To Win On Pinterest, Unlearn The Social Rules

Despite the Pinterest hype and endless pin-to-win contests, most marketers have little to show so far. People seem to be more careful to follow brands on Pinterest compared to Facebook and Twitter, and they aren't in a hurry to pin product shots or promotions. One major beauty retailer confided: “I love Pinterest as a consumer, but I hate it as a marketer.”

The issue is that most companies spent years figuring out a process to manage social, and that same process is being forced upon their Pinterest accounts. We must unlearn the habits that were so recently laid in concrete. Here are five "rules" that can break social media habits.

1. Pinterest is not for every person or brand

We are past the point where brands need “presence” on every new social network. Successful marketing has always been based on picking a few focused areas to invest time and money, and social should be no different. Pinterest is for women who are interested in: Food, Fashion, Fitness, Beauty, Décor, Crafts, Babies, Kids, Pets and Travel.



These topics get the heavy, repetitive traffic that brands require for scale results. If your brand lives in the categories -- or can ladder up to them -- you’re in good shape. If you sell cars to guys, stop reading.

2. Pinterest is not a conversation

You can tell a brand is copying and pasting its Facebook approach to Pinterest when it asks lots of questions on Pinterest -- like “What’s your favorite weekend cocktail?” That works on Facebook because EdgeRank rewards comments, but on Pinterest this gets an awkward glance and few shares.

Calling Pinterest a “social media” is really a misnomer. Women use Pinterest as a tool for discovering and saving (pinning) content for future reference. Social sharing happens as a bonus. People don’t expect you to comment or respond to their pins -- they just want you to share content that’s worth pinning and clicking.

3. The more pins the better

If it’s content they want on Pinterest, then why are you only pinning one or two times a week? Again, it’s the Facebook habit haunting you again.

Facebook updates feel spammy if you do more than one a day. But on Pinterest, your pins are not sorted in or out with an EdgeRank, so anything you pin could be seen in the stream based on when people log on. Brands see scale results when they pin 15 to 30 items per day. It may seem like a lot, but that is still a fraction of their feed, and you must be sure to spread these pins throughout the day.

4. Send traffic to your site

Facebook is a walled garden that aims to keep you clicking on its properties, but Pinterest is about helping you discover and click away to content all over the Web. This means that your brand Web site is now back in style again. Are you ready for lots of traffic?

Take advantage of the click-through, and treat the Pinterest follower differently. Recognize that she is clicking a pin that comes with negligible branding and leads to an unknown site. We believe in triggering an engagement interstitial that welcomes the visitor, explains what the brand is sharing on Pinterest and invites her to follow or take advantage of an offer.

5. Shift your expectations to new heights

The great thing about Pinterest is that by doing it right, your brand can see results that have been unheard of in digital marketing to date. Set your sights higher than your team even imagines. With great content, optimized timing, and smart actions after-the-click, you brand can get there, too.

I passionately believe that the future of marketing is about creating advertising that people choose to engage with. Since Pinterest is frequently used to discover and share content that often leads to a sale, it could be the sorcerer’s stone that transmutes social hype into scalable business growth.


2 comments about "To Win On Pinterest, Unlearn The Social Rules".
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  1. Anna Bennett from, May 11, 2013 at 10:46 p.m.

    Nice article but I disagree with your point that Pinterest is not "social media". Pinterest users do interact by commenting on pins; you are able to share your images by tweeting and sharing it on your Facebook timeline; you can invite others to contribute to your boards which creates a community of like minded people and so forth. What's not "social" about that?

  2. Bob Gilbreath from Ahalogy, May 13, 2013 at 8:29 p.m.

    Anna, clearly there is a social element to Pinterest. But just because you "can" leave comments on Pinterest does not mean this is a useful activity for business. I think you further make my point by suggesting that Pinterest can be made "social" by tweeting of sharing on Facebook.

    The big picture point here is that we need to stop applying the "rules" of social to Pinterest, and instead embrace what is truly unique and powerful. Tracking comments and tweeting pins won't get you very far. But sharing great content that people love to re-pin and click is what really counts.

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