Q&A: Johannes Neuer, New York Public Library

Johannes Neuer, eCommunications Manager at The New York Public Library, discusses how the library uses triggered emails, how it uses in-library signage to build email lists, and the growing importance of integration of email with mobile and social media.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): What tactics are you using to grow your email list?

Johannes Neuer (The New York Public Library): We put an email signup box on the home page, as well as what we call a deep footer at the lower part of the website. We have it on all of our programs pages, and it is context related. So, for example, on the events page on the website you can sign up for the newsletter that is about events. Also, we do an email sign up on our Wi-Fi splash page, which is displayed to all patrons that use free Wi-Fi in the libraries. Before they can access the website, it promotes the newsletters and the social media pages. And we have stickers in all 90 branches with a link to the newsletter signup.

DMN: You recently did a test in how much data you captured during the sign up process. Can you tell me about that?

Neuer: In the test, we established the form that just asked for the email address, as compared to the form that asked for more data. Subscriber opt-ins increased by 120%. The optimized sign-up page had a 53% higher conversion rate. We wanted to have as little friction as possible. We automatically signed people up to the main email and didn’t ask them to pick which different emails they wanted to sign up for, but we included an email about the different newsletters and the key benefits of being a subscriber.

DMN: How are you using triggered emails?

Neuer: Every day the library sends out 5,000-9,000 emails to patrons, telling them that they have books that are due or that their books are ready for pick up.

DMN: How are you integrating email with social media?

Neuer: Our email newsletters are sharable via social media. At the top of the email, we have “Share on Twitter” and “Share on Facebook” buttons. The idea is that content gets legs and travels beyond the newsletter. We’ve seen things go viral on social media. One of our librarians compiled a Mad Men reading list, a list of books that Don Draper would read if he went to the library. It went crazy. We put it on the blog, but then the email kicked loose a storm of activity.

DMN: Are you doing any integration with mobile?

Neuer: At the moment we don’t do anything with mobile, but we have plans to launch that in this season. Primarily, we want to use mobile as a way for people to sign up for email because we are geographically dispersed. With 90 locations around the city, it is very hard to collect emails at purchase. It would make it easier for librarians to help people sign up. They could give them the short code without having to deal with typing names into an Excel spreadsheet and then uploading them into our system or emailing it to our marketing department. Mobile opt-in will make it simpler and cleaner. Our updated newsletter will also have a mobile version.

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