How to Create an Engaging Facebook Cover Photo

By now I’m sure you know how important it is to have an active presence on social media.

You’ve been posting more often and trying to engage with your followers. This is great, but you need to make sure you’re not overlooking the small stuff.

Often, I see business pages with cover photos that look like they were created without much thought.

This is a huge mistake.

Your cover photo is the first thing your audience sees when they view your Facebook page. First impressions can make or break the public perception of your page, which is why you need to put some time and effort into your cover photo.

Incorporating the right visual elements into your marketing strategy is important. You need to look at your Facebook page as a marketing channel.

Marketers recognize the importance of this. That’s why 74% of marketing experts use images and other visuals to enhance their social media marketing strategies.

Furthermore, 37% of marketers named visual content as the most important marketing channel for their businesses.

Creating more engaging content and coming up with visual content is a top priority for B2B marketers:

image1 2

If you’re trying to improve your visual content, your Facebook cover photo is the most logical place to start.

That’s because Facebook has over 2 billion active monthly users. This user base is growing at roughly 17% every year.

No matter what industry you’re in or what your company does, it’s safe to say your target market is active on Facebook. Now, it’s time for you to reach them.

I’ll show you exactly what you need to do to create a Facebook cover photo that engages with your followers.

Know your audience

The first thing you need to do is understand who is following you on Facebook. You may think you already have some idea because you’re assuming your Facebook audience is the same as your existing customer base.

However, this isn’t always the case, and you need to find out for sure.

How do you go about this? Facebook has awesome analytics tools built right into their platform. If you’ve never used them before, here’s how you can find out who is following your page.

Step #1: Navigate to the “Insights” tab on your homepage

image5 2

If you’re used to regular Facebook profile homepages, you’re probably not familiar with this tool. Business pages and fan pages have more options than personal profile pages have.

You’ll notice a row of tabs at the top of your screen. Select Insights to continue.

Step #2: Select the “People” option toward the bottom left corner of the Insights menu

image3 2

Your Insight menu has lots of options. You can check out various actions on the page and manage videos, events, page views, and more.

One of those choices is the “People” menu. Select that to get one step closer to seeing your audience.

Step #3: Click on the “Your Fans” tab

image2 2

Now you’ve got complete access to everyone who likes your page. You can view the numbers for these demographics based on categories like:

  • gender
  • location
  • primary language

You can use this information to come up with a cover photo that speaks to your primary audience.

For example, let’s say you discover that 85% of your fans are female, 80% of your followers speak Italian, and 75% of your fans are between the ages of 45 and 55.

If that’s the case, you should probably create a cover photo that speaks to a middle-aged Italian woman. Simple, right?

This information can definitely guide you in the right direction, but make sure you take it with a grain of salt. The data probably won’t be 100% accurate.

People lie on Facebook. In fact, research shows that more than 75% of people have lied in their social media profiles.

That said, this shouldn’t drastically skew your results. It’s still a good indication of your primary audience.

Simplicity is effective

I’ve explained in the past why websites with simple designs have higher conversion rates. The same concept can be applied to your Facebook page.

Don’t overwhelm your followers. Your image should be clear and simple. If you try to fit 20 different elements into one picture, your message will be lost.

Instead, try to come up with a clear point of focus. Your audience’s eyes should be drawn to just one element so they don’t get overwhelmed.

Here’s a great example from the Acura Facebook page:

image7 2

Acura has an entire fleet of vehicles. They sell a variety of sedans, sports cars, luxury vehicles, and SUVs. But notice that their cover photo is very simple.

Instead of bombarding their followers with 20 different cars in one image, they selected one. It speaks volumes and makes the audience think.

What is so special about this car? If you click on the photo, you’ll learn that it’s a new prototype of the Acura RDX.

Users would be less likely to click to find out more if there were many cars in the picture.

This is also related to the paradox of choice phenomenon. The more choices you give someone, the lower your conversion rates will be.

That’s why simplicity converts.

Let’s take a look at another well-known brand to see how they approach their cover photo.

Adidas is recognized across the globe. They sell clothing, shoes, and sporting equipment. Their customer base is men and women of all ages, who participate in a wide range of sports.

How can they come up with a simple cover photo that encompasses all these elements?

image8

They don’t even try, which is a smart approach. If they tried to include every sport in one picture, it wouldn’t be very effective.

In this instance, they decided to pitch their soccer cleats. It could be related to part of their overall marketing campaign.

Or maybe they used analytics to determine that the majority of their fans live in areas where soccer is the most popular sport. It might even be a combination of multiple factors.

Regardless of their reason, Adidas made the smart decision to keep things simple.

If their marketing goals change, I’m sure their cover photo will be adjusted accordingly. But I’ll discuss this idea in greater detail shortly.

Make sure you follow Facebook’s guidelines

Regardless of how you decide to approach your Facebook cover photo, it needs to follow the Facebook Cover Photo Guidelines.

Facebook is pretty strict when it comes to their rules and regulations. It’s imperative your photo abides by these guidelines, or you’ll have problems.

The last thing you want to happen is to have your account suspended for a breach of their rules. That will crush your social media marketing campaign and defeat the purpose of what you’re trying to accomplish here.

I’ll quickly summarize what you need to know.

Your image should be unique and relevant to your page. For example, if you’ve got a restaurant, an appropriate image would be something on your menu.

