Slideshare Pro – All Roads Lead To Rome… Via Timbuktu

The saying goes “A rising tide lifts all boats” – the idea that improvements in the general economy will benefit all participants in that economy (Wikipedia) and attribute the saying to John F Kennedy.

With a free business model reliant on goodwill, community and the viral dissemination of free content, paid for by SEO & Viral traffic seeing advertising, it is a pretty viable concept.

It is quite possible that the direction they have taken is what works best for them as a technology company and is what their customers expressed a willingness to pay for, and based on Eric Ries’s article today, they went through various questionaire and testing phases to reach their eventual public service offering.

But lets flip things around a little

Alien Marketing Concepts

  • Build a landing page with a presentation on it and an opt in form, and also include reciprocal links to all your business competitors.
  • Drive PPC traffic to a Dmoz listing that includes not just your link, but also all your competitors
  • Pay for traffic to a landing page you can’t split test effectively
  • Encourage viral distribution of your marketing materials which then link to a site containing content from all your competitors
  • Using a lead capture process that doesn’t use your own lead capture forms with your autoresponder, possibly with a confirmed/double opt-in.
  • The purpose of creating an infographic is to drive links to Flickr

A Different Perspective

  • Build a landing page with your presentation on it, and all links and actions on the page benefit you directly as a marketer.
  • Drive PPC traffic to a landing page you have full control over, and any viral distribution of your content creates a traffic funnel directly to your properties… only
  • Have complete control over your landing pages – create 10 different versions of your presentation materials and split test their performance.
  • Lets be honest – viral distribution of content rarely happens without a push – that takes time and money. You want to maximize your ROI with complete control over the funnel, and benefit directly from any links.
  • This isn’t dodgy leads from a conference where you don’t know whether you have permission to send them marketing messages. You want a clear process that works with your autoresponder directly, and the ability to immediately market and segment the traffic, maybe even sell without human intervention.

The Biggest Failing Of Slideshare

Free Embed

This is a presentation from one of the people I most respect in tech, Dave McClure, because he “gets” marketing – it is quite possible 50% of the visits I have made to Slideshare have been to view updates, though most of the time I have viewed presentations on his blog, or followed a tweet.

3 links to Slideshare
Dave has been driving traffic to his presentations

But that is fair enough… it is a free service, we can all be kumbaya for the greater good of the community.

Pro Branded Channel

Only 2 links… one to a banded channel – the branded channel is the only place with a link back to Edelman… and it is nofollow.

This presentation has been fairly popular

Edelman Slideshare Stats

There has at this time also been 150 tweets, 72 Facebook shares, 159 Facebook Likes & 67 Slide Embeds

What an amazing marketing success and branding exercise for Edelman Digital, after all the first point raised in the presentation is:-

1. Marketing in the age of streams

Your customers, consumers and employees are no longer only visiting static Web pages but participating in conversations which increasingly occur off domain in “streams” flowing from Facebook, Twitter and even apps. In order to catch them, you must be highly relevant in their streams.

Which has resulted in zero comments on their original blog post

Edelman Comments

… and not ranking for the title of their own blog post

Edelman SEO

David Armano does a little better with his blog post, which was a syndicated (and attributed copy) of the original with a further 5 comments, 33 Facebook likes.

Lets see a comparrison between Slideshare & Edelman


Now imagine all those Tweets and Facebook shares had been directed to the Edelman blog post concentrating the viral message to a single point.
I haven’t analysed all the sharing activity, but I exect a fair number didn’t link directly to Edelman in any way shape or form.

Links – especially editorial links cost a lot of time = money.

Social Currency

Edelman have a huge amount of social currency to play with – the co-author Steve Rubel has a very popular Twitter account, a popular blog etc, and as a very early adopter I am sure a large percentage of anything he Tweets gets picked up by bots that can help magnify the social proof.

Topsy actually shows 109 Tweets, but only 34 of those are looked on as influential.

