The latest tack on this issue is a white paper published at SocialWhitePaper.com, under the banner, "Emergence of the Social White Paper: 5 New Strategies to Deliver White Papers on a Platform".
A key point presented in this white paper is that PDFs simply cannot track sharing activity and are mostly invisible to the major search engines. Instead Social Media offers your white paper a richer platform to track, share, interact, measure and grow business leads.
Like many issues with Social Media, there are both pros and cons associated with any B2B marketing strategy. So before you run out and delete your corporate white paper library, here's my perspective on the issue of using Social Media as a dedicated platform for hosting a strictly business-oriented white paper.
Let's agree that lead generation is THE primary reason that drives most B2B marketers to develop white papers. Countless numbers of business researchers have shown over the years that the credibility, educational value, and professionalism of white papers is what executive decision makers seek, trust, and use to make critical business decisions.
This social white paper offers several interesting concepts (without going into a lot of detail) on how Social Media can help marketers can make their white papers more "social" and interactive, but it doesn't offer any concrete ideas on how a white paper can generate leads. I'm sure in a subsequent phone call, they will tell you all about it.
Sure, you can use white papers to increase the number of your friends, followers, and ReTweets, and to solicit comments and feedback, but in the end true white paper ROI is measured based on the number of legitimate names, titles, and email addresses. You can build up your total social media followers, but it is a process, which takes a longer amount of time before you can leverage an extensive social media community for a subsequent B2B solution campaign that can generate revenue.
In addition, due to the open nature of Social Media, B2B marketers must deal with an uncontrollable amount of "garbage" that just goes along with the territory, especially on sites such as Facebook. The sidebar ads, jokes, and bizarre comments can make any B2B white paper appear less professional.
Think about it? The enterprises that are dedicated to B2B marketing using the white paper medium want to control the environment in which they are hosted. That is for a good reason. Can you imagine companies such as IBM or Oracle hosting a business white paper on a Facebook page? When there is a million dollar software or consulting sale at stake, I don't think social media is on their short list.
On the other hand, with the traditional landing page, as soon as you place a "gate" or require the user to register for a white paper, you're going to turn off a substantial number of visitors.
For example, one quote from V.P. Jay Halberg with Spiceworks.com, the vast majority of visitors to their site will choose to opt out instead of registering and downloading the white paper.
So given the choice between an unrestricted social media environment and a gated landing page, what's a white paper marketer to do to find a way to generate better leads?
The answer is a solution called, "Protected PDF" by Vitrium Solutions. Vitrum allows marketers to integrate lead capture forms into their PDF white papers, capturing lead information along the way. With Protected PDF, you can give away the PDF without the gated registration requirement, have your reader sample your white paper content, and the capture leads in the process. Simple tracking with complete control.
One advantage with this approach is the ability to capture leads as a PDF is passed along from one person to another within the same enterprise organization. Since Protected PDF tracks the IP address of each user that opens the PDF, as that IP address changes, new readers are required to re-register for the white paper. Using this approach you can capture ALL of the leads from each reader, not just the first person that happened to download the white paper.
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