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Lessons for brands from the success of BookTok

Annie Arsane, Head of Business Marketing, Middle East, Turkey, Africa and Pakistan at TikTok

By Jalaja Ramanunni

The hardest part for book lovers isn’t reading itself or making the time to read; it lies in finding their tribe.

People love to talk about books they like, and that’s the ‘need’ that TikTok recognised.

Enter BookTok, a subculture where consumers discuss their favorite titles, connect with fellow readers, and share their reviews and recommendations for what to read next. For those who don’t know, BookTok is a TikTok community that revived the publishing industry. The hashtag #BookTok currently has 116.4B views and significantly influences the sales of physical books. Shannon DeVito, the Director of Books for Barnes & Nobles captured it well when she said: ‘Reading and talking about our favorite books will never go out of style, we’re just finding new ways to do it’.

Annie Arsane, Head of Business Marketing for the Middle East, Turkey, Africa and Pakistan at TikTok, who spoke at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature this year, reveals to Campaign what brands can learn from the success of BookTok.

What are some of the lessons from the success of #BookTok? How can other industries leverage the same effect?

TikTok communities are always engaged – it is about how they behave with each other and how they reimagine their relationships with brands. Our users are fueled by hyper-relevant content.

Content on our platform is co-created with people and not just for people. Participation is an interactive two-way approach to storytelling. TikTok users will even jump in on trends and co-create with one another on behalf of brands. In short, TikTok users are always engaged with each other and with brands. The reason behind all this is that TikTok users cluster into communities or circles of influence based on interests and communities are superior to followers because they engage with your brand and with each other.

How should brands portray themselves on TikTok in comparison to other mediums?

Authenticity and entertainment are at the core of what makes content on TikTok so engaging. No one wants to feel like they are just being marketed to, they want to create with brands just as much as they want to create with each other. And brands that are part of the community and speak with the community rather than to them, are most successful on the platform.

Are there other industries that have been impacted the same way #BookTok changed the publishing industry?

Digital platforms have been at the heart of the shift in the purchasing journey for all industries – it creates an environment where consumers seek and have access to infinite information. People are now taking control of what they want to see and when they see it. This has fueled an entirely new way to discover products, services and brands. As a result, a new culture has emerged and it’s rooted in community, creativity and most importantly, entertainment. We see how entertainment fuels product discovery and marketers who show up as part of the community and inspire co-creation and engagement on a regular basis.

For instance, the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag showcases products discovered on TikTok and generated over 40B views. Maybelline ‘Sky High’ mascara sold out four times in two weeks; the sales of Itsu’s seaweed thins increased by more than 100 per cent after the #salmonricebowl TikTok trend; and Little Moons dessert – TikTok hashtag gained nearly 20 million views, and sales of the dessert shot up 700 per cent.

Could you share tips that will help brands do well on TikTok?

Don’t just speak to your audience but through your audiences: Lean into the creator communities and consumer cultures being built on TikTok to present your authenticity and realness as a brand.

Reach is good but relevant reach is better: we saw that relevance drives benefits across the full funnel for brands, increasing both brand affinity and bottom-line sales impact. TikTok’s ability to create movements is reflected in hashtags like #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt or #AsSeenOnTikTok, known to move products off the shelf at unprecedented speed.