Cover photos must be properly sized. Here are those dimensions:

  • at least 400 pixels wide by 150 pixels tall
  • 640 pixels wide by 360 pixels tall for smartphones
  • 820 pixels wide by 312 pixels tall for computer screens

Your cover photo will load as fast as possible if it’s an SRBG JPG file that’s less than 100 kilobytes, 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall.

If you need help resizing your photo to meet these standards, you can use photo-editing software such as PicMonkey:

image4 2

Facebook’s rules also state that your photo can’t mislead or deceive your audience. The image also can’t infringe on someone else’s copyright.

Your photo can’t encourage or promote users to tag themselves or their friends either. It’s prohibited to tell your followers to upload your cover photo to their timelines.

Make sure you review all the Facebook Page Terms to ensure you’re not in violation of any policies.

Change it up

Don’t be boring.

Just because you came up with an awesome cover photo that fits everything I’ve talked about so far doesn’t mean you should use it for the rest of eternity.

Changing your cover photo will help keep your audience engaged. Think back to some of the examples we looked at earlier.

Acura isn’t going to promote that one car forever. Adidas won’t be promoting soccer cleats all year either.

Your photo should change based on the goals of your company and overall marketing campaign.

Try to include highly relevant images based on the season or current events. For example, you could have a red, white, and blue themed cover photo around the 4th of July.  Or maybe use an image with a pumpkin and witch close to Halloween.

Check out this example from Bose. They do a great job of accomplishing exactly what I’m referring to:

image9

With NFL season coming to a close, Bose changed their Facebook cover photo so that it’s related to the Super Bowl. This image is perfect for this time of year, but it wouldn’t be as effective in May or June.

If you don’t update your cover photo regularly, your followers may think you’re not monitoring your page.

Your cover photo should represent the overall image of your company

What’s the goal or mission of your company? Your cover photo should tell that story.

If your company works with charitable organizations or helps people in need, use an image reflecting that.

Again, first impressions matter. The first thing people see on your Facebook page should tell them what you stand for.

Your cover photo should also try to entice people to follow your page:

image6 2

Try to create brand awareness through your cover photo. If your followers like and comment on it, the image will appear on the timelines of their friends as well.

This increases the exposure of your company and improves your chances of getting more followers.

Conclusion

Your social media marketing campaign isn’t complete without an effective and engaging Facebook cover photo.

Don’t rush. Take your time and come up with something unique.

Your cover photo needs to speak directly to your audience. Use the insights feature on Facebook to find out who follows your page. Tailor your image toward those people.

Keep it simple. Your company does a lot, but your photo doesn’t need to encompass it all. Pick one theme and go with it. You can always change it later.

Make sure your photo follows Facebook’s guidelines. Otherwise, your account could get suspended.

Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind your cover photo should reflect the overall image of your company.

Follow these tips, and you’ll get more engagement with your audience on Facebook.

What kind of Facebook cover photo do you use?

By now I’m sure you know how important it is to have an active presence on social media.

You’ve been posting more often and trying to engage with your followers. This is great, but you need to make sure you’re not overlooking the small stuff.

Often, I see business pages with cover photos that look like they were created without much thought.

This is a huge mistake.

Your cover photo is the first thing your audience sees when they view your Facebook page. First impressions can make or break the public perception of your page, which is why you need to put some time and effort into your cover photo.

Incorporating the right visual elements into your marketing strategy is important. You need to look at your Facebook page as a marketing channel.

Marketers recognize the importance of this. That’s why 74% of marketing experts use images and other visuals to enhance their social media marketing strategies.

Furthermore, 37% of marketers named visual content as the most important marketing channel for their businesses.

Creating more engaging content and coming up with visual content is a top priority for B2B marketers:

image1 2

If you’re trying to improve your visual content, your Facebook cover photo is the most logical place to start.

That’s because Facebook has over 2 billion active monthly users. This user base is growing at roughly 17% every year.

No matter what industry you’re in or what your company does, it’s safe to say your target market is active on Facebook. Now, it’s time for you to reach them.

I’ll show you exactly what you need to do to create a Facebook cover photo that engages with your followers.

Know your audience

The first thing you need to do is understand who is following you on Facebook. You may think you already have some idea because you’re assuming your Facebook audience is the same as your existing customer base.

However, this isn’t always the case, and you need to find out for sure.

How do you go about this? Facebook has awesome analytics tools built right into their platform. If you’ve never used them before, here’s how you can find out who is following your page.

Step #1: Navigate to the “Insights” tab on your homepage

image5 2

If you’re used to regular Facebook profile homepages, you’re probably not familiar with this tool. Business pages and fan pages have more options than personal profile pages have.

You’ll notice a row of tabs at the top of your screen. Select Insights to continue.

Step #2: Select the “People” option toward the bottom left corner of the Insights menu

image3 2

Your Insight menu has lots of options. You can check out various actions on the page and manage videos, events, page views, and more.

One of those choices is the “People” menu. Select that to get one step closer to seeing your audience.

Step #3: Click on the “Your Fans” tab

image2 2

Now you’ve got complete access to everyone who likes your page. You can view the numbers for these demographics based on categories like:

  • gender
  • location
  • primary language

You can use this information to come up with a cover photo that speaks to your primary audience.

For example, let’s say you discover that 85% of your fans are female, 80% of your followers speak Italian, and 75% of your fans are between the ages of 45 and 55.

If that’s the case, you should probably create a cover photo that speaks to a middle-aged Italian woman. Simple, right?

This information can definitely guide you in the right direction, but make sure you take it with a grain of salt. The data probably won’t be 100% accurate.

