Is LinkedIn Killing SlideShare?

Tue, November 29th 2016 | By Assaf Dudai
How we DIDN’T get featured on SlideShare’s homepage

This is the story of how we DIDN’T get featured on SlideShare’s homepage

The Setup

Looking at the view count of the decks on the SlideShare homepage made us drool; thousands to hundreds of thousands of views - per deck. From where we were standing this looked like the motherload of content exposure; when last did a piece of your content get thousands of views?

Add to that the fact that your brand name is there alongside the deck, that is a pretty sweet brand awareness boost. True, if you’re as big as Nike, you don’t give a damn about SlideShare, but for a small SaaS startup this would be the equivalent of Ben Affleck mentioning Aflac on a talkshow.

It got us curious enough to wonder about the lead gen capabilities of SlideShare, and so we set a target: create a SlideShare that’ll be featured on the homepage.

The Planning

Although we are totally into inventing the wheel, we assumed that some other companies or individuals had already taken upon themselves the very same endeavour. The fact that there are decks on SlideShare’s homepage, confirmed our hypothesis. So we turned to Google and read a bunch of How to Get Featured on SlideShare and How I Got a Gazillion Views on SlideShare articles.

This would be a good opportunity to say that folks can get very generous online with pointers, tips, advice and actionables. So kudos to ya’ll.

We made a list of stuff we needed to do during and after uploading the deck to SlideShare. Stuff from having a reputable publication feature it on their site, to inflaming a tweet-storm with the handles @slideshare and @slidesharetoday, all the way to uploading it at 3am EST. Hey, that’s what the internet said! (The logic behind this very specific time is as follows: apparently the homepage editors are in the EST time zone. While they sleep, you upload your deck and attempt to accumulate a body of tweets with the above handles so once said editors awake and reach their office their Twitter notifications are bursting at the seams with mentions of your extraordinary deck.)

We felt pretty confident that we knew what needed to be done in order to get noticed by the homepage editors, as well as what they were looking for in a deck that would be unique enough to garner a featured status. So yes, SlideShare’s homepage has real, human editors that “handpick” the decks to be featured and they are “experts”. Experts on what? Not sure, but that’s how a SlideShare Consumer Support Specialist defined them. More on that soon.

All we had to do now was figure out what the deck would be about, and create it.

The Creation

It was clear that in order to get the editors’ attention you needed to stand out, another PPT-like, board-meeting presentation ain’t gonna cut it; the first slide is mucho important, it needs to be as beautiful as a cherry tree in the spring, as well-phrased as a Raymond Carver sentence and as promising as the child incarnation of the Lama; or just mention Gwyneth Paltrow, that works too.

SlideShare featuring Gwyneth Paltrow

After much deliberation we zoomed on a collaboration with Dribbble designers, a one-of-a-kind-deck - an illustrated Content Journey; a piece of content about content like no other before it; easily consumable and easy on the eye. It was original enough to be unique and reasoned enough to be relevant.

Two months of laboring over every word, contacting designers via Dribbble, illustrations flew back and forth, exhaustive work of twining words and images - but it was all worth it. When it was done, it was all that it could be - everything one could ask of content.


The Assumption

With such a head-turner in our hands, we assumed that if we’d manage to get the attention of SlideShare’s homepage editors, they would give a stage to such a labor-intensive, unusual deck; it’s not every day that a custom-made deck of 52 original illustrations by 14 designers from all around the world coupled with actionable content targeted at content marketers is uploaded to SlideShare.

We knew what we needed to do, in detail, based on proven experience of those who’d already done it.

D-Day

We executed our plan of attack by the book. We uploaded to SlideShare during the whee EST hours (OK, so maybe it wasn’t at exactly 3am, more like 1:30am.) We turned to Twitter and commenced a targeted onslaught, with help from friends and colleagues.

Less than 24 hours later it was published on the Convince & Convert blog, a high-traffic, stellar-reputation publication. This is another pointer we got from those who have conquered SildeShare’s homepage, that we need to have a third-party site publish the deck. We didn’t stop there. In the following days the deck was republished on TheSocialMediaHat, DigitalDoughnut, Elder Tree’s Turn and our own BrightInfo blog.

On top of that it got more than 500 Twitter mentions, shares and retweets, a few dozens LinkedIn shares; and some downloads directly from the SlideShare site. This was actually more than we expected. We got serious traction, mentions from heavy hitters such as Jeff Bullas, Ian Cleary, Daniel Knowlton, Larry Wants, Ryan Hodgson, Brett Relander. Phew! That was some serious name dropping.

Oh, and more than 6000 views.

SlideShare wise - nada. We refreshed the homepage again, still nothing. What the what is up with SlideShare?

One Month Earlier....

Ever noticed the top of SlideShare’s homepage? It says “Today’s Top SlideShares” - key word being today.

Underneath it “Featured SlideShares” - top two get a larger frame, and below them another eight decks, the creme de la creme, humanly curated, crafty and exquisite presentations.

That’s the real estate we were aiming for. Obviously while we were working on the deck we checked SlideShare’s homepage to gauge the competition, to get a sense of the editors’ tastes and in general, you know, feel a part of the deck-ish, slideshare-ish community.

But then, and this was about a month before the eventual publication of our deck, we noticed that things came to a halt on the homepage - decks simply stopped changing.


