The world has experienced huge societal changes over the past couple years, with corresponding reverberations affecting virtually every business sector. The changes can’t be ignored, and social media trends offer an interesting aside for the curious.
Since COVID-19 lockdowns were imposed, countless people have been forced online for education, entertainment, and community. Just over the past 12 months, there are more than half a billion more people using social media worldwide, reflecting an almost 14% increase. Consumers are being drawn toward “influencer communities”—a valuable resource when traditional mediums like live theater, concerts, and cinema became, and continue to be, unavailable.
With a background in marketing, I’ve been fascinated watching social media influencers reach consumers on a level that large brands cannot. From cleaning products to food, fashion to home decor, travel to book recommendations, nearly half of all consumers now depend on social media recommendations before making purchases.
TikTok (and #BookTok) Is Leading the Social Media Charge
TikTok is leading the charge with everyday influencers experiencing huge breakthroughs. According to The New York Times, 1 billion people a month spend time on TikTok. It has become a massive gathering place, and not only for youth culture. With easily created, bite-sized content, TikTok is viewed as entertainment and is quickly displacing other forms of social media.
We have a full-time social media position at our company, and originally I thought that was all I needed to do to keep up with the seismic changes affecting our business. However, my interest in brand management and advertising/communications keeps me plugged into research, tracking the various cultural revolutions around the globe. I find that constantly renewing our social media goals is now critical and, earlier this year, I made a pact to stretch my social media chops further. Pushing aside the “I’m too old,” “I don’t have time,” and “Let someone else handle this” demons, I dove into some #BookTok diligence for a panel discussion at an upcoming industry conference.
#BookTok is a popular subcategory of TikTok, and it’s not only readers gushing about books they’ve read; it is also authors talking about their own books. I recently caught up with Michelle Halket, publisher at Central Avenue Publishing, and she was most excited to share that poetry featured in some of her TikTok/#BookTok success stories, is a genre that apparently attracts a lot of attention. With Sincerely—essentially a book of love letters to his wife—F.S. Yousaf is one of Central Avenue’s more popular poets, with over 50,000 copies sold.
Halket attributes much of the success to #BookTok. Interestingly, their posts are surprisingly simple: book cover image over a simple background, with authors reading their poetry. For a three-month period, Halket can attribute Sincerely’s top 100 position on Amazon to these #BookTok posts … and, yes, you read that correctly: poetry! Halket also mentioned poets share many of their personal experiences on TikTok, such as coming out, relationships, trauma, racism, or body dysmorphia.
Give #BookTok a Try
Ready to push your own social media demons to the side? Don’t wait for someone else to discover and post about your books on #BookTok; push yourself to take the lead. Try these
suggestions, then pull out your phone and hit record. If you haven’t already, add the app and register your account for TikTok. (Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you are required to post anything). When creating your “handle,” think of who your audience might be: victoriareviews or moms_who_read.
- In the search bar, key in “BookTok.” Then spend some time watching what others are doing. Keep an eye on their likes, and follow/comment on the content creators that resonate with you. Following them will give you ideas for your own posts and help identify trends to pay attention to.
- Presses that stand out are those delivering authentic, purposeful content. Producing content just for the sake of getting something up does not fly with today’s sophisticated social media consumer. Your content should be built around the author/book, with the goal of establishing a loyal and engaged community of readers offline.
- Have your authors post something with your primary readers in mind. Sometimes it is less about the book and more about their authenticity.
- Once you and/or your author do commit, be sure to post regularly. Use the tools TikTok provides, including captioning, editing, music, hashtags, and subtitles.
- As you get comfortable with the platform, begin to invest in items that will improve your posts like lighting, microphones, and phone stands. This is not a huge investment and can make a difference.
The isolation and social distancing we’ve experienced the last couple of years has increased our need to socialize and connect. TikTok and other social communities have helped many authors come together with their readers. In 2022, we will see the continued growth of online book communities, and these groups will become even more important for publishers to cultivate new readers and build direct-to-consumer relationships.