People lie on Facebook. In fact, research shows that more than 75% of people have lied in their social media profiles.

That said, this shouldn’t drastically skew your results. It’s still a good indication of your primary audience.

Simplicity is effective

I’ve explained in the past why websites with simple designs have higher conversion rates. The same concept can be applied to your Facebook page.

Don’t overwhelm your followers. Your image should be clear and simple. If you try to fit 20 different elements into one picture, your message will be lost.

Instead, try to come up with a clear point of focus. Your audience’s eyes should be drawn to just one element so they don’t get overwhelmed.

Here’s a great example from the Acura Facebook page:

image7 2

Acura has an entire fleet of vehicles. They sell a variety of sedans, sports cars, luxury vehicles, and SUVs. But notice that their cover photo is very simple.

Instead of bombarding their followers with 20 different cars in one image, they selected one. It speaks volumes and makes the audience think.

What is so special about this car? If you click on the photo, you’ll learn that it’s a new prototype of the Acura RDX.

Users would be less likely to click to find out more if there were many cars in the picture.

This is also related to the paradox of choice phenomenon. The more choices you give someone, the lower your conversion rates will be.

That’s why simplicity converts.

Let’s take a look at another well-known brand to see how they approach their cover photo.

Adidas is recognized across the globe. They sell clothing, shoes, and sporting equipment. Their customer base is men and women of all ages, who participate in a wide range of sports.

How can they come up with a simple cover photo that encompasses all these elements?

image8

They don’t even try, which is a smart approach. If they tried to include every sport in one picture, it wouldn’t be very effective.

In this instance, they decided to pitch their soccer cleats. It could be related to part of their overall marketing campaign.

Or maybe they used analytics to determine that the majority of their fans live in areas where soccer is the most popular sport. It might even be a combination of multiple factors.

Regardless of their reason, Adidas made the smart decision to keep things simple.

If their marketing goals change, I’m sure their cover photo will be adjusted accordingly. But I’ll discuss this idea in greater detail shortly.

Make sure you follow Facebook’s guidelines

Regardless of how you decide to approach your Facebook cover photo, it needs to follow the Facebook Cover Photo Guidelines.

Facebook is pretty strict when it comes to their rules and regulations. It’s imperative your photo abides by these guidelines, or you’ll have problems.

The last thing you want to happen is to have your account suspended for a breach of their rules. That will crush your social media marketing campaign and defeat the purpose of what you’re trying to accomplish here.

I’ll quickly summarize what you need to know.

Your image should be unique and relevant to your page. For example, if you’ve got a restaurant, an appropriate image would be something on your menu.

Cover photos must be properly sized. Here are those dimensions:

  • at least 400 pixels wide by 150 pixels tall
  • 640 pixels wide by 360 pixels tall for smartphones
  • 820 pixels wide by 312 pixels tall for computer screens

Your cover photo will load as fast as possible if it’s an SRBG JPG file that’s less than 100 kilobytes, 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall.

If you need help resizing your photo to meet these standards, you can use photo-editing software such as PicMonkey:

image4 2

Facebook’s rules also state that your photo can’t mislead or deceive your audience. The image also can’t infringe on someone else’s copyright.

Your photo can’t encourage or promote users to tag themselves or their friends either. It’s prohibited to tell your followers to upload your cover photo to their timelines.

Make sure you review all the Facebook Page Terms to ensure you’re not in violation of any policies.

Change it up

Don’t be boring.

Just because you came up with an awesome cover photo that fits everything I’ve talked about so far doesn’t mean you should use it for the rest of eternity.

Changing your cover photo will help keep your audience engaged. Think back to some of the examples we looked at earlier.

Acura isn’t going to promote that one car forever. Adidas won’t be promoting soccer cleats all year either.

Your photo should change based on the goals of your company and overall marketing campaign.

Try to include highly relevant images based on the season or current events. For example, you could have a red, white, and blue themed cover photo around the 4th of July.  Or maybe use an image with a pumpkin and witch close to Halloween.

Check out this example from Bose. They do a great job of accomplishing exactly what I’m referring to:

image9

With NFL season coming to a close, Bose changed their Facebook cover photo so that it’s related to the Super Bowl. This image is perfect for this time of year, but it wouldn’t be as effective in May or June.

If you don’t update your cover photo regularly, your followers may think you’re not monitoring your page.

Your cover photo should represent the overall image of your company

What’s the goal or mission of your company? Your cover photo should tell that story.

If your company works with charitable organizations or helps people in need, use an image reflecting that.

Again, first impressions matter. The first thing people see on your Facebook page should tell them what you stand for.

Your cover photo should also try to entice people to follow your page:

image6 2

Try to create brand awareness through your cover photo. If your followers like and comment on it, the image will appear on the timelines of their friends as well.

This increases the exposure of your company and improves your chances of getting more followers.

Conclusion

Your social media marketing campaign isn’t complete without an effective and engaging Facebook cover photo.

Don’t rush. Take your time and come up with something unique.

Your cover photo needs to speak directly to your audience. Use the insights feature on Facebook to find out who follows your page. Tailor your image toward those people.

Keep it simple. Your company does a lot, but your photo doesn’t need to encompass it all. Pick one theme and go with it. You can always change it later.

Make sure your photo follows Facebook’s guidelines. Otherwise, your account could get suspended.

Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind your cover photo should reflect the overall image of your company.

Follow these tips, and you’ll get more engagement with your audience on Facebook.

What kind of Facebook cover photo do you use?

