Social CRM: Should Pinterest pique your interest?
As Pinterest enjoys a surge in popularity, MyCustomer takes a look at its value to business – and whether it could prove to be another significant social platform to engage with customers.
Everyone's talking about Pinterest - the new virtual pinboard site that is being blogged as one of the hottest social services right now. According to Compete, the number of Pinterest’s unique visitors increased by 429% from September to December 2011 to reach 7.21m users and research by Shareaholic indicated the site has overtaken Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn for site referrals, generating 3.6% of referred traffic from January.
So what is it?
Launched in March 2010, Pinterest is a platform that allows you to digitally collect, organise and share your favourite images from the web – such as photographic shots, clothing or recipe ideas. As a registered user, you can create your own digital pinboards (such as 'books I love', 'favourite recipes' or 'my style') to 'pin' images from across the web by either:
- uploading directly from your computer or phone
- using the 'Pin it' bookmarklet tool to save images viewed either online or offline. This will redirect the image from a site straight to your board using the URL
- or by 'repinning' from other users' boards
'Pins' can also be liked or commented on by yourself and other users.
Margaret Donnelly from Meltwater Buzz explains that Pinterest isn't specifically made for direct customer engagement. "It's about sharing things individuals find interesting with others, like a visual Digg or StumbleUpon. What's compelling is that Pinterest is a social network in itself, but it uses Facebook and Twitter as the pathway to drawing more people into their own social space," she says.
With brands just beginning to experiment with Pinterest, Donnelly says there are a number of way that organisations can engage with current and potential customers through the site:
- Make their content, products, digital assets, etc. easy to share or pin by embedding the pin code on their websites, blogs, eCommerce destinations, etc. This makes it easy for individuals to spread something they 'love' on Pinterest. A product's image is even pinned with its cost if the individual includes the cost information in the Pin's descriptive text.
- Create their own Pinterest account to share items of interest with people connected to them. Similar to content curation on Twitter or Facebook, the focus would be on providing content that people want to digest and share.
- Use a board to showcase new/exciting products. This is an opportunity to share cool stuff. It just can't be the ONLY board that a brand has active.
- Create social incentives. 'Pin this' contests and the like.
Who’s using it?
So what brands are already utilising Pinterest to engage with their customers? Here are a few that have already created a presence on the new platform:
- Gap: Rather than using pinboards to showcase its collections, the fashion company has shown more subtle marketing techniques. - its 'I want candy' pinboard collates images of colourful sugary snacks alongside its 'I want candy' clothing collection. The company also adds a more personal element with its 'Everybody in Gap' pinboard, repinning images of people wearing Gap clothing.
- Etsy: The craft and vintage online marketplace has utilised the site effectively by again, mixing images of handmade craft ideas alongside product images that link to the Etsy page for sales.
- Whole Foods: The healthy food brand has pinboards such as 'How does your garden grow' and 'We're used to reusing!' to convey the brand’s culture.
"They understand how people are using the Pinterest platform and embracing this themselves. They are also using different pin boards to segregate their different streams of thought – again, just as users themselves are doing," he says.
Tamara Littleton, CEO of eModeration, also highlights Gap's use of the network and explains why businesses need to approach Pinterest like any other social platform, rather than treat it as a showcase site. She says: "It's not about showing off the brands offering. It is about engagement. By repinning content businesses can connect with fans and give something back. GAP, for example, has a board featuring repins of people wearing GAP and a board repinning GAP items that others have pinned."
She continues: "Self-promotion is actively discouraged on Pinterest, so it’s important that businesses don’t simply create boards that link back to their retail site and instead devote time to discovering and repinning the content shared by others."
Steve Richards from Yomego explains how businesses can benefit: "Pinterest is proving to be a valuable source of referral traffic for retailers. I think its success comes from its simplicity. You can share single items – as opposed to whole brands - you like by pinning or repinning something to your board. On Pinterest, you like a pair of shoes. On Facebook, you have to like the shoe shop. It’s a much more natural way of sharing things you like."
He adds: "There’s potential here for brands to listen to what products people like more than others, and why. But beware – Pinterest isn’t about promoting brands. It’s about letting consumers share what they like. Pinterest primarily should be about learning from consumers, at least for the moment."
With Pinterest's more personalised approach for brands - particularly retailers - and growing popularity, how does the network fare against Facebook and could we have finally found a social platform to knock it off its perch?
Dean Browell from Feedback doesn't think so. "There's no way Pinterest will kill Facebook - it just isn't the same network so can't replace it," he concludes. "But it can influence it. I think Pinterest will become and stay popular, in the vein of Tumblr with the possibilities of Twitter."