Is Pinterest a fad, or opportunity for today’s marketers?
One of the hottest items in social media of late has been Pinterest. It seems to be particularly attractive to women, who like the visual bulletin board interface. One of the best descriptors I’ve seen for Pinterest is “fantasy football for women”. While Pinterest has been getting a lot of press, is it another passing social media fad or an entirely new format offering new marketing and branding opportunities?
What in the world is Pinterest?
Pinterest is yet another new type of social media/network. What makes it so unique is the visual aspect of literally “pinning” your likes to a visual board. As you create your “pin boards”, you are creating visual icons of things you like, places you might like to go, or products you are interested in purchasing. In the simplest sense, Pinterest is a way of visually putting "post it" notes all over the web.
Of course, you can already collect links to sites that interest you in a number of ways, including the traditional “favorites” in Internet Explorer. But, rather than a URL or short name, Pinterest enables you to select a photo that becomes an icon to the product, place or website. Not only can a Pinterest pinner curate their own collection of interests, they can track what others on pinning across 32 different topic areas from art to science. Most importantly, they can share their Pinterest pins quickly with friends through Facebook and Twitter, and that is what makes it so powerful and attractive to marketers.
What makes Pinterest unique?
Pinterest is unique in its approach. One differentiator is the highly visual nature of the links vs. traditional URLs. The act of “pinning” a representative photo is very symbolic of creating a bulletin board with post-it notes, with the ability to organize and categorize them. This visual act of “curating” collections seems to have an unprecedented popularity among women.
What makes Pinterest both interesting and valuable is being able to share your “pins” and “boards” with others through other social media forums, such as Facebook. For example, a bride to be can pin a variety of wedding dresses to their board, and then share them with all her friends. She can also see if others “repin” her dress selections to their boards. For inspiration, she can search Pinterest categories to see what others are spotting and selecting as trends. All of this can be done in a completely visual way using photos and images.
Is Pinterest a passing fad or something worth exploring?
Over the holidays, my daughters told me that as a marketer I had to get on Pinterest. My initial reaction was: “Oh great, another social media tool, and I haven’t even really cracked the code on Twitter.” To be honest, I hadn’t really heard of Pinterest and questioned why marketers should care.
I was surprised to learn that Pinterest has become one of the top 10 social media sites and forums. And technically, it is still invite only. But, despite rapid recent growth, Pinterest has less than 5 million users in contrast to Facebook approaching a billion. So, it’s still very new.
What makes Pinterest so compelling is the visual appeal to users, especially women. And the key to curation of “likes” on Pinterest is that it is often about “dreams”, “passions” and lifestyles. Said another way, there are many sites to search for products and descriptions, but Pinterest is about how people see themselves using products and services. In fact, Pinterest etiquette clearly states that it is not a platform for self-promotion and “hawking” products.
Why brands and retailers care about Pinterest?
If Pinterest is not a broadcast medium like Twitter, or a social connection like Facebook, why should marketers bother? For one thing, Pinterest has captured and engaged women. But, the engagement is not about products per se, but about the “idea” behind the product and the lifestyle of the brand.
Through Pinterest, users become not only aspiring purchasers, but powerful advocates who share and even promote those interests to others in their network. Indeed, one of the real fascinations of using Pinterest is to see what others have on their pin boards … and who repins what you have on yours. (How do I know this … I had try it out on my Pinterest account with photography!)
Who is using Pinterest today to reach consumers?
There have been a number of recent articles on Pinterest in the social media. Not surprisingly, the early adopters and power users on Pinterest have been in the fashion categories. Retailers like the Gap have used Pinterest to effectively promote their Holiday Gift Guide.
Pinterest is not only for women’s fashion. You will find furniture stores, restaurants, travel, universities, museums and even tech companies like AMD on Pinterest. The reality is that anything can be “pinned” to your board on Pinterest. I have pinned articles, websites, blogs and YouTube videos to my photography boards.
How brands and retailers can use Pinterest …
The key to using Pinterest is not about pushing products. The success seems to come from promoting a “lifestyle” and showing products or services being used. In essence, Pinterest is a vehicle for brands to promote aspiration and differentiation, rather than features at the lowest price. Amen! This could be very valuable in this market and economy.
One of the articles I would highly recommend is Laren Drell’s piece in Mashable entitled: Pinterest for Brands: 5 Hot Tips. Drell does a good job of explaining what Pinterest is and ways to use it, including:
- Promote a lifestyle
- Promote brand, company values
- Differentiate your experience as a retailer, place
- Consumer research – use it like a live focus group
- Crowd source for ideas, connections and advocates
- Run contests to engage with consumers and advocates
- Inspire and mobilize your team and staff
Still wondering if Pinterest is for you – Try it!
While Pinterest may have special appeal for women, it has potential appeal for all consumers if brands and retailers explore how to use it. It is a very unique media and interface, with the power to easily and quickly link through other social media like Twitter and Facebook.
Beyond signing up and starting to pin your favorites, there are nuances on how to optimize it as a marketer. One reference I would highly recommend exploring is an article by Stephanie Buck entitled: Pinterest: 13 Tips and Tricks for Cutting Edge Users.
If still undecided, it is extremely easy to get started and explore. However, when you go to the Pinterest website you will not be enabled as a user right away. You have to wait for your invitation in email, which in itself piques interest and appeal.
The bottom line: Facebook or Twitter will not rule the world. Whether it is Pinterest or a clone, there seems to be high consumer interest in sharing aspirations and passions around aspirations, lifestyles, places, services and events.