How to Create an Engaging Facebook Cover Photo

By now I’m sure you know how important it is to have an active presence on social media. You’ve been posting more often and trying to engage with your followers. This is great, but you need to make sure you’re not overlooking the small stuff. Often, I see business pages with cover photos that look … Continue reading “How to Create an Engaging Facebook Cover Photo”

The post How to Create an Engaging Facebook Cover Photo appeared first on Wicked Baron's Emporium.

By now I’m sure you know how important it is to have an active presence on social media. You’ve been posting more often and trying to engage with your followers. This is great, but you need to make sure you’re not overlooking the small stuff. Often, I see business pages with cover photos that look … Continue reading “How to Create an Engaging Facebook Cover Photo”

The post How to Create an Engaging Facebook Cover Photo appeared first on Wicked Baron's Emporium.

4 Common SEO Problems Plaguing Almost All E-Commerce Companies

When it comes to e-commerce, setting up a website is fairly easy. The true challenge lies in getting customers to it. Back when websites were a new concept, it was enough to just build your site and submit it to directories. Since then, things have changed a bit, with marketing becoming more complex. The Internet is … Continue reading “4 Common SEO Problems Plaguing Almost All E-Commerce Companies”

The post 4 Common SEO Problems Plaguing Almost All E-Commerce Companies appeared first on Wicked Baron's Emporium.

When it comes to e-commerce, setting up a website is fairly easy. The true challenge lies in getting customers to it. Back when websites were a new concept, it was enough to just build your site and submit it to directories. Since then, things have changed a bit, with marketing becoming more complex. The Internet is … Continue reading “4 Common SEO Problems Plaguing Almost All E-Commerce Companies”

The post 4 Common SEO Problems Plaguing Almost All E-Commerce Companies appeared first on Wicked Baron's Emporium.

How to Outsmart Writer’s Block with Neuroscience

There are approximately 86 billion neurons in the human brain, give or take a few million. Our next closest competitors in the animal kingdom are gorillas, who have around 33 billion, and then elephants with a far more generous 257 billion. To put all those numbers into perspective, our Milky Way galaxy has somewhere between … Continue reading “How to Outsmart Writer’s Block with Neuroscience”

The post How to Outsmart Writer’s Block with Neuroscience appeared first on Wicked Baron's Emporium.

There are approximately 86 billion neurons in the human brain, give or take a few million. Our next closest competitors in the animal kingdom are gorillas, who have around 33 billion, and then elephants with a far more generous 257 billion. To put all those numbers into perspective, our Milky Way galaxy has somewhere between … Continue reading “How to Outsmart Writer’s Block with Neuroscience”

The post How to Outsmart Writer’s Block with Neuroscience appeared first on Wicked Baron's Emporium.

We Read 9 Self-Help Books So You Don’t Have To

This summer, I decided to really give the whole “be-present-in-the-moment” thing a shot.

I wanted to take this seriously, so I decided to check out a couple self-help books dedicated to the idea of “living in the now.”

And here’s the thing: some of the ideas, I could really, really get behind. But others didn’t resonate with me as deeply. And that’s okay.

Self-help books aren’t meant to be mindlessly devoured and followed diligently, like a cookbook recipe for happiness. You can cherry pick the lessons that fit your life.

Which is why we’ve gone ahead and done the hard work for you. Here, we’ve curated a list of nine self-help books to help you achieve professional and personal growth — along with our biggest takeaways from each.

1. 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal (2012)

This year, my New Year’s resolution was to be healthy.

Originally, this meant a complete lifestyle overhaul: replacing meals with kale juices, waking up at 5 a.m. for runs, avoiding all contact with sugar, becoming so proficient at SoulCycle that the instructor would ask if I’ve ever considered teaching on the side …

As the month progressed, being aggressively healthy became more about moderation. Occasionally choosing the salad instead of the burger. Drinking more water. Cycling exactly twice a week — in the back of the class, dripping and (usually) pretty defeated.

My quest for big changes became a search for small ones.

This is the main premise of Blumenthal’s book, which points out that all big changes start with small ones. Becoming a healthier person doesn’t come from making one big change. It comes from small changes, like choosing salads instead of burgers, eating a little less sugar, and downsizing your portions.

In her book, Blumenthal challenges you to make one small change each week, targeted at improving your nutrition, fitness, mental well-being, or green living. At the end of each week, she gives you a weekly changes checklist, so you know how to integrate these changes into your lifestyle.

Even though many of Blumenthal’s changes seem small (e.g. take a multivitamin, enjoy time alone), Blumenthal promises that at the end of the year, you will have fully transformed your life: you will be happier, healthier, more confident, more productive, and more positive.

Her book encourages holistic changes — improving your mental, physical, and spiritual lifestyle, one small, attainable step at a time.

The Big Takeaway: Slow and steady still wins the race. Tackle your health and lifestyle goals one small change at a time. If your New Year’s resolution seems overwhelming and unattainable, encourage yourself to focus on one little change per week: get more sleep, practice five-minutes of meditation each morning, or take a daily multivitamin. Then, all you have to do is repeat for 51 more weeks — easy, right?

2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (2012)

When you woke up this morning, did you do anything remotely different? Did you decide you’d start your morning with a glass of lemon water, even though you usually drink coffee first? Did you sit down to watch an episode of Game of Thrones, even though you always watch Fox News? Did you tie your shoes differently, just for fun?

I’m betting you didn’t do any of these things — you were probably on autopilot, going through your normal routine without taking the time to weigh your options or consciously make any decisions.

