Saturday, May 12, 2012

LinkedIn Saddles A Dark Horse

A “dark horse” refers to a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition. This year’s Kentucky Derby winner, I’ll Have Another, is a perfect example. Sold for a paltry $11,000, ridden by a rookie jockey hardly anyone knew, and stuck in an outside post, this chestnut colt blazed past the favorite, Bodemeister, to win the Derby by 1 and 1/2 lengths. It seems last week was a week for dark horses, because in addition to the surprise Derby winner, LinkedIn announced plans to acquire SlideShare, sometimes known as the “dark horse of B2B marketing.”
Well, it does fit the definition. SlideShare lacks the size of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and its growth isn’t anything as remarkable as Pinterest. Certainly SlideShare’s typical content of corporate PowerPoint presentations isn’t capturing the imagination of the popular culture. So why has Mountain View, California-based business networking giant, LinkedIn, decided to shell out $118.8 million in a deal to buy this San Francisco-based company? 
The answer, I think, lies in SlideShare’s unique attributes that make it so popular with B2B marketers. First, it’s the users. SlideShare users have uploaded more than nine million presentations since it was founded in 2006. According to comScore, in March, SlideShare had nearly 29 million unique visitors. But it isn’t the number of visitors that’s the real differentiator, it’s the type. SlideShare gets roughly three times the traffic from business owners as is received by other social media sites, and it gets about 40% more traffic from C-level executives than LinkedIn. This means that SlideShare is the most heavily trafficked site for professional content and enjoys a unique demographic compared to the rest of the social Web. 
Then there’s the content. Moving away from boring slide decks, today’s presenters are influenced by their peers to prepare presentations that tell a story that educates and engages. As a result, this content-hosting platform, considered the world’s largest, is gaining credibility as a third-party provider of information. Here the opinion leader, like a journalist, for example, is willing to embed the SlideShare presentation into an article versus embedding the exact same presentation sourced from the business’s web address. 
Perhaps the most significant attribute is SlideShare’s premium services. These provide B2B marketers with the ability to view analytics on their visitors while building an online presence. For example, premium users can embed lead capture forms with customized fields within their presentations and then import those leads directly into their own customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This includes integration with third-party marketing automation tools like Eloqua and 
So we can see that as B2B’s dark horse, SlideShare is all about capturing a unique audience of users, specifically business owners and C-level executives. It offers the ability to upload and host video, customer design, and branding tools. It also facilitates lead capture, detailed analytics, and software integration, which means that SlideShare delivers one thing other social media sites struggle to provide — a solid return on investment. But how will LinkedIn utilize SlideShare to expand current capabilities? Will it transform or be transformed by this union? Do you love SlideShare or hate it? How do you use it? I’d love to hear what you think.

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