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SlideShare Scoring High Marks For ROI, Integration Among B2B Marketers

  • Written by Matt McKenzie, Senior Editor
  • Published in Feature Articles

gets compliments – yet some of that praise is strangely backhanded. It has been called, among other things, the "YouTube of slide presentations," the "quiet giant of content marketing" and the "dark horse of B2B marketing."

It's true that SlideShare probably lacks the sheer scale that ties social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn into the popular culture. According to many B2B marketers, however, SlideShare delivers one thing other social media sites often struggle to provide: a solid return on investment.

"SlideShare is very powerful compared to most other social media platforms," said Todd Wheatland, VP of Thought Leadership and Marketing at Kelly Services. "The price to lead ratio can be exceptional." As Wheatland and others point out, SlideShare excels at combining a first-class content-sharing platform with analytics, lead generation tools, and third-party software integration. As a result, it is considerably more than the sum of its individual parts.

"SlideShare matters because it allows us to showcase our best content on a venue that visitors trust and are willing to link to and embed from," said Eloqua VP of Content Marketing Joe Chernov. "SlideShare is almost like our off-domain web site for all of our best content."

SlideShare By The Numbers

If SlideShare is still a "dark horse" in the B2B marketing world, it probably won't be for long: According to data presented in a recent infographic created by Column Five Media, the site currently attracts 60 million visitors per month and serves about three billion slide views a month – or 1,140 slides per second.

What' s most remarkable about SlideShare's growth, however, isn't its raw traffic numbers. It's the demographics of those visitors. According to comScore, SlideShare gets roughly three times the traffic from business owners that other social media sites get, and it gets about 40% more traffic from C-level executives than LinkedIn.

"Our top two [content] categories are business and management, and then technology," said Ross Mayfield, VP of Business Development for SlideShare. "Reflective of that, we cultivate a unique demographic compared to the rest of the social Web."

Rethinking The Traditional Business Presentation

One of the trends driving SlideShare's explosive growth involves the type of content B2B marketers publish to the site. It's still easy to find rehashed versions of corporate PowerPoint presentations on SlideShare, although the most successful marketers are adapting this content to be far more engaging, original and interactive.

 "Your boring sales decks aren't likely to get much traction [on SlideShare]," Chernov stated. "The SlideShare community values design greatly." That includes an emphasis on presentations that tell a compelling story, rather than simply delivering a series of charts and graphs; publishing original infographics; and offering content that educates or engages readers, rather than inundating them with overt sales presentations. B2B marketers also use SlideShare as a platform for sharing their content, either by embedding it on other social media sites (notably LinkedIn and Facebook) or by providing embed codes that readers can use to share presentations with their peers.

As a result of this emphasis on quality, Mayfield stated, SlideShare often involves a learning curve for enterprises with a conservative – and at times formulaic – approach to presentations. "We bridge the gap from traditional content marketing and marcomm to the social web," he explained. "With our enterprise customers, we often have to do some re-education" in terms of user expectations and content design.

When B2B marketers bridge this gap, however, they often find that SlideShare delivers yet another advantage over other content-hosting platforms: credibility with key influencers. "I've found that journalists are far more willing to embed a SlideShare-hosted presentation in their articles than they are to embed the identical file hosted on the vendor's web site," Chernov said.

Setting A New Standard For Social Media Analytics

SlideShare employs the same "freemium" business model that many other social media sites, including LinkedIn, have long used. The site's basic free-service tier supports uploading presentations, and very little else.  For B2B marketers who want to build a branded online presence, however – and who want to view detailed analytics on their visitors – SlideShare offers a large assortment premium-tier services. That includes the ability to upload and host video, custom design and branding tools, lead-capture tools, and highly detailed analytics.

"The customization features are very good for brand control, managing content, and aggregating additional content with {RSS] feeds," Wheatland explained. "You can bring in your own blog feeds, social links to your platforms, event calendars and create a hub for all of your content assets."

According to Mayfield, the ability to create a branded presence on SlideShare and aggregate multiple content types is especially attractive to large companies with a multiple business units and a large number of employees who can contribute content. "What's interesting in many of these cases is that these companies are able to scale their social content marketing to enable different business units to own and operate their own channels, gain engagement, and collect sales leads directly," he said, citing IBM and Cisco as two examples of companies that use SlideShare in this manner with a great deal of success.

Some B2B marketers offer especially high praise for three features where SlideShare appears to hold a major advantage over other social media platforms: analytics, lead capture and enterprise software integration. Premium-tier SlideShare users can, for example, embed lead capture forms with customized fields within their presentations, and then import those leads directly into their own marketing automation or CRM systems.

"You choose where to place lead-generation forms, and customize the form itself to say whatever you want," Wheatland said. "If you use a marketing automation system, you can mimic the same fields in your SlideShare forms, and then integrate the data you capture."

SlideShare analytics, according to Chernov, can be extremely powerful for B2B marketers seeking detailed insights into their prospects. "SlideShare's analytics are impressive because they give you insight into exactly who is engaging with your content," he said. "I recall a time when a very prominent financial analyst wrote about our industry, and initially none of us could understand if we had influenced the writer, or if we just got lucky. A little research in SlideShare showed us that, before publishing the report, the analyst had downloaded the presentation on the topic. Most analytics tools provide numbers, SlideShare also helps with names."

Wheatland also gave SlideShare's analytics especially strong marks. "There's a surprising amount of depth in the SlideShare analytics," he stated. "You can uncover information specific to individual identities – find out who somebody is, although not in a sneaky way. You really can't get the same level of detail from other platforms at the moment."

Finally, said Wheatland, SlideShare's integration with third-party marketing automation tools, including Eloqua and, offers yet another advantage to large organizations with established lead-capture methodologies. ""If you want to use Salesforce or other marketing automation systems, you can mimic those exact fields with SlideShare in your [lead capture] forms, and then integrate that data," he explained. "It's very powerful compared to most other social media platforms, and it's what pushes many organizations into those premium levels."