David Kirkpatrick

Social Media Marketing: An early look at how marketers can use Pinterest

March 2nd, 2012

There are many valuable social media platforms for marketing: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ being the most well-known and popular. But, arguably the hottest and most talked about platform right now is Pinterest.

From its website: “Pinterest is an online pinboard. Organize and share things you love.” At least a little bit confusing from a marketer’s standpoint, right?


Click to enlarge


I recently had the chance to speak with two self-described Pinterest “power users,” who also happen to be marketers with some ideas on how practitioners should approach the social platform.

Jessica Best, Community Director, emfluence, a digital marketing services company, and Tiffany Monhollon, Senior Manager of Content Marketing, ReachLocal , an online marketing company, provided their insight on Pinterest.


Start with a personal account

Tiffany says marketers looking to use Pinterest for business should start with a personal account to understand the user experience, grasp the appeal of the site, and discover potential marketing uses.

“For example, when I first started using Pinterest, I started pinning right away and saw the site more as a new form of social bookmarking,” she says.

“But once I started following people and boards that interested me, I understood the site is about so much more. Now I see how powerful social discovery is within the Pinterest ecosystem because of all the content I run across there that I love, value and use — all based on what other people I’m following are pinning.”

Tiffany adds that this is a powerful marketing opportunity to build brand awareness and drive sales, along with providing referrals. A January Shareaholic survey found Pinterest ahead of YouTube, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn and MySpace in referrals, and only trailing Facebook, StumbleUpon, Google and Twitter.

Jess explains her first engagement with the platform, “I have been a very loud proponent of it here in the last month or two. It took me about four tries to get it, because just like with any new social media platform, I am sort of hesitant to get into something else that is going to take my time. And Pinterest is a time sink.”

“But, after about four tries, I spent some actual time on it. I realized that I had passed two hours of my time pinning and repinning things. That was when I realized what a draw it was. I think the biggest thing for me is that the interface is so easy to get completely sucked into and they have so many different ways that you can find relevant content.”

Jess continues, “They also use an algorithm,  so that when you are logged in, it shows you the popular items that would be relevant to you, so it’s very easy to get drawn in.”

She adds that Pinterest combines a Facebook element of “what you are most likely to click on” with a Twitter element of those things “being very easy to share.”


Pinterest taps into the ‘interest graph’

Tiffany used the phrase “interest graph” to describe the Pinterest experience. What she means by that is users can follow people and content based on topics they are interested in rather than just people they know. She believes that sets Pinterest apart from other social platforms.

“It also represents a lot of opportunity for using Pinterest for marketing, because you can share and curate content around a wide range of topics and areas — all based on what may appeal to your target audience,” Tiffany states.


Who is on Pinterest? What marketing channel should be on it?

Right now, Pinterest is heavily into one particular demographic: women between 25 and 54 who live in the Midwest, recent research  has found. According to ComScore, the platform has more than four million users.

Jess adds that she thinks the platform is the most heavily B2C social medium out there right now.

“I don’t think that means B2B isn’t necessarily going to be involved eventually. I just think that especially consumer packaged goods, B2C products and e-commerce are obviously a huge part of (Pinterest) from a marketing standpoint,” she explains.


Actually using Pinterest

From the user standpoint, you create online “pinboards” that are titled. With the current demographic, many pinboards are titled with things such as: recipes, dream outfit, home furnishings, etc.

Users then “pin” items in the form of photos or video to their pinboards, and other users can “repin” those items.


Size matters

Given that the entire experience is “pinning” this content, that means from a marketing standpoint you want to make that content easy for Pinterest to handle. For example, if the image on your website is too small, or the wrong file type, Pinterest users cannot “pin” it, but if that same image is on another website in the correct format, it will be pinned back to that URL and not yours.

This is an important distinction for any marketers who hope to benefit from the platform, but especially for e-commerce sites.

Jess says JPEGs work, and PNGs should work, although there needs to be more testing with file types, and that a typical e-commerce image that is 300 pixels wide is too small to be pinned.

She added images should be more like 600 to 800 pixels wide and 1000 pixels deep.

Tiffany also provided some insight into practices to follow on Pinterest.

“The first thing to consider — is your online content pin-worthy? This could be everything from your website pages to blog posts, infographics, how-tos, tutorials and more. Since Pinterest is an image-based site, it’s more important than ever to make sure that high-quality, appealing images are a part of your online marketing strategy,” she says.

You also don’t have to be actively using Pinterest as a marketer to benefit from the site. But you should make sure your content is optimized for the platform and “pinnable.”

Other suggestions include:

  • Create content specifically for the Pinterest audience, such as step-by-step guides and participating in popular memes
  • Create content types that are popular on the site and post them to your website or blog
  • Make your content easy to pin by installing a “pin it” button on the site
  • Create an account for your business with a username that coordinates with your brand
  • Once you’ve created populated boards, start following users
  • Add the Pinterest social media icon to your blog, website and email signature to promote your social presence and build a fan base


The downside of Pinterest

Jess says one issue she has found with the platform is that the load time is “atrocious.” Most likely due to the large file types. The load time issue is even more prominent on mobile devices she says.

One other issue came to light very recently about copyright issues and Pinterest’s Terms of Use user agreement. If this copyright problem is real, and it becomes widely known about, Pinterest might face some blowback from its currently rapidly growing user base.


