“An Extra 20% of Effort Can Have a 10x Effect”: Todd Wheatland on How to Win at SlideShare

5 minute read

Upland Admin

If you want advice on how to get the most out of your SlideShare presentations, there’s no one better than Todd Wheatland. He actually wrote the book on the subject.

As the Global Head of Marketing for KellyOCG, he’s turned his SlideShare channel into a top location for insights on recruitment, workplace concerns, and career advancement. And it’s paid off in views, shares, and, most importantly, leads. 

We interviewed Wheatland for our Masters of SlideShare project, but wanted to share all of the advice he offered. Here’s the full interview.

When did you first start using SlideShare?

I first posted content on SlideShare in late 2008 or 2009, but to be honest I didn’t really see its potential as either a community member or a marketer back then.

You’ve not only made a number of presentations, but written a book about SlideShare. What is the common trait of all great SlideShare presentations? How do you apply this to your own presentations?

The common trait of great SlideShare presentations should be that they resonate with the intended audience.

Being shared, going viral, getting huge views, that’s all great stuff. But the key thing is making the right connection with the people you’re targeting.

“Great SlideShare presentations…resonate with the intended audience.”

Now on a platform like SlideShare, which is so very diverse in its options for formats and breadth of audiences, that can mean many things. As the online world has become dramatically more visual in recent years, so too have the presentations that are most likely to gain large views on SlideShare. Increasingly, the content that gets the most visibility is highly visual, with a large number of slides telling a story quickly and simply, so if total number of views were all that was important to you, absolutely you should be re-purposing content specifically in that format.

But to understand the importance of objectives and relevant audience, look towards an account like Altimeter Group. They produce a large volume of freely available research reports, but almost seem to intentionally ignore these visual trends. This is in fact highly intentional. They are speaking directly to their target audience of C-suite decision makers, who they hope will save their reports and maybe even print off to read on their next flight.

In my case, we produce many different types of content, but probably what we’re most known for is whitepaper-length presentations that have been formatted specifically for someone to see the quality of the content and want to download it. By formatting most of our content as landscape-oriented and highly designed, we play to the demands of most viewers, yet we’re putting enough unique research and writing into the content that it speaks to a specific audience at a stage in their buying journey.

For a business, what is the value of SlideShare? How do you measure it?

I wrote a book on SlideShare, and was fortunate enough to speak with dozens of businesses that are using it to build their own client base. Almost without exception, companies that develop great content find SlideShare to be one of their primary sources of new business leads.

“Everyone loves shares—but it’s all meaningless without a relevant lead captured somewhere.”

If you are a B2B marketer, I believe—as do most other people who are heavily using SlideShare—that there is no better platform to be spending your time on. The flexibility of the lead capture form is, I think, key to SlideShare’s success for marketers. Views are nice, everyone loves shares—but it’s all meaningless without a relevant lead captured somewhere, and that’s what should be measured. In terms of pure ROI, for many B2B marketers no other platform comes close to SlideShare.

Visuals matter as much as text. Without narration, how do you tell a story?

Well, of course, if you spend a long time on SlideShare you will soon see that the vast majority of content fails on this point. That’s great because it means people who ‘get’ the power of visual content can be very successful on SlideShare. While they’ve always been important, there’s been a huge change in the way visuals are used on highly viewed SlideShares. It used to be people could fill a slide deck with big photos and small amounts of text and have a pretty good chance at attracting views, purely because it stood out and was easy to consume.

Recently that’s changed, and more people are spending time thinking through the actual arc of telling a story through visuals and minimal text. Like all content, once you know little details like the intended audience and topic, the story itself is what should drive everything else.

What is the biggest mistake marketers make when producing presentations for SlideShare?

Without a doubt, the #1 mistake people make on SlideShare is failing to customize content.

“In terms of pure ROI, for many B2B marketers no other platform comes close to SlideShare.”

SlideShare is a unique channel; an extra 20% of effort to modify content to make it resonate more with the audience can have a 10x effect on views or leads. I’ll even throw in a bonus, connected mistake: failing to optimize cover images and headlines. The vast majority of people coming across your content on the site will be choosing whether to click on your content or someone else’s.

Nothing is more important than that thumbnail and headline. Too many people fail to make the most of their content at this last hurdle.

What is a lesson you’ve learned making SlideShares that you wish you had known on day one?

Like every social platform, SlideShare is unique. I wish I’d put the time in to understand this uniqueness in more depth in the early days. By understanding the nuances of the platform, and the behavior and interests of the audiences that are there, everything changes—the quality of your content, it’s relevance to the audience, and the impact to your business.

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