How My First SlideShare Went Viral

September 23, 2015

shutterstock_166339421-blogBy Glenn Leibowitz

Earlier this year, I wrote a post on LinkedIn about one of my favorite writing mentors, William Zinsser. My intention was to pull together some of the lessons I had learned from his classic bestselling book, “On Writing Well”, which I read a decade ago.

While I was flipping through the pages of his book trying to identify quotes that encapsulated his philosophy on writing well, I realized that there were so many good ones that I couldn't possibly include all of them within the body of the post. So I decided to stuff my favorite Zinsser quotes into a SlideShare presentation and embed that in the post.

Although I’ve created countless PowerPoint presentations at work over the years, I had never created a SlideShare presentation before, so this was an experiment of sorts.

And I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Here's a summary of what I did, what the results were, and some of the lessons I learned from this experiment:

What I did

First, I wrote a brief post on LinkedIn that I called, “The Man Who Taught a Million People How to Write Well”. It was less of a wrap-up of what I learned from Zinsser about writing well and more of a personal tribute to the man who had wielded a profound impact on my writing and editing skills. I left the part about lessons learned about writing well for the SlideShare.

Next, I prepared the SlideShare:

Step 1: I read sections of the book and identified quotes I could use.

Step 2: I fired up, the free app for creating graphics and presentations. I purchased a minimalistic white presentation template for $1.

Step 3: I typed the text for each quote I selected onto each slide, added a cover slide with a photo of William Zinsser, and then added a final slide that displayed my new podcast logo and the address of my personal blog

Step 4: I exported the presentation from Canva as a PDF.

Step 5: I imported the PDF into SlideShare, added a few bits of information about it, and hit publish.

Step 6: I embedded the SlideShare at the bottom of my LinkedIn post using the code snippet provided by SlideShare.

Step 7: I hit publish on the LinkedIn post on February 19, 2015.

The results

Once my LinkedIn post was published, it was soon tagged under two channels on Pulse: What Inspires Me and Careers: The Next Level. As the number of views started to accelerate, the post was featured on the home page of LinkedIn as one of the “Stories you can't miss today on LinkedIn Pulse”.  After a day or so it reached the top five of all posts on Pulse and eventually attracted a total of 24,826 views, 689 likes, and 162 comments.

I was overwhelmed by these results, especially by the outpouring of comments from readers who shared the same intense admiration for William Zinsser and his book.

But what happened next just blew me away.

The viral attention to the LinkedIn post triggered a massive wave of views of the embedded SlideShare presentation, which was soon tagged under the “Self Improvement” and “Education” channels on SlideShare, and featured on the home page.

This prominent placement on SlideShare’s home page and topic channels kicked in another even bigger wave of views and social shares. The numbers started to jump by the tens of thousands per day, and after several days of heady growth, the views and social shares gradually levelled off.

Here are the stats for the SlideShare as of the date of publication of this post, seven months after hitting publish:

Views: 138,660

Favorites: 500

Social shares: 1,960

Email shares: 433

Downloads: 6,056

Comments: 47

Lessons learned

Share inspirational and educational content. 

People seem to love to read and share inspirational and educational quotes from great authors, and William Zinsser doesn’t disappoint. The wisdom he shares on the craft of writing is powerful and timeless. There's an abundance of this sort of material out there waiting to be mined and curated for eager readers.

Let the content speak for itself. 

I don’t think I could have created a simpler design than the one I created for my first SlideShare. The $1 presentation template I bought on Canva was helpful at giving me a basic layout and font, but I realized after putting it together that I probably didn’t need it. This is not to say that you shouldn’t experiment with more elaborate designs. My point here is simply: don’t get caught up with creating a great design at the expense of developing compelling content.

Don’t get caught up with creating a great design at the expense of developing compelling content.

Embed your SlideShare in a blog post.

You might get traction with your SlideShare by just publishing it and then sharing it on social media. But my choice to embed my SlideShare in a widely read LinkedIn blog post was clearly instrumental in triggering its virality.

The number of views of the SlideShare far outnumbered those of the blog post. As the number of views shot up thanks to the visibility it gained from my LinkedIn post, SlideShare kicked in and featured the presentation on its home page as well as on a number of its individual topic channels. This visibility on SlideShare’s prime screen real estate gave it the push it needed to go viral.

Ultimately, the number of views of my SlideShare as an embed within a blog post or web page was 30.38% of total views, or 42,119 views. Of these, 23,956 were embeds on LinkedIn, leaving another 18,163 that were embeds on blogs and other websites. In fact, a single blog in Italy generated 8,804 views, the fourth biggest source of views overall!

Include links.

The most glaring “error” I made in my SlideShare is very visible in the number of “outbound clicks” in my stats: 0.  I honestly didn’t think my first SlideShare would take off like it did, and I didn’t realize I could include a clickable link in the presentation to my blog. How wrong I was! Don't make this mistake.

And finally…give SlideShare a try!

SlideShare is a powerful platform that can offer your content and your brand another place to generate awareness and engagement. My first SlideShare was also the first place where I publicly displayed my new logo for my podcast, Write With Impact. If I were to add up all of the views, social shares, comments, and email shares of both the LinkedIn post and the Slideshare to-date, these two pieces of content combined have generated well over 175,000 exposures of the logo and the address of my personal blog. And that of course doesn’t include the subsequent social sharing that the stats don’t reflect.

Have you tried SlideShare yet? What’s been your experience so far? How do you plan to use it to share content? Tell me about it in the comments!

Here once again is my first SlideShare: