Social Media Business Books

Best books about digital marketing

Social media is often the least respected part of the marketing mix. With an internet full of cat pictures and funny home videos it’s easy to see why social media isn’t taken seriously by business leaders. This is a dangerous mistake because digital communication is disrupting almost every industry. Part of the problem is that most books on social media aren’t rigorous enough to have serious business credibility in unsexy technology and B2B industries.

Social Media Business Books
Social media strategy is part of a company’s overall business strategy so the best social media books are actually general business strategy books.

So, where is the best thinking on social media today? It turns out that it’s hidden in plain sight in the business literature on word-of-mouth, competitive strategy and innovation. I’m a bit of a business book geek and I’ve read literature about business and strategy since I was a teenager. I started on Tom Peters and soon discovered Peter Drucker and Michael Porter. Seth Godin was a revelation for me. These days I devour everything from Mitch Joel and Hugh Macleod.

Best books about social media in business

Recently, I’ve been compiling the reference list for my upcoming book on social media strategy (for serious B2B brands). I’ve been lucky to have some great input on books to read from my mentors on the project. In the bibliography, I’ve tried to bring together a mix of the most important business books ever and some high quality new thinking.

I’ve also drawn on lots of lists of the best social media books from Mashable and a few of my peers combined with a few lists of the best business books ever from Time Magazine and the Financial Times. I even took to exploring book stores looking for covers that reminded me of classic books I’d read years ago but forgotten.

There are several heavyweight classics in this list that should be compulsory reading for entrepreneurs, strategists, consultants and designers. These are the best books on social media for business.

Each category below is a chapter from my upcoming book on how businesses can to adapt to social media. I’ve put an active link to the website of the best book in each category.  If one of the books catches your eye, you can start by exploring their website and go on to check them out on Amazon.

Social media’s disruptive impact on business

Likeable Social Media (Dave Kerpen, 2011)
Thank You Economy (Gary Vaynerchuk, 2011)
Engage (Brian Solis and Ashton Kutcher, 2011)
Trust Agents (Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, 2010)
Groundswell (Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, 2008)
Cluetrain Manifesto (Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, 2000)

How ideas spread

Unleashing the Ideavirus (Seth Godin, 2001)
Made to Stick (Chip & Dan Heath, 2011)
The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007)
Nudge (Richard H Thaler, 2008)
Herd (Mark Earls, 2009)
Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely, 2008)
Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman, 2011)
Wisdom of Crowds (James Surowiecki, 2004)
Tribes (Seth Godin, 2008)
Here Comes Everybody (Clay Shirky, 2008)
Media Virus! (Douglas Rushkoff, 1996)
Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell, 2001)
Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins, 1976)

Consumer behaviour

Influence (Robert Cialdini, 2007)
Buyology (Martin Lindstrom, 2011)
Making is Connecting (David Gauntlett, 2011)
Thoughtless Acts? (Jane Fulton Suri, 2005)
Emotional design (Donald Norman, 2005)
Don’t Make Me Think (Steve Krug, 2005)
Switch (Chip & Dan Heath, 2011)
Humanize (Maddie Grant, 2012)
The Paradox of Choice (Barry Schwartz, 2004)
Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell, 2008)
Freakonomics (Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, 2009)
Coercion (Douglas Rushkoff, 2000)
The Consumer Decision Journey (David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder and Ole Jørgen Vetvik, McKinsey Quarterly, 2009)

Social media strategy

End of Business As Usual (Brian Solis, 2011)
Return on Influence (Mark Schaefer, 2012)
Six Pixels of Separation (Mitch Joel, 2010)
Social Media ROI (Olivier Blanchard, 2011)
The Impact Equation (Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, 2012)

Personal reputation

The Brand You 50 (Tom Peters, 1999)
Me 2.0 (Dan Schawbel, 2009)
Crush It (Gary Vaynerchuk, 2009)

Social media marketing

Flip the Funnel (Joseph Jaffe, 2010)
Referral Engine (John Jantsch, 2012)
UnMarketing (Scott Stratten, 2010)
Optimize (Lee Odden, 2012)
Convert! (Ben Hunt, 2011)

Content strategy

Content Rules (C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley, 2012)
New Rules of Marketing and PR (David Meerman Scott, 2011)

Social business strategy

The Collaborative Organization (Jacob Morgan, 2012)
The Connected Company (Dave Gray, 2012)
Social Business by Design (Dion Hinchcliffe and Peter Kim, 2012)
B2B Social Media Book (Kipp Bodnar and Jeffrey Cohen, 2012)
Smart Business, Social Business (Michael Brito, 2011)

