The Essential Marketers Guide to Pinterest: What it is and Why You Should Care

Pinterest is the fastest growing social website, a rich backlink platform, and a powerful marketing tool for businesses and brands. However, its focus on the visual, and its staunchly anti-commercial community, makes it a challenging website for marketers.

So what is Pinterest Anyway?

Pinterest is an interest-based bookmarking and social curation website with an extremely active and engaged community. It allows members to create and share image collages that it calls pinboards. Other Pinterest users can follow individual pinboards and users, make comments on individual images, and repin their favourites onto their own boards. The most popular images end up on hundreds of boards, and get thousands of views.

Pinterest users can display images from anywhere on the Internet thanks to a browser button. The site gets around any copyright problem by displaying a link back to the original image. These links are one of the main reasons Pinterest is so interesting to marketers.

Until recently, each image you pinned on a board from your own website becomes a rich source of link juice (SEO benefit).  Unfortunately, earlier this year Pintereted removed this benefit from links in boards – it remains on your profile link (an image!).

Nonetheless, Pinterest still has the potential to generate huge amounts of traffic for marketers that successfully appeal to its users.

How to join Pinterest

Currently, Pinterest only accepts new users who get an invitation from an existing member, or are approved by the site itself. Get an invite by contacting an active user, or by asking for an invite in popular forums. Alternatively, request an invite on the homepage, but be prepared to wait a few days!

Who uses Pinterest? (stats)

In December 2011 Pinterest.com joined Hitwise’s top ten social website list, with 11 million hits per week. Comscore recently called it one of the fastest growing websites ever, with over 12 million visitors in January 2012. Pinterest’s exponential growth shows no sign of slowing down any time soon! For a site that started in late 2009, its traffic stats are eye-watering!

Unfortunately we don’t have any Middle East Stats on Pinterest (yet), but below is how it’s performed int he US and UK.

Pinterest in the US

In the US, Pinterest is particularly popular amongst women, who account for 70 percent of members. The typical user is from the United States, in her thirties and has some college education. She spends about 100 minutes per month on the site, and is proud of her boards, and the comments they receive.

Pinterest in the UK

In the United Kingdom, Pinterest received only 200,000 visitors in January 2012. 29 percent of them are from the highest income bracket, compared to only three percent of US users. UK users are 56 percent male and use the site for business purposes such as presentations. In the US, craft and fashion dominate many boards, and business use is much lower.

Pinterest Controversy

Pinterest is rare among new websites because it is already profitable. It uses Skimlinks.com to change the URLs of pinned content, converting them into affiliate links. This allows Pinterest to monetize its contributor’s pins, and prevents users from creating boards to host their own money-making links. Pinterest has been criticised for changing contributions without telling its users. Most of them don’t seem to mind: They are fiercely loyal to the site, and support anything that keeps their boards advert free.

Harness the power of pins (tips)

Marketers struggle to harness Pinterest’s massive popularity because its homogenous audience is staunchly anti-commercial. The site’s users view it as their space on the Internet, and resent anyone who tries to hijack it.

The secret to marketing success on Pinterest is to buy into its sharing culture, and use the site for soft marketing. Think “lifestyle, aspiration, inspiration”, rather than “advert, message, traffic”. Simply pinning products shots, or service adverts, will not get your content viewed and repinned on other boards. Success comes from repins and likes, and these depend on other users buying into the overall ethos of your boards.

Create beautiful boards

Create beautiful boards based on images of the lifestyle and accessories that your brand users aspire to. Use text in your images, focusing on life affirming quotes and positive messages. Balance out every image of your product or service with at least five non-commercial pins.

Link pins back to your site

Make sure that you link your pins back to the appropriate page on your website (by pinning directly from the page). Also consider linking pins back to your business page on Google Places, especially if it contains positive customer reviews.

Add appropriate description (and price tag if appropriate)

Write a keyword-rich description for each pin, including a price with a dollar symbol where appropriate. Pinterest automatically generates a price label on pins with a dollar amount in the description.

Encourage conversation

Pinterest has a strong social side based on sharing posting comments underneath pins. These comments often develop into conversations and information exchanges. To encourage interaction, include questions in your pin descriptions, thank anyone who repins your content, and make comments on other people’s pins and boards. Once you have built up a collection of boards, with a loyal following of users who like their look and feel, start announcing new products or services.

Encouraging community comments and repinning also increases the chances of your pins appearing on the front page, or in the popular section. This ups their exposure and their chances of going viral. Pins with poor quality images, or commercial descriptions, never get onto the front page. Pinterest boards can also be included on Facebook’s Timeline feature, and embedded into blogs and websites.

Pinterest case studies

Success on Pinterest comes from contributing original pins, and creating thoughtful, highly visual boards with quality texts. A good board must have an underlying theme and look and feel coherent. Think of your boards as a visual testimonial for your brand and its position in your audience’s lifestyle. Aim to inspire your audience with your boards!  There are over 100 brands currently on Pinterest, here are 3 case studies.

Retail (Fashion & Decor) – Ideeli.com

Fashion and décor retailer Ideeli.com has successfully used Pinterest to market its member-only shopping community. Its boards combine product shots images with inspirational text graphics and celebrity fashion photos. It reports an increase in traffic of 450 percent thanks to its Pinterest campaign, as well as a five-fold increase in sales.

Ideeli Pinterest Profile

Technology – Luxefinds.com

Luxefinds.com, which bills itself as a luxury lifestyle search engine, has hit Pinterest pay dirt even though it only pins images from its own website. It adds 100 images per day, and gets up to 75,000 repins per week. Luxefinds.com appeals to the same demographic as Pinterest, and is so popular amongst Pinners that its logo is frequently repinned.

Luxefinds Pinterest Profile

FMCG – Chobani

US Yoghurt maker Chobani has almost 2000 followers on Pinterest thanks to a large collection of boards featuring beautiful images of food, as well as inspirational quotes and travel images. Some boards feature foods made from its products, while others contain attractive images from its followers’ boards.

Chobani Pinterest Profile

In a Nutshell

Pinterest is set to become a vital marketing platform for a wide range of businesses. It is already large enough to be an essential social site for lifestyle and product businesses. Pinterest is also young enough to give first mover advantage to marketers that establish themselves as committed contributors.

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Omar is Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.

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