30 essential books for business, marketing and social media

30 essential books for business, marketing and social media

Most everything I’ve learned (and continue to learn) about marketing and the web has come via the inspiration and example of others—reading amazing blogs, learning from great content, and diving deep into favorite books.

I’d love to share, in particular, the books that have been most influential to me and other digital marketers.

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This one’s different, trust us. Our new event for New York is focused on quality, not quantity.

I’ve put together a list of 30+ that include some of my personal favorites, some favorites from my Buffer teammates, and some favorites from a handful of the best marketers online.

Does your favorite business book make the list here? I’d love to know which ones have been meaningful to you as well.

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12 of the Best Business Books for Psychology and Neuromarketing

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1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The book that has informed the bulk of our culture and values here at Buffer, How to Win Friends delves into the specific ways with which you can communicate and empathize with everyone. We’ve gained such great value from this in the ways we seek to grow and improve as people and as marketers.

From the book:

Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.

2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Perhaps the most well-known and influential book on persuasion, Influence is referenced all the time by marketers who desire to be thoughtful and smart in their approach to creating campaigns and copy that appeal to others.

From the book:

A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.

3. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

We’ve gained such great value from the ideas in this book, in particular the Hooked model of Trigger > Action > Reward > Investment. There’s tons of great insight here into how people get hooked into products and how to replicate this model for your brand and business.

From the book:

Many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.

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4. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Written by behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the book touches on the irrational decisions that we often make, sometimes subconsciously.

From the book:

Trust, once eroded, is very hard to restore.

5. Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

A great read for finding motivation and drive to complete creative projects, Make Ideas Happen touches on the aspects of productivity that are critical to creative jobs (which seems to fit well for those with a marketing mindset).

From the book:

An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.

6. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

What makes things go viral? Why are do some products take off and others don’t? Jonah Berger answers these questions by going deep into the science of word-of-mouth and social persuasion—all of which is incredibly applicable to the high-level thinking in social media strategies.

From the book:

Virality isn’t born, it’s made.

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7. Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

Made to Stick digs into the reasons behind the longevity and stickiness of ideas, and it’s easy to draw the line to content and social media marketing as well. Chip and Dan Heath cover six key principles as to why some things stick and others don’t: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories.

From the book:

The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern.

8. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman, who holds a Nobel Prize in economics, shares about the science of our minds and how we often take one of two paths: fast and intuitive thinking, or slow and deliberate thinking.

From the book:

Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.

9. The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers into True Believers by Douglas Atkin

Atkin’s research into brands with devoted followings reveals a lot of interesting details on how to cultivate and grow a community. Some of the ideas mentioned here aim to build relationships with an audience by helping people feel unique, important, and belonging to a group—values that may resonate with many marketers.

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10. Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Shane Snow

This book fits in really well with our Buffer value of working smarter, not harder. Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently, takes a look at a host of different success stories—everyone from Jimmy Fallon to Alexander the Great—and identifies the ways in which these people have found to achieve great things in a short amount of time.

From the book:

There are a lot of great inventors and improvers in the world. But those who hack world-class success tend to be the ones who can focus relentlessly on a tiny number of things. In other words, to soar, we need to simplify.

11. Buy-ology by Martin Lindstrom

A great guide to how our minds respond to advertising, Buy-ology looks at our reactions to marketing messages and the elements that resonate with us most.

From the book:

When we brand things, our brains perceive them as more special and valuable than they actually are.

12. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay

Perhaps the original book on marketing psychology, Extraordinary Popular Delusions was first published in 1841 and contains truly timeless insights about the way that our brains process and respond to media and messaging.

From the book:

I never lost money by turning a profit.

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Make-it-fun-to-read

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13. Tribes by Seth Godin

All of Seth Godin’s books are wonderful resources for feeling inspired to achieve great things with your marketing. Tribes, in particular, seems to have a lean toward the social media side of things as it covers the topic of audiences and communities (and how to become a leader).

From the book:

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

14. Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah

The go-to source for an introduction to inbound marketing, the book from Hubspot’s co-founders touches on all the elements of inbound marketing and the amazing value that comes from this approach. (Inbound marketing is very much aligned with what we aim to do here at Buffer.)

From the book:

You’ve got to unlearn what you have learned.

15. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

The title of this one hints at the message: Be strategic with the way you sell on social media. Gary Vaynerchuk is one of the most influential names in online marketing, and the ideas he shares in this book have been key to his growth.

From the book:

Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.

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16. Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

We gained so much from reading this book together as a marketing team here at Buffer. The book covers 19 different traction channels that might be worth exploring for your business, as well as the specific exercises needed to find the channels that will work for you.

