My Obligatory Pinterest Post

It seems every blog feed I subscribe to has had a post or 2 on Pinterest in the last few weeks. I held off on doing a post for Get Elastic because I believed the marketing potential was limited to fashion, beauty and home/garden brands. But the more I read about how people and businesses are using Pinterest, the more I see broader impact.

Consider this my ‘pinboard’ of interesting things I’ve gleaned from the articles I’ve read.

1. It’s teaching web users how to navigate differently

Many conventional things we do on the web are learned behaviors, introduced to us by innovative and disruptive web companies. For example, portal sites taught us to navigate through text links:

Even ecommerce designs from the late 90′s reflected the portal look:

Somewhere along the way, ecommerce design evolved from lists of text links to predominantly image-based design and merchandising. Blogs made way for microblogs and “ticker” style news feeds. Design trends tend to form around a handful of sites that introduce something to the world, that people enjoy using.

Pinterest’s popularity is already influencing other website designs. Easy Living magazine’s home page has embraced the image-block style navigation that Pinterest has popularized (but didn’t invent).

This could change the way some websites organize and merchandise categorical information and wishlists. For example, music and movie streaming services can merchandise by cover art – like scanning a shelf at a real video or bookstore. Image navigation also makes sense for tablet and smartphone apps, images are larger targets to hit and can improve usability.

2. It drives sales.

Facebook’s challenge to marketers is the fact users are not primarily hanging out in social networks to be marketed to, but Pinterest is all about material goods. Within the thriving community, there’s plenty of Attention, Interest and Desire — so Action is not a giant leap. In fact, Pinterest has already become an affiliate with a number of large e-stores – it’s intentionally a “commercial” community.

Without any promotion, John Fluevog shoes has generated sales from “word of pinboard.”

With a proactive engagement strategy, this shoe brand could really kick it up a notch.

Many brands are already running Pinterest contests to rally their fans. For example, Wayfair offers a chance to win a $50 gift card for creating Pinterest boards using Wayfair products.

Pinterest marketing is a natural fit for magazine publishers – one of the network’s most followed brands is Better Homes and Gardens, with over 18,000 followers.

BHG’s pinboards are a way to repurpose content in a creative way that opens up discovery to a whole new world of fans. “Pins” lead back to the articles the images originate from, which contain bold calls-to-action to subscribe to the magazine.

While 83% of American Pinterest users are female, in the UK, 56% are male. Pinterest-clone Gentlemint is intentionally geared toward men, and may be the right avenue for brands like GQ or Indochino.

3. It’s an alternative to blogging.

Of the 85 retailer blogs by the Internet Retailer Top 500 list that were alive in 2007, only 44 are still around. It’s tough to create content that people care about enough to subscribe to when you are a commercial brand, and dedicating resources to content creation is a significant investment.

A lot has changed in the last 5 years, and sharing shorter quips through Twitter and Facebook are quicker and cheaper ways to keep engaged with consumers. Pinterest is another opportunity to engage, as a “content curator,” whether the content is your own or from around the Web.

Some marketers believe Pinterest is not the place to promote your own items, but I don’t see an issue with it. (Nobody bats an eye at sharing your own content and links through Twitter). Williams-Sonoma uses it to expand the reach of its vibrant blog:

As with Facebook, Twitter and Google+, you can grow your audience by promoting your profile through email and as a call-to-action on your website.

4. There’s SEO Opportunity.

Though some links carry the “nofollow” attribute, link juice still flows from from profiles, boards and in pin descriptions. It’s a good opportunity to get some deep links to product pages, and if you link to your own boards from your blog or other domains you control, you can boost the value the links on individual boards pass.

The caveat is you won’t get anchor text – it defaults to the root domain.

While Pinterest is not going to be a home run for every brand, there are a number of ways you can explore it – even if you’re not a clothing store. And if Pinterest isn’t the right market for you, you can expect niche “clones” to pop up that may be a better fit in the near future.

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9 Responses to “My Obligatory Pinterest Post”

  1. Davide says:

    Excellent article as usual! Thanks

  2. Alex says:

    Thanks for the post. Pinterest seems to be spreading like wildfire. I’m interested to see how it would work for local businesses, which the segment I represent in my business. This post has triggered me to get off the fence and dig deeper. Thanks!

  3. Todd Shelton says:

    (thanks for moderatng–here’s the whole comment)

    Hadn’t heard of Pinterest until your post–thanks. When I first tried to use the site it didn’t work at all until I turned off tracking protection (IE9). Voila! Turned tracking protection back on–the site simply stops working. No pinboards visible at all.

    Using Pinterest requires that you give up your privacy. If you want to browse with privacy Pinterest shows you a blank screen–no guidance. If I hadn’t seen this behavior before I would have just assumed the site wasn’t tested with IE9.

    Maybe you can’t buid a site with features like those Pinterest offers unless users give up their privacy–I don’t know the construction details well enough. It is an odd and (to me at least) disturbing trend–I can only use your site if I turn off privacy tracking.

    • Social networks have a habit of abusing and misusing privacy, don’t they? Pinterest is also in some trouble regarding copyright – publishers who are unhappy about their work being repinned can add a “nopin” attribute in their HTML code that disables pinning. Personally, I would encourage pins, it only helps marketing your work if you are a publisher or photographer – it’s not being used for commercial products after all.

  4. Courtney says:

    I had the same point of view at the beginning, Linda. Initially I thought it was primarily for B2C companies and didn’t see what B2B’s could offer Pinterest users. As I’ve read more and witnessed different uses by different companies, I’m coming around to the fact that any type of business can use Pinterest- it just takes some creativity and outside-the-box thinking.

  5. MerryWhy says:

    Excellent overview Linda.

    Have you know anyone who has experience with Gentlemint? Does it have the same impact as Pinterest?

    I have to agree with Courtney on the viability of Pinterest.
    Even for male focused brands, in addition to Gentlemint, retailers have the opportunity to exploit the smaller male population on Pinterest. Tailoring pinboards for male related topics are more likely to garner attention from that the male audience on Pinterest, even if that population is dwarfed by women.

  6. It’s believed by many that Pinterest was made for women, but because women tend to adopt new social media platforms earlier than men, they’re driving a large majority of the content on the platform and marketers are tailoring their message accordingly.

    Participating on a platform like Pinterest can really humanize a brand. It’s important to share different aspects of your business, from company culture to services, contests and more. Don’t be afraid to post quirky or unusual pinboards. With tons of eye-catching images on the web, it’s an easy way to start a dialogue with potential customers.

    Thanks for the coverage!

    Lauren at Volusion

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