What you do in the morning, what you do throughout the day — it’s mostly just habit.

In this compelling book, Charles Duhigg examines why habits form, and how we can break them. He examines a range of different scenarios where big decisions were made, from MLK and the American civil rights movement, to the creation of Starbucks, drawing upon scientific research to bolster his claims.

Ultimately, Duhigg explains that our goals can only be met if we change our underlying habits, and we can only change our habits if we understand why they form in the first place.

The Big Takeaway: Your life rests on a firm foundation of habit. If you’re unhappy with any aspect of your life, your biggest opportunity to create lasting change lies in your ability to change your habits. For example, Duhigg wrote about one woman who decided to quit smoking. By breaking this one keystone habit, a chain of events occurred: first, she began jogging more, which eventually changed her eating habits, her sleeping habits, and even her spending habits.

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with your big aspirations, start by changing one habit that inhibits you from reaching that goal, and let new habits drive you from there.

3. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven (2017)

In 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven gave a Commencement speech to the University of Texas at Austin. He talked about the ten lessons he learned during six months of Navy Seal training, and how anyone can use those same lessons to change the world. The video of his speech went viral, encouraging McRaven to write a book based on those same principles, as well as additional stories from his naval career. According to McRaven, here are a few ways to change the world:

    1. Make your bed first thing in the morning, which reminds you little things in life matter.
    2. Admit you can’t do it alone, and learn to ask for help.
    3. Don’t be afraid of failure or setbacks.
    4. Be your best in the darkest moment, like a SEAL is taught to be his best when he’s under the keel, at the darkest moment of his mission.

The Big Takeaway: The reason many people think they can’t “change the world” is because that sounds unrealistic and grandiose. But McRaven argues that you can change a life — your own, and other people’s — through small gestures, little accomplishments, and a sincere inclination to hang onto hope at all costs.

4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey (1989)

Not only has Stephen Covey’s book sold more than 25 million copies, but Time also listed it as one of “The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books.” Bill Clinton even invited Covey to counsel him on the book’s principles during his presidency.

25 years after publication, the wisdom behind the seven habits Covey presents still holds true.

While I won’t spoil all these habits, I will say that Covey separates his seven habits into three categories:

  1. Private victory: learning to prioritize your goals, visualize your dreams, and act proactively rather than reactively.
  2. Public victory: learning how to collaborate and compromise, empathize with others, and become a team player and a leader.
  3. Renewal: learning how to use spirituality, meditation, and even service to maintain these lessons over your lifetime.

Covey provides you with the tools to adapt to change, and the power to reach your best professional and personal self.

The Big Takeaway: Covey came up with two terms in his book: “abundance mentality,” which applies to someone who is not competitive when it comes to success and believes success is more attainable with others’ involvement; and “scarcity mentality,” which applies to people who think success is only possible if they do it alone.

Covey posits that the most successful people are the “abundance mentality” people: those who are able to celebrate the success of other people, and even share recognition and responsibility for their own successes. So if you want to be successful, don’t be competitive. Instead, learn to use the people around you as resources, delegate responsibility, and work as a team player.

5. Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence – and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk (2018)

If nothing else, this book offers some pretty unique arguments next time your dad asks why you don’t have a corporate (read: full-time) job yet.

But honestly, in 2018 the arguments for pursuing a less conventional, more entrepreneurial career are valid: many people have found success by creating their own alternative paths.

But since these paths don’t follow any blueprints, it can be tricky (and scary) to figure out where and how to start.

In his book, four-time New York Times bestselling author Vaynerchuk outlines exactly how to become a successful person without following a corporate path. His book provides useful and tangible advice on how to excel on social media platforms to establish and sustain a powerful personal brand — no matter who you are. Whether you’re interested in becoming the next YouTube superstar, Instagram influencer, iTunes podcaster, or Spotify musician, his book offers strategic advice drawn from other successful influencers’ real experiences.

The Big Takeaway: This book isn’t a “get-rich-quick” scheme. Instead, it’s a guide that shows you how other people have become successful doing what they love, and how you can, too. It encourages you to dream bigger: whether you’re a plumber (in which case, “your pillar should be Facebook,” writes Vaynerchuk) or a podcaster (like John Lee Dumas, who followed Vaynerchuk’s advice and is now the creator of one of the top-ranked business podcasts on iTunes, which grosses around $200,000 per month). Ultimately, there’s a social media platform and strategy for everyone: you just have to find it and put it into action.

6. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)

I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of this book. It’s one of the best-selling books of all time, and was named number 19 on Time’s list of 100 most influential books.

To be honest, if this was written in 2018 and preached things like, “fundamental techniques in handling people,” “six ways to make people like you,” “how to win people to your way of thinking,” and, “how to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment,” I’d think it was a bunch of nonsense.

But, this book was published in 1936. And it’s still listed under Amazon’s best-sellers, 82 years later. So I’m thinking author Dale Carnegie is probably onto something.

Some of the advice is simple: smile, say someone else’s name when talking to her — and some is more complex, like, “let the other person feel your idea is his or hers,” which might take some practice.

The Big Takeaway: Here’s the gist of why Carnegie’s advice endures — people like to talk about themselves. Everyone wants to feel special, understood, and appreciated. If you make people feel this way, they like you better. So whether you’re the leader of a big marketing firm or in your first full-time position, learn to listen to the people around you, ask them meaningful questions about themselves, praise them for their good ideas, empathize with their point of view even during an argument, and remain humble. If you make people feel special, they’ll live up to the great reputation you’ve created for them.

7. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown (2017)

To me, the title itself sounded like a contradiction: find a way to belong, and find a way to stand alone? How do those two things fit together?

Brown argues that you can’t have one without the other: you can’t learn how to belong anywhere until you learn who you are and how you should fit. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone … true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity.”

In other words, how can you authentically fit in to a group or community if you’re not being your true self? And how can you be your true self if you don’t learn who you are without the pressures or expectations of your community?

Our culture today doesn’t make “belonging” easy. Brown says that we often strive to be perfect, pleasing, non-confrontational, and, as a result, quiet. We are terrified of braving what she calls “the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism.”

While being quiet might make for less complicated relationships, it also makes for less authentic ones.

The Big Takeaway: The first important lesson is that all of us have an innate need to connect with others (something Brown found in her research). But making connections is hard. Brown suggests reaching out and finding connections with those who are different from you. She also advises searching for truth in these relationships, within yourself and in others. If that sounds a bit too much like yoga-guru-jargon, it really just means being honest about who you are even at the risk of confrontation, and encouraging other people to be honest with you. She recommends learning how to truly listen, ask deeper-level questions, and always be “more curious than defensive.”

8. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson (2016)

Have you ever heard someone say something overly positive — “It’ll all work out, never give up on your dreams, you are a superstar!” — and thought to yourself, Sometimes, it doesn’t all just work out … sometimes, life isn’t fair, and I wish we’d all just be honest about that.

You would probably get along pretty well with superstar blogger and author Mark Manson.

I’ll admit, at first, his advice can seem a bit jarring. Growing up in a society in which positivity and having big dreams are encouraged, it was weird to read, “F**k positivity. Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.”

But his book has sold over two million copies, and this rare and unflinching honesty is probably why.

Manson provides research-backed arguments to say we can improve our lives if we learn to accept our limitations, our flaws, and the inherent unfairness of life. We can’t all be superstars. He writes that we will be happier, healthier, and more authentic, if we learn to accept when we’ve failed and re-direct our dreams, rather than inappropriately believing that we should be a winner just because we try.

Although it sounds rather grim, maybe it’s not. Maybe the person who hasn’t become the next Justin Bieber after ten years of effort should reach for a new dream, because likely, the only alternative to that is resentment and frustration, and there’s nothing positive about that.

The Big Takeway: Manson explains — in his own very elegant way — that there are only so many things we can “give a f**k about,” and we need to try our best to limit that list. We spread ourselves too thin, which does us a disservice. It makes us miss out on the important things. For instance, I bet you care about having a job you love, and becoming rich. But what if I asked you to choose? Manson says you should choose — if you want to do something you love, focus all your time, energy, and effort only on that.

9. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero (2013)

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and thought, Is this really the best I can do, and is this really the best life I can lead? If you have, you’ll appreciate Sincero’s journey, which started that same way.

Her book is all about learning how to create the life you desire — a meaningful, happy, purposeful life, however that looks to you.

As Sincero writes, “You may have heard stories about people who had these major breakthroughs … they found a lump or got their electricity turned off … when suddenly they woke up, transformed. But you don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom to start crawling out of your hole. All you have to do is make the decision.”

If you’re unhappy, Sincero will inspire you to change your life. Plus, she won’t allow for any of your usual excuses, like not having the time (to which Sincero would reply, “you always have the time.”)

Besides delving into how to change your life, Sincero discusses where we learn these excuses (childhood, society), and why we’re sometimes more afraid to go after what we want than just accept failure from the start.

The Big Takeaway: Enough with the excuses. Enough with the “maybe next year” or “that’s for someone else” or “I’m not meant for that kind of (job, relationship, life).” Sincero explains that you have more time than you think, and you need to give yourself that push (“your life depends on it,” Sincero urges). So get started — not just with the effort, but with the attitude. As many of her readers have praised, Sincero’s book led them to their “destiny” because it created a voice in their heads that told them they deserved to go after that job, that soulmate, or that hobby. And it reminded them how massively important it is to live your most fulfilling and meaningful life — now.

This summer, I decided to really give the whole “be-present-in-the-moment” thing a shot.

I wanted to take this seriously, so I decided to check out a couple self-help books dedicated to the idea of “living in the now.”

And here’s the thing: some of the ideas, I could really, really get behind. But others didn’t resonate with me as deeply. And that’s okay.

Self-help books aren’t meant to be mindlessly devoured and followed diligently, like a cookbook recipe for happiness. You can cherry pick the lessons that fit your life.

Which is why we’ve gone ahead and done the hard work for you. Here, we’ve curated a list of nine self-help books to help you achieve professional and personal growth — along with our biggest takeaways from each.

1. 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal (2012)

This year, my New Year’s resolution was to be healthy.

Originally, this meant a complete lifestyle overhaul: replacing meals with kale juices, waking up at 5 a.m. for runs, avoiding all contact with sugar, becoming so proficient at SoulCycle that the instructor would ask if I’ve ever considered teaching on the side …

As the month progressed, being aggressively healthy became more about moderation. Occasionally choosing the salad instead of the burger. Drinking more water. Cycling exactly twice a week — in the back of the class, dripping and (usually) pretty defeated.

My quest for big changes became a search for small ones.

This is the main premise of Blumenthal’s book, which points out that all big changes start with small ones. Becoming a healthier person doesn’t come from making one big change. It comes from small changes, like choosing salads instead of burgers, eating a little less sugar, and downsizing your portions.