Related Resources

Pinterest for Brands: 5 Hot Tips

Why Use Pinterest for Your Business

Email Summit: Brian Solis on the connected consumer and the digitally evolving world

Social Media Marketing: A look at 2012, part 1

Social Media Marketing: A look at 2012, part 2

David Kirkpatrick

About David Kirkpatrick

David is a reporter for MarketingSherpa and has over twenty years of experience in business journalism, marketing and corporate communications. His published work includes newspaper, magazine and online journalism; website content; full-length ghosted nonfiction; marketing content; and short fiction. He served as producer for the business research horizontal at the original Office.com, regularly reporting on the world of marketing; covered a beat for D/FW TechBiz, a member of the American City Business Journals family; and he provided daily reporting for multiple LocalBusiness.com cities. David’s other media and corporate clients include: USA Today, Oxford Intelligence, GMAC, AOL, Business Development Outlook and C-Level Media, among many others.

Categories: Social Networking Evangelism Community Tags: , ,

  1. March 5th, 2012 at 11:38 | #1

    Great article. I was just researching last night about companies that are using Pinterest. It sounds like a refreshing /fun way to get brand image and identity out there. Thank you!


  2. March 5th, 2012 at 11:59 | #2

    I’m hoping the search will improve – but it depends on people utilizing descriptions. It’s very important to write descriptions with words people might search on. In the meantime, you need to use Google (like this: ‘site:Pinterest.com “infographic” ‘)

    The mobile version gives me anxiety. That and the copyright issue must be improved or Pinterest might lose people or it will prohibit others from ever using the site long term. I use it for all sorts of reasons but unless I’m on vacation I use search most often.

    I’m preparing an infographic about optimizing for Pinterest – I’ll blog, tweet & pin when it’s done.


  3. March 5th, 2012 at 12:37 | #3

    Great article! There are some awesome parts of Pinterest and some challenging parts as well; the 404 Error notification showing up on my screen seemingly once a session is frustrating. It’s very easy to not focus on writing fabulous search friendly captions since the search function is seemingly always broken. However, once it is fixed, it will become retroactively important, especially for brands to have spent the time on this.

    I think it is particularly interesting to see how brands are using Pinterest to run contests. We ran a StyleBistro Fashion Week Pinterest Contest. It was super curious to see how, which and how many users participated. The gist was that users had to pin 20 of their favorite pics from our runway albums and our Style Editors evaluated them. There were 10 prize packages filled with $250 in beauty products which we felt was a good motivator. Too few and people wouldn’t feel like they had enough of a shot and too win and would’t participate. I’ve seen quite a few contests recently. ModCloth, Chronicle Books, Land’s End Canvas, etc. Anyone else seen any great ones?

  4. March 5th, 2012 at 14:12 | #4

    Lara, Janet and Julie — thanks so much for the comments and additional information. Pinterest is a marketing channel I think many, many marketers want to learn more about.

    In fact, if anyone has used Pinterest in a manner where you have a campaign mature enough to show some sort of KPI results, I’d love to get a Pinterest case study for the newsletter.

  5. March 5th, 2012 at 15:39 | #5

    @Janet Thaeler This is such a great point, Janet. Search does seem to be a little bit clunky at the moment, but I agree that creating a good description with popular keywords the describe the content is a good best practice for pinning content. Interesting that you’re actually using the search function on the site the most – what ways are you using it? What does it offer that your user feed doesn’t have?

  6. March 5th, 2012 at 15:42 | #6

    @Lara Webb-Barrett
    Agree that it’s a great way to extend your brand! Related: one tactic we’ve been using is to tweet our Pins every once in a while, it still exposes people to the content but also shows them your presence on Pinterest, hopefully extending fanbase. Gotta love social cross-promotion!

  7. March 5th, 2012 at 15:43 | #7

    Great comments! Pinterest definitely has some room to improve. Janet, their mobile version makes me want to throw things. And they definitely need to add bandwidth at a staggering rate to keep up with their growth!

    Their search function needs a bit more power and maybe a good, healthy de-bug, but as long as people use a description (another good point, Janet), they have a ton of ways to search to link you to more content that may be like the things you already like. For example, you can find all pins from a particular website. Some of my faves are things like http://pinterest.com/source/bananarepublic.com/ or http://pinterest.com/source/gq.com/ Any time you see a pin you like, scroll down to surf more things pinned from that website. VERY addictive!

    I also like how they’ve integrated hashtags from the get-go, including even if the returned results don’t use an actual #. For example, check out this pin, tagged with “#lego” http://pinterest.com/pin/266556871664503466/ Click on the hashtag description and you’ll actually see ALL pins that mention of lego (with or without a “#”). I also love how anything with a price in the description is automatically added to the Gifts section, sorted by price.

    That’s their big positive: simple, user-centric search and a beautiful interface.

    But yes, they need some oomph 🙂

    I haven’t seen a ton of giveaways yet (Try AMC Theaters?), but I do love a few brands. Chobani and RentTheRunway are faves.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  8. March 15th, 2012 at 15:11 | #8

    The beauty about Pinterest is that it satisfies the visual cues and then leads to the the verbal ones. It encourages people to dig deeper and find out more. This kind of engagement is what drives results.
    Thanks for your varied insights

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