February 20th 2012
Pinterest has been the talk of the Marketecture office of late and in particular, a debate as to whether this latest social sharing site is of any value to b2b businesses. It can’t be denied that interest in the site has been rapidly growing in recent months – with growth of 4,000% in the last six months alone. And get this – it’s estimated that this new kid on the social sharing block now drives more traffic to a company’s website than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined, if we believe the stats.
So what exactly is Pinterest? And what makes it unique to compete with the established social networks that we know and love?
To sum it up; it’s an image-sharing led website and app where people can build and maintain ‘image collections’ under themes of interest such as for example, food, fashion, beauty, photography celebrities. Pinterest also claims to connect people professionally through their tastes and business interests for example, a quick search on b2b pulled out a few recommended reads, a host of infographics and surprisingly lots of random business fashion statements and business card designs.
So, what can we conclude? Is Pinterest of any real value right now in the b2b marketing environment? Does it offer anything that b2b marketers can exploit to gain an advantage on the business social stage?
To be honest, the jury seems to be still out on relevancy in b2b at this moment in time here at Marketecture. Yes it’s fun and looks pretty and funky too. But dig beneath the surface and it’s a little lightweight for the b2b audience in terms of content value and really doesn’t add much more that can’t be covered off by Slideshare. But ‘never say never’ – fads come and go, but some stick and quickly gather mass interest, so maybe it’s dangerous to sit on the side-lines on this one? Should we perhaps be focusing on leading the way in intelligently using Pinterest to extend our brand communities?
Why should us B2Bers 'pin'?
To understand the benefits Pinterest brings, you have to understand how the site works and more importantly how consumers are using it. Pinterest allows you to organise images and pictures onto ‘boards’ that can be categorized by subject (such as ‘books I love’ ‘favourite recipes’ or ‘great footballers’ or anything else that takes your fancy). Once an image is ‘pinned’, your followers can comment, like or re-pin it to their boards, and because of these features an image has the potential to go viral, just like content posted on Facebook or Twitter.
If your business sells or makes tangible products, Pinterest is potentially a powerful business application; allowing you to post images of your company’s products on your Pinterest boards (with an option of having more than one board, you can separate different areas of a company), with information such as pricing and offering a quick link back to your website – which not only drives conversion, it’s also great for SEO.
Think of Pinterest as a sort of virtual social media catalogue, which people can comment on (good or bad) and interact with other customers to hopefully endorse your brand. However, Pinterest is a social media site first and foremost, and those that simply self-promote will quickly be identified and most likely ignored. Pinterest’s raison d’etre isn’t to show off your wares per say, it’s about engagement with potential and existing customers – on average, visitors spend 88.3 minutes per visit on the site; that’s a lot of time for you to be actively engaging with consumers by re-pinning their ‘pins’. This can be as important as posting your own images.
So what other features are making Pinterest into the social networking site of the moment?
A few of the team at Marketecture have played around with the site and one thing we love is its simplicity. It is not only really easy to use, but also, if you love one product, you don’t have to like the whole brand or page. Instead you can simply re-pin one single item. It’s a much simpler and natural way of sharing and ‘liking’ things.
It also benefits brands from another angle too, as it allows customer service and product development boffins to listen to which products people like and rate, and more importantly understand why. It provides an understanding of consumer behaviour from the coalface – raw – a rare insight often not acquired without investing in extensive research. You could for example, recruit a live Pinterest focus group and share product packaging concepts to gauge instant feedback and opinion. Ok so not entirely scientific, but instinctive can sometimes give you a good steer for more in depth studies, at low or no cost.
While Pinterest is an obvious site for those that produce visual products, those who don’t, can find it difficult to promote their company, and any images used may not tie directly to your brand. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go though. It might be that you’re able to find products beyond your own offer that help you to become a go-to site on current topics.
Having played around on the site over the last week, I can safely say I love it as a consumer. The benefits to a b2b business will however depend on the service or products offered, and how much time a company is willing to devote to learning how to get the most out of the site as it evolves (as it inevitably will). One thing is clear; images that are funny, beautiful, thought-provoking or unusual will attract most attention, gain followers and re-pins at the speed of light.
Pinterest is a visual smorgasbord, with much to offer, but as with all emerging social communication platforms test the water –don’t just run and jump in head first. Stay true to your audience and don’t be fooled by the hype, just yet. Test a specific campaign – something simple with an awareness-raising objective – and see how well the word spreads amongst the people who matter – potential buyers!