October 24, 2017

How to promote your white paper on social media

As much as we all love a well-slaved-over Thanksgiving dinner, if you’re like me, what you may love even more are the leftovers.

One more bowl of green-bean casserole with cranberry sauce during the Giants-Redskins game. A turkey and dressing on rye sandwich Friday. Pecan pie with Dream Whip for breakfast Saturday. (Please don’t judge.)

So if you’re a professional person or some kind of expert who’s just produced a brilliant white paper and you’re now looking for tips and advice on how to promote it on social media, my two words for you are: Thanksgiving leftovers.

You’ve just spent months slaving over a beautifully presented, multi-course meal. Now the trick to serving it up on social is turning it into a mouth-watering menu of snacks: Excerpts. Listicles. Blog posts. Infographics. Tweets.

No hard and fast definition governs what a “white paper” is. What I have broadly in mind is a 1,000- to 5,000-word piece, with a succinct and compelling “what will this tell me and why should I care?” executive summary at the top, that:

  • Demonstrates your authority and unique viewpoint explaining an issue, situation, or common business or social challenge.
  • Outlines a possible solution or solutions, or at least deepens readers’ understanding of the issue/situation/challenge so they can make a better-informed and smarter decision about dealing with it.
  • Is written with enough gravity and timelessness that its shelf life will be measured in months, not weeks or days (like a blog post or memorandum).

A white paper isn’t a case study, though well-written ones will include some case studies to ensure your big thinking is enlivened and supported by real-life examples. Nor is a white paper a sales brochure – but of course, done well, its key message (from your perspective) is: “I’m smart. Hire me.” (Or “retain my firm” or “buy my service.”)

As you think about promoting your white paper on LinkedIn, Twitter, maybe Facebook, with a website landing page, and by direct or Constant-Contact-style email, here’s my proverbial “6 Ways To Brilliantly Promote Your Brilliant White Paper on Social Media:”


  1. Who can most benefit from reading your white paper, and how? You’ve spent a long time thinking about what you wanted to say, maybe months. But now flip it around and ask: What have I said that’s the most instructive, revealing, valuable, useful, or actionable thing someone could hear, and who are they? Really answering that question, ideally with clarifying insight and pushback from colleagues and friends, is what will lead you to compelling, clicked-on social posts linking back to your white paper … like “The 4 things IT managers today most need to know – but consistently get wrong.” Or “The 5 smartest ways HR leaders recruit and retain Millennials.”


  1. What’s the most fascinating fact or data point, chart or graph you included in your white paper? Pull that one thing out and then use a site like to turn it into a gorgeous, brilliant infographic that you can Tweet or use to illustrate a 200-word post with a link to the paper.


  1. Friends don’t let friends post on social without visual imagery. Every Tweet, every LinkedIn post, every anything on social gets an order of magnitude better response if it has an image with it. Free stock sites abound; my personal favorite these days is, which has 9 crillion (approximately) photos that are all covered by Creative Commons releases and can be used in any commercial venue you want. Whatever way you are excerpting or promoting your white paper, if you’re not using an infographic, use a photo.


  1. Think outside the box, or outside the corners of the paper in this case: What were some of the most interesting things you had to leave OUT of the document? Could any of them work as the source for social posts along the lines of “one fascinating nugget I had to cut from my brilliant white paper [hyperlink] was X”? Or “Now that I’ve done this brilliant white paper [hyperlink], the next one I’m inspired to write is about Y, and I want your help.”


  1. No one will ever confuse it for “The Making of The Bourne Supremacy.” But “The Making of My White Paper” may prove an unexpectedly engaging theme for connecting with readers and drawing them to what you’ve written. What was the most surprising thing you learned in the course of your research? What was the hardest piece of data to track down, and how did you find it? What were the three most useful sources of information or online tools you discovered in your research? People are, as a rule, fascinated by what other people do all day and how they do it, especially when it involves ways to work smarter and more efficiently.


  1. Posting on social about your brilliant white paper is just the beginning. Now you need to get people to click, like, and share your posts. And you need to ask them to do it. One of the smartest and most successful business-development people I know in Boston calls me every few months and asks me to share a LinkedIn post he’s done or retweet one of his tweets. He doesn’t take anything for granted. As I said, he is smart, and he is successful!


Everyone wants to be known as a “thought leader.” But ultimately, what we really want from other people is advice, insight and solutions. Writing a brilliant white paper that establishes you as a thought leader is wonderful. Serving it up on social media in a way that’s interesting and useful to people, and making sure they hear about it with help from your colleagues and friends, is even better.

And it’s almost as delicious as pecan pie with Dream Whip for breakfast.


By Peter J. Howe, Senior Advisor