To Win On Pinterest, Unlearn The Social Rules

Today MediaPost published a piece that I wrote about how brands need to unlearn the rules of social media in order to take advantage of what is special about Pinterest. Below is a longer-version of the article for your enjoyment.

Despite the massive hype around Pinterest and endless pin-to-win contests, most marketers have little to show so far. People seem to be more careful to follow brands on Pinterest compared to Facebook and Twitter, and they are not in a hurry to pin product shots or promotions. One social leader for a large beauty retailer confided: “I love Pinterest as a consumer, but I hate it has a marketer.”

The issue is that most companies spent years figuring out a process to manage social, and that same process is being forced upon their Pinterest accounts. We must unlearn the habits that were so recently laid in concrete—and I offer these five “rules” that fly in the face of what you think social media should be about.

  • PINTEREST IS NOT FOR EVERY PERSON OR BRAND: We are now officially past the point where brands must “have a presence” on every new social network. Successful marketing has always been based on picking a few focused areas to invest time and money, and social should be no different. Pinterest is for women who are interested in: Food, Fashion, Fitness, Beauty, Décor, Crafts, Babies, Kids, Pets and Travel. Sure, people pin lots of different things, but only these topics get the heavy, repetitive traffic that brands require for scale results. If your brand lives in the categories—or can ladder up to them—you’re in good shape. If you sell cars to guys, stop reading.
  • PINTEREST IS NOT A CONVERSATION: You can tell a brand is copying and pasting its Facebook approach to Pinterest when it asks lots of questions on Pinterest—like, “What’s your favorite weekend cocktail?” That works on Facebook because EdgeRank rewards comments, but on Pinterest this gets an awkward glance and few shares. Calling Pinterest a “social media” is really a misnomer. If you pay attention to how women use Pinterest, you will see that it is a tool that they use to discover and save (pin) content for future reference. Social sharing happens as a bonus. People don’t expect you to comment or respond to their pins, they just want you to share content that’s worth pinning and clicking.
  • THE MORE PINS THE BETTER: If it’s content they want on Pinterest, then why are you only pinning one or two times a week? Again, it’s the Facebook habit haunting you again. Facebook updates feel spammy if you do more than one a day—after all how many times can you really ask people what cocktail they’re having this weekend? But on Pinterest, your pins are not sorted in or out with an EdgeRank, so anything you pin could be seen in the stream based on when people log on. Our clients see scale results when they pin 15 to 30 items per day. It may seem like a lot, but that is still a fraction of their feed, and you must be sure to spread these pins throughout the day.
  • SEND TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITE: Facebook is a walled garden that aims to keep you clicking on its properties, but Pinterest is about helping you discover and click away to content all over the web. This means that your brand website is now back in style again. Are you ready for lots of traffic?

  • SHIFT YOUR EXPECTATIONS TO NEW HEIGHTS: The great thing about Pinterest is that by doing it right, your brand can see results that have been unheard of in digital marketing to date. So set your sights higher than your team even imagines. Our most successful client regularly sees 50,000 unique site visitors per day from Pinterest. I’ll bet you have never heard of this brand, but at this rate you will soon. With great content, optimized timing, and smart actions after-the-click, you brand can get there, too.

I passionately believe that the future of marketing is about creating advertising that people choose to engage with. Since Pinterest is frequently used to discover and share content that often leads to a sale, it could be the sorcerer’s stone that transmutes social hype into scalable business growth.