Image-bookmarking site Pinterest is a way of collating and sharing images (and therefore ideas) between strangers. An image can be extremely powerful, especially on the web and Pinterest could clearly do wonders for companies that sell physical products.

You only have to view the Gifts page to see how brands are advertising their wares, but how about companies that sell services? Can financial organisations use Pinterest?

Firstly it’s worth looking across the pond at the Americans. Pinterest is an American creation and according to wearesocialthere are around 6 times more American users than British. Of course we have to keep in mind that the demographics of UK-based users are very different and I have no doubt it’s difficult to keep up with the expansion of the network. So far some of the big American insurers have looked at using Pinterest, but early results reveal they’ve not had much success.

These are brands with 330 (private) and 27,171 followers on Twitter respectively. The stats look so bad it almost seems like Pinterest is a complete waste of their time. If we take a quick look at a British brand:

  • Simply Business have 5 brand followers on Pinterest and 20,357 followers on one Twitter feed.

It’s probably telling that Barclay’s Pingit has an official page, but it’s not been used. Even the massive Virgin Group has only has 51 brand followers so far. So don’t bother. But there are thousands of potential customers on there! (I hear you cry). Even though they might not want you? Don’t advertise unless you have what they want In the comments on article on socialmediatoday (Who is winning by pinning?) there was a fabulous rant that I feel sums up the feelings of many Pinterest users.

“Pinterest is not about you marketers. It’s about users sharing what the user WANTS to share. Stop ruining everything you touch with your attitude that we are there to be used. In reality we HATE you. We don’t want to be used. You people talking this up, creating “buzz” are ruining it”

Go to the article to see the rest.

I’d also like to point out that although the commentator had a good point, ranting at a writer about discussing marketing on a marketing blog is both pointless and hurtful (you know the writer is a real person right?).

Like all social networks, there’s a war on between the people who use the site and those who see it as an opportunity. Pinterest gives you an opportunity to advertise your product as a gift, so if you can’t abide by their rules then you should expect a frosty reception. If you can tie your brand to craft, homeware, fashion, design or anything that creates a beautiful visual then you’re already onto a winner. It’s a bit like selling chocolate gold-coated sex.

If your plan is simply to push your logo and advertising then you’ve probably not got a clue so don’t even go there. Financial services are generally DULL but that doesn’t mean you can’t find fun ways to think around your product. If you’re selling a service you still need to think like a user. What can you upload that they will want to re-pin or ‘like’?

Use Pinterest to support a successful blog

Hubspot’s How to use Pinterest for business highlights how big blogging brands like Mashable and The Next Web have huge numbers of followers. However, I think the lesson here is that if you have a strong blogging presence and culture around your brand then you’re likely to get followers on any new social networks profile that you set up. Mashable already shares strong images on their main site and the Pinterest concept supports their love of infographics. Their well-established culture as a modern and fun brand also allows them to play with wackier boards.

If your blog is a big part of your site and already creates a large amount of traffic, why not use Pinterest for further promotion? Though you might not have them list articles, explaining things through image strips (like how to paint your nails to look like ladybirds) and recipes go down well.

Be honest about what the user will click-through to and ONLY add the fun and most interesting content that suits the Pinterest demographic.

Support your competitions and use #hashtags

Another example from Hubspot’s great pdf is General Electric. They have a reasonable number of followers (currently 1,202 on their brand) and post photographic post competition results under the hashtag #GEinspiredme and some interesting images from their factory floor. Firstly, by using the hashtag as the board title they’re telling you that this is available on Twitter and that you can get involved, which is top stuff. They’re also keeping their campaign the same across networks which instantly makes it easier to follow.

Although GE are a huge global brand, it wouldn’t have been obvious how Pinterest could work for them but I think they’ve made a great start. There are lots of examples of brands successfully using Pinterest to launch competitions and as long as you remember to mention rules and regulations there shouldn’t be any problems.

Look carefully at the demographics

If you have a blog about cars to support your car insurance company then don’t ignore Pinterest. Many people will tell you that the audience is overwhelmingly female by the wearesocial post explains that in the UK more men are pinning. There’s plenty of opportunity to post images of nice vehicles and link back to your blog.

Don’t worry about the brand profile too much, people aren’t likely to search ‘insurance’. Just get your board description right and make sure the photos have great captions that go to the right place.

In the end

Essentially if your company is a content producer my conclusion would be that you CAN use Pinterest, but if you only push, push, push your services then don’t expect any return. If you’ve not thought about using imagery to support your marketing attempts, now’s the time. Send your team to an event, take photos of the team answering the phones or support your blogging with real (not stock) photos. There’s a big trend for image-bookmarking that will probably expand so keep an eye on it. Don’t use Pinterest unless you have a plan. If you’re going todo things that irritate people, then expect them to get irate. Remember to monitor, update and collect information from your profile. But remember that your ultimate aim is to sell, so if you know it won’t work for you then don’t let your boss/co-workers bully you into it.

Also read my previous article: 13 links about Pinterest you should bookmark

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