A brand's guide to Pinterest

Everyone's a-twitter about social media's darling du jour, Pinterest. On the off-chance that you don't know what Pinterest is, here's a quick intro.

Pinterest is hot stuff. It won Best New Startup at the Crunchies Awards, and it is one of the top 10 social media sites, with staggering growth in page views and a deluge of buzz. And for the ultimate tech street cred: Mashable curates an "Everything Pinterest" board on Pinterest. Added to all this recognition are scores of LOLcats and Ryan Gosling memes.

Did I mention that Pinterest is still invite-only? And it's already inspired spin-offs, including eerily similar copycat Pinspire, and the testosterone-infused Gentlemint ("a mint of manly things") -- mustaches, sports, and leper colonies (for real).

A brand's guide to Pinterest 

For pinners, it's an addiction. There's a delightful voyeurism in browsing through peoples' visual wish lists ("I never knew Carl liked aardvarks!"). Pinterest is a place to make discoveries, organize cravings, and drool over things you never knew existed, but now, must have. The verbing of "pin" is upon us, and it's changing the way people learn about and interact with brands.

For marketers, Pinterest seems like the Promised Land. Social bookmarking is the confluence of so many buzzwords:

  • SoLoMo: The coveted trifecta of social, local, and mobile is alive and well in Pinterest, and sharing with your networks is a breeze.
  • Inbound marketing: In the new social economy, discovery trumps search. Pinners explore, discover, and share.  
  • Social commerce: Each pin is a visual endorsement from a trusted source. Pinterest is driving a heap of traffic to online retailers.

There are a lot of reasons why brands might want to consider setting up shop on Pinterest, identifying and influencing tastemakers, soliciting consumer feedback, and sharing what makes them tick. Before you make the leap, simmer down and consider the following question: How clean (or cluttered) is your digital house?

  • Where are you sending referral traffic? Assuming it's your website, is it in good shape? Do you have appropriate image assets to pin? Sharable, high-quality images are large, compelling, and often branded or watermarked to bake in the source.
  • Assess your resources -- time, people, and dollars. Are you already doing everything you can to rock your current social properties? (How's your new Facebook Timeline page looking?) Will Pinterest be just one more social "thing" that you'll build and neglect? If you're not already optimizing your other communities, are you sure you want to commit to building another?
  • Most importantly, does Pinterest align with your overall strategic goals? It's hard to resist the allure of "the next big thing," but in the world of social media, there will always be something shiny and new. Having a hand in everything isn't feasible or smart.

So, how can your brand benefit from Pinterest today? There are a lot of insights that you can glean without pinning a single image:

  • Browse the popular pins to see what type of content is trending now. It's a quick and dirty taste exploration that you can use to gauge what's hot today. How can your brand leverage these themes and feed the interest?
  • Look at what people are already pinning from your site. Simply type in pinterest.com/source/yoururl.com, and you'll see all of the recent pins containing images from your website. Do you see any themes emerging? Does anything surprise you? What are people saying in the comment fields? Use these insights to inform editorial on your other digital properties.
  • Now, take a closer look at the people who are pinning your brand. These are your potential ambassadors. What else are they pinning? There's rich psychographic information in seeing the other themes and products that interest them. What can your brand learn from this?
  • Is there someone with a huge following that's pinning your brand? Hello, tastemaker. Follow them back. Engage with them by commenting, repinning their content, and offering more sharable branded content. Give them a shout-out on your Facebook wall and drive traffic to their pinboards.
  • Finally, check what people are pinning from your competition. Is there a niche or story that your brand can own? There's your sweet spot for content creation.

If you do set up branded pinboards, remember to take advantage of the social plugins. When you pin or repin an item, you can send that content to your Facebook and Twitter pages as well, fueling your other social networks and driving traffic to and fro.

Authenticity is a conundrum when we're talking about curation. Every artist (and marketer) is a thief, to some extent. Repinning (or retweeting) isn't enough to establish a good reputation. The key to authentic curation on Pinterest (or anywhere) is the personal spin you put on the content you share. Whether it's via insightful comments, or grouping a collection of images or themes in new and surprising ways, building an ownable voice is key to attracting and growing a loyal following. What's a story that only your brand can tell? That's the secret sauce for social engagement.

Basic principles remain

Committing to another social network requires incremental resources. A dedication to providing quality content and to taking the time to share and socialize in order to build and maintain an engaged following. Earn respect. Nurture a fanbase. Respond and reciprocate. Can your brand commit?

The moral of the story: Brands, think before you pin.

Diane Walter is digital strategist for Brunner.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Pinterest" image via YouTube.

 

 

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