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10 Books Every Social Media Manager Should Read in 2020

Build a solid foundation of ideas and skills with 10 books that every social media manager needs to have in their library.

Stacey McLachlan April 22, 2020

I know you’re already committed to that true crime book club with Shelley from accounting (side note: she doesn’t actually “love serial killers,” right?) but — if I may be so bold — I’ve actually got another book club that I’d love to set you up with.

…Well, I guess technically it’s less of a club, and more of a list of really fascinating reads, perfect for a social media manager who wants to level up their game. But still. I think it’s a perfect match.

No gritting your way through whatever Ted Bundy biography the Shellster picked this month. Just relevant, impactful, inspiring books that will actually make you better at your job every day. Plus, these books will spark even more passion and excitement for what you do.

Sound good? Then this is the low-pressure, low-murder book club for you. Read on to read on.

Bonus: Get a free social media strategy template to quickly and easily plan your own strategy. Also use it to track results and present the plan to your boss, teammates, and clients.

10 of the best social media marketing books

1. The End of Marketing: Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media and AI by Carlos Gil

RIP, traditional marketing. We’re living in a world where Youtubers get more impressions than Coca-Cola, and politicians rise to power through memes.

The End of Marketing skips over the classic stages of grief and heads right into acceptance. If you want to engage your audience, not just sell to them, this book (shortlisted for the 2020 Business Book Awards) is a good place to start.

This book covers:

  • How to bring a human touch to the brand-customer relationship
  • Breaking through the newsfeed algorithm
  • Building smarter paid-strategy plans

2. See You On The Internet: Building Your Small Business With Digital Marketing by Avery Swartz

Whether you’re a scrappy entrepreneur or the head of social at a big-shot global brand, there are great takeaways in this book from the CEO of Camp Tech.

The reality is, social media doesn’t exist in a bubble. See You On the Internet is an excellent reminder that your social strategy needs to be symbiotic with the rest of your online presence. Your website, newsletter and online advertising are part of the package.

Plus, I think we can all agree: having the waving-hand emoji on the cover? Adorable. And isn’t that what we all really want from a marketing book? Be honest.

This book covers:

  • Modern etiquette for social media
  • Tailoring content for readers and your friendly neighbourhood SEO bots
  • The power of tracking and segmenting your audience for maximum impact

3. Brand Storytelling: Put Customers at the Heart of Your Brand Story by Miri Rodriguez

Storytelling does something magic to the human brain. And if every post you make is an opportunity to tell a micro-story, you should take a cue from Microsoft’s own creative journalist (slash wizard?) Miri Rodriguez.

She’s compiled case study after case study from big names like Expedia, Google and McDonalds to spark your brand’s own magic act. Ta da!

This book covers:

  • How to harness storytelling to evoke emotion
  • Assessing, dismantling and rebuilding your brand story
  • Why AI and machine-learning can’t do it all

4. Get Sh*t Done: The Ultimate Guide to Productivity, Procrastination, and Profitability by Jeffrey Gitomer

As a social media manager, you’re wearing a lot of hats (hopefully not a fedora, but I digress).

You’re planning and executing campaigns. You’re engaging with fans. You’re convincing your sales people that, no, you can’t just get Ryan Reynolds to endorse your new line of vitamins. Along with all the other things a social media manager has on their to-do list, you’ve just gotta make the most of every day.

Consider this book the motivation you need to blast through your to-do list effectively and efficiently. (Ignore the cuss in the title, Mom!)

This book covers:

  • Optimizing your work habits
  • Building a comprehensive plan for maximizing productivity
  • How to eliminate distraction and prevent procrastination

5. Social Media Marketing Workbook: How to Use Social Media for Business (2020 Updated Edition) by Jason McDonald

Author and Stanford professor (well, Stanford Continuing Studies professor, but still) Jason McDonald puts out a fresh version of this social media workbook annually. His metaphor remains the same, year over year: if social media is a party, as a social media marketer, you’re the gracious host.

Here, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to creating the entertainment (aka content) that will keep the party bumping.