I would look on this at least as a partial failure… the big problem is that this is probably the most popular Slideshow Edelman have published on Slideshare.

All Roads Lead To Rome… Via Timbuktu

I understand social media isn’t direct marketing – you can’t control the message all the time, or where it takes place.

9 months ago I layed out a lot of this in emails to Slideshare via their advisor & investor Dave McClure when they launched their initial pro offerings… where you might pay $7 for a lead generated by a Slideshow on your own LinkedIn profile.

This new offering is a vast improvement, I am sure it will drive a lot of business – but is still not the offering it should be. Or it is not the product offering I would envision as being ideal…

It may well be ideal for Edelman clients where the development of a landing page or posting a blog post takes 3 committee meetings, 2 rounds of golf, and signoff from the legal department.

However my opinion is you are effectively paying to promote Slideshare rather than driving visitors into an optimized sales funnel.


I spent a little more time digging around for a good video sample to share from a Pro account holder.

The State of The Internet
View more videos from JESS3.

The only problem is I should really flag it as a potential copyright violation as it was created by the guys at Royal Pingdom… maybe used with permission or Jess3 were the creative agency that created it.

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  1. says


    Think of it this way: Was Edelman or Dave McClure getting all this traffic to their presentations & documents before SlideShare? SlideShare typically drives 10 times the traffic people get on their own blog. Some of that traffic is from social sources, some from search and rest from the site itself. For example, Dave McClure’s presentations often land up on the homepage. He gets hundreds (even thousands of views) from that. He also gets views from his presentation being recommended as a “related presentation”.

    His presentation would not have received all these views if not for sharing on SlideShare. Did you know about how great Dave’s or Edelman’s presentations are before SlideShare? SlideShare a viral platform – if you put up great content we take it places.

    You would not get anywhere near the same amount of distribution by sharing just on your own site.

    SlideShare CEO & Cofounder

    • says

      Hi Rashmi

      I just noticed a link from the Slideshare blog… incredibly brave and something I respect Slideshare and your team for doing.

      I have looked at that side of the equation.

      This is how I would break down the slideshare platform

      The community / portal with internal favorites
      The SEO traffic
      The CDN for the storage of documents & conversion into a format that works with the player
      The flash “player” of the documents for viral distribution with viral features & lead capture / analytics

      You are in the fortunate position in some ways that the existing platforms that would allow a corporate company to fulfill most of these functions in a white label capacity are not very well publicized, and still are a little clunky, primarily serving .net and self publishing using Sharepoint.
      Solutions for iPaper are a lot more common.

      However a good example though not ideal is the network or “glitter” on Myspace.

      Though only one hop viral, because the pictures they share aren’t flash (they should do something about that), they seem to have significant success.

      Would they have had the same success if every image that was taken from their site linked back to a group on Flickr?
      I doubt that very much

      With video you would think there is no market for anyone else other than Youtube, but:-

      You have Brightcove and Ooyala plus a host of others serving the corporate market
      There are tons of flash players for video such as JW Player & Flowplayer which do have viral modules, TAF modules, and there are lead capture implementations, but not yet in the flash.
      There are countless CDNs to host video
      You have sites with their own players such as College Humor and they know how to make their content viral and build links too

      <object type="application/x-shockwave-flash" data="" width="640" height="360" ><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true"/><param name="wmode" value="transparent"/><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"/><param name="movie" quality="best" value=""/><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent"  width="640" height="360"  allowScriptAccess="always"></embed></object><div style="padding:5px 0; text-align:center; width:640px;">See more <a href="">funny videos</a> and <a href="">funny pictures</a> at <a href="">CollegeHumor</a>.</div>

      You have people like Andy Beal confirming that this year’s linkbait is infographics

      Before Slideshare (and competitors) came along, in fact all the time I have been marketing online people have used high value PDFs as an incentive to sign up to newsletters, available to give away for free etc.
      One of my favorite examples is – Harvey Segal’s Ultimate Supertip

      How about all the free ebooks which Sitesell have given away

      Michel Fortin has been giving away his 10 Commandments of Power Positioning for as long as Google has existed

      I think the concept that useful information can’t spread without the benefit of flash widgets is patently false.

