Whether we like it or not, social media has become essential to advertising both products and services. As a result, more and more businesses of all sizes and at all stages have had to incorporate a social media strategy. Depending on what exactly the business sells, depends on how difficult this can be.

For initiatives in industries like technology, engineering or science, sometimes more than a pitch is needed to illustrate the value of what’s being offered. In these instances, a white paper is often the best solution. A whitepaper is an in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem, and offers a solution. It’s both authoritative and persuasive, but it’s not a pitch. Readers expect high quality and clear expertise that is backed by solid research and fully documented by peer-reviewed references.

While some start-up teams, or small businesses can handle paper writing on their own, others may not have the time or expertise. On the flip side, those teams who have no problem preparing the white paper, might not know what strategies to use to promote it in a digestible way on social media that will generate leads or investments.

The benefits of having a professional and engaging white paper and circulating parts of it through social media channels are well documented.

B2B buyers and investors, especially in fields related to technology rely on a white paper’s in-depth analysis to make informed decisions. When it comes to B2B content and marketing, white papers are one of the top strategies when it comes to generating leads and investments.

While there are technically no industry standards or minimum requirements and length can vary widely according to industry, there are some essentials to producing a quality white paper that will be recognized as a legitimate contribution to industry research and best practices.

A white paper shouldn’t be a skim read. In fact, like an academic document, readers should be going back to the paper multiple times to absorb it completely. They’re structured like an academic paper too, with title page, contents and an introduction and conclusion. White papers also tend to include an executive summary. Most are at least six pages in length, and will include diagrams, charts and a record of references used to produce the paper.

Charts and infographics are an important element of a white paper, and they’re effective too. Studies have shown that people remember 65% more information when accompanied by an image presenting the same content. As a result, most white papers have a professional design and a consistent style and colour scheme throughout. While it’s certainly not a requirement, some of the best white papers have their graphics and stylistic elements created by a professional graphic designer.

All of these aspects are a lot to consider for a small business or start-up initiative, especially those without a hefty revenue stream or a large team behind them.

Promoting a white paper on social media comes with its own set of unique challenges. The key is to find innovative and creative ways to repurpose its content into a shorter format, and inspiring people to download it in it’s entirety.

LinkedIn is widely regarded as one of the best social media platforms for promoting white papers, but Quora is also an excellent choice. Both platforms enable you to establish yourself as an expert and engage with audience questions to help build your presence and brand awareness. But other channels can also work well when used creatively. Twitter’s maximum word count can be used to your advantage by highlighting am interesting and pertinent statistic to generate interest in the subject of the white paper. Even more casual platforms like Facebook and Instagram can be effectively used to promote white papers. Purchased ads can be used for visual and video content and are an excellent strategy for broadening the base of your audience. Often, a visual cue is what people need to stimulate their curiosity. Alternatively, the team could use social media to schedule live Q&A’s using Facebook’s live streaming service, or you could call for questions and comments in a post on the business page and create a YouTube video addressing them.

Most white papers will require the downloader give at least an email address and name, but they can often require more information. This makes them perfect for generating leads. Creating additional follow up articles which build on the white paper for your mailing list, and including these captures, can be an organic way to promote further interest in the topic, and your business.

White papers are a tried and tested form of marketing content for any industry, but creating them and getting them noticed are creative, involved processes. The immense value that a well-polished white paper can bring to your marketing strategy is often worth the cost of reaching out for additional expertise.