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Pinterest: Social Media Crazy Quilt

Posted by Ellie Becker on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 @ 15:02 PM

Pinterest New Social Media Site

I’m watching Pinterest with interest. Pinterest is the ‘hot’ new social media site that’s generating a lot of current buzz. It’s billed as a ‘pinboard’ where users can share, i.e. ‘pin’, images of items that interest them. Visually, it’s a crazy quilt. According to a February 11th article on TechCrunch, Pinterest currently has 10.4 million users – 97% of them women. (Does that give you a clue, marketers?)

Currently – and similar to early Google+ -- participation is by invitation. While I’m waiting for my invitation to arrive, I’ve been poking around and learning about Pinterest.

You can organize, categorize and share pictures of items you find online, ‘pinning’ them onto virtual ‘boards’. The images retain a link to the original source (unless you merely ‘Like’ a pin) once you post it. As a highly visual medium, Pinterest is perfect if you like scrolling endlessly through images -- many of them very engaging -- to find ones of specific interest to you. Engaging Images on Pinterest

If you don’t want to peruse ‘Everything’ at once, you can narrow things down by searching in one of 31 lifestyle-related topics – plus ‘Other’ for those items that don’t seem to fit into one of the pre-assigned categories. Or, using the search field (which I understand disappeared for awhile and is now back by popular demand) you can search for specific pins, boards or people.

The formula and the etiquette are much like on Twitter:

  • You ‘follow’ other users, or specific ones of their boards, and they can follow you back – or not.
  • You may decide to ‘unfollow’ someone or something, and they’ll never be the wiser.
  • You may comment on people’s pins.
  • You may also Re-Pin (think Re-Tweet) someone’s pin, in which case the image and its link to the original source of the material remain intact.
  • If you simply ‘Like’ a pin, you’re giving a ‘thumbs up’ without giving the goods. The link doesn’t come with the ‘like’.
  • To reply to a particular user, you add an @ symbol in front of their user name. Hmmm. Sound familiar? Oh, well. No sense completely re-inventing the wheel when people are already familiar with @replies.
  • A request to ‘Be Nice’ is designed to promote a positive approach to community building.
  • You can add Pinterest ‘follow’ buttons on your website.

How are people using Pinterest?

  • For organizing projects, like home decorating.
  • For organizing items they’d like to add to their wardrobes.
  • For planning weddings and other special events and sharing possible choices with family and friends.
  • For saving and sharing cute images, books, music and other interests
  • For organizing, saving and sharing recipes.
  • For cataloguing inspiring/useful ideas and information.
  • Etc.

What can businesses do on Pinterest? Although Pinterest admonishes against being ‘overly commercial’ or ‘self promotional’, you can use the site to connect with your customers and prospects in a number of ways.

Companies are flocking to Pinterest, mostly to connect with its population of women/mom users. There are a few male-oriented categories like Cars & Motorcycles, Men’s Apparel and Sports. There’s no category for ‘business’ or ‘advertising/marketing’. There is a ‘Products’ category and you can put a price in your Pin caption.

Companies can:

  • Display products (with prices and links to an ecommerce site) in specific categories, Weddings & Events or Women’s Apparel, for example.
  • Post your presentations and other visual content. For example, HubSpot just put up a page with images and links to its infographics, ebooks, white papers and other content.
  • Recruit. Not sure yet how they’re using Pinterest specifically, but a recruiting firm is one of the early power users.
  • Explore other creative ways to make it pay off. (Although it’s not yet paying off for Pinterest, as they haven’t yet evolved their business model. Right now they’re building with about $25 million in venture funding.)

As a young and evolving social media site, Pinterest has a few glitches and bugs popping up that management is still working to resolve. As all sites have in the past, it will also likely incorporate cultural and tactical features that are user-created or driven. (Like the hashtag on Twitter.)

Anyone who has read my blog over time knows that, as an inbound marketing consultant, I’m not the earliest adopter of new social media tools and techniques. I take a bit of a wait and see approach, then learn and experiment on my own business before I recommend new tools to clients. Everyone has too little time to invest in unproven tools and there’s still plenty of time to benefit once they’ve taken hold and yielded measurable results.

I’ll update you once I begin posting on Pinterest and seeing how – or if -- it can help you grow your business.

In the face of new social media sites, many companies are still trying to put the old ones to work for them. If your company falls into this category, then download our Social Media White Paper to learn about using Facebook and Twitter effectively.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Social Media, Online Marketing Strategy, Pinterest

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