging especially on Twitter during longer campaigns. Besides noticing fatigue on the part of our followers, we actually got complaints.

We were surprised how poorly the Facebook ads performed. The conversion rate was 2.99% vs. 9.44% on Google AdWords and at a cost per click almost twice as high.