In her book, Blumenthal challenges you to make one small change each week, targeted at improving your nutrition, fitness, mental well-being, or green living. At the end of each week, she gives you a weekly changes checklist, so you know how to integrate these changes into your lifestyle.

Even though many of Blumenthal’s changes seem small (e.g. take a multivitamin, enjoy time alone), Blumenthal promises that at the end of the year, you will have fully transformed your life: you will be happier, healthier, more confident, more productive, and more positive.

Her book encourages holistic changes — improving your mental, physical, and spiritual lifestyle, one small, attainable step at a time.

The Big Takeaway: Slow and steady still wins the race. Tackle your health and lifestyle goals one small change at a time. If your New Year’s resolution seems overwhelming and unattainable, encourage yourself to focus on one little change per week: get more sleep, practice five-minutes of meditation each morning, or take a daily multivitamin. Then, all you have to do is repeat for 51 more weeks — easy, right?

2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (2012)

When you woke up this morning, did you do anything remotely different? Did you decide you’d start your morning with a glass of lemon water, even though you usually drink coffee first? Did you sit down to watch an episode of Game of Thrones, even though you always watch Fox News? Did you tie your shoes differently, just for fun?

I’m betting you didn’t do any of these things — you were probably on autopilot, going through your normal routine without taking the time to weigh your options or consciously make any decisions.

What you do in the morning, what you do throughout the day — it’s mostly just habit.

In this compelling book, Charles Duhigg examines why habits form, and how we can break them. He examines a range of different scenarios where big decisions were made, from MLK and the American civil rights movement, to the creation of Starbucks, drawing upon scientific research to bolster his claims.

Ultimately, Duhigg explains that our goals can only be met if we change our underlying habits, and we can only change our habits if we understand why they form in the first place.

The Big Takeaway: Your life rests on a firm foundation of habit. If you’re unhappy with any aspect of your life, your biggest opportunity to create lasting change lies in your ability to change your habits. For example, Duhigg wrote about one woman who decided to quit smoking. By breaking this one keystone habit, a chain of events occurred: first, she began jogging more, which eventually changed her eating habits, her sleeping habits, and even her spending habits.

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with your big aspirations, start by changing one habit that inhibits you from reaching that goal, and let new habits drive you from there.

3. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven (2017)

In 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven gave a Commencement speech to the University of Texas at Austin. He talked about the ten lessons he learned during six months of Navy Seal training, and how anyone can use those same lessons to change the world. The video of his speech went viral, encouraging McRaven to write a book based on those same principles, as well as additional stories from his naval career. According to McRaven, here are a few ways to change the world:

    1. Make your bed first thing in the morning, which reminds you little things in life matter.
    2. Admit you can’t do it alone, and learn to ask for help.
    3. Don’t be afraid of failure or setbacks.
    4. Be your best in the darkest moment, like a SEAL is taught to be his best when he’s under the keel, at the darkest moment of his mission.

The Big Takeaway: The reason many people think they can’t “change the world” is because that sounds unrealistic and grandiose. But McRaven argues that you can change a life — your own, and other people’s — through small gestures, little accomplishments, and a sincere inclination to hang onto hope at all costs.

4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey (1989)

Not only has Stephen Covey’s book sold more than 25 million copies, but Time also listed it as one of “The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books.” Bill Clinton even invited Covey to counsel him on the book’s principles during his presidency.

25 years after publication, the wisdom behind the seven habits Covey presents still holds true.

While I won’t spoil all these habits, I will say that Covey separates his seven habits into three categories:

  1. Private victory: learning to prioritize your goals, visualize your dreams, and act proactively rather than reactively.
  2. Public victory: learning how to collaborate and compromise, empathize with others, and become a team player and a leader.
  3. Renewal: learning how to use spirituality, meditation, and even service to maintain these lessons over your lifetime.

Covey provides you with the tools to adapt to change, and the power to reach your best professional and personal self.

The Big Takeaway: Covey came up with two terms in his book: “abundance mentality,” which applies to someone who is not competitive when it comes to success and believes success is more attainable with others’ involvement; and “scarcity mentality,” which applies to people who think success is only possible if they do it alone.

Covey posits that the most successful people are the “abundance mentality” people: those who are able to celebrate the success of other people, and even share recognition and responsibility for their own successes. So if you want to be successful, don’t be competitive. Instead, learn to use the people around you as resources, delegate responsibility, and work as a team player.

5. Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence – and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk (2018)

If nothing else, this book offers some pretty unique arguments next time your dad asks why you don’t have a corporate (read: full-time) job yet.

But honestly, in 2018 the arguments for pursuing a less conventional, more entrepreneurial career are valid: many people have found success by creating their own alternative paths.

But since these paths don’t follow any blueprints, it can be tricky (and scary) to figure out where and how to start.

In his book, four-time New York Times bestselling author Vaynerchuk outlines exactly how to become a successful person without following a corporate path. His book provides useful and tangible advice on how to excel on social media platforms to establish and sustain a powerful personal brand — no matter who you are. Whether you’re interested in becoming the next YouTube superstar, Instagram influencer, iTunes podcaster, or Spotify musician, his book offers strategic advice drawn from other successful influencers’ real experiences.

