Slide Sorter: By Acquiring SlideShare, LinkedIn Will Make Even More Money
If I told you I yawned when I read the announcement of SlideShare’s $119 million acquisition by LinkedIn earlier today, would you believe me?
[But first, a disclaimer: Frost & Sullivan, my employer, is an Enterprise Pro Platinum user of SlideShare, and as the administrator and relationship manager, I write this from the experience of a (happy) customer -- one whose SlideShare channel has grown as SlideShare has grown.]
The numbers are clear: 9 million presentations have been uploaded to SlideShare, and the site received 29 million unique visitors in March. These numbers fit in nicely with LinkedIn’s 161 global members. SlideShare has been an app available through the LinkedIn interface for quite some time. Bringing the service in-house will only strengthen the alliance.
But back to my experience with SlideShare in its earlier days: Frost & Sullivan started a free channel on the network in July 2008. It became a great repository -- and SEO driver -- for Frost & Sullivan’s hundreds of past analyst briefing webinar PowerPoints. Cofounder and CEO Rashmi Sinha -- in efforts to convert Frost & Sullivan to a paying customer -- granted me $250 worth of free LeadShare credits in August 2010. Thinking it would take a few weeks to use up this credit, I was curious to see what would transpire.
The credit was gone in less than 48 hours.
At $5 per lead, the 50 leads came in swift. Eventually, I was able to convince Frost & Sullivan’s senior management that we needed to pay for unlimited leads. We’ve made back roughly 50 times our investment. Indeed, I’m proud to say that Frost & Sullivan’s overwhelming success with SlideShare has gone on to become a case study for them -- to convince other companies that yes, you can see hard-dollar ROI on social -- and we have been referenced and profiled on dozens of other sites, including Forbes.
SlideShare is the only social network that offers a lead capture form embedded within content. The lead capture form even renders when the presentation is embedded on other sites and blogs -- apparently, nearly 7.4 million presentations hosted by SlideShare are embedded across more than 1.4 million unique domains. This helps reticent B2B marketers bridge the gap and make the leap -- as a completed lead capture form easily convinces naysayers of the power of social.
Back to what LinkedIn will do with SlideShare. There is now another revenue stream -- a FOURTH generator of income -- to keep the social network (and social networking industry) afloat. I envision a tighter integration between Company Pages on LinkedIn (which were just upgraded to include Status Updates) and SlideShare, though I do think that LinkedIn will keep SlideShare somewhat independent, as SlideShare is first and foremost a content network rather than a social network (admittedly, I’ve met and made friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Foursquare, but not on SlideShare).
As for what SlideShare gets out of the deal -- a lot (besides a huge, deserved payday for the founders), including access to the resources necessary to continue building out a terrific product. Though headquartered in San Francisco, SlideShare is not living a fabulous social media lifestyle: their offices are modest (I’ve visited) and they manage expenses tightly. The platform was and is sometimes now still a bit buggy -- yet they completely migrated to HTML5 and rolled out a webcasting service, Zipcast, early last year on a shoestring. The founders never sought the limelight, making grandiose predictions of the future of social media; instead, they worked tirelessly on
creating a platform that provided much-needed relief for B2B marketers (like myself) who were sick of shlepping to conferences only to learn that Skittles and Victoria’s Secret increased their engagement on Facebook (seriously?).
One thing I am concerned with is the very possibility of LinkedIn raising SlideShare’s prices for premium access -- but I do not want to jinx anything -- so I'll shut up about that.
LinkedIn is clearly on an acquisition streak -- aiming to become a B2B or professional social network powerhouse -- and injecting the principles of social business to every endpoint it touches. In late February, the company acquired Rapportive, a Gmail plugin that makes both consumer Gmail as well as enterprise Gmail via Google Apps or Google Apps for Business more social. Once installed, and with social networks authenticated, a Gmail user can view the social profiles and recent social activity of a sender or other recipients right inside the Gmail interface. It is still unclear what LinkedIn will exactly do with Rapportive -- though there have been over 1 million downloads -- and it’s not a monetized platform at the current time, according to Rahul Vohra, the founder and CEO of Rapportive, when I interviewed him for a blogpost for Social Media Today.
But the Rapportive and SlideShare acquisitions both make sense. In a world of social CRM, in which professionals in any department inside an organization are mining social networks for signals, content and messages from their clients, prospects, partners, and employees, a repository of content and a socialized inbox clearly point to the future.
The acquisition of a network like SlideShare now makes me think of the future of Scribd -- which doesn’t offer embedded lead capture forms but does offer e-commerce -- and Prezi, the quirky, gorgeous presentation platform from Hungary that everyone loves but doesn’t understand how to use.
But my yawn quickly turned into a ‘You go, Rashmi!’ and perhaps, as a star, case-study customer of SlideShare, I’ll get invited to the Welcome party.
Jake Wengroff is the founder of social business consultancy JXB1. Jake evaluates technologies, vendors, markets, and trends in the social media ecosystem. He also advises and consults with clients on social business, marketing, collaboration software and change management. Find him on Twitter @JakeWengroff.
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