Earlier this year, Pinterest’s head engineer, Joy Jenkins, said, “Pinterest isn’t fundamentally about connecting people to other people. It’s about connecting people to interests.”
To some, Jenkins may have sounded like a character from HBO’s Silicon Valley. After all, isn’t the ultimate purpose of any social-media channel to connect people in some way?
But I later realized that Jenkins is right. Pinterest isn’t a social-media channel, at least not in the strictest sense. It’s a platform for people to cultivate and showcase their taste.
As a brand marketer, that distinction intrigues me because it speaks to a larger issue. I’ve noticed that, as more companies and marketers integrate Pinterest into their outreach strategies, they run into Pinterest misconceptions that may hinder their success.
In the spirit of Jenkins insight, I’ve outlined what I think are the top 5 myths that companies should watch out for when looking to leverage Pinterest for marketing opportunities.
Myth No. 1: Pinterest is another social media-channel. Whether your customers use Pinterest as a source of inspiration, a planning tool or a form of self-expression, it is fundamentally not about being social. Commenting and interacting with companies isn’t nearly as prevalent as on Facebook or Instagram, for example. When someone repins something from your company, he or she is doing it to swipe the image for his or her own curated board rather than to socialize with your firm. It’s a nod that the person likes what you’ve posted, but it’s rarely a conversation starter.
Myth No. 2: Pinterest is a sales channel, too. On the heels of Pinterest’s four-year anniversary, a lot is being written about its power. Sure, it may result in sales, and you may even be one of the lucky companies that enjoys the incredibly high rates of conversion (from a lead to a sale) I keep reading about. As Pinterest puts it in its own section for businesses, however, the intent is to “use your boards to show your values, personality, and taste.” It’s not about hard conversions.
At my company, UGallery, the few times that members of our team tried to shift Pinterest from a brand-marketing tool to an explicit sales tool, we immediately lost followers. The key thing to keep in mind is that not all consumer-products companies are the same. Unless your company is in a specific category (such as food or fashion) with a certain price point ($80) and targeting a certain demographic (females), it’s likely to fall short in generating sales return on investment. Brand lift is the more expected outcome.
Myth No. 3: Pinterest is all about the visual experience. Actually captions matter. Many companies continue to ignore captions. Staffers use the default caption when they repin something or add a quickie without much thought. Or even worse, they provide no caption at all! Captions are companies' only opportunity to brand the pin and put their stamp on it. Furthermore, captions factor into the search results algorithm and can help ensuring a company's pin gets in front of the right people. So a shorter caption, while generally considered the standard, isn’t always the ideal.
Myth No. 4: Pinterest drives amazing referral traffic. Recent reports show that Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+ combined. That’s impressive. The challenge is deciphering whether that’s meaningful traffic and understanding how to make it so if it isn’t.
My company originally found it had very high bounce rates from Pinterest traffic, higher than any other source. (The bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors to my company's website who navigated away from the site after viewing only one page.) As it turns out, more than 75 percent of Pinterest use is now on mobile or tablet devices. My company didn’t have a mobile-friendly site, so all that traffic brought in was leaving immediately. The day UGallery launched its mobile site, the bounce rate for Pinterest traffic dropped 15 percent. We also created custom landing pages for a few of our top, most viral pins, so that users could have a personalized experience on the site.
If Pinterest drives amazing referral traffic for your company when it comes to the numbers, make sure your site is designed to offer an amazing experience, too.
Myth No. 5: Your 9 to 5 social media manager is getting it done. According to recent research, weekends and nighttime (specifically 9 p.m. - 1 a.m. EST) is prime time for Pinterest users. If your company pins mostly during the workday, you will miss out on valuable eyeballs. The good news is there are plenty of affordable publishing tools to help schedule pins, so you can take advantage of the peak hours without burning the midnight oil or skipping Coachella.
Ultimately, Pinterest is more than just a social-media or sales channel. It’s a truly unique tool for someone to discover and use to express his or her taste. I am honored when someone chooses UGallery content to create a Pinterest board. It’s the redefined form of relationship building between a company and a customer in the digital era.