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Monetizing Social Media

4 Tips to Better Understand Pinterest’s Potential

Here's an article I wrote for Multichannel Merchant:

It seems that everywhere you turn these days, the number one topic is Pinterest. Sure you’ve seen and heard all about the postives it has to offer, but here we’re going to talk about some key strategies that you may be missing out on.

Lately, the recommendations for using Pinterest that I’ve been reading seem to be very vague. It makes me wonder, are the people providing recommendations actually using Pinterest themselves? Do they have accounts, and are they frequently pinning to their boards?

I’m in Pinterest’s target market, being 25, female, recently married and a homeowner, and I would like to create the label for myself as a very active “Pinterester.” I’ve got a few recommendations that I would LOVE to see from companies on my most favorite social media channel.

These four tips and strategies mentioned hopefully have given you a better understanding of what Pinterest really has to offer, from a marketing strategist and avid Pinterester’s perspective.

If you've got a brand that is well suited for Pinterest's visual medium, here’s what you need to know:

Make sure your social media team knows everything about Pinterest
First, if you haven’t already, assign a social media team or hire the appropriate talent to establish relationships, monitor, and promote your brand on Pinterest. Having them pin products on Pinterest multiple times throughout the day will help gain visibility, reach and ultimately drive revenue to your brand in the end.

You also want your team to be actively engaging with the social media channels your company is using. Make sure your team knows the ins and outs of how Pinterest works and has their own personal account that they use on a regular basis. You want your talent to fully understand the social channels that you’re using, so you can be up to speed on what’s current.

It may seem pretty basic, but if you are not personally engaging with the social channel you’re using, you’ll never fully understand the capabilities it has to offer.

Marketing to Pinterest equals marketing to Facebook and Twitter, too
In order to create a Pinterest account, the user first needs to link their account to Facebook or Twitter to help find friends to follow their pins. They can also turn on a feature to share all of their boards to anyone on Pinterest, not just the people following them.

While Pinterest users do have the option to turn this feature “off,” most users do not. And, every time they log in through the Pinterest website, they are asked to sign in with their Facebook or Twitter account.

So, what does this mean? It means that the reach for a pin is not just limited to Pinterest. It means that Pinterest has found a seamless way to create multichannel reach with one medium.

If the Pinterester’s account is linked to their Facebook or Twitter account, every time they pin or repin something, it automatically appears on their Facebook wall. And, it appears on the newsfeed in Facebook and/or Twitter. So your brand’s pins are being seen by everyone that the Pinterester is friends with/follows them on Facebook or Twitter. In addition, their friends and follows on Facebook or Twitter can click the pinned/repinned image and go to your brand’s page.

No one is talking about the amazing reach capabilities and potential here, and I believe this is the most important thing your company needs to know. This is why your company’s pins need to be flawless.

Your captions do not matter
Do not spend too much time in developing what your captions say. If you start off with a great caption, guess what? It can be changed as soon as someone repins it.

Let’s say you’re a clothing retailer. If you start off with an image of a great dress with the caption, “$25.99 [at x store],” someone will repin that and change the caption to, “I LOVE this. Must own.” So, then your company is left with just an image of a great dress floating around. But don’t worry, there’s help on the way.

Your landing page is most-important
Captions may not matter, and images certainly matter a lot, but it’s the landing page that matters most. So, let’s walk you through it. The image of your dress gets pinned, your caption gets changed to, “I LOVE this. Must own,” and then the Pinterester clicks on the pinned image of your fabulous dress to find…?

Have you thought this far? If you are a fantastic Pinterester, you’ll want to find a landing page that opens to reveal the dress with an option to add to cart and purchase immediately.

Some companies like Jewlr.com have this process down. I went on their page, Jewrl.com gives the option to pin this ring, and when I click on my pinned ring from Jewlr.com in Pinterest, it goes directly to their purchase page every time.

Some retailers are pinning on Pinterest, but not giving users the ability to pin items on their website, and they should. That’s because your pin can stay on that Pinterester’s board forever (or until they delete it, but who deletes their pins?), and that Pinterester can easily go back and click to purchase that item at any time.

Think of Pinterest as a big wishlist of things they dream of purchasing. Now, go out there and link your product images/pins to your purchase page, please.

Posted by: Brittany Landenberger at 4:14 PM
Categories: social media, pinterest, social media marketing, social

Pin down Pinterest's value

Here's an article I wrote for Direct Marketing News:

Every big social media platform that's attracted the eye of numerous businesses has a moment where it crosses the threshold from being something that companies sign on to out of curiosity, to a channel that becomes part of their overall business strategy. Is this Pinterest's moment? Certainly from all the buzz you would think so.

