If we trace the Internet back to its early days, to the first World Wide Web browser (Mosiac), we can find the roots of Pinterest. Mosiac included a novel feature. As described by the engineers in 1993, it was the capability to “hotlist/bookmark interesting documents, persistent across sessions.” You know this feature now as simply bookmarks.
Web-based bookmark management systems were popular in the early 2000s with Digg and Delicious leading the pack. Both platforms focused on an idea of “social bookmarking.” In other words, pages that were bookmarked by your friends would show up in your own bookmarks.
Leap forward a decade to reach the next evolution of the bookmark – Pinterest. For most of its users, Pinterest’s primary role could be replaced by a browser’s bookmark tab. It’s a place to collect “interesting documents,” mostly pictures. Its social functionality, identifying things your friends are interested in, is reminiscent of the social bookmarking pioneered by Digg and others.
We’ll leave it to historians to discuss what made Pinterest so successful where so many other solutions failed and just accept the facts at present:
- 150 million monthly active users, 50 million new users in 2016
- 75 billion pins
- 60-85% female user base(!) / 46% of US online adult women use Pinterest
- Engagement activities through the roof – much higher rate of “repins” than comparable metrics on other sites (Facebook shares, Twitter retweets). The exact numbers vary based on source, but around 80% of pins are “repins.” A study of Twitter at a similar point in its history showed that only about 1.4% of tweets were retweets.
It’s this last point that helps solidify Pinterest’s place in your marketing campaign: it’s the most viral social network around. In this article, I’ll discuss what that means, and how to use it to your advantage.
Getting Your Business on Pinterest for the First Time
Before we go any further, I want to give some of you the option to opt out. Your product and your potential demographic matters on Pinterest. Though Pinterest has its share of male users, and most products are used equally by males and females, make sure it’s a fit. Pinterest caters to a unique demographic with specific interests. Decide whether your customers are using it and how.
Still here? Then it’s time to give your product the Pinterest makeover! Now, the word makeover is selected to teach you something you’ve got to remember when doing Pinterest marketing… your core demographic is female! If you go into this section thinking “how can we give this a makeover” you’ll naturally make the right aesthetic decisions at every turn.
Optimizing Your Business for Visual Success
To gain the maximum amount of traction in Pinterest you’ll need to determine how best to become an artist that uses photography as your medium and your product as your subject.
Become a visual curator. Some of you who deal with photography as part of your product marketing will immediately get this and – even if you don’t see yourself as an artist – you can pick this up. I’m afraid some people reading this might be thinking – “give me a break. I’m the furthest thing from an artist. I’m a sales guy – selling a service. How the heck can I start marketing on Pinterest?”
Photography Basics: Take a photography class or read a book or some articles on the topic. This isn’t an article on photography, even though it’s crucial to your success, but let me mention the very best photography lesson I ever received: “Really good pictures are the result of a good lens, more than the result of a good camera.” Now, it’s true that exceptional photography is the result of a good photographer, using ageless composition techniques, and using a great camera & lens. But you don’t need to be at that level to impress people. Get a good solid set-up and start learning. The second-best photography lesson I ever received? “Really good photographers are not obsessed with the subject, they’re obsessed with the light surrounding the subject. They focus on lighting more than anything else.”
Feather The Product: If you have a physical product, get a box or other packaging material printed on the highest quality packaging possible. If you have a digital product, hire a designer to build quality images reflecting your brand. If you’re taking a live action shot, make sure the model or room looks stunning!
Take Good Pictures: Stage your product as best you can. If the shot is going directly on Pinterest, showing the product in use is a great option for things like clothes, drapes, or anything that can stand on its own.
Include More Pictures on everything – your product pages, your blog articles, and any other page of your site you want to promote. Get visual. The site is so addicting in part because it’s a visual experience. Explore what gets repinned, then bump up the quality of the images on your site.
Structure Your Site for Easy Pinning: When a user clicks through a pinned object, they are taken to the page on your site from which the object was pinned. One of the greatest things about Pinterest is that its visitors expect to leave the site and visit yours. Major content creators like BuzzFeed are already driving traffic to their pages from “pinnable” articles – articles with lots of image content. If you want customers to pin items directly from your website or product pages, add a “Save” button – instructions are available here.
The important thing to remember in this section is that you should undertake a Pinterest campaign with a expectation of moving all your marketing to a more visual aesthetic. Use your best-performing Pinterest images everywhere. These changes don’t have to happen overnight, but you will need to consider traffic from Pinterest when making overall marketing decisions and, over time, invest more money in photography and visual production services. Start by simply including more pinnable content with the new work that you develop, like blog articles.
Pinterest Campaign Modules: Pin Boards
Let’s break down a common marketing campaign from the top down so that you can see how Pinterest fits and fills a niche. Your marketing budget supports a lot of initiatives. One of those initiatives will be social media. When you build out a social campaign on Twitter, for instance, you build out a list of hashtags that you want to focus on with your posts. Likewise, on Pinterest, you build out a collection of Boards.
