GLAM IT UP on PINTEREST
Launched: March 2010 48.7 million users Grew 379,599% in 2012 From 2011 to 2012, Pinterest mobile app usage rose 1,698%, and users accessed the site via their mobile devices an incredible 4,225% more. 68% of Pinterest users are women, and half of them are mothers. The most repinned pin is a recipe for garlic cheese bread. Unless you sell a product that no woman in a million years would want for herself or any person in her life—and that’s a pretty limited list of products—or your legal department is dragging its feet,* you’re a dope if your brand is not on Pinterest. And even if you firmly believe that you can’t sell to the female demographic that outnumbers male Pinterest users by about five to one, you’d be wise to continue reading this chapter. Though the specifics of how jabs and right hooks work on Pinterest is unique to the platform, learning more about how companies successfully capitalize on the forces behind Pinterest’s meteoric popularity should help fuel your creativity in devising new strategies for reaching consumers on other platforms.
The numbers prove that the platform has become where people go to fulfill their material and emotional wish lists. A survey by Steelhouse shows that Pinterest users are 79 percent more likely to purchase something they spot on Pinterest than on Facebook. Pinterest produces four times the revenue-per-click of Twitter. Some small businesses that experimented early on with Pinterest saw as much as a 60 percent increase in revenue. Between 2011 and 2012, Pinterest’s share of social-media-driven revenue for e-retailers soared from 1 percent to 17 percent. Those statistics should send you flying to click the bright red “Join Pinterest” button to set up your account if you don’t have one already. That goes for those of you who tell yourselves that your product isn’t photogenic or your service doesn’t translate well to imagery or it’s too local. While certain platforms may be more natural fits for certain types of brands, the only limit to what your brand can accomplish on any platform is your own creativity. What’s supremely fun and unique about Pinterest is that people can follow your boards, not just you the brand, which means that even if your product has some inherent limitations on Pinterest, you can still explore aspects of your brand that in other formats you might keep under wraps for fear of confusing your brand message. Pinterest gives you the freedom to set your brand’s personality free. TO BEGIN, LEARN THE ART OF THE PIN Pinterest is eye candy, so every pin must be visually compelling. Think of your content as a collector’s item. Your images need to invite clicks, and drab, boring pictures aren’t going to do it. No clicks, no chance of users coming to your page, absorbing your story, and making their way into your world. Keep this in mind whether you’re creating your own content or repinning content from other people’s boards. Pinterest users organize their Internet finds into categories, or boards, and businesses can arrange their content in the same way. You can use some boards to create virtual storefronts, helping users quickly and easily find what they are looking for, just as if they were in a brickand-mortar store. So if you’re a local tea shop, you could pin images under boards labeled Green Tea, Black Tea, Teas from India, Teas from China, and all the other types of tea you want to sell. You could pin images accordingly, including a price, because doing so increases the number of likes your pin receives by 36 percent, thus increasing your chances of making a sale. All pins would link back to their original source, in this case your website, so that with one click on the image your viewer can convert to a customer. It’s that easy. Yet few consumers start out their Pinterest perusals by going directly to a brand’s page; they usually get there by following the images they see being repinned by others. Yet there is nothing exciting about a description like “Green Tea,” and it’s only a supremely dedicated green tea lover who is going to be moved to repin that corresponding image or follow that board. If anyone else does, it will probably be because you pinned a jab—something that caught a consumer’s eye and compelled her to take a closer look at your page. Something like a pin with the caption “Tea You Drink After a Bad Date,” or “Tea for Handling the In-Laws,” or “Tea to Celebrate Summer Break.” Now you’ve created context, proving that you sympathize with your user’s experience and that your brand has a place in her life. That’s the kind of brand-to-consumer jabbing that motivates people to repin on their own boards, which exponentially increases the number of people exposed to your brand, which leads to more impressions, and more clicks to find out where the content originated, and so on and so forth down that social media rabbit hole until they land on your website, where you are perfectly positioned to make the sale with a solid right hook. JAB TO CREATE SERENDIPITY Many brands and businesses focus exclusively on pinning their original content, but as with Twitter, there is tremendous value in putting your own spin on the content that others bring to the platform. You may not be making direct sales, but you’re offering value to consumers by becoming someone they can trust, thus increasing their incentive to come to you if they do decide they need your product or service. For example, a tea vendor may repin a picture of a beautiful teakettle under a board labeled “Tea Gear.” She could then add underneath, “Pretty to look at, but be careful. Unless it’s filled to the brim, you have to practically turn the kettle upside down to pour water out of it, which places your hand directly in the rising steam. We’re sure the company is fixing the design flaw as we speak.” You’re not insulting the product, you’re stating a fact based on your experience with teakettles. Or the same tea vendor could repin a picture of a tea-length cocktail dress with the description “Tea tastes better in satin.” These kind of deejayed repins are the kind you want to tweet out, too. Naturally, any tweet would have the potential to bring Twitter followers to your Pinterest page, but as always, any time you invite debate and discussion or introduce elements of fun and surprise to content,
