Social Media: Pinterest - May 2012
By Jessica Chevalier
Pinterest (pronounced pin•terest, a combination of the words pin and interest) is an online pinboard site that allows users (called pinners) to create and manage themed collections of images (called pins). As with other social media, pinners can follow others and comment on their postings. Because Pinterest is a visual site, it is being used as a marketing tool by flooring manufacturers and retailers, who post pins of products, room scenes and complementary décor for Pinterest users to view and repin.
According to Irene Williams, a marketing communications consultant, “Pinterest is a great way to connect directly with consumers, build a brand image and put products in context with other appealing themes and visuals. Because the site is infused with abundant social sharing within itself, posts can have very quick, widespread reach—connecting your brand to new consumers at a rapid pace.”
t-family: 'Arial Black'; font-size: xx-small;">WHO IS USING PINTEREST?
Pinterest launched in beta format in March 2010. Two years later, as of this March, the site had a reported 17.8 million users, according to Comscore. In fact, Pinterest hit 10 million unique monthly visitors faster than any other website. An astounding 97% of Pinterest users are women (as of February), according to AppData. And the average pinner’s age is between 35 and 44.
However, Pinterest isn’t an open site. Membership is available through invite only. Those wishing to join can request an invite or they can be invited to join Pinterest by a current user.
Interestingly, the core users of Pinterest are very similar to the target demographic for flooring sales. These women are the decision makers regarding style in their homes, and they are using Pinterest, in part, to determine what they want to purchase—even if they don’t think of it in that manner.
So even though the individuals, predominately men, that run the flooring retail stores and manufacturing facilities might not be pinning themselves, it might be short-sighted for them not to use the tool to reach potential customers. Shannon Bilby Vogel, director of social media for Creating Your Space, says, “Men that sell something that women want have to be on Pinterest.”
The fundamental lure of Pinterest is that it’s pretty, appealing to the eye. As pinners scroll down through pins, they see images of lovely places, attractive people, delicious looking sweets and meals, luscious cocktails, art and architecture, stylish crafts and an abundance of babies—both human and animal. For the target audience, it is a feast for the eye.
In addition, Pinterest is simple and easy to use. Pinners follow, pin, repin, like and comment—those are the five basic actions of the site. The interface is clean and intuitive. For a user even mildly comfortable with the Internet, the learning curve for Pinterest is minutes. And there are no advanced maneuvers to master. Pinterest is what it is—a simple tool for sharing images.
To have attractive flooring images scattered through this site is certainly a boon for manufacturers and retailers because, like other social media, these solicitations are largely viewed as more friendly than typical advertising. And, if repinned by other users, they serve as an automatic peer referral. For the consumer, this is a wholly unthreatening sales pitch that seems, somehow, more honest and trustworthy than a traditional ad or commercial.
But Pinterest is not only a pastime. One thing that makes Pinterest valuable is its ability to help pinners organize. Pinners planning to redesign their kitchen, for instance, can post pictures of their favorite flooring and cabinetry choices as well as inspirational room scenes, colors and complementary materials. They can group these pins on one board and have an organized collection of their design ideas to take to their spouse or their flooring design center.
Because of this collection aspect, Pinterest is often compared to scrapbooking, but it’s more like an idea book: a user pins projects they want to do; goodies they want to make; items they would like for their own; places they want to go; pictures of how they want their surroundings to look. It’s a great way to jumpstart projects and get users primed to buy. In fact, Jessi Hempel of Fortune reports that, “In February  Pinterest drove more traffic to websites than Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined.” That speaks to a tremendous amount of power.
Add to that the fact that Pinterest links directly to other popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and interfaces with these sites, sharing information if a user chooses to let it. A pinner’s Facebook timeline, for instance, includes a Pinterest section with information on what boards the pinner has created and what pins they are posting. Because of this feature, Pinterest is both a viral marketing tool in its own community and among other social media communities. A new pin of a floor by a porcelain tile manufacturer, for instance, will show up on the pinner’s Facebook timeline to be viewed by all their Facebook friends; in addition, this pin will be clickable, so interested parties will be able to link to the manufacturer’s site with a few clicks of the mouse, if the company has set it up to link there.
