Not another social network! I still feel that way about Google+. We don’t need more of the same. Beyond its surging popularity, that’s one of the reasons Pinterest caught my attention. It’s different and yet familiar. Pinterest incorporates the visual impact of Facebook with the open sharing and relationship building of Twitter.
So, what is Pinterest? According to their website, “Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.” You can also upload your own content from your computer. There’s also a smartphone app.
Currently, Pinterest is still in its naive beginning stage. It isn’t intended for marketing or self promotion. A note on Pinterest etiquette states “Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.” Still, brands are finding a way to integrate Pinterest. Read the Mashable article, Pinterest for Brands: 5 Hot Tips.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time on Pinterest recently, observing the way people use it and interact but also evaluating opportunities for personal and brand promotion that fits within Pinterest community culture. Here’s my introduction and usage guide.
Define Your Interests
Using the pinboard metaphor, Pinterest allows you to create boards for different subject matter. It even suggests a starting set to begin which you add to or subtract from. I initially chose Design as one but I’ve since added separate boards for Logos, Packaging, Advertising and Type.
Collect and Pin Material
You can add a Pinterest button to your browser tool bar. Once installed, it’s easy to add content to your boards. When you find an image on a website you want to save, click the Pin It button and an overlay of the page with all the page images appears. Select the one you want and a dialogue box appears to let you choose a board to pin to and add a title or comment.
Pin Your Own Content
As mentioned above, you can pin your own content from your computer or the Pinterest phone app. I’ve used both successfully but some complain about the app being a little buggy.
Share and Interact
This is a social network. Sharing is the objective. Pinterest presents columns of visual content displayed in various categories. You can see your own content, that of people you follow (they start you off with some interesting ones) or content from predefined categories. There’s also a search function. When you see something that interests you, you have the options to like, comment or repin. If you repin, that image gets added to one of your boards.
When it comes to relationship building, Pinterest is very much like Twitter. You can follow anyone whose content you find interesting. You can also follow individual boards. Your network expands when you follow new people whose content is posted by someone else you follow.
Market Your Brand
Whether you’re promoting your own skills or marketing a brand, a little creativity is required here. It’s best to sell by association. Define yourself or brand experience with visual references. Context is key. See the Mashable link above to for examples.
Add a Price
This is a little confusing. Inconsistent with the anti-promotion mantra is the ability to add a price banner to your pin. Technically, you could create an entire catalogue on Pinterest. The transaction wouldn’t occur on the site but the product image could be pinned from your own e-commerce website.
Support Other Social Platforms
This might be where Pinterest shows its greatest potential value. It includes options for sharing to Twitter and Facebook likes. You could share your own content but you could also share content of people you follow to enrich your customer experience on the other platforms. Food and beverage companies for instance could share recipes from the plethora of pins available. Pinterest adds another level of engagement and interaction to the process. Original source > Pinterest > secondary social platform.
Like many other social networks, Pinterest wasn’t created as a marketing platform. It appears to resist. But as Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Money follows eyeballs”. Right now, there’s a lot of eyeballs on Pinterest. Shrewd marketers have noticed. Keep an eye on it.
Update: Mashable reports Pinterest Becomes Top Traffic Driver for Retailers