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One Image To Show The Incredible Importance Of Sharing Web Pages Versus PDFs

So you have that report, infographic or other document as a PDF, right? And now you want to get that massively shared out in social media, right? So that everyone can see your document and learn from it?

Do you...

  1. Start distributing the link to the PDF and ask people to share it?
  2. Wrap the PDF in a basic web page, share THAT link and ask people to share it?

If you answered #1, read on for why you should think of #2.

This morning the World Economic Forum (happening this week in Davos, Switzerland) published an excellent infographic about the Internet as "The Innovation Engine" outlining a series of recommendations for leaders with regard to key Internet issues.

The only problem was that they only published the document as a PDF file on their site. The link that was being sent around was just for the PDF.

Links to PDF files do not "share" very well in social media!

Thankfully, someone on our (Internet Society, my employer) Communications team was able to put up a simple web page that provided a nicer link for sharing.

Notice the difference in the image of my Facebook NewsFeed this morning:

Sharing a pdf vs a web page

The first link, from LACNIC, was for the PDF-only link. It has a URL you can't understand and just the domain name listed. No preview image. No title. No text. Sure, I can know from the status update text what the link is about... but the "link preview" doesn't grab me in and make me want to click it.

The second link, from the Internet Society Comms Team, is to the web page wrapping the PDF. Note here it has a preview image. It has a title. It has some descriptive text. This "link preview" provides enough information that I may want to click on it right away without even reading the Facebook status update.

Ultimately, both links bring you to the same PDF file. The difference is that the second link is to a web page that provides enough "meta" information that the social network can use that information to build a "link preview". While my example here shows Facebook, it works similarly on Google+ and probably works the same way on other social networks.

Note, too, that the web page wrapping the PDF is nothing special. It's a very basic page with a preview image of the PDF, a couple paragraphs of text, a title and the link to the PDF.

That's it.

But that's all that's needed to provide a much better sharing experience when that link is passed around in social networks.

Something to think about the next time you are looking to share out a PDF of a image, infographic, report or other document. Wrap it in a simple web page and your sharing will be much more effective!

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