Pinterest is an easy-to-use platform that enables users to capture images from around the Web, or upload their own, and “pin” them to “boards” as a way of visually telling their community what they are doing and thinking about. Users can also follow the activity of fellow “pinners” and comment, “like,” tweet, and share pins in various ways across the social Web. But as we've seen from the failure of Facebook stores to gain much traction, engagement doesn't always translate into purchases. And even if they did, right now users can't purchase directly from Pinterest.

Currently, Pinterest has more than 20 million users, an impressive milestone given that it only had 1 million users in July 2011. In fact, it surpassed the 10 million mark faster than any other social platform to date. Interestingly, 83% of its domestic users are women, with 3% reporting an income above $100,000 annually. Specifically, Pinterest's sweet spot appears to be women ages 18 to 34, living in households with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000 per year. But while this may be where Pinterest is best at driving engagement and sharing, the platform does not yet have an e-commerce component on the site.

This is in contrast to another social competitor, The Fancy, which has taken a major step towards fusing and curating social media and commerce. The Fancy allows users to  purchase directly from the site, and it just recently announced that it will reward users whose recommendations result in purchases. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, as Pinterest already has something valuable in the social universe: millions of users.

I've looked at brands currently leveraging Pinterest, and two immediately caught my eye: Bergdorf Goodman and HGTV. Pins from the former are a mixture of products from bergdorfgoodman.com, as well as Web images chosen to appeal to its customer base. Images for the latter subscribe to HGTV's self-described pinning strategy of “creating a team atmosphere and being inspirational.”

Both brands seem to understand the importance of a coordinated cross-channel approach to retail that includes social platforms, and also that building brand affinity leads to intent to purchase. This is a good reason why businesses (especially those that have visually distinct products) should consider setting up a Pinterest account and getting involved at the entry level.

But, as I've said earlier, engagement and even intent to purchase doesn't always lead to a completed sale. The final piece of the puzzle that Bergdorf Goodman, HGTV, and others need to solve is: “How do we entice consumers to buy what they pin?” When that question does get answered, Pinterest could indeed prove to be an extremely valuable social channel.

Posted by: Dan Opallo at 2:55 PM
Categories: social media, pinterest, social media marketing

Pinterest: do we have room for another social network in our lives?

Here's an article I wrote for Fresh Business Thinking:

Pinterest: What is it?

Pinterest is a hot topic of conversation these days. In April, it became the third most popular social network, behind Facebook and Twitter. But what is it, and do we have room for another social network in our lives?

Pinterest is picking up speed like a locomotive. Most insiders have already signed up. Probably because they are afraid to miss the next big thing. Those who have not, are probably afraid to ask the "what is Pinterest?" question aloud.

Pinterest is ultimately a virtual pin board where consumers can grab images from their web surfing activity and ‘pin’ them up on categorical boards that allow them to share and revisit the information as necessary. It is a channel that is visual in nature, currently draws a largely female audience, resonates topically with the home, fashion and food (amongst others) and is leveraged heavily for planning.

Facebook’s response to Pinterest - Mistakes that Facebook has made

A recent TechCrunch article looks at how a new Facebook app called 'Pinvolve' allows users and brands to add a Pinterest-style page to their Facebook presence. The app essentially pulls in all photo posts, along with any comments or likes. And the crazy thing is that the company that designed it, Bazaart, has been able to increase re-pins on its Facebook page by 150% - and so have many of the 1,000 users who have downloaded it.

Typically, when Facebook sees a new social platform as a viable threat to the amount of time people spend on their platform, they do one of two things: buy the startup, or quickly recreate the experience within Facebook before the challenger grows too big.

By supporting the Pinvolve app, it's clear that Facebook recognises the threat Pinterest poses for stealing audience time away from their platform, which it will if their users cannot get the same experience within Facebook. Interestingly, Google+ also seems to recognise this shortcoming in Facebook's default experience, as they have been recently positioning themselves in the media as a social platform for sharing images.

Pinterest for business/The disappearance of Facebook stores

As we see the gradual disappearance of more and more Facebook stores, and brands still struggle with figuring out how to tie engagement to purchase, that has to be the next logical question, right? In a recent survey of businesses that described themselves as "active" in the social space, when asked: Is your business using Pinterest?
They responded in the following manner:

•    No, and we’re not considering it - 40.38%
•    Yes - 30.77%
•    No, but we’re considering it - 28.85%

Currently, Pinterest has over 20 million users, which is an impressive milestone given that they only had 1 million users in July 2011. In fact, it surpassed the 10 million mark faster than any other social platform to date. Of those, domestically 83% are women and 3% report an income above 100K. Specifically, Pinterest’s sweet spot appears to be women aged 18 to 34.

