Web marketing and The New York Public Library

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Public Relations  |  Case Studies  |  Marketing  |  Non Profits

Yesterday I gave a presentation to senior staff and marketing people who work at The New York Public Library (NYPL). My presentation was called "Marketing in a Micro-Segmented Online World."

Most of the groups that I present to are for profit corporations, so it was really exciting for me to see what NYPL was up to on the Web.


NYPL is a huge institution and so is its Web site. The physical library has 50.6 million items in its collections housed at 89 locations and overseen by 3,200 staff. NYPL is one of the great knowledge institutions of the world, with its collections ranking with those of the British Library, the Library of Congress, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France. With virtually all of the Library's many collections and services are freely available to all comers, the marketing challenge on the Web for NYPL is different than corporations looking for revenue.

But what's the same is that targeting different buyer personas is the most important thing for the NYPL site (or any site). That's the cool thing about marketing on the Web and why I love it so much—it doesn't matter if you are an independent consultant, a Fortune 500 company, a rock band, a candidate for US Congress, or the New York Public Library—what matters is targeting your buyers with a content especially for them.

For example, here are three utterly different buyer personas that the Library must reach with its Web site:

For people who live in the Bronx and speak Spanish as a first language, the library offers introductory classes on how to use a computer conducted in Spanish at the NYPL Bronx location.

Tourists who want to take a tour of the famous main library building on Fifth Avenue while in NYC on vacation can take a guided tour.

The New York Public Library targets film studios and TV producers because NYPL is a featured setting in many of Hollywood's most famous productions and is a sought after locale for fashion and editorial photography shoots. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ghostbusters, and Spiderman are just a few movies filmed there.

Thanks to the NYPL staff for inviting me to speak and also for the memorable private tour I was taken on before the library opened for the general public.