Should your Brand be on Pinterest?

by Sharp | February 28, 2012

The buzz has steadily been building for the latest rapidly-spreading social media site, Pinterest.  In the past few weeks, a SMWNYC panel member dubbed it “the Jeremy Lin” of the internet, compete puts site traffic over 11 million this month, and I’ve watched as work colleagues, old friends, and extended family members have jumped on board.  It’s about time that we dedicate a little space here to talk about what it is, why it matters, and how brands are starting to jump on board.


What is Pinterest? is an image-based bookmarking site that allows people to create virtual pin-boards based around themes.  Each image links to its original online source and includes a place for comments, notes and tags.  As a user, I can follow the boards of my friends and social connections (it links with email and Facebook contacts), and interact with individual pins by liking, commenting or repining onto my own boards.

The Buzz

Not only has Pinterest been catching on like wildfire (site traffic increased more than fourfold during Q4 2011, and the site is still in an invite-only beta), but it is also showing increasing promise as a traffic driver to online retailers and social commerce sites.  Retailers like ModCloth and Etsy that are centered on social shopping are reporting 9% and 6% of traffic being driven from Pinterest, respectively.  Etsy has embraced the site, creating an account with 27 boards, more than 850 pins and more than 56,000 followers.

The Skeptics

As with anything new and shiny, there are a few red flags to look out for. Especially as the site continues to grow and develop a monetization plan, we can continue to expect some criticism.  Pinterest is employing an affiliate program through modified links as a way to generate revenue.  They faced criticism for not being upfront about this process, but have modified their site to acknowledge the practice and have largely come away unscathed.  There are also rumblings about what all this image sharing means for ownership and copyright (when a brand re-pins content that it doesn’t own, it is using it for commercial purposes, which is a potential legal issue).  This will need to be addressed by brands and the platform, especially as the site continues to gain mainstream attention.


Brand Involvement

The site is still new and growing, but that hasn’t stopped everyone from Williams Sonoma to the US Army (not to mention around 250 others) from rushing to set up an account and start pinning.  As with every social media site, it’s important for brands to get started with a clear goal in mind – Who are you trying to reach? How do you want them to interact with you? What do you want to accomplish?


Are you Pin-able? One of the first things to look at is whether or not the Pinterest audience is already engaging with your content.  After all, pinners can choose content from anywhere on the web. Aspirational content focused on fashion, design, home décor, food and travel are among the most common on the site. As a brand you can include “pin this” buttons within your site to make it even easier.

Take Tablet Hotels as an example.  They don’t have an official presence, but a quick source search shows users pulling their beautiful travel shots and saving them to boards titled things like “Future Travel Destinations” and “Places to Visit.”  The ability to track travel intent reach prospective hotel visitors is a huge opportunity for the brand.

Tablet Hotels Pinterest

Creating Boards.  Although it isn’t the right time or venue for all brands, the ability to post branded content in a new platform as a means to drive new/increased traffic and raise visibility around specific products and services is appealing.

Our client, Whole Foods, has created an account that quickly gained attention (and more than 17,000 followers).  The boards show off products and recipes in creative ways with boards like “Eat your Veggies“ and “Who wants dinner?!” but also highlight cause-related initiatives and customer passion points (see “Super HOT Kitchens”).

The Wall Street Journal is one of many publishers to create an account, with some of the more successful boards being used to supplement event-based reporting.  The WSJ photographers were on the ground and behind the scenes during NYC Fashion Week, and the corresponding pin board showcased the latest from the runways in close to real time.

WSJ Pinterest

Storytelling.  The next step is really about layering Pinterest into branded communications.  GSD&M created a visual guidebook for surviving this year’s SXSW conference and used Pinterest to make the story come to life and also keep all the links and information in one place.  I think we’re going to see other brands and companies start to take this approach in using the platform to create layered digital experiences.


Inspiration. One of the more interesting implications for luxury brands is that while many social networks (Think Facebook and Twitter) focus on ego (look at what I’m doing, who I’m with, where I am, etc.), Pinterest has an element of aspiration (look at my dream house, the clothes I’d love to own, my honeymoon vacation).  This element of whimsy and desire fits right in with many luxury brands’ ethos and creates opportunities to reach brand fans and first-time customers.


The Competition 

The rapid success launching spin-off platforms like Gentlemint, which is geared towards a  more male audience, and is being challenged by sites like Svpply and Fancy that have a more obvious e-commerce link built in.

What do you think? Have you started pinning?  Either way, the platform will certainly be one to watch moving forward.


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