How TikTok changed the book industry

What a journey between the launch of ByteDance 6 years ago, and the 1 billion user mark that reached in September of last year. In the United States, half of social network users under the age of 25 have downloaded the Chinese app TikTok. Like any web tool, it relies on a recommendation algorithm: it reacts to user choices. In addition to the content specifically selected for each person, the ads will therefore follow the same model.

Initially focused on entertainment and creating funny or innovative content, he is often criticized for wasting time or for being superficial. One thing is for sure: the recipe works. As proof of this, the modifications were made by the Meta, Facebook and Instagram platforms. The first set up a competition between messages from friends and family and posts from strangers that were or were created to become viral. Instagram is taking the same approach by pushing this type of production more prominently.

Sales and bribery

This specific content put forward to create enthusiasm requires cultural actors to adapt to this new reality. The publishing world is no exception in this global battle for attention. As proof: At least seven of the fifteen books on the New York Times bestseller list owe their audience to TikTok, according to Observer.

Four of these headlines are signed by author Colin Hoover, a TikTok phenomenon. Like other community tools, TikTok allows the “normal reader” to share their opinions about the title, and offer automatic promotion of certain businesses. We can be sure that every work that will be chosen monthly for the new TikTok Bookclub will increase its sales, even when the text was published in 1817…

This digital channel significantly reaches an audience that is not reached by traditional publishing marketing. Bottom line: TikTok’s book club, ahead of the hashtag #Booktok and 65 billion views so far according to the platform, is building new readers and creating excitement.

Observers and researchers have attempted to decipher the success and mechanism of the #Booktok, which is mostly admired by women. The hashtag’s effectiveness in selling books comes from the spread of shared sentiment. #Booktok, on the other hand, will fish, like TikTok in general, at conveying complex information. Exciting, instant, without rationalization, all in a few seconds: or how do we produce the stupor of the masses, right?

The #BookTok viewer sees the book cover and the reader’s expression, hears a few words of excitement on a catchy song, and then moves on to the next piece of content. Likewise, Instagram’s #Bookstagram will be very visually oriented: users discover a business cover in an attractive setting, with a cup, a cozy frame or a wreath, all accompanied by a short caption of max 2,200 characters. On TikTok, the text that is shared in a video will be 300 characters long.

Read: Metabooks, the first Meta library, the metaverse on Facebook

Oprah magazine has shown that publishers sign contracts with influencers, especially Anglo-Saxons, to take advantage of their notoriety for commercial purposes. A confusion between advertising and literary criticism that defines the logic of social media influencers. Money for “impact,” digital features while waiting for Netflix to adapt.

Image credits: Cory Doctorow (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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