Your goal is to treat each of these boards as a unique campaign. A furniture company might choose three: “Living Room Décor,” “Handmade Crafts,” and “Relax with Reds.” Using this example, some appropriate pins are obvious: a collection of products (both yours and competitors!) in Living Room Décor, bunches of cupcakes and wreathes and other handmade crafts that float around Pinterest (just repin some!) in Handmade Crafts, and for Relax with Reds, maybe furniture you sell or rooms that are painted or designed with a red accent in mind.
Over time, you’ll likely add new boards and stop contributing to old boards. Come Winter, you might choose to retire the Relax with Reds board and do a board on furs.
The Most Important Element of your Campaign: Picking Images
As I mentioned at the top of the article, a primary brand goal on Pinterest is to become a “visual curator” for your fans and followers, so not only will you produce your own images, but you’ll repin other images that other users have pinned. Though it should be obvious, be sure that your brand voice comes through in your pins. The images selected by a slightly-irreverent “bad girl” clothing brand will necessarily be different than those selected by a bridal boutique.
The overall goal of your images is to elicit an emotional response from viewers. With that in mind, here are a few image styles that just tend to work well.
Kid Wonder: Can you take a picture of a kid with an exciting expression associated with your product? Maybe a shot of wonder or mystery as he or she uses or finds out about it?
Humor: Can you tie your product to a humorous situation? Flex your funny bone.
Sex Appeal: Can you display your product in a way that triggers a favorable physical response? Hang on a minute – a few disclaimers and warnings. Pinterest is full of mid-western moms. Many of them are scrap bookers who have conservative values. Not to mention, Pinterest’s rules on graphic sexual content are pretty strict, so err on the side of caution (if you use this style of image at all).
Products as Symbols: Symbols represent deep meaning in the human psyche, an identifier of a tribal boundary of social groups. Sorry to overuse the example, but consider Apple. Their symbol is an apple with a bite taken out of it. The suggestion? Garden of Eden, rebellion, newness. Can your product itself or your packaging be used symbolically?
Products as Art: Can you use your product to make an artistic statement? Or better, has an artistic person used your product in a way that makes a statement? Crayola Crayons are frequently displayed in Pinterest in very artistic staging. Can your product be art?
Product with a Puppy: Put a puppy next to your product and shoot it. We’ll probably never fully understand why this works, but it does.
Product with a Baby: See above, except that I know less about babies than puppies.
Product as a Gift: Can you show your product being given to someone as a gift? If that’s too on-the-nose, then what really matters is positioning your product as a cool gift. How can you demonstrate that with images?
Product with a Celebrity: Can you get a celebrity to wear your product or take a photo with it?
Product in an Extreme Situation: Would your product look cool with an elephant standing on top of it? Or at the top of a mountain? Or in the jungle? If ruggedness is a brand attribute you’re trying to convey, this would probably make sense.
Product in an Unexpected Situation: Can you think of interesting or unexpected situations for your product and create a visually interesting picture by capturing it on film?
Product destroyed, but looking courageous: Can you show your product as damaged or destroyed, but convey with the image a sense of nobility, courage, or strength?
Analyzing Your Results
Unlike other social platforms, Pinterest does not yet have a detailed analytics interface so that you can see how your Pinterest campaign is doing. With a Business Account, they do offer a basic analytics dashboard with some insights, but you’ll have to rely on Google Analytics or a similar platform to see traffic coming from Pinterest and decide the ROI of your campaign.
There are a few benefits that Pinterest can offer your SEO campaign. Use Pinterest as part of your linkbuilding strategy. Links from Pinterest are “followed,” which means they pass particularly strong value. Once you create a new pin, your feed is instant and readily available for your followers to see. Pinterest allows you to create a pin that will provide a hyperlinked image, description, and link to your website on two pages of the Pinterest website. One page being the actual pin page and the second page being the board created for the pins. Make your pins interesting to your followers. You want your followers to repin what you have posted for your campaign, creating a viral SEO campaign through Pinterest.
As Pinterest continues to expand its domain authority and search engine trust in its results increase, pins will receive higher visibility in search results. The more pins that you build that are linked back to products on your site, the more search engine users will land on your site.
We’ve found that our pinnable articles are some of the highest trafficked articles on our site. That’s not just from Pinterest referrals: they’re also receiving a great deal of organic traffic from SEO.
Wrap-Up and Conclusion
Pinterest is the ideal social media network to target American women, particularly moms, with high-quality visual images. For businesses, Pinterest offers a Pinterest for Business account that is integrated with their ads platform, which you can use to pay to promote pins. At the end of the day, whether you’re paying for traffic or focusing on organic social growth, your brand should leverage high-emotion images, collected into boards, with a focus on curating beautiful images from around Pinterest, rather than explicit product promotion.
Have you used Pinterest for personal pins? What types of boards do you follow, collect, and repin? Do other family members use Pinterest? How much of this article rings true for the brands that you or your family/friends pin? Let us know in the comments.
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