Are Your PDFs Social Media Friendly?

November 11th, 2009 Posted by B2B Social Media 7 thoughts
B2B Social Media Sharing Strategies

If they’re not, they should be.

White papers, eBooks, case studies, best practice guides…when done right, these B2B content marketing assets can be powerful lead generation and lead nurturing tools.

At the same time, they’re expensive to create. They’re also hard to get into the hands of the right people. Further, in the B2B market, you may get one of these assets into the hands of one of your contacts, but there are many other people at the prospect’s company who will influence the purchase decision.

So why are you making it hard to share these PDFs? Why not give B2B prospects quick and easy ways share them with a colleague through email or with broader groups via social media on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook? If your stuff’s good, it will get shared.

Making it Easy to Share

The mere presence of email and social media sharing buttons in PDFs may prompt readers to share the PDF with others when they otherwise wouldn’t have even thought about doing so.

The easier you make it for them to share your content marketing assets, the more likely they will follow through with sharing it. Make sure the email and social media sharing options you embed in PDFs populate information in the target social media. Do the same for email sharing options. For instance, if you want people to tweet about your PDF, don’t just have the sharing button in your PDF launch Twitter for them. Have it launch Twitter and populate the tweet for them. They can change the tweet if they want, but at least they’ll have a starting point from which to make edits. If the person is fine with the pre-populated tweet, the entire social media sharing process could take them as little as five seconds.

Pre-Populating the Message

If you pre-populate the tweet for people, you can be sure to include your shortened URL, instead of one the sharer needs to create. That way, you’ll be able to better track results through, HootSuite, or whatever you use. In addition, you can also include hashtags in the pre-populated tweet. This way, if the reader tweets your PDF with the pre-populated information, they’re tweeting it not only to their followers, but to people who follow the hashtags you specified—potentially thousands of people.

Pre-populating information in the target social media can result in better click-through. There’s an art to writing good tweets. You know, the ones that catch your attention, get clicked on, and retweeted. The same is true for the 250 characters you write when sharing something with one of your LinkedIn groups. Give the person sharing your PDF something to work with. Something pithy and creative. Or maybe something straightforward and concise, yet filled with impact. Just make sure it’s not sales language.

The sharing options you embed in your PDFs are probably going to be straightforward hyperlinks. Right now, JavaScript sharing options like ShareThis don’t play nicely with PDFs. If you’re going to pre-populate information in the target social media, your PDF’s sharing links will have to have this pre-populating information embedded into the link. You’ll need to figure out how to do that for each social media sharing option you want to provide.

Tracking the Results

Quantifying traffic from social media referral sources like LinkedIn and Facebook is pretty straightforward. Using your web analytics, you can merely look at the referral sources for the landing page on which your PDF is hosted.

Tracking results from Twitter is a bit more difficult. As noted above, if you pre-populate the reader’s tweet for them, you can specify the shortened URL to be used in the tweet. Most URL shortening services have tracking data available. Just make sure you’re logged into your URL shortening service account when you shorten the URL so you’ll have access to the tracking for that shortened URL.

The tracking data available from your URL shortening service will tell you how many people clicked on the shortened URL, but it won’t tell you what those people did once they got to your site. Identifying visitors from coming via shortened URLs can be tough. Twitter clients like TweetDeck don’t pass along the referring string. So instead of showing up as a visitor coming from Twitter, the visitor gets recorded as a direct visit.

To solve this, you may want to tag the URLs before you shorten them. If you’re using Google Analytics, you can use Google’s URL Builder to append information to the URL. In doing so, you’ll not only be able to track click-through from certain channels of content marketing (e.g., white papers), but you’ll also be able to drill down within that channel to see how much traffic each white paper or eBook is driving. If you’re using another analytics platform, find out how to use its tagging capabilities and tag the URL before you shorten it.

A Practical Example

If you haven’t embedded sharing options in PDFs before, all this information can seem a bit complicated and abstract, especially if you have to come up with the right code for the sharing links you want to embed in your PDF.

We embedded email and social media sharing options into a recently released eBook on B2B email marketing best practices. In it you can check how the sharing options are presented and how they functionally work (i.e., how the links pre-populate sharing information.) Sharing options are presented on the inside covers as well as at the bottom of each page of the body of the eBook. You can download a sample section without registration.

It’s been interesting to track the results. I’m sure the PDF is getting shared much more than it would have had we not embedded sharing options. Through web analytics and analytics available from, we’ve been able to track and analyze the traffic from various referral sources. Interestingly, by monitoring analytics and social media channels we’ve also noted a persistency of sharing; we continue to see regular occurrences of sharing after the initial buzz surrounding its release subsided.

What are You Waiting For?

If you have good content marketing assets in PDF form, it makes sense to embed sharing options. Without sharing options, you have to rely more heavily on sales staff, public relations, paid search, and SEO to drive awareness and use. Further, embedding sharing options not only helps with the launch of new content marketing assets, but it also helps perpetuate their visibility as new people find and share them long after they’ve been released. Finally, social media sharing options in PDFs help encourage and make it easy for B2B buyers to share your information with others involved in a particular purchase decision.

The time it takes to embed sharing options into a PDF is a tiny fraction of the investment it took to create that piece of content marketing. The question isn’t whether you should be embedding sharing options into PDFs. The question is how soon can you update your PDFs to include them?

Add This

7 thoughts on “Are Your PDFs Social Media Friendly?”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Are Your PDFs Social Media Friendly? | B2B Marketing Blog --
  2. Dave J. says:

    Have you seen where they try to capture leads directly in PDFs? They contacted me thru my blog, but I haven’t checked it out yet.

    1. Thanks, Dave. Haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll check it out. I remember hearing that this was coming out. I had seen an earlier product from this company and liked some aspects of it, but the person I had talked to said this was coming out. When we talked about the features, it had sounded like a good product.

  3. Jimmy says:

    These are some great tips. Thanks for sharing them!

  4. Josh says:

    Great article. Exactly what I was looking for. Do you know of a way to share specific passages in a PDF with social networks, similar to what the Kindle does now? I have some PDFs that are released on a membership basis, and I’d like people to be able share bits, but certainly not a link to the entire lesson. I already have free samples available, but I want a bit of sharing for everything.

    1. Hi, Josh.

      Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. I don’t know of any way to only share passages or excerpts other than to create separate documents (PDFs) that contain only the excerpted portions. If I’m correctly understanding what you want to do, I’d probably share a link to the excerpted document, and then have social sharing links inside that document that lead people to a landing page where they can download the excerpted doc and download the full doc with registration or pay.


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