In July of 2011, Pinterest only accounted for 0.17 percent of referral traffic. In the first quarter of 2014, a mere three years later, Pinterest drove more than 7 percent of referral traffic, according to Shareaholic’s first quarter Social Media Traffic Report. Pinterest ranks only behind Facebook in terms of referral traffic but still drives more referrals than all of the other social media sites combined — that includes Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+.
While in the early days of Pinterest there was some question as to whether the site could actually drive sales, now that the site has become a major player in the world of social media, the answer to the question “Can Pinterest drive sales?” is a resounding “Yes.”
Take, for example, the case study of accessories and jewelry retailer Bottica. In a post on his blog, digital marketing expert Jeff Bullas highlighted this retailer’s efforts to gauge the impact of both Facebook and Pinterest on sales. While the entire study is fascinating, a few key points emerged that show that Pinterest is important to sales: First, buyers referred from Pinterest were 10 percent more likely to make a purchase than those referred from Facebook, and Pinterest buyers spent more per transaction. In fact, the buyers from Pinterest spent an average of $180 per sale, as opposed to $85 from Facebook.
Does this mean that you should back-burner your other social media efforts and focus strictly on Pinterest? Not at all. But it does mean that you can no longer afford to ignore Pinterest — even if you aren’t convinced that your business is a good fit for the site.
The Key to Pinterest: Pinning Outside of the Box
By now, you’re probably familiar with the Pinterest model: Users create virtual “boards,” each based on a different, self-determined theme, which they can then “pin” content to for future reference. For example, you find a great recipe that you want to try at your next dinner party, so you might pin it to a board of “recipes” or “Dinner Party” that you created. Once you pin the recipe, it also becomes visible to your followers (as well as the Pinterest community as a whole via search), who can “re-pin” the content to their own boards. You can also re-pin content from others.
You might be thinking, “But I don’t have a very visual business. Pinterest can’t do anything for me.” However, it’s important for business members to think laterally, and post content that is related, even if not directly, to their business. For example, an insurance agent might post information about vehicle maintenance and safety on one board and road trip ideas on another. In short, if there is any way that you can represent your product or service with eye-catching images, including infographics, then you have an opportunity to reach a potential audience using the site.
However, it’s important to understand that Pinterest is not just an online catalog. While Shareaholic’s report indicated that Pinterest users are less engaged than those on other social media networks, they still expect that businesses will be involved in the community and engage in two-way communication and sharing. If you are only there to promote your wares and focus on only what you have to offer, you probably won’t succeed. The essence of the site is simple: “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the Web.” The key to success, then, is finding a commercial niche that has wide visual appeal within the Pinterest community, and sharing those visuals regardless of the source. In doing so, you become a resource and an authority on the subject, rather than just a business trying to sell a product.
If you are new to Pinterest, there are a few important points to keep in mind:
- 70 percent of Pinterest users are women, meaning that you need to angle your content to engage with that audience.
- Include complementary products on your boards to broaden your appeal outside of your target market.
- Observe what others are doing, make comments and share things you find with your followers
- Use your boards as an online portfolio to strut your stuff — as long as you share work from others as well and avoid blatant self-promotion
With all of the benefits of Pinterest, there are some potential pitfalls. Pinterest best practice dictates that you should post content from others as well as your own business’s content — it’s not an advertising platform after all — but commercial users need to be very careful about what they post and about attributing the source of their posts. Pinning images without proper attribution and links could amount to copyright infringement, or at the very least lead to your boards being locked down or even deleted from the site. Advertising attorney Brian Heidelberger warned in an article in AdAge Digital that using images containing celebrities and other third-party trademarks is a major no-no for businesses using Pinterest; any type of implied endorsement or association could lead to legal action. In short, use common sense and avoid anything that even hints at copyright infringement or improper use.
By now it is clear: Pinterest is here to stay. If your business isn’t using the site yet, spend some time thinking about whether it would be a good fit and how you can incorporate it into your marketing strategy. With the significant increase in web traffic, referrals and conversions that Pinterest can bring, joining could mean a major boost to your bottom line.
Need help connecting with your target audience?
Masterfully merging strategic storytelling with the knowledge of how people consume and interact with content online, Digital Current brings big ideas to life, inspiring your audience to engage as they move along your conversion process. We can show you how to use Pinterest and other marketing channels to tell a brand narrative that will resonate with your potential customers and convert them into buying customers.