Pinning Your Hopes on Visual Commerce: The Pinterest Potential

Is it time to give Pinterest more than a passing thought in your digital marketing plan? If volume is an indicator of opportunity, yes. According to the Experian 2012 Digital Marketer Report, Pinterest is now the third largest social networking site, with over two million active users per day.

For those less familiar, Pinterest is a “virtual pinboard” that allows users to post images from all over the web to their profiles and sort them onto boards they’ve created with various themes (such as Recipes, Pets, or Wedding Inspiration). Users can upload images themselves, repin items from other Pinterest users, or install the “Pin It” button in their browser to pin images from nearly any site on the web. Once an image of a product is pinned to a user’s board, the pin remains linked to the website where the image – say, one of a Sony digital camera – originated. If a user finds the camera on Amazon and pins that image, the pin will send anyone who clicks on it to Amazon.

These capabilities make Pinterest a unique and versatile social networking site, but the big question for most companies is how can they benefit from it? Are there opportunities beyond pinning pictures for wedding planning and home renovation? Is it even worth the effort?

In many ways, simply including a Pinterest page in your brand’s marketing plan isn’t much different than supporting a basic Facebook presence, in that one can be created relatively quickly. An effective one, however, takes work. While Pinterest isn’t as conversational as, say, Twitter, it is no less important to keep an eye on comments, pins, and repins. More importantly, Pinterest can give marketers new insight on how users group products – and how users see the competition. Harnessing Pinterest at its full potential will certainly have its benefits, but it’ll take time to maintain and engage with users.

So who is doing it right? And how?

First up is Sony. It’s not terribly hard to imagine why a company like Sony would have an attractive Pinterest presence. However, Sony excels because it chooses not to approach its Pinterest page like an online catalogue. Along with products, Sony creates boards centered on fun, lifestyle, and photography. Board themes, while not focused on products, can all be related back to Sony’s brand and products. Sony also engages Pinterest users by offering exclusive sales only available through Pin Deals, which are special offers activated via repinning.

The next example deserves a tremendous amount of credit for thinking outside the box – Oreck. While you might assume that vacuum cleaners and industrial cleaning equipment wouldn’t be the best industry to have a Pinterest page, you’d be wrong. Instead of having only boards full of vacuum cleaners, Oreck also made sure to have boards that weren’t product-heavy – like beautiful rugs or tile layouts on its “Stunning Floors” board, or cats and dogs on its “Furry Friends” board. Boards like these are not only fun, but serve as subtle reminders that even fun or pretty things need to be cleaned or cleaned up after.

So what should you do?

Ultimately, Pinterest emphasizes the visual. Fortunately though, your brand doesn’t need to be 100 percent visual or have “attractive” products in order to have an engaging Pinterest page. The phases are simple: content, cross-promotion, and engagement. Content on your page should be organized into themed, attractive boards. Board and photo names and descriptions should be customized so they are easily searchable.

The danger here tends to be over-promotion. Users don’t want to visit one big advertisement; the emphasis should be on conveying your brand’s personality over a list of products or services. Once the content is in place, there should be plenty of links to your website, Twitter account, and Facebook page. Finally, for maximum engagement, repin photos from other pages and respond to comments on your photos.

The potential for Pinterest commerce is real – but it will take more than a board of your top products to be a game-changer.

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