SlideShare, a hub for online presentations that LinkedIn acquired a year ago, just crossed a milestone: Its users have uploaded a total of 10 million presentations. And in the process, it's become an indispensable resource for what some say is a big challenge: helping businesspeople communicate and explain the value of what they do.
Andrew Dumont, the director of business development at SEOmoz, a search-marketing software company, wrote in a blog post that technical types often don't value the contributions of salespeople and marketers because it's difficult to quantify their skills. "There's no Dribbble or Github for businesspeople," Dumont wrote.
Dribbble is a site where designers post screenshots of work in progress. GitHub is a popular site—it recently crossed 3 million users—for programmers to upload their work and collaborate with other developers.
When I tweeted Dumont's observation, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, a writer and entrepreneur, replied, "Isn't that SlideShare?"
SlideShare founder Ross Mayfield didn't quibble too much with that observation. "SlideShare is a place for businesspeople," he says. "There's five times the number of small-business owners as other social networks."
Mayfield noted that the combination of a LinkedIn profile, enhanced with SlideShare presentations and other examples of one's work, that let nontechnical employees show their value. "Just like an open-source developer, what they contribute on their merits and how they work with others, when that's made public, factors into what a real reputation is," says Mayfield.
Mayfield says he's even seen SlideShare users "fork"—or copy and modify—presentations, much as GitHub users do with code. (SlideShare users can grant permission to other users to download and adapt their work.)
He also observes that SlideShare users have shifted the visual language of presentations around the idea that they'll be viewed and shared online, rather than presented at a conference or meeting. Marty Neumeier's "Brand Gap" presentation, posted in 2007, is an early example of this genre.
LinkedIn recently revamped its news product, LinkedIn Today, around topics or "Channels," boosting the visibility of SlideShare presentations in the news mix. This sometimes lead to truly awful results—but over time, the best business content ought to bubble to the top. And with it, the careers of the business minds behind it.
Here's a presentation—of course—that Mayfield and team created:
Photo by Flickr user ImagineCup, CC 2.0