From the book:

This is what we call the 50 percent rule: spend 50 percent of your time on product and 50 percent on traction.

17. To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink

Offering a fresh perspective on marketing, To Sell Is Human discusses the idea that we’re all salespeople, not just those of us who hold marketing titles. It’s a very clarifying conversation for anyone who sells (or shares) online.

From the book:

Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you’re doing and upserve instead.

18. Everything I Know by Paul Jarvis

Author, designer, and creator Paul Jarvis shares all his best tips in this book—lots of specific, actionable ways to take control of new projects and build and launch things.

From the book:

If we don’t let our weirdness rise to the surface, we don’t let our work stand out.

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19. The New Rules of Marketing & PR  by David Meerman Scott

A hugely comprehensive resource, The New Rules features case studies and examples of great marketing campaigns, as well as providing insight and ideas about what might work for your brand and business as marketing evolves.

From the book:

Barack Obama is the most successful new marketer in history. Study his campaign so that you can adapt the ideas for your business.

20. Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype by Jay Baer

Youtility suggest an approach to marketing that focuses on being useful and providing value to your audience. I really enjoy this line from the book: “The difference between helping and selling is just two letters.”

From the book:

Redefine the market into something much smaller and more manageable.

21. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Offering a simplified view of many successful marketing ideas, this classic book comes form a neat perspective of high-level marketing strategies that were working when the book was published (over 20 years ago) and continue to work today.

From the book:

The only reality you can be sure about is in your own perceptions. If the universe exists, it exists inside your own mind and the minds of others.

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If-yougive-freelythere-willalways-bemore.

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22. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

My all-time favorite writing book, Bird by Bird takes such an empathic perspective to what it’s like to be a writer—whether you’re writing fiction or blog posts, the advice rings true. Anne Lamott shares a great bit of vulnerability in the book, which helps make the advice feel all the more real and useful.

From the book:

If you give freely, there will always be more.

23. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

A fantastic introduction to content writing, Ann Handley’s book covers all the basic steps of how to write online—and how to write well.

From the book:

In an online world, our online words are our emissaries; they tell the world who we are.

24. On Writing by Stephen King

Full of great wisdom on writing books and stories, On Writing also contains great bits of advice on writing in general, with tips on how to best form sentences and organize ideas, all of which can come in handy with blog posts, emails, and updates, too.

From the book:

The scariest moment is always just before you start.

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25. Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi

There’s lots of great stuff in this content marketing guide from Joe Pulizzi, both in terms of the writing itself and also in approaching content marketing from the right perspective.

From the book:

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.

– Herbert B. Swope, American journalist

26. Nicely Said by Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee

Covering the best ways to write for the web, Nicely Said also comes at the topic from a neat perspective: That of voice and tone and engaging directly with your reader.

From the book:

Helping people and making them happy is the best kind of marketing you can do.

27. The Robert Collier Letter Book by Robert Collier

This classic collection of sales letters shows the thought and care that goes into choosing the right words and angles with which to create your copy. Collier’s explanations of why things work (and why they don’t) is hugely applicable for online writing as well.

From the book:

You have to compete in the same way for your reader’s attention. He is not looking for your letter. He has a thousand and one other things more important to him to occupy his mind. Why should he divert his attention from them to plow through pages of type about you or your projects?

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28. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

Ogilvy, who is regarded as the “Father of Advertising,” mentions that this book contains all his best advice and strategies for copywriting. It’s all timeless and priceless pearls of wisdom that continue to hold up 50 years after Ogilvy first used them successfully.

From the book:

In my experience, committees can criticize, but they cannot create. ‘Search the parks in all your cities You’ll find no statues of committees.

29. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

A great resource for new writers, Zinsser’s book touches on several key topics that can help tighten up one’s writing and make for a smooth and polished finished product. Some of the advice gears toward journalism and authors, while still being quite applicable to the day-to-day copy tasks of online writers as well.

From the book:

Decide what you want to do. Then decide to do it. Then do it.

30. Style: The Art of Writing Well by F.L. Lucas

Style was a wonderfully surprising and useful resource for me and one that quickly became an all-time favorite writing book. I’ve found more useful anecdotes and examples in Style—useful for the work I’m doing today, online—than I’ve found in most any writing book in the past several years.

From the book:

How is clarity to be acquired? Mainly by taking trouble; and by writing to serve people rather than to impress them.

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The Way We Work

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What are you currently reading?

It’d be so great to hear what’s currently on your reading list or wish list.

Right now I’m reading or am about to start:

It’s be wonderful to hear from you—either what books have been your favorite business and marketing reads so far or which ones you’re excited to pick up and explore soon.

Image credit: Unsplash, Pablo, IconFinder, Shutterstock

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This post first appeared on Buffer.  

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