Jessica Wells Russell

We don’t need to tell you what great opportunities social provides for your business, but we’re going to anyway:

  • About half of the entire world’s population has access to the internet, and 1 out of every 3 use social networks.
  • Some of the fastest-growing companies made their mark on their audience thanks to their flawless online presence and use of social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. In fact, brands including Domino’s, Wendy’s and Charmin are now known for their spicy, sassy and often hilarious social media marketing campaigns and customer interactions.
  • From viral campaigns that catch like fire, to influencer marketing that taps relevant celebrities, there’s a social media strategy that speaks to every brand and their specific audience.

Despite the literal avalanche of opportunity that lies in social marketing, there are some uphill challenges that brands face, including the fact that top social platforms add new features and change their rules pretty frequently. Add in shifting consumer tastes and emerging social media challenges and trends, and this creates an ever-changing landscape in which brands struggle to keep up. I mean, how can you incorporate the latest social media viral marketing campaign trend if you aren’t even aware that it exists?

One of the best ways to keep on top of social media and digital marketing as a whole is to read about it – but not just on the social platforms themselves. Turn to the experts, and study up with a good book.

We’ve put together this handy list of some of the top books you should be reading to brush up on your social media marketing acumen. These will help you take your brand’s use of social networks from ~ho-hum~ to **Here comes the next social media marketing success story.**

Best books for beginners

If you’re just breaking into the world of social media marketing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and you can quickly feel like you don’t know where to begin or which way is up. Take a step back, follow it up with a deep breath, and check out some of these books to better inform yourself and your strategy:

1. Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business

By Erik Qualman

Before you run your own successful social media marketing campaign, you need to crawl toward a more concrete understanding of social platforms themselves. This is where Erik Qualman’s Socialnomics book comes in.

This book is perfect for those who need more detail about the implications of social media and the effect it’s had not only on consumers but on businesses and their digital marketing. Although the book was first published a few years ago, Qualman updated and released a second edition, and the information is still just as relevant today as it was when it first came out.

Readers are also treated to proven strategies that Qualman’s taken from small businesses, large corporations, education institutions, nonprofits and more. From easy opportunities for social media strategy, to training employees on leveraging social for digital marketing, this book is a great place to begin your reading.

2. Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers

By Seth Godin

If you didn’t specifically seek out this book’s publishing date, you’d never know that it came out more than two decades ago. This book has appeared on top marketing reading lists for years, and for good reason. Godin’s take on marketing messaging is nothing short of revolutionary and helps readers craft messaging audiences actually want to hear.

Even though top social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram weren’t even thought of, the lessons in this book translate seamlessly to today’s social media marketing strategy.

3. This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See

By Seth Godin
Books every marketer should read: This is Marketing
The perfect follow-up to Permission Marketing, Godin’s newer This Is Marketing has been every bit as impactful and groundbreaking as its predecessor. This book provides readers with invaluable insights, including the importance of understanding customers, and where consumers’ empathy and feelings come into play. Godin urges marketing readers to look past the dollar signs and brand logos, and instead focus on eliciting a certain reaction with the brand’s marketing that serves to support the brand’s service promises and mission statement.

With this book, Godin reminds marketers not to get too caught up in what everyone else is doing, but to get back to basics and leverage social to create a true connection between customers and the brand.

4. Social Media Marketing Workbook 2020

By Jason McDonald Ph.D.

This book’s first edition came out back in 2016, but it’s been updated over and over because it’s become such a classic, especially for small businesses. Author James McDonald gets into the real meat of creating and running a social media strategy for your brand, spotlighting major platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and more.

McDonald keeps it interesting by using a party host metaphor throughout the book – i.e., marketing managers are the “party throwers” and must supply all the elements (content, promotional ads, knowledge of social platforms) needed for the “party” (social strategy). Toss in the workbook element, and this is a step-by-step guide marketing managers will reference for years to come.

Moving on up: Books for intermediate readers

Social’s been around for a while now, and if your company has already cut its teeth with digital marketing and social strategy, here is some more advanced reading that might be just your speed:

5. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

By Donald Miller
Books every marketer should read: Building a Story Brand
You’ve already crafted your strategy and messaging to a certain point, but this book will help you take it one step further.

This New York Times bestseller gives your marketing team pointers on crafting a message – but not just any ol’ brand messaging. This messaging serves to support your brand story, helps you to better listen to your customers’ wants and needs and improves the way you demonstrate your brand value to your target audience. And while not specifically targeted for social media, these are lessons that you can apply to your social strategy, and beyond.

Telling a compelling story about any brand is something of a difficult feat – almost every marketing team has faced the obstacle of creating messaging that customers will listen to and understand. This book promises to show you how to do both.