you increase your likelihood of not just making a connection, but building a relationship that leads to a sale. An effective way to attract more followers is to create boards that are only tangentially related to your brand. If all of your pins are about tea, you’re only going to reach a certain demographic interested in tea. But if you created a board called “Where to Rest After a Cuppa,” and pinned pictures of great hotels and other places to stay in Great Britain, India, and Asia, you’d reach a whole other category of consumers, such as vacationers, honeymooners, and business travelers. And if you did it authentically, you could even successfully create community with boards that are completely unrelated to your brand. This is where Pinterest really gives small businesses and entrepreneurs the advantage over larger organizations, because their legal and PR departments haven’t smothered their personality. You can create pins about the city where you live; pins about music, books, and movies; pins about pets; pins about causes that your company supports. It’s a fantastic way to tell your unabridged story, and you don’t even have to say a word. If you jab with that kind of color and creativity, people will be far more likely to pay attention to your right hooks. Among the practical lists of green, black, and pu-erh teas, and the subtle lists like Teas to Drink After a Bad Date and Teas for Sunday Mornings, you should include one aggressive sales pitch: Teas We Recommend This Month. If you’ve thrown enough compelling jabs, no one will find it off-putting to come face-to-face with the occasional right hook. If anything, they’ll be glad you made it so easy for them to try your product. USE JABS TO BUILD COMMUNITY Comments are an up-and-coming aspect of Pinterest, yet they are an excellent way to instigate discovery. With so few people actively using comments on this platform to build context and awareness, it’s an easy way for brands to differentiate themselves and get noticed. If you’re on Twitter, you know how this works. Find opportunities to talk to people with interests that align with yours. Be genuinely interested in other people’s pins and find ways to add context through conversation. By engaging with other Pinterest users, you create reasons for them to click on your name to learn more about you. Your descriptions, too, can create opportunities for other people to comment. A pin with a provocative title like “Tea You Drink After a Bad Date” is highly likely to attract someone who will comment something along the lines of “Hope I don’t need this tonight,” or “Where was this when I needed it last week?” And there it is—the perfect opening to build a relationship, expand your community, and offer people something of value, if only in the form of a new, fun way to complain about the sorry state of the dating pool. In addition, the comments give brands the chance to add their perspective to other people’s pins. If the teakettle manufacturer notices that a tea vendor has questioned the design of one of its products, it should reply immediately, either explaining that the vendor is obviously misusing the kettle, or admitting the mistake and assuring the world that it is taking steps to fix the problem. FOLLOW THE RULES Pinterest puts a lot of energy into encouraging proper etiquette on the site, but if you think about it, the rules on Pinterest don’t differ much from the rules in the real world. If you’re in business, first and foremost, you have to be nice. Show your customers that you care. Exhibit your wares in an attractive and evocative way. Be generous with your knowledge. Be truthful. If you can’t provide what someone is looking for, make sure to help her find someone who can. Use every customer point of contact to weave stories about who you are and what your brand stands for. Then, and only then, throw that right hook with everything you’ve got.
COLOR COMMENTARY WHOLE FOODS: Feeding the Dream More than half of the people on the site will never actually bake the three-layer cake they just repinned on their board, and an even smaller number will own a pantry like the one featured on Whole Foods’ “Hot Kitchens” board. But it doesn’t hurt to dream, and Whole Foods knows it. In fact, Whole Foods is a bit of a dream purveyor itself. There are probably few people who can shop exclusively at Whole Foods or who eat anything close to what might be a Whole Foods–sanctioned diet, but most of us sure would like to. With this pin
and many others on its Pinterest page, Whole Foods shows that it understands that Pinterest is the conduit through which it can feed our aspirations and our yearning to live up to Whole Foods’ ideals. That’s why Whole Foods not only posts gorgeous images of the food we’d like to cook and eat on its Pinterest page, but it also posts pictures of the places where we would like to prepare and eat that food. Here’s why this micro-content works:
High-quality content: There’s a reason why real estate agents and chefs don’t photograph their own properties or food—no one would want it. Professional photographers know how to work the light and space to show off products at their best. The images serve as inspiration to fans, who love to imagine themselves re-creating the luxurious home interiors and dishes they see on blogs and in magazines. The fact that it would be almost impossible, since it’s often the special lighting and other tricks of the photographer’s trade that make the subject look so perfect, doesn’t matter. In many cases, consumers are aspiring to buy their ideal existence, not their real one, especially in real estate and food. With this repinned picture, Whole Foods successfully manages to captivate the audiences in both worlds. The image could easily be featured in an issue of Architectural Digest, and in fact it was originally taken by photographer Evan Joseph, who, according to his website, specializes in architecture and interior photography. Aspirational messaging: Proving just how out-of-reach a room like this would be to most people, this particular pantry lives in a thirty-thousand-square-foot stone mansion (appropriately named the Stone Mansion) located on the former Frick estate in New Jersey. But by sharing it on the “Hot Kitchens” board, Whole Foods is essentially saying, “This is how our customers deserve to live.” And that’s a powerful message. Encourages a sense of community: Whole Foods didn’t actually create this content; it’s a repin from a healthy-food and lifestyle blog called ingredients, inc. Repinning other people’s material is a great way to catch potential new consumers’ attention. It’s also a great way to humanize your brand. It shows that you’re out there reading your consumers’ blogs and websites, and that you’re interested in the same things they are. Long-term reach: Though the “Hot Kitchens” board belongs to Whole Foods, it is actually open to at least five curators, all of whom are heavy social media influencers. In this way, Whole Foods is taking a progressive strategy by focusing on extracting the long-term benefits of collaboration and word of mouth, not the short-term boost of one-shot brand or product endorsements.
