BookTok: The New Platform for Independent Bookstores

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been looking for ways to keep their minds busy. TikTok, a relatively new social media app, began growing in popularity during this time. As a result of this growth, a group of book-loving enthusiasts has started sharing and creating “bookish” content on the app.

“BookTok,” as the community followers call it, is the latest space for people to share their favorite reads. Like its close competitor Bookstagram, BookTok is where people come together to show off the books they are currently reading. Creators also help other readers explore genres they are unfamiliar with and participate in different reading and book challenges.

Personally, I have never been a fan of the book communities on other platforms like Instagram, but when quarantine forced us all indoors, I found myself delving into the world of TikTok, and I quickly found BookTok creators that I loved and have been following ever since. I soon noticed a trend in my regular feed: there were TikTok accounts showing up that were run by bookstores who wanted to promote their shops.

According to The Bookseller, many independent bookstores have taken it upon themselves to use the social media platform as a way to promote their stores and bring in a new consumer demographic. Their accounts, which are generally run by managers and other employees, use all of the platform’s tools to their advantage. Some of the main trends seen on the stores’ accounts are promotional videos that highlight manager book recommendations, new books entering the store for the week, book giveaways, and demonstrating the COVID safety protocols that are in place to ensure a safe customer experience. Many of these accounts also offer small tours of their store’s location and even show off specialized sections that have been created for the books that are trending on BookTok.

The content on these accounts gives customers a firsthand account of the shop’s current selection while also attracting consumers who are unaware of the shop’s existence in the first place. This type of exposure will most likely bring in customers from the local area while also attracting people from across the country who love to visit local shops.

From a marketing perspective, TikTok is an excellent platform for everyone, whether you’re a store, an author, or a publisher. The key to these promotional videos is that the content on TikTok is randomized—this means that anyone can stumble upon the store’s account, which makes reaching new customers relatively simple. By reaching out and establishing a presence in communities like BookTok, independent bookstores can definitely increase sales and establish more loyal customers.

It would not be surprising to see more independent bookstores adopting these trends and creating BookTok accounts to attract more customers. I can not wait to see what other hidden gems are hiding in the indie scene!

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