Pinterest dos and don'ts for brands

Jen Corbett

[The suddenly-hot Pinterest uses an "online pinboard" format for sharing content. Below, guest columnist Jen Corbett - a social media strategist with Flitter -  provides a survival guide for companies looking to experiment with what many see as the Next Big Thing - Chris Keall]

It might feel like Pinterest has come out of no-where - but just like many other social platforms before it, early adopters - overwhelmingly women - helped propel it to it’s current status as the latest social phenomenon. 

The platform has reportedly crossed the 10 million user mark faster than any other standalone site in history - social or otherwise. Its referral traffic amounts to more than Linkedin, Google+ and YouTube combined, and approximately nine million of its users are connected to Facebook - a number which no doubt is rising after the websites latest integration with Facebook Timeline.

Now that Pinterest has reached a tipping point - it’s become another online tool marketers need to think about. But that doesn’t mean everyone should hop on board.

As a Pinterest user myself, I’ve also recently started using it for one of our clients too.

This has made me think a lot of what you should and shouldn’t do as a brand.

So I've put together this list to think about. It is by no means definitive, and if you feel like adding to or debating some of these points please do.

These will apply differently depending on what your strategy. My first suggestion is simply signing up / requesting an invite for yourself - as an individual, to get a feel for how it works. Simply put, if you don’t understand how it works for you as a means of expression - then you won’t really understand how to make the most of it for your brand.

Click to zoom

DO: Curate boards and pin things that express what your brand or business is about - be flexible, be relevant to your story but don’t be afraid to branch explore other things which are likely to connect with what people find compelling

DO: Spend a bit of time getting used to how it works - create your own profile, experiment, shift boards around, follow others in your industry

DO: Think strategically - ask yourself what boards you will curate and why,how this links in with what you are about. How they link back to your website or help you discover quality content to share on Facebook.

DO: Check out how other brands are using it - etsy, Nordstrom, Modcloth, Gap, Whole Foods, General Electric, Chobani yogurt, Bergdorfs & The Wall Street Journal - just to name a few

DO: Work out who are the "quality" pinners in your subject area, follow and pin their content - they’re more than likely to pin back - meaning your brand name is on their board

DO: link the pinned photo back to your site - click once to see the pin page, and again to see the source site)

DO: utilize the pricing function - this presents a huge opportunity for online retailers

DO: get your staff or key brand cheerleaders involved in posting to group boards

DO: think about swapping in URLS. The referral traffic is a key benefit of this platform, so simple things like URL shortening and tagging can really help you evaluate whether it is benifiting your company

DO: utilize the share to twitter feature wisely - if you have an interesting piece of news or something, an interesting way of sharing it can be first posting an image to Pinterest and then sharing

DO: ask is it "Pin Worthy?" - just like on twitter or facebook - the best content goes further - would someone re-pin it?

DO: Be social - add personalised comments, comment on other pins and like them - this shows in their news feed

DO: Download the bookmarklet to your toolbar

DO: Check in daily for new content and pin opportunities

DO: Introduce new content by using the bookmarklet or uploading your own photos, videos and artwork to share

DO: work out what it is about your brand that connects with people, that makes them want to share - and share in your story

DON’T: Join because it's the latest thing. It might be now - but it will take a while before we know if it will pan out to be a really big changemaker in the online environment. At this point indications look good but even if you are just experimenting at least have some idea of how it fits with your brand

DON’T: Find yourself asking where did the last four hours go? Limit your time on the platform - it is powerfully addictive! Just a few pins at a time is enough!

DON’T: broadcast EVERYTHING you pin on Facebook or twitter - be selective about it

DON’T: Pin everything and anything just because people might find it interesting - it’s your chance to really articulate and express what you are about. Don’t create noise that will confuse people about what is important to your brand

DON'T: Ignore that, at least for the moment, there is a predominantly female user base

DON'T:  Pin everything that you find - some sort of filter needs to be in place - pin with an objective in mind

DON'T:  Use it to only post product shots & marketing copy. You will find yourself unfollowed pretty quickly

DON'T: Pin only one subject all the time. We alll love cute animals but if that’s you pin, you will find your boards unfollowed pretty quickly

DON’T Ignore it. There is something special about Pinterest and it's ability to connect with and showcase who you are. If you are on it, use it and make sure your community is aware that you are there

Follow Jen Corbett on Twitter

10 · Got a question about this story? Leave it in Comments & Questions below.