Brand strategy

Positioning (Al Ries and Jack Trout, 2001)
22 Immutable Laws (Al Ries, 2000)
Marketing Management (Philip Kotler, 1967)
Building Strong Brands (David Aaker 1995)
Managing Brand Equity (David Aaker, 1991)
From Essence to Expression (Alexander Sanson, 2013)
The Brand Gap (Marty Neumeier, 2005)
Guerilla Marketing (Jay Conrad Levinson, 1984)
Selling the invisible (Harry Beckwith, 1997)
Purple Cow (Seth Godin, 2003)
Permission Marketing (Seth Godin, 1999)
Ogilvy on Advertising (David Ogilvy, 2007)
B2B Brand Management (Philip Kotler and Waldemar Pfoertsch, 2006)
Brand Aid (Brad VanAuken, 2003)

Lean brand strategy

Lean Thinking (James Womack and Daniel Jones, 1996)
Lean Startup (Eric Ries, 2011)
Running Lean (Ash Maurya, 2012)
Out of the Crisis (Edwards Deming, 1982)
Theory of Constraints (Eliyahu Goldratt, 1990)
The Goal (Eliyahu Goldratt, 1984)
Toyota Production System (Taiichi Ohno, 1988)
Machine that Changed the World (James Womack, Daniel Jones and Daniel Ross, 1990)

Entrepreneurial branding

The Art of the Start (Guy Kawasaki, 2008)
Business Model Generation (Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, 2010)
Four Hour Work Week (Tim Ferriss, 2007)

Social Media Strategy Books
Books on innovation and entrepreneurship can be more helpful in adapting to social media than marketing books.

Business strategy

Competitive Strategy (Michael Porter, 1980)
In Search of Excellence (Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, 1982)
Zapp (William Byham, 1997)
Good to Great (Jim Collins, 2001)
Built to Last (Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, 1994)
Competing for the Future (Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad, 1996)
Blue Ocean Strategy (Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne, 2005)
E-Myth Revisited (Michael Gerber, 1985)
The Effective Executive (Peter Drucker, 2007)
The Essential Drucker (Peter Drucker , 2001)
Tribal Leadership (Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright, 2009)


Crossing the Chasm (Geoffrey Moore, 1991)
Innovator’s Dilemma (Clayton Christensen, 1997)
Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Peter Drucker, 1985)
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, 1st (first) edition (Alan Cooper, 2004)


Leading Change (John Kotter, 1996)
On Becoming a Leader (Warren Bennis, 1989)
Who Moved My Cheese? (Spencer Johnson, 1998)
The One Minute Manager (Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, 1982)
Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson, 2011)
Three Laws of Performance (Dave Logan, 2011)
Corporate Culture and Performance (John Kotter and James Heskett, 1992)
Fifth Discipline (Peter Senge, 1990)

Business creativity

Change by Design (Tim Brown, 2009)
Orbiting the Giant Hairball (Gordon MacKenzie, 1998)
The Designful Company (Marty Neumeier, 2008)
The Art of Innovation (Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman, 2001)
Ten Faces of Innovation (Tom Kelley, 2008)
The Art of Possibility (Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, 2002)
Ignore Everybody (Hugh Macleod, 2009)
Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 2002)
Gamestorming (David Gray, James Macanufo, Sunni Brown, 2010)

Client relationships

The Trusted Advisor (Robert Galford, 2000)
Presentation Zen (Garr Reynolds, 2007)
Confessions of an Advertising Man (David Ogilvy, 1963)

Personal development

How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie, 1936)
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey, 2012)
Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman, 1995)
Getting Things Done (David Allen, 2001)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert M Pirsig, 1974)
The Road Less Travelled (M. Scott Peck, 1978)
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (Susan Jeffers, 1987)
The Power of Now (Ekart Tolle, 2001)
Unlimited Power (Anthony Robbins, 1986)
Secrets of Closing the Sale (Zig Ziglar, 1985)

A business strategy isn’t built by just reading books, but if you’re looking to expand your business knowledge then the above books represent the best knowledge that I’ve found on business strategy and social media.

I complied the list by asking around to find out which books people had found most influential for them. I’m always interested in which books a person remembers and that change their thinking in a lasting way. I’ve made an Amazon list of some of the most recent and compelling books listed above.

My upcoming book is really a book on business strategy with a social media starting point. It’s for companies in unsexy industries like law, enterprise technology, infrastructure, accounting and IT consulting.

The book includes some of the darker arts of advanced B2B social media including identifying individual decision makers, stalking your customer and creating individualised content that looks like innocent corporate content.

If there are any books that you think I need to check out for the bibliography, let me know.