      I am sure the “viral effect” of ending up on a home page is huge, but we are not talking typical user experience now are we?

      Typical user experience might be a corporate customer such as Dell

      (note: I applaud you for using typical customers for testimonials)

      They typically get 200 views per upload, but then I would look on what they are doing as leaching domain authority. They are not really using their Slideshare account as a primary focus point for their document syndication.

      I realise the links are effectively both an insurance policy and lock-in – I have spent whole days studying the internal linking structure of the various document sharing sites. It is funny when some of the most popular accounts are just made up of 100,000 wikipedia articles which collectively have received 1.5M views (that was a Docstoc example).

      I also realise the importance of the authority links – if someone such as Techcrunch picks up a document, or seeds it themselves, that is a nice authority link with significant viral effect.
      Those links eventually convert into long-term traffic, repeat visitors, new users etc

      The links have value… immense value

      As a business owner I want those links for me – as a marketing guy I realise that someone viewing a document that links directly to me is at the top of the funnel, not in the cloud of social media hovering around it.
      You do something to address that with your opt-in forms, but I look on that almost as a surrogate or compensation for not driving traffic back to my own landing pages.
      To be honest I think I would get far more value from being able to somehow split-test a call to action at the end of a presentation, that points to a specific landing page.

      I also think the lock-in might be miscalculated

      There is considerable lockin if you have promoted lots of content on Slideshare and it is spread all over the internet, such as with Edelman or Dave.

      However for a brand that is just passive distribution. For proactive distribution from their primary domains, from within their press releases etc there is a lot less incentive to continue using Slideshare.

      If Slideshare was providing them with links back to their own domain, and maybe a branded player the lock-in and incentive to promote the content is much much higher, and if content that is already syndicated continues to build new links, that is something to maintain indefinately.

      Today Slideshare Pro had a lot of exposure – I have been watching to see how much exposure the home page with the promoted pro presentations at the top actually get.
      That on its own could justify PRO membership (and please notice in all of this I haven’t said PRO membership is a bad thing… I just think it could be so much better)

      383 views, plus exposure to Jonathan Boutelle and Eric Reis
      3 Tweets, 2 shares, 4 likes (maybe more tweets by Topsy)

      But it will be off the home page soon, and today there was a little more media attention.

      If I put my SEO hat on for a moment and imagine I was link prospecting.

      Option 1 – Hi blog owner, I have a website about xyz, can you give me a link?
      Option 2 – Hi blog owner I know, I just posted this great article you might want to include in your monthly roundup of 500 links
      Option 3 – Hi blog owner I know – I have this great slide presentation that you could embed and offer incredible value to your readers with

      Lets go extreme

      Option 4 – Hi partner – I have a private version of a slide presentation you can share with your readers – all the links in the presentation are referral links for our affiliate program – if it gets spread virally then all the links in the presentation will also be affiliate links so it might make a good presentation to include within your most prominent pillar content.

      As a business owner, marketer and link builder, I like option 3 and 4, and think I will get significant market penetration and it will make my job a lot easier and more profitable.

      Don’t think the affiliate version is far-fetched – Stompernet (with Squambido) and sister site FreeIQ did it with video a few years ago.

      But you know what I have been told by quite a few people?

      A straight link to a landing page with a video converted much better than a viral video with a link to a squeeze page, thus even Stompernet employees were not using the Squambido players for their personal sites.

      I am sure Slideshare Pro will suit businesses which just want a convenient way to get existing documents out into the ether without involving their IT department, but in many ways it is a lost opportunity. Someone will fulfil the need as I saw quite a few articles suggesting there is a need for differentiation.