The Big Takeaway: This book isn’t a “get-rich-quick” scheme. Instead, it’s a guide that shows you how other people have become successful doing what they love, and how you can, too. It encourages you to dream bigger: whether you’re a plumber (in which case, “your pillar should be Facebook,” writes Vaynerchuk) or a podcaster (like John Lee Dumas, who followed Vaynerchuk’s advice and is now the creator of one of the top-ranked business podcasts on iTunes, which grosses around $200,000 per month). Ultimately, there’s a social media platform and strategy for everyone: you just have to find it and put it into action.

6. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)

I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of this book. It’s one of the best-selling books of all time, and was named number 19 on Time’s list of 100 most influential books.

To be honest, if this was written in 2018 and preached things like, “fundamental techniques in handling people,” “six ways to make people like you,” “how to win people to your way of thinking,” and, “how to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment,” I’d think it was a bunch of nonsense.

But, this book was published in 1936. And it’s still listed under Amazon’s best-sellers, 82 years later. So I’m thinking author Dale Carnegie is probably onto something.

Some of the advice is simple: smile, say someone else’s name when talking to her — and some is more complex, like, “let the other person feel your idea is his or hers,” which might take some practice.

The Big Takeaway: Here’s the gist of why Carnegie’s advice endures — people like to talk about themselves. Everyone wants to feel special, understood, and appreciated. If you make people feel this way, they like you better. So whether you’re the leader of a big marketing firm or in your first full-time position, learn to listen to the people around you, ask them meaningful questions about themselves, praise them for their good ideas, empathize with their point of view even during an argument, and remain humble. If you make people feel special, they’ll live up to the great reputation you’ve created for them.

7. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown (2017)

To me, the title itself sounded like a contradiction: find a way to belong, and find a way to stand alone? How do those two things fit together?

Brown argues that you can’t have one without the other: you can’t learn how to belong anywhere until you learn who you are and how you should fit. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone … true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity.”

In other words, how can you authentically fit in to a group or community if you’re not being your true self? And how can you be your true self if you don’t learn who you are without the pressures or expectations of your community?

Our culture today doesn’t make “belonging” easy. Brown says that we often strive to be perfect, pleasing, non-confrontational, and, as a result, quiet. We are terrified of braving what she calls “the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism.”

While being quiet might make for less complicated relationships, it also makes for less authentic ones.

The Big Takeaway: The first important lesson is that all of us have an innate need to connect with others (something Brown found in her research). But making connections is hard. Brown suggests reaching out and finding connections with those who are different from you. She also advises searching for truth in these relationships, within yourself and in others. If that sounds a bit too much like yoga-guru-jargon, it really just means being honest about who you are even at the risk of confrontation, and encouraging other people to be honest with you. She recommends learning how to truly listen, ask deeper-level questions, and always be “more curious than defensive.”

8. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson (2016)

Have you ever heard someone say something overly positive — “It’ll all work out, never give up on your dreams, you are a superstar!” — and thought to yourself, Sometimes, it doesn’t all just work out … sometimes, life isn’t fair, and I wish we’d all just be honest about that.

You would probably get along pretty well with superstar blogger and author Mark Manson.

I’ll admit, at first, his advice can seem a bit jarring. Growing up in a society in which positivity and having big dreams are encouraged, it was weird to read, “F**k positivity. Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.”

But his book has sold over two million copies, and this rare and unflinching honesty is probably why.

Manson provides research-backed arguments to say we can improve our lives if we learn to accept our limitations, our flaws, and the inherent unfairness of life. We can’t all be superstars. He writes that we will be happier, healthier, and more authentic, if we learn to accept when we’ve failed and re-direct our dreams, rather than inappropriately believing that we should be a winner just because we try.

Although it sounds rather grim, maybe it’s not. Maybe the person who hasn’t become the next Justin Bieber after ten years of effort should reach for a new dream, because likely, the only alternative to that is resentment and frustration, and there’s nothing positive about that.

The Big Takeway: Manson explains — in his own very elegant way — that there are only so many things we can “give a f**k about,” and we need to try our best to limit that list. We spread ourselves too thin, which does us a disservice. It makes us miss out on the important things. For instance, I bet you care about having a job you love, and becoming rich. But what if I asked you to choose? Manson says you should choose — if you want to do something you love, focus all your time, energy, and effort only on that.

9. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero (2013)

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and thought, Is this really the best I can do, and is this really the best life I can lead? If you have, you’ll appreciate Sincero’s journey, which started that same way.

Her book is all about learning how to create the life you desire — a meaningful, happy, purposeful life, however that looks to you.

As Sincero writes, “You may have heard stories about people who had these major breakthroughs … they found a lump or got their electricity turned off … when suddenly they woke up, transformed. But you don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom to start crawling out of your hole. All you have to do is make the decision.”

If you’re unhappy, Sincero will inspire you to change your life. Plus, she won’t allow for any of your usual excuses, like not having the time (to which Sincero would reply, “you always have the time.”)

Besides delving into how to change your life, Sincero discusses where we learn these excuses (childhood, society), and why we’re sometimes more afraid to go after what we want than just accept failure from the start.

The Big Takeaway: Enough with the excuses. Enough with the “maybe next year” or “that’s for someone else” or “I’m not meant for that kind of (job, relationship, life).” Sincero explains that you have more time than you think, and you need to give yourself that push (“your life depends on it,” Sincero urges). So get started — not just with the effort, but with the attitude. As many of her readers have praised, Sincero’s book led them to their “destiny” because it created a voice in their heads that told them they deserved to go after that job, that soulmate, or that hobby. And it reminded them how massively important it is to live your most fulfilling and meaningful life — now.