What is the real business value of Pinterest?

What is the real business value of Pinterest?
As Global Director, Strategy and Market Innovation for StrongMail's Agency Services division, Kara is responsible for helping marketers optimise their digital marketing programmes for greater returns. Kara was founder and principal of The Email Advisor, a respected email marketing consultancy focusing on email strategy and channel optimization, acquired by StrongMail in May 2009. She has had the opportunity to work with a number of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 organizations, structuring a variety of custom email education programs, conceptualizing and implementing new and innovative email programs, optimizing contact strategies and developing staffing and budget plans.

Pinterest: What is it?

Pinterest is picking up speed like a locomotive. Most insiders have already signed up. Probably because they are afraid to miss the next big thing. Those who have not are probably afraid to ask the “what is Pinterest?” question aloud. 

Pinterest is ultimately a virtual pin board where consumers can grab images from their web surfing activity and ‘pin’ them up on categorical boards that allow them to share and revisit the information as necessary. It is a channel that is visual in nature, currently draws a largely female audience, resonates topically with the home, fashion and food (amongst others) and is leveraged heavily for planning.

Facebook’s response to Pinterest – Mistakes that Facebook has made

A recent TechCrunch article looks at how a new Facebook app called ‘Pinvolve’ allows users and brands to add a Pinterest-style page to their Facebook presence. The app essentially pulls in all photo posts, along with any comments or likes. And the crazy thing is that the company that designed it, Bazaart, has been able to increase re-pins on its Facebook page by 150% – and so have many of the 1,000 users who have downloaded it.

Typically, when Facebook sees a new social platform as a viable threat to the amount of time people spend on their platform, they do one of two things: buy the startup, or quickly recreate the experience within Facebook before the challenger grows too big. 
By supporting the Pinvolve app, it’s clear that Facebook recognises the threat Pinterest poses for stealing audience time away from their platform, which it will if their users cannot get the same experience within Facebook. Interestingly, Google+ also seems to recognise this shortcoming in Facebook’s default experience, as they have been recently positioning themselves in the media as a social platform for sharing images.

Pinterest for business/The disappearance of Facebook stores

As we see the gradual disappearance of more and more Facebook stores, and brands still struggle with figuring out how to tie engagement to purchase, that has to be the next logical question, right?  In a recent survey of businesses that described themselves as “active” in the social space, when asked: Is your business using Pinterest? They responded in the following manner:

  • No, and we’re not considering it – 40.38%
  • Yes  – 30.77%
  • No, but we’re considering it  – 28.85%

Currently, Pinterest has over 20 million users, which is an impressive milestone given that they only had 1 million users in July 2011. In fact, it surpassed the 10 million mark faster than any other social platform to date. Of those, domestically 83% are women and 3% report an income above 100K. Specifically, Pinterest’s sweet spot appears to be women aged 18 to 34.

The site has a very feminine look and feel about it. The opening page is predominantly wallpapered with images of women’s outfits, DIY craft projects, recipes and wedding dresses. This is where the platform is strong at driving engagement and sharing; brands need to understand the importance of a coordinated cross-channel approach for retail within social and also understand that building brand affinity leads to intent to purchase. But a final piece of the puzzle needs to be solved: “Why should I buy what I Pin?”

The business angle

How should brands be using Pinterest right now? – That depends on what their overall business objectives are.  And while most brands may not admit to it, at the end of the day, social media platforms are a means to an end for them. That “end” is most likely Sales or Acquisition.  What Pinterest and most social platforms do well for them though is personalising their brand and warming up sentiment, which should lead to earning the trust of consumers, and eventually opt-ins and transactions.  

The unique capabilities of Pinterest allows it to achieve this in several ways:

Knowing your audience

Your audience is literally showing you what they Like! And what they Like will usually be what they want more of. So give it to them…

Brands can provide content that users will naturally share and be proud of

…Give it to them in the form of images that will evoke their emotions and prompt them to tell you how much they Like it and want to Share it.  If they are passionate about your brand or product, and you’ve done a good job earning their trust along the way, they will be proud to tell the members of their social graph about you.  And as we all know, there is NOTHING better for a marketer than a word-of-mouth referral.

But also, once you have identified these brand advocates as the potential loyal customers that they are ready to become, give it to them in the form of information and offers on how/where to acquire real world examples (product) of this imagery that they are so passionate about.

Join your community

This is Social Media for Brands 101. But it seems like some of you have forgotten.  Users will join you on Pinterest because they want to look at visually appealing and inspiring images from you. However, think of the higher level of loyalty and advocacy that can be achieved by one of their favourite brands Liking, Sharing, or Commenting on one of their own photos. 

Again, it personalises your brand and provides yet another unique touch point for your customers.

Convey a sense of urgency

Social media users need to have their behaviour conditioned, and Pinterest is no different.  If you Pin something once per week, Followers will learn that they only need to check in with you once per week.  If you Pin daily…. well you get the idea. 

But don’t just always Pin for the sake of Pinning.  A few ideas:

  • Tie Pins to limited time offers.
  • Brand different days of the week to have Pins that tap into different segments of your audiences’ passions (e.g. baking, golf, sailing, etc.).
  • Pin “sneak peaks” of a new product. This will communicate to your Followers that you truly believe they are your best customers and are being rewarded.

In conclusion, as you may have suspected, most brands should not be ignoring Pinterest any longer.  And if your brand has a large female demographic and/or offers a product or service that is visually appealing or aspirational you, CAN NOT be ignoring Pinterest.  Right now, Pinterest has its flag in the ground and is making a strong case to own the “visual social platform” space. 

If your customers are there… be there with them!

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