JORDAN WINERY: A Taste for Quality Jordan Winery does a nice job of taking advantage of the functions that make Pinterest special among social media platforms: Aspirational, Pinterest-driven photo: One look at the crisp, clean, magazine-worthy photograph of the wine and cheese and you start imagining yourself on a romantic date at the beach, or hosting an elegant party. The photo implies that Jordan’s wine is for people with some taste, which aligns perfectly with the aspirational Pinterest demographic. It doesn’t look like a winery stock photo. Rather, Saveur could easily have taken it during a photo shoot for a profile piece in that magazine. Smart labeling: Though the photograph is meant to appeal to people with a sense of sophistication, Jordan Winery pinned it on a board called Wine 101. In other words, what they’re selling is for sophisticates, but no one at Jordan Winery is a snob—the company caters to novices, too. Good use of links: The image acts as a gateway to longer-form content. Clicking on the photo takes you straight to an article on the company’s website elaborating on the thinking and experimentation that goes behind successful pairings of wine and cheese, as well as information about how to sign up for the tours and tastings offered on-site at the winery.
This micro-content throws a satisfying jab at both wine lovers and social media users, and for that the company gets a triple thumbs-up.
CHOBANI: Reaching the Heart of Its Users
As we’ve mentioned, the Pinterest audience is 80 percent female, and 50 percent of all Pinterest users have kids. With this child-centered jab, Chobani shows that it understands how to strike at the heart of the Pinterest audience. The photo: Fun, colorful, simple. This image was chosen to make parents smile, and it probably did given the number of repins. The copy: Fun, colorful, simple. The board: It’s smart to play toward kids, and even smarter for the brand to position itself as the source for fun, healthy snack ideas that will make mothers— and probably dads, too—feel like Superparents.
Before posting anything on this platform, ask yourself if your post could pass the Pinterest test: Could it double as an ad or act as an accompanying photo to an article featured in a top-flight magazine? If not, it doesn’t belong here. For this jab, however, Chobani gets a definite yes.
ARBY’S: Sending the Wrong Message This is as bad as it gets.
The photo: The photo itself is cropped so awkwardly, the outline of the turnover has a stair-shaped pattern to it, making it look as though the pastry is an escapee from a vintage Nintendo game where it used to threaten to smother your avatar in corn syrup and shortening. The copy: “Arby’s Apple Turnover.” Wow. That’s some creative text. The link: Surprisingly, the Arby’s team did know enough to link the photo to the Arby’s website.
Aside from correctly linking the Pinterest post to the company website, this piece of content was a waste of the two minutes it took Arby’s digital team to create. It looks like Arby’s has a Pinterest account simply because someone told them they should have a Pinterest account. If they had any real interest in developing a Pinterest strategy, they would have concentrated on improving the quality of the photography and creating art that would appeal to the mostly female audience that might accidentally stumble across its board (because no one in their right mind would ever actually share this content). With an ounce of effort, they could have made this pale, pasty piece of pastry look beautiful, or at least less like something that’s been sitting in a 7-Eleven display case since 1985. As it is, the only message Arby’s is sending to consumers is to stay the hell away.
