Reid Hoffman: How to Turn Viewers Into Buyers

July 24, 2013


With the advent of e-books and digital publishing, traditional book publishing -- and marketing -- has been turned on its head. How do authors today reach their audience and, most importantly, sell copies of their books? Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder and The Start-Up of You co-author, and his team turned to SlideShare.

They’ve published two SlideShares on the book so far: A visual summary of The Start-Up of You, when the book was released, and a presentation on the secrets of successful graduates a year later, during graduation season. Both were custom-created for SlideShare, and present key points and highlights from the book in a highly visual manner. Both garnered more than 300,000 views on SlideShare -- and were picked up by publications such as Business Insider, which brought millions more views.

Hoffman and Ian Bennett Alas, marketing director for The Start-Up of You, share tips for marketing a book on SlideShare, branding an author and converting viewers into readers.

What was the strategy behind the creation of your presentations?

Our goals were to drive traffic to The Start-Up of You’s Amazon page, which we did at the end of our SlideShares, and raise overall awareness of the book. To achieve these, we focused on two things: design and distribution.

What was your design plan?

When we created our first SlideShare, the book had been out for a year, so instead of developing our ideas, we focused on discovering the most compelling way to frame them. Ultimately, we felt like we needed to establish credibility with the audience by showing we understood their struggles and aspirations. It turns out that this is also a way to tap into the emotions that compel people to share content.

What was your distribution plan?

When we created our first presentation, we considered distribution as an afterthought, something we would get around to eventually. The most surprising insight of our experience is how important it is to figure out distribution in advance — specifically, who will be most receptive to your message, where do they frequent online, and which of those already possesses a viral ecosystem? Just because a site is highly trafficked does not mean its readers are predisposed to sharing. Ideally, you want to be able to insert your content into a system that already possesses strong viral loops.

So how, exactly, did you get people to share your decks?

By default, we publish our decks on SlideShare because it already has an ecosystem that encourages sharing and attracts views. We were even able to use SlideShare to find relevant online publications for distribution. Every SlideShare presentation lists the websites that have embedded it and how many embed views they delivered. We studied the embed view lists of relevant presentations to make a short list of outlets to reach out to.

What tips would you give other authors for using SlideShare to convert viewers into readers of their books?

One of the ideas from The Start-Up of You that resonates strongly with our readers is that your existing assets have value, so you should take stock of them and find opportunities to leverage them. Well, this advice also applies to designing SlideShare presentations.

We didn’t have to guess what would resonate with people because we had two advantageous assets: (1) the most popular Kindle highlights for The Start-Up of You and (2) our Start-Up of You Student Fellows, over 100 of the most entrepreneurial college students in the world.

At the beginning of our Student Fellowship, we asked them to share their top career anxieties. This gave us a pool of data tothestartupofyou study for patterns, and we were able to frame our ideas around the most prevalent career anxieties.

Any interesting feedback you've gotten on your presentations?

The most common feedback we receive is how well designed our decks are. While we were thoughtful about our design, our ethos was simple: impressive images that amplify the accompanying text.

Some of the most-viewed presentations on the Internet are poorly designed, so visual design is arguably not the most important factor in a presentation’s success. However, because the bar is low for good presentation design, it’s also much easier for your deck to stand out and be remarkable.