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Pinning Down Pinterest's Business Value

by Guest Blogger  |  
June 18, 2012

A guest post by Dan Opallo of StrongMail.

What gets you interested in a new social media platform?  A mention of it from a friend? An article tweeted to you from a trusted social media insider? Maybe clever prose draws you in.

After trying out a new social media platform, you may then decide that it needs to be part of your routine. Likewise, all the big players online had that moment in which they changed their thinking about a new platform. They made the shift from "I’m going to create an account and check it every once in a while" to "This needs to be part of my daily communications routine."

Is the popular online pinboard Pinterest needed in your daily routine? It just might be.

What I find encouraging about Pinterest right now is that it seems to answer the call for curation. After all, Pinterest provides a visual snapshot of everything you like all in one place. And avid social media users are now receiving information faster than they know what to do with---or, more importantly, than they can tell others about.

But what about Pinterest for business?

The Business Side of Pinterest

In a recent survey of businesses that described themselves as "active" in the social space, they were asked, "Is your business using Pinterest?"

They responded in the following manner.

  • No, and we’re not considering it: 40.38%

  • Yes: 30.77%

  • No, but we’re considering it: 28.85%

Currently, Pinterest claims over 13 million users. Having attained them in 10 months makes Pinterest the fastest social media platform to surpass the 10 million mark. Of those, in the United States, 83% are women and 3% report an income above 100K.

Pinterest’s sweet spot appears to be women aged 18 to 34, living in households with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000 per year. The site has a very feminine look and feel about it. The opening page is predominantly wallpapered with images of women's outfits, DIY craft projects, recipes, and wedding dresses.

Though Pinterest may be best at driving engagement and sharing, it recently got beat to the e-commerce punch by Fancy. Fancy allows users to participate in many of the same activities as Pinterest, but Fancy lets users purchase the same products and services that enjoy "fancyings" directly on the platform. That is a major step towards fusing curating and commerce.

Two brands on Pinterest that caught my eye immediately were Bergdorf Goodman and HGTV. Pins from the former are a mixture of products from and web images chosen to appeal to their customers. Images for HGTV subscribe to its self-described pinning strategy of "creating a team atmosphere and being inspirational."

Both brands, like so many others right now, understand the importance of a coordinated cross-channel approach for retail within social. They know that building brand affinity leads to intent to purchase. But the brands have not solved the final piece of the puzzle: "Why should I buy what I pin?"

Despite this question, Pinterest continues picking up speed. Most insiders have already signed up. Probably because they are afraid to miss the next big thing (see Google+). Those folks who have not signed up are probably afraid to ask the question aloud.

I think Pinterest has a chance to own two niches.

1.) Pinterest could be the social media platform of choice for foodies. Pinterest seems to lend it itself to easily posting food pics, sharing recipes, and giving recommendations.

2.) Pinterest could establish itself as the de facto "scrapbooking" platform. For example, on Pinterest, you can easily display all the national parks or baseball stadiums you visited or planned to visit.

Additionally, businesses that have multiple destinations (e.g., hotels, chain restaurants, amusement parks) or that have visually appealing products should consider setting up an account and participating at an entry level.

Companies should participate in Pinterest without over-committing resources---yet. Using Pinterest to mirror your Facebook or Twitter activity just segments your audience and shows the early adopters that you’re not in Pinterest for the long haul. You need to use your Pinterest boards to show value, earn trust, and then refine your strategy.

How is your company using Pinterest?

Dan Opallo is director of social media services at StrongMail.

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Pin Cushion)

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  • by Eve Mon Jun 18, 2012 via blog

    I think its important to not promote your brand too much (if at all). I think its great way to show your customers and fans where you get inspiration from and shouldn't be a place to sell anything. We have one board that is devoted to pieces we love from our store (we are a retailer), but thats about it. Everything else is really about showing people what drives and influences our buying decisions for the store, and also for the outside world to get to know us and what we like. We have a food board and fonts board and there isn't really any reason for us to do so as a brand, but we are a bunch of foodies and font fans so we figured why not share!

    You could argue that you shouldn't be too push with selling for almost all of the social media platforms, but I think especially with Pinterest, its really more about showing how you developed your taste and/or style in a certain area (e.g. food, fashion, photography, etc.). Its another way of

  • by Lisa, Boca Raton, Florida Mon Jun 18, 2012 via blog

    Great post Dan. Like anything else, a business should consider whether it's appropriate for their business goals and target audiences. Some business may choose to use Pinterest just to show off their fun side which may not get them a lot of business and may only be a long shot to a new client. There are other businesses that just HAVE to be on Pinterest...those that sell stuff or services that looks great in pics. It's a no-brainer. How much direct business they get will not necessarily be easy to track BUT you can't match the instant share-ability of their products.

  • by Marissa Mon Jun 18, 2012 via blog

    This was an interesting post. We are a small business collision repair/detailing shop. Though we might not be in the list of "Businesses Who Should Use Pinterest", we are definitely making progress with it. We definitely have a "Fun Side" to several of our boards, but we also utilize it to post Before/After photos, paint jobs, and the majority of our pins are vehicle/travel related. We have a couple of boards about food, quotes, and jokes. Anyway, the point is that whoever sees our pins and finds them entertaining, informative, or exciting, our name and logo is pinned right there with it. I don't expect Pinterest to recruit any customers for us, but it will definitely get our name in their minds. Since auto collision isn't an everyday expense, being exposed to our name is the best way for them to remember us.

  • by zariji Mon Jun 18, 2012 via blog

    I agree with you. We began using Pinterest over a year ago as a share space for the various designers that work virtually together. We were able to sketch through pins and scrambles to inspire each other as we dove into design projects. We also used it to create sketches and storyboards- I think any brand who thinks using social networks- and in your words- "especially with Pinterest", to sell through, is missing the point and will damage their brand overall. thanks Eve!

  • by JenBongar Tue Jun 19, 2012 via blog

    I used to think that Pinterest is for consumer brands that have pretty products to show (and sell), e.g., fashion, food, gadgets, etc. But, even B2B companies are now using the channel to showcase visual elements of their businesses. They just have to find a creative way in doing so. Wall Street Journal for example has pinboards that highlight its coverage on arts & leisure, info-graphics, sports, technology, and more. GE, on the other hand has a variety of pinboards including one where they pin photos of HUGE machines from medical MRIs to jet engines and wind turbines, which GE aptly named the board, "badass machines."

  • by Sue Duris Sun Jun 24, 2012 via blog

    Good post. Interesting stats on current and future interest in using Pinterest. It comes down to where you foresee your target market segment and what your segment personas look like - if you are marketing to that demographic - Pinterest should be in the marketer's social media tool kit.

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