Direct from its Google Books summary:

“Whether you are the marketing director of a multi-billion-dollar company, the owner of a small business, a politician running for office, or the lead singer of a rock band, Building a StoryBrand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.”

I’d read that (^).

6. Likeable Social Media, Third Edition: How To Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, & Be Generally Amazing On All Social Networks That Matter

By Dave Kerpen

Kerpen is a leading expert on social media marketing, so it’s no surprise his book provides so many key insights, tips and best practices to propel a business’ social media marketing campaigns. The title may be a mouthful, but the content of the book follows through on its promise: This book is packed with nearly everything today’s savvy social marketer needs to know.

This book also touches on the ins and outs of leading platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Snapchat. From use of Facebook ads and Instagram ads to content creation and even user-generated content, Likeable Social Media is a comprehensive look at social media marketing practices.

Readers can also brush up on customer engagement, leveraging social media as a key part of the customer experience, approaching online criticism and negative comments, and even how to grow your business using social as a crux.

7. Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence – and How You Can, Too

By Gary Vaynerchuk

This is Vaynerchuk’s followup to his 2009 bestseller Crush It, which teaches readers the importance of crafting a personal brand. This book, also a bestseller, takes the lessons from Vaynerchuk’s first book and shows how successful entrepreneurs have applied them in their own lives – and grown their businesses and their bank accounts in the process.

Vaynerchuk drives home the point that social media plays in a brand’s image and influence, and how these platforms can be used to attract a target audience’s attention and amplify the potential of the brand.

This book speaks to readers in any industry, and while it’s most relevant to entrepreneurs and small business owners, the takeaways here help any brand take their use of social platforms to new heights. Crushing It! touches on leading social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but also exposes readers to lessons on the use of Pinterest, Snapchat and even Spotify and Soundcloud as digital marketing tools. Vaynerchuk also examines popular, tried-and-true social media marketing strategies, providing new takes on common tactics.

Vaynerchuk also wrote a blog specifically for those who’ve finished the book: Check it out here.

Expert marketers: Here’s what’s next

For those who’ve been in the social media marketing game for a while now and are looking for something more than tips, best practices and hot takes, we offer you this selection:

8. Instagram Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Following Fast, Driving Massive Traffic & Generating Predictable Profits

By Jeremy McGilvrey

As its Google Books summary notes, this book isn’t for readers who want to learn the art of garnering comments and user-generated content, or which hashtags will attract the best views.

This piece instead delves deeper into the use of Instagram for social media marketing, including step-by-step strategies for building the business’s following and turning those followers into customers. But McGilvrey doesn’t just focus on building and converting followers – he also shows readers how to steadily maintain their Instagram presence while establishing reliable growth and predictable revenues from social media lead generation.

McGilvrey reveals a blueprint of actionable steps and strategies readers can use to improve their presence and generate real profits through Instagram.

“Having tons of followers is great, but it’s meaningless if it doesn’t make you money. Getting likes makes you feel good, but you can’t pay your bills with Instagram likes. Getting leads makes it seem like you are winning, but leads without sales are useless,” McGilvrey wrote.

Overall, this book helps marketers connect the dots between their Instagram following and their profit generation.

9. Networking in the 21st Century on LinkedIn (2nd Edition)

By David J.P. Fisher

LinkedIn isn’t just a place for job searches anymore. It’s also a powerful tool for B2Bs to support their social media and digital marketing strategies. However, harnessing LinkedIn for the good of your business isn’t a process that comes without hurdles, and in his book, Fisher shows marketers how to get past the hype and leverage LinkedIn for real results.

Fisher touches on critical strategies like creating an interesting and shareable personal brand, best practices for establishing an engaging profile and creating a real network of prospects and partners through this professional social media platform.

10. Where Social Media Marketing is Headed in the Next 5 Years: The Unconventional Guide to Build Your Brand and Become an Expert Influencer Using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube

By Henry Chambers

Welp, Chambers definitely gets the gold star for including the most social media network names in his book title. That aside, this guide goes well beyond surface-level insights and provides a real look at current social media marketing campaign strategies, as well as where we’ll be heading in this field in the future.

This book can help even the most expert social media marketers prep their strategy for the future, taking into account critical elements like:

  • Maintaining a constant and engaging social media presence.
  • Structuring your social media marketing team.
  • Creating a social media calendar.
  • Best practices for social ads.
  • Making social a cohesive part of omnichannel marketing strategies.

Now, get to reading!

There you have it – the top 10 digital marketing books to help inform and support your social strategy. Grab one of these babies, cozy up on the couch and take your social media marketing to the next level.