The site has a very feminine look and feel about it. The opening page is predominantly wallpapered with images of women's outfits, DIY craft projects, recipes and wedding dresses. This is where the platform is strong at driving engagement and sharing; brands need to understand the importance of a coordinated cross-channel approach for retail within social and also understand that building brand affinity leads to intent to purchase. But a final piece of the puzzle needs to be solved: "Why should I buy what I Pin?"

The business angle

How should brands be using Pinterest right now? That depends on what their overall business objectives are. And while most brands may not admit to it, at the end of the day, social media platforms are a means to an end for them. That “end” is most likely Sales or Acquisition. What Pinterest and most social platforms do well for them though is personalising their brand and warming up sentiment, which should lead to earning the trust of consumers, and eventually opt-ins and transactions.

The unique capabilities of Pinterest allows it to achieve this in several ways:

your audience

Your audience is literally showing you what they Like! And what they Like will usually be what they want more of. So give it to them…

Brands can provide content that users will naturally share and be proud of

…Give it to them in the form of images that will evoke their emotions and prompt them to tell you how much they Like it and want to Share it. If they are passionate about your brand or product, and you’ve done a good job earning their trust along the way, they will be proud to tell the members of their social graph about you. And as we all know, there is NOTHING better for a marketer than a word-of-mouth referral.

But also, once you have identified these brand advocates as the potential loyal customers that they are ready to become, give it to them in the form of information and offers on how/where to acquire real world examples (product) of this imagery that they are so passionate about.

Join your community

This is Social Media for Brands 101. But it seems like some of you have forgotten. Users will join you on Pinterest because they want to look at visually appealing and inspiring images from you. However, think of the higher level of loyalty and advocacy that can be achieved by one of their favourite brands Liking, Sharing, or Commenting on one of their own photos.

Again, it personalises your brand and provides yet another unique touch point for your customers.

Convey a sense of urgency

Social media users need to have their behaviour conditioned, and Pinterest is no different. If you Pin something once per week, Followers will learn that they only need to check in with you once per week. If you Pin daily…. well you get the idea.

But don’t just always Pin for the sake of Pinning. A few ideas:

•Tie Pins to limited time offers.

•Brand different days of the week to have Pins that tap into different segments of your audiences’ passions (e.g. baking, golf, sailing, etc.).

•Pin “sneak peaks” of a new product. This will communicate to your Followers that you truly believe they are your best customers and are being rewarded.

In conclusion, as you may have suspected, most brands should not be ignoring Pinterest any longer. And if your brand has a large female demographic and/or offers a product or service that is visually appealing or aspirational you, CAN NOT be ignoring Pinterest. Right now, Pinterest has its flag in the ground and is making a strong case to own the “visual social platform” space. If your customers are there… be there with them!

Posted by: Dan Opallo at 9:28 AM
Categories: social media, pinterest, social media marketing

The Facebook Response to Pinterest

A recent TechCrunch article titled "Pinvolve Converts Facebook Pages Into Pinterest Pinboards, Increases Repins By 150%+" looks at how a new Facebook app called 'Pinvolve' allows users and brands to add a Pinterest-style page to their Facebook presence. The app essentially pulls in all photo posts, along with any Comments or Likes. And the crazy thing is that the company that designed it, Bazaart, has been able to increase Repins on its Facebook page by 150% - and so have many of the 1,000 users who have downloaded it.
 
Typically, when Facebook sees a new social platform as a viable threat to the amount of time people spend on their platform, they do one of two things: buy the startup, or quickly recreate the experience within Facebook before the challenger grows too big. 
 
One fairly successful example of this two-pronged strategy is Facebook's response to Foursquare, where they quickly launched Facebook Places to try and derail Foursquare's rapid growth. Next they bought another competitor Gowalla to further squash any competition.
 
One example where Facebook was too late to the game was when they tried to cut into the Twitter experience by allowing @mentioning in Facebook status updates. This did little to impact Twitter's growth. They should have bought them when they had the chance!
 
By supporting the Pinvolve app, it's clear that Facebook recognizes the threat Pinterest poses for stealing audience time away from their platform, which it will if their users cannot get the same experience within Facebook. Interestingly, Google+ also seems to recognize this shortcoming in Facebook's default experience, as they have they have been recently positioning themselves in the media as a social platform for sharing images.

