The Medium and the Message – How to Market a White Paper on Twitter
Here’s the situation. You and your team have finally finished creating the long-awaited white paper. Armed with a shiny new PDF and a well-prepared content distribution plan, as a B2B marketer, social media should feature high on your list of priorities. And given its importance as a business communications channel, Twitter which is used by 77% of B2B marketers to distribute content*, has become the place for sharing content links. (*According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProf’s 2017 B2B Content Marketing Trends in North America).
But there’s a problem. Twitter is a real-time medium. In practice, this means that we all struggle to get to grips with the sheer number of tweets that find their way to our news feeds and we decide pretty much instantly whether we’re going to click on a link or pay more than cursory attention to an infographic.
So on the face of it, Twitter isn’t necessarily the best place to promote long form content, such as white papers. To put it bluntly, although your painstakingly crafted white paper is packed with vital industry insights and market intelligence, it may not have the necessary kerb appeal to generate the kind of engagement you’re hoping for.
There are alternative platforms, of course – notably LinkedIn (used by 89% of B2B marketers), which I will address in a future article – but with Twitter’s active users totalling more than 300 million and many of them spending time on the platform to keep up with news, trends, developments and opportunities in their industries, Twitter is simply too powerful and important to ignore.
And here’s the good news. You can successfully promote white papers on Twitter by tailoring content to the expectations of the audience. In the rest of this article, I’ll be explaining what we’ve learned from making Twitter work for us and our clients.
You can successfully promote white papers on Twitter by tailoring content to the expectations of the audience.
Understand the Basics of the Algorithm
The first step is to understand how Twitter itself sets out to ensure that its users see the content that will be most interesting and useful to them.
Every time a user opens up the screen after a break, there is a degree of ranking going on, with Twitter’s algorithms selecting the most relevant posts. In addition, most of us who use the platform, receive regular ‘in case you missed it’ notifications designed to highlight tweets that reflect our interests and previous behaviour on the platform.
In practice, this means that Twitter’s algorithm looks at what we all do on a day-to-day basis in terms of the subjects we like to read about, the people we follow most avidly and the type of content – links, pictures, videos, etc – that we find most compelling. Those tweets that tick the necessary boxes are ranked higher, making us more likely to see them first time around. And if we miss them – well notifications remind us that we really should check them out.
That’s all good. Because if a member of the Twitter community has previously exhibited an interest in the subject of your white paper, there’s a fighting chance that they may see one of your scheduled Tweets – either directly as a follower or because it has been retweeted.
All Content is Not Equal
But certain types of content perform better on Twitter than others and this is where it gets tricky if you’re pushing out a link to a white paper.
For example, as Twitter itself points out, tweets accompanied by pictures or infographics have a three times higher engagement rate than those that don’t. There is perhaps a very good reason for that. According to research by 3M, 65% of us are visual learners and thus more open to visualised material.
It’s important to say we all have our own preferences. For some, the real-time nature of Twitter makes it a great source of links to news items that spark our interest and that do require time to consume. Others prefer pictures, videos or quick reads or even pithy memes. But there is a common factor.
An infographic provides an instant way to assimilate information and if designed well, also appeal to the eye. We’ve even found that a well designed visual image using text can outperform a pure infographic based image. It all depends on the usefulness of the information; the sense of urgency conveyed and the uniqueness of the benefit(s) to the reader.
A well-designed text-based image or one including infographics excites interest, but consider including a link on the image itself, so that if the image is retweeted without the original accompanying message (and link), the link will always be visible.
It all depends on the usefulness of the information; the sense of urgency conveyed and the uniqueness of the benefit(s) to the reader.
The image below, used on Twitter, catches the eye, is informative and shareable but lacks a text link to the source report, missing an opportunity for users to access the content.
An eye-catching image excites interest, but consider including a link on the image itself, so that if the image is retweeted without the original accompanying message (and link), the link will always be visible.
Time-Poor Twitter Users
But if there is no definite right or wrong in terms of what constitutes effective Twitter content, what you can say is that the wrong asset at the wrong time can be a deal breaker. A time-poor Twitter user may be interested in your subject, but not have the time or inclination to follow a link to long-form content like a white paper – complete with contents, acknowledgments, foreword, executive summary and four chapters – in the five minutes that he or she has between meetings. Delivering helpful content that can be easily and quickly consumed by busy professionals is an antidote to this.
Delivering helpful content that can be easily and quickly consumed by busy professionals is an antidote to this.
Bite-Sized Pieces of Information
It is important to remember that Twitter is an information gateway. People are scanning more ruthlessly than ever, looking for interesting titbits. The battle for attention is intense due to the nature of the environment.
Even though a reader may, in an ideal world, be willing to read your white paper, work on the basis that most people on Twitter won’t have the time to register their interest when your link takes them to a gated landing page. The likelihood is that you will have lost a potential prospect, not because they are not interested, but because of the environment of the medium, Twitter.
Play to Twitter’s Strengths
This is why most B2B marketers in CMI’s 2017 study agree that Twitter is not the best platform for lead generation when it comes to promoting white papers etc. But if you understand the medium, then you will appreciate Twitter’s strengths in the marketing mix for generating awareness and engagement with your brand and content and helping your buyers with useful, relevant information that also happens to be in your organisation’s field of expertise. This is hugely important in the journey your buyers are on – and helps put your brand on their radar.
