Is Pinterest The Most Underutilized Tool In Social Media?

by Arik Hanson June 30, 2016
June 30, 2016

If you do any reading in the social media marketing space on regular basis, you know there are a number of platforms that are often discussed.


And they all begin and end with the word: “Facebook.”


In all seriousness, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are probably the most discussed–with Facebook leading the way by a large margin.


Not surprising, right? Especially considering brand usage of these platforms, which looks like this (from a branding perspective, at least):


Brands use SM


But what social network site is lowest on the chart above? Which isn’t even on the list I mentioned in the lead?


Which, in my view, is the least adopted and most under-utilized among the marketing crowd today?


Pinterest.


Now, why is that? I find that curious–don’t you?


After all, Pinterest is still growing at a pretty significant clip. And, they have big designs on that growth.


They’re continuously releasing new advertising products.


They’re a huge site for retailers.


Historically, Pinterest has done a fantastic job of driving traffic, often one of the Holy Grails of measurement for the modern marketer.


75 percent of Pinterest usage takes place on mobile devices.


It’s a long-tail network as pins generate engagement and traffic for YEARS–not minutes.


And, Pinterest often requires less time and effort than other more “high maintenance” social networks.


So again, why are fewer brands adopting Pinterest as a key social media tool?


I have a few theories:


1: Companies are still finding it tough to generate compelling visuals


Remember, not every brand is Oreo. Some brands still have a hard time generating a steady stream of great visuals. Because, that’s table stakes for Pinterest. No visuals. No results. Pretty simple formula. I just think this is one of those things that is fairly under-reported since many marketers/communicators are probably somewhat embarrassed or reticent to talk about the fact that their company can’t generated the needed visuals to succeed on social today.


2: The Pinterest “talent gap”


Think about it from this POV: Since fewer companies use Pinterest, there’s a trickle down effect in terms of talent. Less participation by brands means fewer people have experience with the tool. Wouldn’t that make sense? Almost every brand uses Facebook at this point, so most people in the industry have some modicum of experience with Facebook advertising, for example. But Pinterest? That’s a different story. There are fewer people with direct experience in managing brand pages and paid advertising because there are fewer brands trying it. And, I have a sneaky suspicion a lot of the folks who DO have experience managing Pinterest on behalf of brands are on the agency side. So, there’s that aspect to this, too.


3: Engagement is sexier (and more public) than traffic


Pinterest doesn’t really have a “newsfeed”–at least not in the traditional sense. As a result, it’s not one of those networks where you can instantly see huge results and success (what my friend Greg Swan would call “Success Theater”). Bottom line: I think Pinterest is a bit “less sexy” than Facebook, Instagram and even LinkedIn and Twitter. With those other networks, you post something, amplify it and minutes to hours later, you’re seeing direct results. With Pinterest, you post a pic and it could be days, months or YEARS before it blows up and takes off in terms of likes, repins and comments. That’s just the nature of the network. But, I think that works against it when it comes to marketer and brand adoption.


So, what’s a brand marketer to do?


Let’s address there one by one in the order above:


1: Get serious–and creative–about visual content creation


Don’t have the resources or capabilities internally to generate visuals for Pinterest. Outsource! But, outsource efficiently. Maybe you hire a photographer for a half day and make a huge list of shots around 2-3 topics or products you want to feature. That means you’ll have hundreds of pics you can use for MONTHS to parse out on any number of boards. Or, what about working with influencers to create visual content for Pinterest? An idea I’ve long thought was wildly under-utilized. Remember, brands don’t hire influencers only for their reach–content creation should be a big part of the ask.


2: Get smarter–or outsource


Figure out a way to get smarter about Pinterest–or outsource it to an agency partner or solo. Like I said above, agency partners/solos often have more experience here because of the breadth of clients they work with. So, you can lean on them to do the work AND to help you get smarter on the platform long term. Win-win!


3: Reframe expectations


Time to pause and reset. If you’ve become engagement-crazed, step back and consider if Pinterest might help you achieve any of your overall marketing and communications goals (chief among them, traffic and engagement). Many of the brands I see doing well on Pinterest are actually seeing a lot of engagement–they just might not see it as quickly as they would on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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