Posted by: Dan Opallo at 3:00 PM
Categories: facebook, Pinterest, Social Media

Pinning Down Pinterest's Business Value

PinterestWhat does it take to get you pinterested in a new social media platform?  Is it a mention from a friend? An article tweeted to you from a trusted social media pinsider?  Or maybe it’s just some clever prose that draws you in.

Whatever it is, all of the big players in the space had that moment when their platform crossed over from "I’m going to create an account and check it every once in a while" to "this needs to be part of my daily communications routine" – Is Pinterest there?

It just might be.

A quick update for those of you who still may be a tad late to the party on this one: Pinterest is a network currently in invitation-only beta. Users are provided an easy-to-use platform that enables them to take images from around the web, or their own, and "pin" them to their "board" as a way of visually telling their community what they are eating, watching, reading, listening to, thinking about… "Interested In."  Users can then follow the activity of their friends and comment on it, Like it, Tweet it, etc. across the social web.  The company describes its purpose as "Connecting everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting."

What I find particularly encouraging about Pinterest right now is that it seems to be answering the call for curation.  Avid social media users are now receiving information faster than they know what to do with, or maybe more importantly, tell others about. Pinterest provides a visual snapshot to your friends of everything you "like" all in one place.

But what about Pinterest for business? 

 As we see the gradual disappearance of more and more Facebook stores, and brands still struggle with figuring out how to tie engagement to purchase, that has to be the next logical question, right?  In a recent survey of businesses that described themselves as "active" in the social space, when asked: Is your business using Pinterest? They responded in the following manner:

  • No, and we’re not considering it - 40.38%
  • Yes  - 30.77%
  • No, but we’re considering it  - 28.85%

Currently, Pinterest claims over 13MM users, and having attained them in 10 months, makes them the fastest social media platform to surpass the 10MM mark.  Of those, domestically 83% are women and 3% report an income above 100K. Specifically, Pinterest’s sweet spot appears to be women aged 18 to 34 living in households with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000 per year.

The site has a very feminine look and feel about it. The opening page is predominantly wallpapered with images of women's outfits, DIY craft projects, recipes and wedding dresses. But while this may be where they are best at driving engagement and sharing, they recently got beat to the e-commerce punch by Fancy.  Fancy allows users to participate in many of the same activities as Pinterest, but they also enable users to make purchases of these same products and services that that enjoy "pinning"…. directly on the platform.  This is major step towards fusing curating and commerce

It should come as no surprise then that two of the brands on Pinterest that caught my eye immediately were Bergdorf Goodman and HGTV. Pins from the former are a mixture of products from bergdorfgoodman.com as well as web images chosen to appeal to their customers. Images for the latter subscribe to HGTV's self-described Pinning strategy of "creating a team atmosphere and being inspirational."

It looks like both brands, like so many others right now, understand the importance of a coordinated cross-channel approach for retail within social and also understand that building brand affinity leads to intent to purchase.  But, also like so many others in the space, they have not solved the final piece of the puzzle: "Why should I buy what I Pin?"

So Pinterest is definitely picking up speed like a locomotive. Most insiders have already signed up.  Probably because they are afraid to miss the next big thing (see Google+).  Those who have not, are probably afraid to ask the "what is Pinterest?" question aloud. 

Initially, I think Pinterest has a chance to own two niches:

1) It could be the social media platform of choice for foodies. Pinterest seems to lend it itself to easily posting food pics, sharing recipes and giving recommendations.

2) It could establish itself as the de facto "scrapbooking" platform. With Pinterest, you can easily display all of the National Parks, Baseball Stadiums, or Bruce Springsteen concerts you’ve been to or are interested in.

Additionally, businesses that have multiple destinations (hotels, chain restaurants, amusement parks) or that have a visually distinct/appealing product should at this point consider setting up an account and participating at an entry level.  But they should do so in a unique manner without over-committing resources…yet. 

Using Pinterest to mirror your Facebook or Twitter activity will just segment your audience and show the early adopters that you’re not in for the long haul.  Show value, earn trust, and then refine your strategy.

For more information on integrating Pinterest into your marketing programs, be sure to register for StrongView’s April 11 live webinar: "Put a Pin in It! Leveraging Pinterest to Drive Email and Business Results."

Posted by: Dan Opallo at 5:25 PM
Categories: best practices, Pinterest, Social Media, Strategy