8 ways to target your library staff and users more effectively

162320500When developing a service, process, policy or if you are restructuring your library, targeting your staff and users in an optimal way will bring you great rewards. A great relationship with your staff and users is to be had by investing in analysing them in more detail than is traditionally the case in today’s university libraries.
If it’s opportunities you are exploring for your library, improving relations with certain groups, or rolling out a new innovative service which will potentially affect cultural change differently across varied groups like in data management for example, this will help you achieve your goals. Going deeper into the specifics of your target audience and its sub-audiences will help you diagnose and prescribe the medicine and cures to your users’ aches and pains. Here’s how.

  1. Identify your primary target audience, and identify the sub-groups within them

    Pinpointing your primary target audience at the beginning will help ensure that you will hit the mark with your service, process, policy or PR campaign either now or in the future. Your primary target audience is the group of users you need to influence; the ones who will change their behaviour or use your future altmetrics service or implement your future institutional Open Access policy.
    To serve a large group well, e.g. if “researchers” is your primary target group, you will need to identify sub-groups. For example, fully fledged Professors, Deans, research project leads, external researchers, postgraduates or research administrators from your different disciplines who all have different backgrounds, motivations and expectations. Their varied demographics, psychographics, and organisational culture will show you that they have different needs. As a result, they need to be treated differently and accordingly to get to the same result.


  2. Pinpoint your user demographics

    Analyse your sub-groups by gender, age, ethnicity, culture, knowledge of languages, education, mobility, employment status, usage patterns (e.g. tech savvy). Are they Baby Boomers (Generation X) or Millenials (Generation Y). For a comparison of Baby Boomers and Millenials and some of the myths, see the Forbes article: Millennials And Baby Boomers: At Odds Or Peas In A Pod? http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2012/01/19/millennial-and-baby-boomers-at-odds-or-peas-in-a-pod/ These groups have different usage patterns when it comes to managing information and knowledge. For example, a Millenial’s attitude to sharing data or publications will often be different to the Baby Boomer. Groups of a certain age, culture, ethnicity, education, or internationally active as opposed to nationally focussed staff have different attitudes, practices and needs when it comes to research, teaching and learning. So take your groups and map them to the demographic groups they belong to learn more about your user groups’ characteristics to help identify their needs and where they stem from.

  3. Identify your user psychographics

    Psychographic profiles will also help you complete the picture of your staff or user groups. Psychographics include life-style preferences but related to your group’s work, i.e. activities, interests, opinions, expectations, and values. This information can be invaluable when selecting the channels to use to engage and inform your users. Analyse the current practices of your sub-target groups and their demographic groups related to data management for example. Then look at their current or potential attitudes and interests related to the introduction of a new data management policy you wish to introduce for example.

  4. Understand the institutional culture

    The belief systems of your sub-groups, the way that new ideas are adopted or how decisions are made have very much to do with the institutional culture of your groups. Is the culture more hierarchical or authoritarian or rather egalitarian? What perceptions exist towards the library, and do you need to change these by taking concrete action? Knowing how your groups collectively feel and what alliances exist can be very valuable before approaching them. Analyse and plot the beliefs, habits, perceptions, attitudes to change or new ideas to your groups before approaching them.

    Speech bubble Yes!

  5. Talk to your users and ask them the right questions
    Mix with your users formally and informally to pick up relevant information. Enquiring into your users current pains and listening to them is critical to engage with them, build your relationships, and to be able to recognise timely opportunities. Questions could be:
    What is currently the most important thing for you in your work, and how could this be made easier through better online research, teaching or learning facilities? What frustrates you about …? What is robbing you of your time? What do you want to accomplish this year? How are you currently dealing with your department’s data and research results; is it easy to x or y? Does anything keep you awake at night?

  6. Develop personas

    Follow on thinking about what your staff and users do, what frustrates them and what satisfies them. Personas will help visualise a particular segment of your target audience. Identify their behavioural variables. These could include goals, what these users do online, computer literacy, what material is most important to them for their research, how they share research results. Once you have found groups that cluster across 6-8 variables, you have found a behaviour pattern that will form the basis of a persona that provides you with a concrete user group to work on. Give each pattern a name, such as “Terry, the technophobe” or “Irena the innovator.” Describe your personas in narrative form as this is more compelling in conveying attitudes and needs. For example, see Macquarie Unversity’s work on this or see Cornell Library’s personas work or for a more comprehensive overview on how to create personas, see for example Kim Goodwin’s Getting from research to personas: harnessing the power of data or the D-Lib article: J. Maness, T. Miaskiewicz
, and T. Sumner “Using Personas to Understand the Needs and Goals of Institutional Repository Users

  7. Pinpoint your users’ recurring problems and what keeps them awake at night

    As a result of the above steps, you will now also be able to better determine what keeps your users awake at night or what takes valuable time away from them. Map these concrete issues, concerns, and time-wasting activities to the personas you have.

  8. Focus on the benefits

    When you target your users, focus on the benefits of the change you intend on introducing rather than on the product or features. Hone in on how their working life will be better, telling them that it will cure the current pain they have related to data management or increasing their visibility for example.

Using the information from the previous 8 points, you now have a broad scope of information to really identify research, teaching, or learning pains and to focus on diagnosing them and on providing the medicines and cures. You either start with this information to identify new products / processes or policy, or you use this information on how to roll out a new idea or product in a differentiated way to specific segments in your target group. Taking this approach will better ensure that you really speak to the specific needs of the primary target group where you and them have most to gain from in a service relationship.

What methods do you use to really get to know your users? Do you have a story you’d like to share? If so, please do so with the community below.

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