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10 Comments & Questions

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I would add:

DON'T start following lots of people until you have interesting content on a few boards. I did 9 pins on 8 boards to get started. Home Depot had empty boards up there for far to long (while they were considering a strategy?)

DO respond to comments. This is a great opportunity IMO that is not being utilized yet. I guess you said this, but it needs saying twice.

DO pay careful attention to the "easy to spot" trends based on what people are repining of your content.

DO you agree? This is a great post……Brands please listen .CASUDI

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Yes I agree! Great points. The commenting function has so much more potential, I agree. Perhaps if it gets more integration with Facebook comments it would get more use? Trends are a great way to tap into the community - but also can be a great way to see what's moving people in a particular subject group - something that can be incredibly useful if you are a community manager for a brand. Thanks Caroline! Glad you enjoyed this.

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I'm intrigued by Pintrest as it seems to be the first SM property that's driven mainly by female users.

Is that the case Jen or is it just my odd interpretation after a day's playing with it?

Also, if that is the case was that the intent at the start or has it grown into a female-centric model?

And if if it female centric, why is that so? What is it about Pintrest versus the others that makes it more of interest to women than to me?



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I read somewhere that there is 86% female skew at the moment overall - however - this is different in the UK compared to the US where there are more Men using it that Women.

I don't think it was ever the intent but they've had to develop with their community, as any good social platform does. Pinterest was in fact founded by two geeky guys with an interest in revamping web design and the way that people connect online based on their own (geeky) interests. Paul: <url><url>
And Ben:

If you have a look at the different category streams - some new onces have popped up recently - cars and motorcycles, geek, technology, history - which are perhaps more appealing to guys who like to collect images of stuff they find interesting. To me this says more men are in fact using the service than ever before - (there have to be a number of people pinning similar content for a category to be created in the first place)

What the co-founders of Pinterest hit on as a platform has simply proved dynamite for a whole generation of women (there is a huge 18-35 demographic) who found community in a place that other social networks couldn't. In a way that women have in other media formats pre-internet.

In my opinion it is very easy to think of social media startups in the context of the past 5 years. In the history of the internet and in web development and design - Pinterest is a phenomenon, but in the history of Media and Media communities - I don't think it is!

When you think more widely about it - say in the past 50 years of media culture - Pinterest slots quite naturally into a ritual once filled by traditional women's magazines. It's only natural that women of this (my) generation go first to the internet first to do it - and Pinterest satisfy's this itch that women have to 1000% more than a fashion magazine ever did.

Whether the ration of women to men continues or balances out - I think we'll have to wait and see. It could very well be that many men are put off by the fact that there are mainly women using it. But I'd hope not! It'd make it a very boring place!

Anyway that's just my reasoning - there's a whole lot that comes into play, really - hope that gives you food for thought!


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Already a lot of the content appears to be copyright protected, I doubt that much (if any) of it has been licensed.

Simply attributing the source does not legitimise the unauthorised (and illegal) use of copyright protected IP...

I see the company changing how they operate pretty quickly. Especially once a few of the larger content creation companies start filing DCMA take down requests.

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That is true - there is a lot of issues around copywright and it will be interesting to see how the company combats this issue.

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That is true - there is a lot of issues around copyright and it will be interesting to see how the company combats this issue.

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WONDERFUL post. Thanks!!

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I think I can explain to high female interest as being akin to the hobby of Scrapbooking, which is also a mostly female domain. Your explaination describes to me such a genre and would appeal to someone wanting to do a wide-area "show and tell" of their recent activities.

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