Let's start with the facts: Pinterest is big. comScore reported it had 53.3 million unique visitors in the month of March 2013, and it's currently valued at 2.5 billion dollars. Yes, you read that right - more than two times the price Facebook paid for Instagram. So how does a network of that size fit into a branded social media marketing initiative? To answer that question, I've done some research to find the companies who are currently pinning and winning.
Before reviewing the top branded Pinterest pages, it's important to understand the core functions of Pinterest. In my opinion, no company should attempt to market themselves on a social network prior to understanding that network from the end user's perspective. Here's a basic rundown:
- Pinterest is essentially a visual bookmarking site, which allows users to "Pin" images tied back to URLs which usually have more information about that image (recipes, cars, home decor, you name it)
- Pinterest has 5 basic functions: Creating a board, Following other users, Pinning/Repinning from within Pinterest or around the web, Commenting on pins, and Liking pins
- Pinterest's audience is 97% female with three of the top 5 most repinned boards on the site falling into the Food & Drink category, and the remaining two being Wedding and Home Decor content. 50% of Pinterest users are parents, and their biggest age bracket is users 25-34 years old (27%) Oh, and nearly 29% of the audience has a $100,000k+ annual household income. (source: Mashable)
With these pieces of information in mind, we can start to imagine the average Pinterest user and understand why they are such a valuable prospect for brands online. If Pinterest had a face, it would look like the idyllic mommy blogger with a nice house, a flare for homemade everything, and a substantially heavy wallet. So how are companies translating that information into strategy?
A lot of us are attempting to reach the Pinterest audience by treating the network like another selling medium. Some of us haven't explored Pinterest as a site referrer at all. But there are a handful of companies who have truly taken their Pinterest participation to the next level, and are being rewarded with troves of followers, and more importantly, buyers.
Who's Doing it Right?
According to Unmetric, the most popular brands on Pinterest by follower count are L.L. Bean, Jetsetter, Nordstrom, Everyday Health, and Lowes, respectively. To find out what makes them so successful, I decided to take a peek at L.L. Bean's account which boasts a staggering 5.6 million followers.
The first thing you'll notice after coming to L.L. Bean's Pinterest page is a surprisingly high number of boards - 25 to be exact. For many retailers, the ability to think outside the box and categorize sharing as more than Women's, Men's and Kids products is a challenge. But the lifestyle outfitter has it right in the sense that they're doing more than pinning their own stuff, and instead adding value to the overall community.
Boards include topics ranging from Outdoor Parks to Camping to "Best Friends", featuring 82 images of dogs posing alongside L.L. Bean products. That's another key to their success: even when pinning product images, the L.L. Bean takes care to provide context and value in each image beyond the idea of "Buy this now".
For example, their "Bean Boot Style" board includes 169 ways real people and models have worn their iconic shoes. This is a whole lot more than basic product photography, and it helps to explain their notable follower base.
As L.L Bean and their loyal followers prove, social media is an incredible way to connect to customers online. But a new trend is emerging to tie digital and online experiences together to encompass all aspects of consumer interaction.
Nordstrom is doing an incredible job of just that, by incorporating "Most Pinned" signage in 13 of their store locations to denote popular products. Additionally, Nordstrom has added a Top Pinned section to the women's section of their website. By blending social media, their own website, and in store experiences, the chain has accomplished a phenomenal style of integrated marketing.
This concept ties togeter digital social proof with tangible purchase action, which could we could easily imagine to potentially be one of the most effective selling strategies moving forward:
Brands like L.L. Bean and Nordstrom understand what Pinterest is about, which is a unique balance of buying intent and wistful browsing. One thing's for sure: Pinterest is a place we go when we want to get inspired about a life we could live, or the things we could acquire to somehow improve the one we do.
But one organization turned that concept upside-down when it used Pinterest in 2012 to fund raise in an incredibly unique style.
UNICEF created a Pinterest page labeled by Fast Company and experienced by many as "The (Intentionally) Saddest Pinterest Page in the World" featuring the basic wants of a 13-year old girl living in poverty in Sierra Leona. Each image, which showed survival necessities such as running water and soap, links back to a donation page on UNICEF's site where users can contribute.
Unfortunately, the page only has 6 pins and just over 1500 followers. But the idea intrigues me, and I think it's a distinctly innovative way to capture donations while disrupting users at what is often their most individualistic, escapist moments. If we think of Pinterest as the place to browse high ticket items we dream of obtaining or shopping for frivolous things we actually want today, it's very smart to insert shock and unexpectedness in to that experience to earn support.
What's the Value?
Since Pinterest really only took off two years ago, it remains to be seen what brands will be able to accomplish on the network in the long term. But the initial data is staggering: Pinterest website referrals spend 70% more money than visitors from non-social channels (source: Huffington Post), and one study has found that 70% of Pinterest users report being on the site for shopping inspiration.
If your personas spend time on Pinterest, now is the time to leverage some of the ideas above or create your own to capture traffic and drive purchases through a Pinterest Business Page.