You’ve probably heard a lot about Pinterest recently. And with good reason – it took the social mediasphere by storm heading into this year, and has quickly grown to be the third most popular social networking site in the U.S.
The social Web is moving toward a more visual presentation (Facebook’s transition to the Timeline format and its recent acquisition of Instagram are two examples), and social media users have embraced this trend. During the first three months of 2012, users uploaded 300 million photos per day to Facebook.
Pinterest offers its users easy access to content through a visual interface dominated by images. The format is simple, and sharing – or “re-pinnning” – content is easy.
Yes, Pinterest works. The question is… Is Pinterest right for your brand? How should you decide whether to pin or not to pin?
Despite its rapid rise, the early stereotype was that Pinterest filled a specific, though substantial, digital niche – a personal scrapbook for users (predominately women) to “pin” recipes, shopping wish lists, and decorating ideas.
In early 2012, Facebook and Twitter were abuzz about Pinterest, leading to a sharp growth curve and the beginning of a subtle shift in demographic as the social community at large sought to see what all of the hype was about. By February, a few brands began to embrace Pinterest and broaden its uses. We began seeing “Pin it to win it” contests and other promotions geared more toward ecommerce sites and retailers. A number of major brands, news outlets and other online entities have since joined the pinning bandwagon.
It’s well designed, visually focused, and just plain fun. So perhaps the best way to decide whether Pinterest is right for your brand is to simply imagine how your brand fits within these 6 tips for how to use it well.
1. Create Thoughtful Boards (Hint: It’s Not All About You)
Content shared on any social media channel works best when it is relevant to your audience and their interests. Pinterest asks you right away to establish these points of relevance (the fancy term for this is “interest graph”) by creating distinct “boards” to thoughtfully curate the things you pin around themes. So, although you can change or add more later, you’ll want to give this first step a lot of thought.
Use your boards to demonstrate how your brand fits into and inspires the user’s lifestyle. Make a list of relevant topics and imagine the content you’ll share in each. Boards can be created for individual products, product categories, a specific interest or activity, even suggested uses for a given product.
West Elm is a great example with boards like “Urban Backyards + Outdoor Spaces” and “Chevron:” http://pinterest.com/westelm/
Or check out what Oreck, the vacuum cleaner, does with boards like “Furry Friends” and “Stunning Floors:” http://pinterest.com/oreck/
While these boards are not designed to “sell” products directly, the content is visually interesting and entertaining, inviting the user to connect with the brand through a visual example. They may draw inspiration for their own living space, and hopefully, re-pin their favorites to their own boards.
2. Pin Consistently (But Not Obsessively)
The right frequency is important with any social profile. There’s no golden rule, but use discretion to maintain a consistent presence in your followers’ content stream without overdoing it. Distribute pins throughout your boards to maintain interest across your Pinterest profile, but keep the overall number of boards to a reasonable number so important topics/products don’t get lost. In the end, your followers don’t want to be bombarded – they want an ongoing amount of interesting content from you consistently. Whether it is ten, or a hundred pins a week, try to space them out evenly. Conversely, if your boards only have one pin, you probably won’t get many followers.
3. Focus on Inspiration (The Marketing Will Follow)
Your followers are looking for a glimpse into what inspires your brand, and the lifestyle they aspire to, not a sales pitch. Brands using Pinterest successfully pin images that evoke a mood, a feeling. Consider reserving one board (if any at all) for beautiful images of your product(s) and using the rest for lifestyle.
Kate Spade is a great example: http://pinterest.com/katespadeny/
What are your brand pillars? How can you create a board based on them? Is there a place that represents your brand? Consider making a board about that place. Does your brand have a signature color or pattern? Again, it comes back to demonstrating how people can improve their lifestyle with your product or service.
As with other social content, boards (and each pin for that matter) should stay true to your brand’s core message. Think about your audience and why they’re here. Share content that is relevant to your audience while demonstrating the benefits of your products/services. Are there places/events/activities that are related to your brand and amplify your message? Find creative ways to share them with your audience.
4. Use Beautiful Images in Your Content (And Imagine Beautiful Pins)
It may be obvious that one of the main reasons for Pinterest’s success is its focus on imagery. Despite the amount of text you see, social users – and consumers in general – are visual. Images get the most interaction. So think about Pinterest like a magazine. Building a new Web page for a product? Be sure to include at least one image that would work well on Pinterest. Sharing related content from elsewhere? Look for content that includes high-quality photos and graphics to catch your audience’s attention.
Is your brand a service-based business? Use infographics or photos of your customers and clients that relate to your service to visualize your message and encourage your audience to pin or re-pin your blog post or other content.
5. Play Nice
Every social media channel has its own formal and organic community rules. Spend some time and learn how the Pinterest community works. Simple courtesies, like linking an image back to the source, go a long way. In this example, the content creator gets credit where credit is due and viewers are able to track down more information. Pinterest has a helpful Pin Etiquette guide with more tips. http://pinterest.com/about/etiquette/
6. Re-pin From Others
Social sharing encourages engagement. Sure, this might be obvious by now, but interacting with individual users and sharing their content (with credit) invites them to do the same with your content. Peruse the main feed and see what people are pinning. If something strikes your fancy – and it fits well with your brand message, re-pin it. Though it may seem like your brand’s own personal collage, never forget that Pinterest is a community.
Who’s Doing it Right?
Finally, as you envision using Pinterest, here are some examples you might want to pin your attention to:
The Weather Channel – http://pinterest.com/weatherchannel/
Can you really ‘pin’ weather? The Weather Channel incorporates seasonal images, on-air personalities, user-generated content, and other weather-related themes to give their brand a personality on Pinterest.
Whole Foods – http://pinterest.com/wholefoods/
The Whole Foods brand is a natural for Pinterst, but targeted boards with fun themes like “Who wants dinner?” and “Delicous Art” entertain while they inform.
Lands’ End Canvas – http://pinterest.com/landsendcanvas/
This well-known apparel retailer does a great job of presenting their products in a lifestyle context. Gift suggestion boards are a clever way to suggest items for holidays or other occasions.
National Wildlife Foundation – http://pinterest.com/nwfpins/
Non-profits are also riding the pinning wave, and NWF has found fun ways to get the Pinterest community involved in wildlife conservation. Animal Appreciation Days are great candidates for re-pinning and other social sharing, and Nature How-tos suggest how to build your own sanctuary.