So instead, consider using Twitter to provide instant value with an insight from your white paper. Make this bite-sized, so that the reader is immediately rewarded with something of value, against which your brand is associated. Rinse and repeat to create mini-campaigns.
Our empirical evidence shows that people share these titbits far more than a Tweet promoting the download of a white paper, where my guesstimate is that 90%+ of these call-to-actions require users’ contact details to access the content. And users know this.
Consider using Twitter to provide instant value with an insight from your white paper. Make this bite-sized, so that the reader is immediately rewarded with something of value, against which your brand is associated.
Short-Format Works Best
Bite-sized pieces of information presented in a well-designed graphic will excite interest – and the reader may well want to seek out something with more detail. This could be the white paper itself or, in our experience, a better option at this stage is to provide the Twitter user with easy access to a short-format version (not locked behind a form). At InsightBrief we’ve called these ‘Executive Briefs’.
A short-format version serves several purposes:
- It contains key insights from the white paper in the easy-to-read and digest format that is tailored to content expectations of a Twitter audience. (This is in contrast to a white paper that requires the reader’s longer attention span to follow the narrative and flow presented).
- Consumable in less than 5-10 minutes.
- Gives the reader easy access to the source content, namely the white paper.
- Provides B2B marketers with an additional branded content asset that is more effective in the Twitter environment.
Create a Series of Social Assets
Below is one of a series of Twitter images promoting short format content – it contains one of the insights distilled from a white paper.
Include a call-to-action and a link within the image
So one effective way to promote a white paper is to see it as the mothership, surrounded by multiple tiers of content assets that have a standalone value while also working as a funnel.
Content assets to promote your white paper on Twitter may include:
- A short-format briefing document
- Visual assets for use in social media (see example above and for more see here)
- An infographic based on key points/data
- A series of blogs on topics related to the white paper
- A short video or interview
Executive Brief – Short Format Content
At InsightBrief, one of the short-format content assets we publish is curated from white papers – and we call these ‘Executive Briefs’.
They typically contain between twenty to thirty bite-sized nuggets of information that are easy to digest and share.
These co-branded social assets are popular on Twitter with busy professionals, providing a means to quickly consume key insights from a client’s white paper.
You can view an example Executive Brief here.
To view further examples of Executive Briefs, click here.
Don’t Forget The Basics
Remember, though that promoting content all starts with a tweet – these days up to 280 characters that essentially acts a barker to draw members of the target audience into the tent of content. You want that messaging to be engaging – which will encourage views, appreciation, retweets with and without comments and ideally, shared by key influencers.
The 80/20 Rule of Headlines
For this to happen, the importance of crafting effective copy cannot be over emphasised. Writing great headlines is the difference between people reading the headline and those going on to read the content. Copyblogger cites that on average, 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will go on to read the content.
Writing great headlines is the difference between people reading the headline and those going on to read the content.
Crafting the Message
Crafting Tweets is a skill that you’ll improve on with practice. It doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. Take into account your audience whenever you’re writing a Tweet, and ensure to continually monitor your Twitter engagement rate, which will help you refine your messaging.
A lot has been written recently about ‘Influencer Marketing‘ – and our experience at InsightBrief is that if you have a steady stream of quality content and you share other people’s quality content, then over time, you build up a Twitter audience including key influencers that values your editorial judgement, which in turn helps you when you have something of your own to share.
Identifying key influencers in your sector and sharing their content is a good place to start. Influencer management software, like Onalytica’s can be helpful in this task.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
To understand what works best, you will need to experiment with different messaging in your Tweets for each of your visual assets. This is made easy on Twitter as you have the opportunity to schedule variations of the same post over time to maximise the chances of reaching your target audience.
If you want a useful resource on the best times to post, check out this research from Coschedule and bear in mind the different time zones when considering your target audience.
Hashtags Are Your Friend
Don’t forget to choose and use hashtags wisely. Hashtagify is a free tool that will help you with this. It is worth selecting specific relevant hashtags before commencing a campaign and be sure to set up a social monitoring tool to track the association of particular hashtags with your brand name; for example include your brand name on every tweet but mix and match an agreed series of hashtags with each social asset, depending on the message.
For example, with a campaign we ran for CenturyLink, one of the objectives was to increase awareness and engagement of their brand (@CenturyLink) with the following hashtags:
#digitaltransformation #riskmanagement #riskmitigation #cyberaware #cybersecurity
To track and measure the uplift in brand association with particular key terms and hashtags you will need to use one a social analytics tool. We use MarketBrand which provides real-time reporting, alerts and interactive dashboards that our clients have access to. In a future article, I address the topic of how to monitor and measure KPIs for a typical Twitter campaign.
Putting It All Together
There is a significant chunk of work involved in distilling the content of a white paper into complementary collateral. And it also requires different skill sets or at least a change in perspective on the part of the creators.
In promotional terms, it’s certainly worth it, but if there isn’t the internal bandwidth in your organisation to create both a white paper and all the associated social assets, consider the benefits of a 3rd party publisher like InsightBrief who have the added benefit of their own social distribution (@InsightBrief) to complement yours; an influencer network to help amplify content and access to a world-class content syndication platform for lead generation requirements.
But if there is just one thing you take away from this article – don’t bury your head in the sand by expecting stellar results on Twitter if all you do is Tweet links promoting a download page to your white paper. Be respectful of the users’ needs on Twitter and its environment, and you won’t be disappointed.