What is #booktok and why is it so popular?
#Booktok, is a hashtag that has grown rapidly in popularity on TikTok over the past year or so. It is essentially where users of TikTok create and share videos about books they are reading / have read / want to read and use the hashtag #booktok so that the videos can be found by other like-minded people. We’ve identified six key reasons why #booktok is so popular with young people:
- People want to see genuine content
Not only are these videos largely created by normal people, just like us, but sometimes these people are genuinely crying - you can’t get more raw than that! Audiences are seeking out true and honest reactions / recommendations from the influencers.
- A source of inspiration
It not only acts as a source of inspiration in terms of what books to read, but there are many #booktok videos out there which are focused around people developing their own creative writing. Some people have even formed friendships and give each other feedback on their writing!
- Igniting young adults love for reading
Combining reading with an online platform most young adults are very familiar with means reading has become a more popular, or ‘cool’ pastime. People want to read more so they can create more content - which creates quite a nice cycle of content consumption.
- Depth and breadth of authors / books
The depth and breadth of books covered in #booktok is almost limitless and is far more appealing to TikTok users than a few ‘top 5s’ that they saw elsewhere. They want to uncover the rare gems. It also allows people to support authors and topics that are under-represented in the ‘mainstream’.
- It’s a positive and wholesome community
There’s less focus around appearance and materialistic possessions (which dominates a lot of social media). #Booktok feels genuinely focused on finding and promoting good reads - and people are even becoming ‘influencers’ because of this!
- “Look at how intellectual I am!”
There is also something fascinating around virtue signalling, which essentially means painting a picture of yourself that you want others to believe, that might not necessarily be wholly true. #Booktok creators want to radiate their love for books online to bolster themselves as an avid reader and intellectual.
Beyond typical consumers / creators of booktok videos, the hashtag and trend has been picked up by booksellers and publishers as they notice the ever increasing impact it continues to have on their industry. Booksellers are already leveraging it by:
- Dedicating displays and shelving space in physical stores to #booktok books (e.g. Waterstones in the UK and Barnes and Noble in the USA). They want to make sure they can accommodate people who come in saying ‘I saw this book on TikTok, do you have it?’
- Retailers such as Waterstones have created their own TikTok accounts which post solely #booktok videos. For example, Waterstones Nuneaton account have posted nearly 100 videos, one of their most recent videos being ‘a day in the life of a bookseller’ - they’ve been able to find their own niche direction within the #booktok sphere
Publishers are using #BookTok as a marketing tool, either through creating their own accounts, managing and curating author accounts, or working with key influencers to promote their books.They are also using #booktok to determine what books to publish. In the same way that TikTok has changed the sort of music that gets made now, Netflix has changed the sort of TV that gets made, #booktok is changing what books get published. Those that are likely to get the #booktok stamp of approval are finding themselves further up the publishers list.
One of the things that defines Gen Z more so than other generations is the desire to have content and recommendations that are “for us, by us”.Publishers need to be careful how they move into this space in case they kill the golden goose, Gen Z can spot overly commercial and inauthentic content a mile off. As we would always recommend, understanding and working with your audience is the first step to success.