This book covers:

  • Conceptualizing the content you need
  • Creating a customized social media marketing plan
  • Developing an in-depth knowledge of each unique social platform

6. Faster, Smarter, Louder: Master Attention in a Noisy Digital Market by Aaron Agius and Gián Clancey

Okay, let’s circle back to this party metaphor for a hot second. If social media is, in fact, a soiree, it’s definitely one where all the guests are loudmouth extroverts.

Brands that specialize in quiet genius are likely to be stuck hanging by the proverbial chip bowl, unnoticed.

Get rowdy with the help of this strategic guide that teaches brands how to build visibility and demand. It’s basically an ’80s-movie makeover montage to teach you how to be the life of the party

This book covers:

  • Finding industry-proven strategy with plenty of research to back it up
  • Going beyond SEO and ad words to provide authentic value
  • Getting the attention your brand deserves

7. Run with Foxes: Make Better Marketing Decisions by Paul Dervan

Let’s face it: social media marketing is really more art than science.

For all the strategizing and planning and data mining we do, there’s really no one fool-proof method for engagement. If there was, there probably wouldn’t be 10 new books to read about how to do it every season.

Paul Dervan, previously the Global Brand Director at Indeed, is upfront about the uncertainty of it all. “This is not a book of answers,” he says right off the bat.

What he does promise is a book full of lessons that he and several dozen other marketers — sly foxes that they are — have learned over their careers.

This book covers:

  • The secrets to making better decisions
  • Lessons from failures big and small
  • First-hand advice from some of the world’s biggest marketers

8. Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans by David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott

It’s like the old proverb goes: If you post a photo to Instagram and you don’t have any fans to see it, did it even happen?

The Wall Street Journal best-seller from a father-daughter team (obviously marketing genius runs in the family) focuses on building engagement, loyalty, and even a love connection with your audience or customers.

This book covers:

  • How to harness the power of fandom through social psychology
  • Building personal relationships with your followers
  • The impact of a meaningful corporate culture

9. Digital Trust: Social Media Strategies to Increase Trust and Engage Customers by Barry Connelly

What do successful relationships and buying something off instagram have in common? It’s all about trust.

If your audience doesn’t trust your brand, you’re never going to be able to build engagement. You may not be able to go to therapy with your customers (why won’t Esther Perel return my calls?!) but you can build a social strategy around a strong, dedicated brand identity.

This book covers:

  • How to reinforce customer trust through social
  • Enabling transparency and consumer empowerment
  • Practical tools for building and leveraging trust

10. Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

You may be a social media manager on paper, but ultimately, your job is to write. Surprise!

It’s why Everybody Writes continues to stay on our list of reading recommendations, year after year.

In our content-driven world, communication skills are essential in any outward facing role. “Our online words are currency,” Handley points out. “They tell our customers who we are.”

Great communication is a classic skill that’s always going to be valuable, spanning time, space, and whatever comes after Twitter.

This book covers:

  • Why writing matters more now, not less
  • Easy grammar rules and writing tips
  • The fundamentals of great marketing content

Done devouring these 10 essential books for social media marketers? The good news for this little book club is that things are changing and evolving daily in the social media world. More titillating expert insight is always coming down the pipe. Just stay tuned.

In the meantime, consider this mini library the inspiration to flex your own social media genius. Maybe with what you learn along the way, you’ll be writing the next book for our must-read list.

Reading is great, but putting your newfound skills to use is even better. Easily manage all your social channels, collect real-time data, and engage with your audience across networks with Hootsuite. Try it free today.

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By Stacey McLachlan

Stacey McLachlan is an award-winning writer and editor from Vancouver with more than a decade of experience working for print and digital publications.

She is editor-at-large for Western Living and Vancouver Magazine, author of the National Magazine Award-nominated 'City Informer' column, and a regular contributor to Dwell. Her previous work covers a wide range of topics, from SEO-focused thought-leadership to profiles of mushroom foragers, but her specialties include design, people, social media strategy, and humor.

You can usually find her at the beach, or cleaning sand out of her bag.

Read more by Stacey McLachlan

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