David Meerman Scott on why ‘white papers rarely go viral’

by Karl Sakas on June 4, 2010

In WebInkNow, marketer David Meerman Scott has a great take on register-to-download white papers versus free-to-share ebooks. My favorite quote is “…white papers rarely go viral.”

When I find things I want to share online, it’s frustrating when companies (or people) create a barrier to sharing it. It could be register-to-read white papers or required-registration articles in the Wall Street Journal or Advertising Age. I’d share AMA MarketingPower articles more, except that I know people have to create an account (even if it’s free) to read them.

Another barrier is having figure out how to rewrite a long Tweet in order to retweet it via the edit-first method (hint: if you want people to share the great idea on Twitter, leave room for “RT @yourusername_ …and leave even more room if you think people will want to add a comment). It turns “click RT and move on” into: “How do I keep their tracking link, reference their username, possibly keep the title, and attribute everything properly?”

I suspect lots of your followers will just give up and see what’s next in their stream, even when they were ready, willing, and able to help your content go viral.

Not all whitepapers require registration (and not all ebooks are free). I’ll admit, I’ve used register-to-download white papers myself. But that’s because I decided it made business sense to use the ‘closed’ approach, because getting qualified leads was worth more to me than spreading the information. My Frontline Results marketing blog is the opposite, as everything is freely available.

From a business perspective, I think it comes down to this:

  • are you confident enough to set your information free (and ‘make it up on volume,’ sort of like a CPM advertising model), or
  • are your focusing on getting leads or subscribers (like a targeted, results-oriented CPC ad campaign)?

Which do you prefer for your business: registration model or free-to-share model?


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