Will marketers spoil Pinterest?

News that Pinterest is about to launch a new design for profile pages follows on from the flurry of articles covering the rapid growth of this newest kid on the social networking block.

Pinterest

Will marketers ruin Pinterest?

Are we about to spoil a good thing?

The site now has 10 million users, many of them visiting daily, a large proportion of them are female and they form a demographic that we can assume has a sizeable collective disposable income.  Organically Pinterest users have already begun sharing aspiration items with their networks, providing what is effectively free promotion of products.

Pinterest is an offer we can’t refuse

This presents an obvious opportunity that it would be foolish to ignore. Mashable and others are already sharing their essential Pinterest marketing tips.

Companies as diverse as McDonalds and Tire Review are exploring the opportunities of using this online scrapbook service to reach out to consumers (thank you to Econsultancy and your article “What is Pinterest and why should you care?” for unearthing Tire Review).

It seems that Pinterest has truly arrived. Digital marketers preparing for conferences are hurriedly updating their presentations to include a slide or two on the opportunities and corporations are rushing to get their profiles set up.

A flash in the pan?

The Wall Street Journal asks if Pinterest is the new Napster?  Does this mean Pinterest will be beset by controversies over rights issues that are never really resolved, be briefly hugely popular, then disappear when something simpler comes along, only to be talked about again when Ben Silberman is played by Justin Timberlake in five years time.

Whether Pinterest does become the new Napster, Quora or FourSquare depends on how well these new profile pages are designed.

With all these “improvements” planned does it mean that Pinterest is going to be besmirched by the sweaty fingerprints of greedy marketers?  Are there some real opportunities for engagement and therefore conversion to sales here?

Yes and no.

Pinterest & Social Media marketing in 2012

Luckily for fans of Pinterest, we have reached a stage in 2012 where good social media marketers have grasped the essential truth of using these channels effectively: It’s no good just doing the push, push, push, you have to “engage“.

This catch-all verb should appear on any good social media marketing proposal and it boils down to “having two-way conversations and not being boring”.  That means you are launching competitions, sharing interesting content (articles, links, graphics etc.), or simply opening up opportunities to post feedback and opinions – and listening, of course.

Pinterest is a great channel for this kind of approach – but, before we get too excited, that’s just what it is, another channel.  It has its own quirks and demographic make-up that make it a different animal to the other social networks, but ultimately Pinterest requires the same common sense approach you would take to posting out on Twitter or Facebook:

Be unique, don’t be dull, don’t bash people over the head with the “message”, connect with the right networks.

The premise of Pinterest couldn’t be simpler

Find something you’re interested in and pin it.  If Facebook and Twitter are “what you are doing now”, Pinterest is more like “what you are thinking about or looking at now”.

Being on Pinterest in the last few months before the tidal wave of zeitgeist hit has been a pleasantly nostalgic experience.  Reminiscent of the early days of the internet, people quite simply share pictures of things they like and share comments with friendly strangers, I haven’t seen one troll, stalker or arrogant idiot.

It has been refreshing.

What needs changing on Pinterest?

At the moment, Pinterest acts as a souped-up image hosting service; essential functionalities (starting conversations, describing yourself and finding like-minded people to meet up with) are a little basic at the moment with users mainly trusting in the content pinned in the absence of other information.

As a user, I would like better usability for “stamping” images of my own creation when I upload them.  Obviously I would like people to find a design I’ve done and come over to visit my website to find out more about me and maybe add more commentary to an image.  I don’t necessarily want to link up to Facebook and Twitter and would like to build a distinct profile for my Pinterest account.

As yet, there are no “Pinternet superstars” and it feels like a level playing field, one of the things that encourages the inherently friendly feel of the site.

Although we can already score our re-pins, followers and general network activity, there’s an absence of point scoring, which will surely change when the marketers (and their analytics experts) get organised.

It will be interesting to see how the art & design world respond – David Hockney’s iPad artworks brought great credibility and attention to the device and this is yet to happen to Pinterest.

At the moment there are immediate opportunities for fashion and the food & beverages sectors (some already being exploited) and (from a quick glance of the people I am connected with) wedding planning, interior design and anything to do with babies.

If you sell baby products – please get on Pinterest now…

Those sweaty fingerprints?

It’s actually quite easy to avoid people selling to you on Pinterest, just as it is relatively easy to do so on Twitter (except for today when a “large coffee chain” is running a free coffee promotion), so users who just want to quietly get on with sharing their favourite homilies, dream interiors and pictures of their favourite film stars can do so without interruption.

So, dear marketers, let’s not mess it up and stomp in like a bull in a china shop.

We can use Pinterest as an information resource, launch exclusives, pep up competitions and to tell stories.

We can support creative types by sharing their images, not stealing them.

We can do all that without alienating the people that have made Pinterest such an “overnight success”, just so long as we put in a bit of effort.

What do you think of Pinterest?

There’s a useful step-by-step guide to using Pinterest in your Social Media strategy here 

Connect with me on Pinterest…

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