RACHEL ZOE: Small Mistakes Have Big Impact Rachel Zoe provides an example of how often it’s just small nuances that keep good jabs and right hooks from being great ones. The photo: We see a beautiful bag, and a clear set of steps to follow to enter the Pin to Win contest. It shows creative, aggressive initiative to gamify pins and asks customers to take a social action in exchange for the opportunity to win something. The game feels authentic to the platform. The links: Click on the photo of the bag, and you’re taken to Neiman Marcus to make a purchase. Click on the link in the caption below the photo, and you go straight to the official rules. Someone at Rachel Zoe is thinking clearly. The copy: Here’s the hiccup. The copy merely repeats the three clear steps we just read in the photo. Why? With this mistake, Rachel Zoe weakened their pin’s value proposition. It would have been more interesting and beneficial to customers if Zoe had added a few thoughts about the bag, and then followed up with the link to the official rules page.
In fact, what’s lacking in this pin as well as on the
In fact, what’s lacking in this pin as well as on the entire board where it appears is what’s lacking on a lot of celebrity Pinterest pages—the humanity. It’s Rachel Zoe’s name and face at the top of every pin; it would be nice to feel like Rachel Zoe had actually pinned it. The mistakes surrounding this pin are small, but they make a tremendous difference.
BETHENNY FRANKEL: Linking to Nowhere Bethenny Frankel, inventor of the Skinnygirl margarita mix and cocktail brand, is a heroine to every woman who loves to wear formfitting jeggings as much as she loves to drink. It’s just a shame she didn’t pay as much attention to the details on her Pinterest boards as she does with her product.
The photo: It’s refreshing to occasionally see an unvarnished photo on Pinterest, especially on a celebrity page. You really believe Bethenny might have taken this picture herself. Normally the smeary quality is not something most people would want to associate with a food or drink product, but the picture received some solid engagement, so the DIY nature of the shot clearly didn’t turn too many people off. For that, the photo gets a pass. The copy: Skinnygirl Pomegranate Margarita. There’s not much else to say, especially when a click on the picture will probably take the consumer to a recipe page or someplace fun on the Skinnygirl website. Oh . . . wait . . . The link: When consumers link out from the picture of the pomegranate margarita, they wind up on a 404 error page, the kind that says “Page not found.” That’s just irresponsible. The apology offered is cute, as is the picture of the sleeping dog, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the company just wasted its customer’s time and goodwill. It’s a blunder that makes the brand look unprofessional.
UNICEF: Distributing, Not Storytelling It’s encouraging to know that UNICEF is progressive enough to be on Pinterest. Unfortunately, they seem to be missing the point.
Photo: This piece of content illustrates a classic example of how brands mistakenly use social media platforms as distribution centers instead of storytelling venues. This photo appears on two boards. It was first pinned on one called “Can You See Me?” and then repinned on a board called “Nonprofit Media.” By reposting the same photo and copy on multiple boards, UNICEF is playing for quantity of impressions instead of quality of impressions. But this strategy hamstrings the potential power of every photo on the site. It would be in the brand’s best interest, especially a brand armed with as much emotionally charged content as this one, to curate boards appropriately and channel their consumers’ emotions into clear calls to action. The photo would have gotten more views and more engagement if it had been posted on a board that directly appealed to people interested in helping young AIDS victims and orphans.
If UNICEF ever starts displaying its incredible photo collection with some thought to how to tell the Pinterest audience its many stories, it should start to see some impressive activity.
LAUREN CONRAD: Speaking Pinterest Lauren Conrad’s content deserves a shout-out here because it speaks fluent Pinterest. Everything about it is designed to appeal to the high-end, female audience that loves the platform. This piece could easily work as an ad or the picture accompanying an article about Lauren Conrad’s workouts, and in fact, if you click on the picture, you’re taken to Conrad’s blog, where she suggests a workout to get your legs in shape for summer. With almost 2,500 repins, this pin shows what can happen when a celebrity brand speaks a platform’s native language. This jab reflects clear respect for the platform and a commitment to her demographic. It feels right-on.
LULULEMON: Missing the Point Once again, one mistake derailed a potentially knockout right hook. The photo: Infographics enjoy high levels of engagement on Pinterest, and Lululemon’s gamification of the perfect yoga mat search is a creative and clever use of the medium. The link: There is none. A click on the photo takes us to another version of the photo. Pinterest is the one place where linking out drives traffic and drives action. Why didn’t Lululemon link to a retail page showing a collection of the mats described in the post so shoppers who find their perfect “mat(ch)” can actually buy one?
How disappointing to see such a fine piece of creative go to waste.
Questions to Ask About Your Pinterest Content
Does my picture feed the consumer dream?
Did I give my boards clever, creative titles?
Have I included a price when appropriate?
Does every photo include a hyperlink?
Could this pin double as an ad or act as an accompanying photo to an article featured in a top-flight magazine?
Is this image easily categorized so people don’t have to think too hard about where to repin it on their boards?