PINTEREST AS A TOOL
For the flooring retailer or manufacturer, Pinterest can be used in a number of different ways. First and most obviously, a business can use it to create boards of products that they create or carry, as well as pictures of installations using these products.
If a manufacturer wants to establish a new flooring product as fashion forward, they can “create an inspiration board in which [they] can include a few select product images in a broad mix of related imagery,” according to Williams. However, to spotlight a certain color offering, manufacturers may choose to create a color study board, mingling product shots amidst a range of inspirational images. Williams advises that users treat a board as a design board, highlighting various materials specified for a project in which their product was used.
Vogel explains to her customers that Pinterest will be most useful to a business if the sales staff is educated on its uses. While it’s beneficial to set up an account and load it with images, as with most social media simply having a Pinterest account isn’t enough. Vogel explains, “When a potential customer calls a store, the salesperson can ask, ‘Are you on Pinterest?’” If they are, the salesperson can suggest that the customer build a board about what they like, their style. When the board is finished, the customer can take it with them to the store or send the salesperson a URL link of the board.
The process can also work in reverse. After speaking with a client, a salesperson can build a board of products and looks and pass that board along to the client. Either way, according to Vogel, Pinterest helps to shorten the sales process by providing clear, visual direction early in the sales process, and it even has the potential to upgrade sales, because customers are more likely to fall in love with higher end installations that they see online and therefore choose higher end products.
Better yet, Vogel points out that Pinterest isn’t a particularly time consuming marketing tool—but one that should pay off significantly if Pinterest membership continues to explode. “In five years, you’ll want to have a database built up,” she says.
Of course, retailers and manufacturers should determine what marketing tools are most suited for their needs and allocate their time appropriately to each endeavor. Juggling traditional marketing and social media can be time-consuming. Users should remember that using a few tools well is more effective that engaging many of them poorly.
Besides creating a Pinterest account and posting images of their products, manufacturers and retailers can opt to include a “Pin It” button on their website, enabling users to post pins of their favorite images with ease. Pinners can pin images that do not have this feature by embedding a “Pin It” button in their bookmarks bar; however, if a manufacturer or retailer adds a “Pin It” button to a site, it prompts or reminds users to pin images, a valuable advantage. To make certain that attribution is not lost as pins are repinned, Williams advises that pinners add their brand watermark to their images; however, the original source of the image will remain the image’s URL, so that link will always exist.
Pinterest can support search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, if the pinner chooses to allow it. Turning the “hide from search engines” feature off will allow Pinterest accounts and boards to show up in a Google search, helping SEO.
As with other social media, there is etiquette that pinners are expected to follow. The site should not be used as a one-way conversation. Pinners are expected to engage: following others, repinning others’ posts and liking others’ pins. They are also expected to provide proper attributions for images that they pin, which can be posted in the comment box.
In addition, pinners shouldn’t turn a pinboard into a sales pitch. For her client, Crossville, Williams uses a one to eight ratio for pinning—one Crossville product pin for every eight general interest pins. She reminds users, “Again, this is all about putting the brand in context with other appealing images, products and trends.” Vogel suggests that business related boards have very specific titles. “Ceramic kitchen floors” says much more than “residential room scenes.”
Analytics for Pinterest aren’t as advanced currently as they are for some social media. However, pinners can track followers, repins and likes through the site. Eventually, analytics services that support the site will be up and running—similar to Hootsuite for Twitter—and users will be able to get more specific data. Says Williams, “At present, newbie Pinterest analytics services are bubbling up, such as Pinerly and Pinpuff. Until one of those takes hold, you’re good to keep watch on what gets repinned, followed and liked as a gauge of your Pinterest activity.”
Though Pinterest has faced some challenges with regard to copyright infringement from users pinning unauthorized images from the web, Williams believes that the Pinterest model is here to stay. “In some form or fashion, individuals and brands will be pinning for a long while to come. So, it’s wise to participate now and integrate it into the total marketing mix.”
Copyright 2012 Floor Focus