Today's Top SlideShares - screen grab
Featured SlideShares - screen grab

We thought maybe all the editors had gone on vacation together, so we gave them a few days to enjoy the sun. And to have their pina coladas. But when nothing happened for more than a week - meaning, none of “Today’s Top SlideShares” and “Featured SlideShares” changed (a situation that haven't changed since, as can see from above - we sent them a query.

We started on a friendly note, “Hey”, explained our interest in the homepage “We are aiming to be featured on it”, mentioned that “we’ve noticed that there haven’t been any changes to the homepage” and wondered “Do we need to look for another place to publish it?”

We got this in response:

Slideshare response email

There’s a lot going on here.

First, it confirmed that the homepage is indeed edited by human experts who handpick the decks to be featured. Jolly. But it didn’t refer to our query in regards to the lack of activity we’d flagged. That’s never a good sign, when you get a reply that dodges your question.

And there’s this sentence “They are most picked from upcoming viral content.” which doesn’t make any sense on any level. Has SlideShare (or parent company LinkedIn (or parent company Microsoft)) developed a predictive tool that can recognize in advance content that is destined to be viral?

Being a smarty-pants aside, the SlideShare rep included actionables that validated some of the information we gathered from around the web: that we need to share it on social networks and accumulate views in order to get noticed.

The whole exchange left us feeling sweet-and-sour; something was definitely fishy with SlideShare, but hands were still on deck. More than that, they explicitly encouraged us to move forward with our deck and gave us a few pointers on how to get featured on their homepage.

The Lights Are On But No One’s Home

Yeah, totally. We eventually uploaded with a heavy heart and to our obvious disappointment, we didn’t get featured on the homepage. If it’s any consolation, nobody did. Actually, that’s not true. The lucky few that happened to be parked in the homepage at the right time won a lifetime exposure.

Looking at the glass half full, that was an awesome experience for us. We met cool visual folks from all over, we put together a truly kicking piece of content, got decent exposure and nods from folks in our space.

Not sure if it’s still relevant, but the traffic coming from SlideShare is strong, focused and determined. All the numbers are through the roof with this audience: Pages per Session is tripled, Session Duration is X5 , Bounce Rate significantly reduced and the average conversion rate has reached a whopping 50%, which is insane. One can only dream for this kind of audience on a regular basis.

Slideshare conversion rate

Still, not sure what the what is up with SlideShare. One of two things. Either the very human and expert editors of the homepage haven’t found a single, decent, worthy-of-the-homepage deck in more than two months now. That is a possibility. A deck creativity dry spell is sweeping through the marketing world; these things happen.

The other possibility is that SlideShare / LinkedIn / Microsoft is not telling us something. Without gliding into conspiracy theory territory (extremist liberals have planted subliminal code in the homepage) it is safe to say that business is not as usual. Somebody higher up the chain might have decided that the SlideShare thing is just not worth it, that it is impossible to monetize and so it is an unnecessary burden on LinkedIn; a dead weight that’s pulling it down.

That’s a totally valid argument and if Microsoft had announced it had decided to pull the plug on SlideShare we believe the earth would continue spinning; Microsoft has pulled the plug on enough projects, it knows the drill.

SlideShare is Misleading its Audience

This we’re in/we’re out attitude of deciding not to decide is far from cool. SlideShare is misleading its audience. Companies put a lot of effort into creating these decks in the hopes of getting back views, which equals to brand exposure, which leads to leads. It is a matter of ROI. And if SlideShare has been abandoned by its parents companies, and is not being straight about it, well, it’s wrecking the expected ROI and thus costing time and money for those companies that put “SlideShare” into their marketing plans.

Here is an example for how SlideShare is intentionally misleading its audience. After you upload a deck to SlideShare, you get a confirmation mail. Here it is:

Slideshare promote your deck

SlideShare is encouraging you, in a very straightforward way, to try and get featured on its homepage. It even includes a link to Learn More about it. So there’s no way around the conclusion that SlideShare isn’t being honest, because you can’t really get featured on its homepage, not anymore at least.

The link leads to this page:

How to get featured on Slideshare

It’s pretty obvious that a deck was here, and was removed. One can still see the link that’s always beneath an embedded deck, with title and owner. SlideShare chose to remove the deck it created titled “7 Tips For Getting Featured on SlideShare". The link to the blog post at the top of the page is broken as well. This is hardly a coincidence and a clear signal from SlideShare that you can no longer be featured on its site.

Clicking on the link for the deck leads to this page:

Broken link on Slideshare

So why doesn’t SlideShare / LinkedIn / Microsoft just come out and say it: we are done with SlideShare, please focus your efforts on different marketing channels. Why this game of scavenger hunt around a deserted website?


*We sent a comment request to LinkedIn on the day we published, 29/11. Once they respond, we’ll update here.

FRESH FROM UPDATE OVEN:

November 1st, 2016

As we said, we've sent LinkedIn a query with a link to the article:

Broken link on Slideshare Here is their response: Broken link on Slideshare

Guess we'll need to wait a few more days for a proper response. But, at least we're pleased to see that our request for comment is being taken seriously.

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Comments

Wed, December 14th 2016 Barry Feldman
Yeah, mum is the word at LinkedIn. They've always been kind of full of...er, it. Something is obviously not right and the end appears to be near for SlideShare. I wish it weren't true. I've enjoyed so much exposure there, collected 4K emails and been appointed a "keynote author." But your hunch is right. It doesn't drive revenues, so it's not long for this world, not as is.

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Assaf Dudai is the head of content at BrightInfo. Assaf believes the written word hasn't said its last word.