If you are savvy about social networking, you know that Pinterest is all the rage lately. But, do we really know what Pinterest is? According to its website, the social media site is a “Virtual Pinboard” that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” The About page talks of using the service to plan weddings, redecorate your home and organize recipes–a far cry from a platform that contemplated a business use down the road. However, as with everyone on the Web today, if it’s free and you can create a community around your product, service or industry, businesses flock there trying to push their wares. Pinterest has struggled to manage the change, but certain business users have stuck with it as the platform addresses these missing functionalities for marketing purposes. I’m going to try to contextualize what makes Pinterest so appealing to people, what I see as a challenge for Pinterest’s growth, and then what aspects of the service are positive for Small Business retailers on Pinterest. From there, you can make your decision whether investing in Pinterest is right for you and your business.
OUR TROUBLE WITH PRETTY PICTURES
Our attentional deficits as humans are on the rise, and Pinterest is capitalizing on that reality. (We all have some level of distractibility so I’m not talking about ADHD.) What to me seems as pixel-deep substance, much of the Internet is filled with rubbish that soaks up our attention and focus, leaving a wake of cerebral collateral damage convincing us that we need to continue consuming all these pretty pictures as real, substantive thoughts. As a Small Business, should you be capitalizing on this reality? Yes. Should you work personally and professionally to also combat it for the long-term? In my humble opinion, yes. If you want your target audience to continue an ongoing, lasting relationship with you and your brand, you must re-teach solidarity with deep, though-provoking content.
TERMS OF SERVICE / COPYRIGHT ISSUES
And, just another note of caution before I move on to marketing. Pinterest received most of its recent popularity thanks to its notoriety over its stance on copyright about the content you “pin” (i.e., post or publish) on the Pinterest. It’s position even in its new Terms of Service is that content you post to Pinterest is theirs to use and possibly not yours to share elsewhere, even though you retain the “Intellectual Property” rights. Yikes! Red flag.
Here’s the original copyright clause:
Pinterest Content and Member Content License
Subject to your compliance with the terms and conditions of these Terms, Cold Brew Labs grants you a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable license, without the right to sublicense, to access, view, download and print any Pinterest Content solely for your personal and non-commercial purposes. Subject to your compliance with the terms and conditions of these Terms, Cold Brew Labs grants you a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable license, without the right to sublicense, to access and view any Member Content solely for your personal and internal business purposes. You will not use, copy, adapt, modify, prepare derivative works based upon, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast or otherwise exploit the Site, Application, Services, or Site Content except as expressly permitted in these Terms. No licenses or rights are granted to you by implication or otherwise under any intellectual property rights owned or controlled by Cold Brew Labs or its licensors, except for the licenses and rights expressly granted in these Terms.
As you can see, you give Cold Brew Labs (the company behind Pinterest) a far-reaching ability to use your content and then the next paragraph of the Terms gives oddly most of those cascading rights to other Members on the site. There are some extra obtuse and unreasonable clauses about accessing the service through other sites, and one clause (at least in my interpretation) prohibits commercial marketing on the platform altogether.
The new Terms of Service says explicitly that “you retain all of your rights in all of the User Content you post to our Service.” In addition, you give a right to Pinterest and users to use your “User Content” also. Finally, even if you leave the service, your User Content may live on for a very long time afterward. However, this is a dramatic improvement that went into effect on April 6, 2012, over the old Terms of Service. If you intend on (or are now) using the service, I recommend that you give the full Pinterest Terms of Service a thorough review, and perhaps put it in front of your business attorney if it gives you concern.
VALUE FOR SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MARKETING
Considering all the above, is marketing on Pinterest worth it? If you’re a Small Business Retailer, there is undoubtedly something addictive about the visual qualities and the community on Pinterest. Like Instagram, Foodspotting, Friendsheet (a Facebook mashup that visually displays your Newsfeed pictures very Pinterest-ly), Color, Path and many others, pictures speak a thousand words to consumers. The growth of the network is impressive considering it doesn’t have big money backing the platform and it’s been growing in basic silence (which means it has had time to work bugs and adapt to its community). And then the network exploded quite recently in the number of users. (You can see in the image how dramatically Google+ looks against Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter in terms of the speed of growth in under seven months since it launched, so I’d definitely not pass on syndicating that content on Google’s network as well via a business +page.) Back on Pinterest, if you’re looking to drive traffic to your eCommerce-enabled website, use boards as a virtual store catalog of your products to drive traffic for sales. If your business is not an easily photograph-ready or visually-appealing product base, you’ll need to get creative to make all the pinning worth it.
The Pinterest community is dominated by women from their mid-twenties to their mid-forties living in the Midwest. If this is your demographic, go for it! If it’s not your target audience, think about whether it could be as they seem to be a fairly educated population that make an average of 50-75,000$ per year, so they have money to spend on your products. If this were my demographic as a small business retailer, I’d make sure to get pictures of my customers using, interacting and giving feedback about my product so that I could pin them on Pinterest. This will not only get your customers engaged in marketing your business to their network but it will also help with market research and product development.
And, speaking of market research, it seems as though the data points to users predominantly interested in Crafts, Gifts, Hobbies/Leisure, Interior Design, Fashion Designers/Collections. I don’t think this limits you if you happen not to fit into one of those top interests on the site, but I would definitely appeal to the mindset of an audience that values those topics, by re-pinning content on occasion that incorporates your product(s) with those interests in mind. For example, if I were a local hardware store, I’d make sure to post tons of home renovation project ideas, photos of customers’ designs, as well as finished and in-progress stages of their creation using your products. I’d scour Pinterest for great examples while consistently (though in a 10:1 ratio (content to sales)) make your target audience know those items are available at your store or via your eCommerce website for purchase.
While some will laud Pinterest as the next big thing, others will tell you to leave Pinterest in the dust and head to other sites like StumbleUpon (which I’ll blog about in the future) that drive keyword-based traffic. I take a balanced perspective on anything that’s getting such a great amount of engagement with consumers as well as attention from major media and corporate brands. First, use the platform personally for a few weeks and see if it makes sense for you; if it does, it’ll likely make sense how you can convert it over for marketing purposes. Next, create a sustainable strategy that fits into the rest of your marketing plan for the next twelve months and break it down into manageable chunks to execute. Finally, give the Pinterest tactics at least six months to settle in and make sure you are measuring everything you can as it relates to traffic and engagement of your target audience on Pinterest, your website, email marketing, and elsewhere you’re directing them from your interactions. At the end of the day, the platform doesn’t really matter so much as knowing that it must thrive for the benefit of your customers and your business equally.
Screenshots of Pinterest data by Pinterest Data You Can’t Ignore: The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest [infographic]
- Should Your Business Be on Pinterest? [INFOGRAPHIC] (forbes.com)
- Pinning Down Legal – A lawyer’s take on Pinterest (womma.org)
- Flickr update blocks Pinterest pins of copyrighted photos (digitaltrends.com)
- Pinterest Listens to Users and Revises Terms and Conditions (blogherald.com)
- How to Use Pinterest as a Business (lockergnome.com)
- The Truth About Pinterest for Your Small Business (smallbiztrends.com)