Top 25 Social Marketing Books from an Academic Perspective

Have you ever wondered what books on social media and content marketing make it to the classroom? Of the literally hundreds of social media marketing books released over the past few years, not many qualify for the standards imposed by undergraduate and MBA level accreditation guidelines. But after reviewing those that do meet the standards, the following rank ordering of qualified books was derived from a detailed analysis explained further.

Rank ordering of social media books

Rank ordered list of top social media books for MBAs

In order to understand how authors can meet these standards, consider some of the courseware and curriculum standards followed when selecting primary texts, recommended readings or specialty topics. 

social content marketing books

Meet Curriculum Standards

As a full-time professor of Social Media and Content Marketing courses, I have used over a dozen books across 2 MBA and 3 undergraduate courses since 2010. Few have had the staying power of traditional marketing books, however, in large part because of their quickly outdated concepts or misalignment with broader course objectives.

Without a doubt, this field has been dominated by practitioners anxious to define their versions of inbound marketing, the age of context, Youtulity and a whole host of other alternatives to traditional marketing jargon. As a result, these high energy and often insightful books can serve as a breath of fresh air to the dry nature of textbooks.

In fact, some of the elite MBA programs published lengthy lists of recommended readings by leading practitioners in their syllabus. Like them, I reached the same conclusion that academically oriented books on the subject were either too narrow, too out of touch or simply too boring to suit the interests of today’s millennials.

But after teaching nearly 800 students over the course of thirty classes, I stopped using these books as recommended readings. Rigorous AACSB standards and other performance criteria present too much of a challenge for adopting these books in class. Consider the following shortcomings of a typical “client oriented” book on either content marketing or social media marketing:

Insufficient Strategy Foundation

Especially important for MBA social media marketing courses, few books provide enough critical thinking exercises and conceptual understanding to educate our students on the holistic value of inbound marketing. Most address their points as a checklist of tactics often spun around a catchy title or theme that boosts the author’s exposure with the search engines.  

At the other extreme, social media evangelists get too abstract in their visions of future social business and people behaviors. Although this may serve well to address the advanced strategies of big brands, most MBA’s are seeking foundational knowledge on subjects like audience development, content marketing, SoLoMo context experiences, influence marketing, etc. 

Lack of Case Study and Class Exercise Rigor

What makes many practitioner books so attractive is their testimonies with marque clients. But beyond just a few classic examples we all know (e.g., Marcus Sheridan’s Riverside Pools),  few success stories pass the rigorous standards of  what  enables a critical thinking case study.  The same applies to exercises that lend themselves to performance driven testing and chapter reviews.

Lack of Content Scope

This is perhaps the biggest challenge of adopting books to curriculum requirements. At best, we professors settle for 3 books to cover the necessary program scope. This tends to annoy students with the high price, numerous text overlaps and skipped chapters. 

Evaluating the Top 25 Social Media and Content Marketing Books

To help practitioners reach the classroom, I am sharing the following academic perspective on what books should qualify as a recommended reading or primary text. This evaluation is based on course objectives, courseware adaptation, student excitement, concept credibility, currency and scope.

Social media book analysis

Summary Evaluation of Top Social Media Books for Academia

The evaluation is just one professor’s opinion of what suits the classroom. But I base this judgment on my qualifications as a relationship marketing educator with a doctorate in the field and full-time faculty responsibility for developing and teaching social media marketing courses at NSU’s H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business. 

For detailed reviews of the top 25 books approved for academia, check out these posts. 

#1 Audience by Jeffrey Rohrs

#2 Social Marketology by Ric Dragon

#3 Your Brand: The Next Media Co. by Michael Brito

#4 Optimize by Lee Odden

#5 The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David M. Scott

#6 Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi

#7 How to Measure Social Media by Nichole Kelly

#8 Maximizing Your Social by Neal Schaffer

#9 Youtility by Jay Baer

#10 The Impact Equation by Brogan and Smith

#11 Global Content Marketing by Pam Didner

#12 eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale by Ardath Albee

#13 Content Rules by Handley & Chapman

#14 Inbound Marketing 2nd Ed. by Halligan and Shah

#15 Visual Storytelling by Walter and Gioglio

#16 Go Mobile by Hopkins and Turner

#17 Age of Context by Scoble and Israel

#18 Think Like a Rock Star by Mack Collier

#19 Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

#20 Social Marketing to the Business Customer by Gillen and Schwartzman

#21 The B2B Social Media Book by Bodnar and Cohen 

#22 Launch by Michael Stelzner

#23 Mobile Influence by Chuck Martin

#24 Influence Marketing by Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella

#25 New Relationship Marketing by Mari Smith

So what is your take on this selection criteria? Please share your own criteria or what disagreements you have with the ranking of books qualifying academically.



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