Social Media

Topic: Leveraging earned media opportunities on Pinterest
Opportunity:  Increase participation, engagement, site traffic and sales
Channels Impacted: Social, organic search

Right now, Pinterest is the hottest social media site on the Web.  Pinterest’s exponential growth in both traffic volume and user engagement indicates that it’s more than just the flavor of the moment—it’s here to stay.  Hitwise reported that Pinterest traffic increased 36 percent (to 103 million visitors) from January 12 to February 12; Pinterest drove more traffic to publishers in February than Twitter.  And according to comScore, Pinterest users spent an average of 89 minutes on the site in January 2012 compared to 21 minutes on Twitter, 17 minutes on LinkedIn and only 3 minutes on Google+.

So what exactly is Pinterest?  And how can marketers use it to increase participation, engagement, native site traffic and sales? 

Pinterest’s mission statement is “to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.”  First, a user on Pinterest discovers a new “thing” and pins it to one of their Pinterest boards.  Then, the user’s followers comment on the pin and re-pin it.  There’s a wide variety of pinning categories—from apparel to technology to home décor:

Pinterest categories
Pinterest board
Pinterest users can also discover new things outside of Pinterest and pin them through their “Pin It!” bookmarks or the external site’s “Pin It!” button.

Who’s on Pinterest?

According to comScore, the typical Pinterest user is a 25+ year-old woman with kids and a household income of over $100K:

  • 68.2 percent of Pinterest users are women
  • 80 percent are 25+ years old
  • 50 percent have children
  • 28.1 percent have a household income of $100K+

Opportunities for Brands

Currently, there are no paid advertising opportunities on Pinterest.  But there are many earned media opportunities for brands:

1. Encourage Participation & Evangelism

Pinterest is an ideal platform for users to (1) participate with your brand and (2) evangelize that participation to users with similar interests.  On Pinterest, a user discovers your product, participates with your brand by saying they like that product (pinning it) and then shares that participation through the pin.  For instance, when a user pins your product to her board, she’s saying to her followers, “look at this cool thing I found.”  And unlike Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest following is based on interests, not friends.   The follower that sees the user’s new pin thus has similar interests and is likely to also be interested in the pinned product. Pinterest users can follow in three different ways—follow a person, a pin or an entire board.  When a person follows an entire board, the reach or influence that board has is significant; the follower is saying they trust the board creator’s sense of style or choice of content.  This exposes the follower to brands and content that she otherwise wouldn’t have seen or engaged with. 

Additionally, on Pinterest, users can log in with their Twitter or Facebook accounts.  Thus, any action on Pinterest—pinning, commenting, re-pinning—can be shared across social networks outside of Pinterest.  For instance, a Pinterest user’s Facebook friend could see that the user pinned something of interest. 

2.  Use Content to Build Relationships

One of the best ways to encourage participation and build customer relationships is to inspire users to engage with your content.  Content fuels Pinterest.  A great illustration of this is Etsy, which has 69,000+ Pinterest followers, 23 boards and 11,000+ pins as of March 2012.  Etsy’s boards focus on “Gift Ideas,” “Etsy Weddings,” “Holiday Decorating Inspiration” and other content meant to help users discover new things and ideas.  Etsy is using its category content to inspire Pinterest users to advocate for the Etsy brand by pinning and re-pinning helpful content (80 percent of pins are re-pins).  And Pinterest is not just for retailers; for example, police departments are using it to inform users, share and educate the community.

What’s more, pinners are not only pinning items that are helpful at that very moment in time, but they’re also creating style boards to save future collections of helpful content.  For example, users are creating food boards filled with recipes they’ve re-pinned from others (both photos and videos) to plan their next big meal.  Or pinners are using boards to collect various architecture and room styles for their future planning of a family home.  These are all insights that marketers can use to not only understand immediate needs but also future needs (something other social platforms lack).

3.  Drive Traffic to Your Native Site

Every pin links back to the pin’s original source (i.e. a pin of your product image links back to your site, assuming the pinner found the image on your site).  Followers can thus easily find where to buy something they may like.  This increases Pinterest traffic to your site, enabling you to drive incremental sales or leads.  However, note that the links from Pinterest are no-follow (i.e. the links will not build organic search link equity). 

4. Improve Organic Search Visibility

Search engines are always focused on incorporating more social results within the search engine results pages (SERPs).  Brands can occupy more valuable organic SERP real estate by creating profiles on popular social media sites like Pinterest.  To illustrate, Nordstrom’s Pinterest page ranked #9 in a March 2012 Google search for “Nordstrom’s.”  Nordstom’s Pinterest page actually ranked above Nordstorm’s Twitter page, illustrating that Google’s algorithm thinks highly of Pinterest. 

Best Practices

To encourage the participation and evangelism that could result in traffic and sales from Pinterest, brands should:

1. Reserve Your Name:  If you don’t reserve your brand’s name on Pinterest, someone else will!

2.  Implement the “Pin It” Button on Your Site:  Make pinning easy by putting the “Pin It” button on all product pages, images and videos.  Encourage pinning through on- and off-site marketing efforts. 

3.  Focus on Visual Website Content (Content Marketing):  The more images and video you have on your site, the more likely someone will pin that content.  Visual content that illustrates product use is the best for pinning.

4. Drive Pins In-Store: Encourage users to take in-store photos and upload them for pinning (and include store location tags).  Add “Pin This” tags/barcodes to physical products (for instance, start with products in window displays to encourage passerby’s to pin).  If an in-store product is pinned and a follower sees that the product is available at a certain store location, that follower could visit your store to buy.

5. Create Style Boards:  For instance, a retailer could create style boards for trend setting or seasonal collections, similar to the catalog experience.  Enable users to contribute to your boards to advocate for the products they love.

6. Optimize Your Pins: Use SEO best practices (i.e. keyword-rich copy) when naming and writing descriptions of your pinned images and video.

7.  Inspire Shareable Ideas on Your Boards:  Like Etsy, use your boards to give people ideas that they can share—new recipes, unique gifts, things to wear to the beach, products to improve your golf game, etc.

8. Leverage Analytics: Track top-trending content pinned by your users to inform cross-channel marketing strategies.

9. Connect and Promote Engagement across Platforms:  Promote and connect all your brand’s social experiences so that users can easily find them, no matter what medium or platform they’re on.  For instance, Lowe’s is promoting its Pinterest presence on Facebook.

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