Keeping up with social media trends is no easy task. New networks are launched with alarming regularity and backing the wrong horse can be commercial, and credibility, suicide. With that in mind, what site is going to be the next big thing?

Networking site Pinterest is a genuine contender. It now has over 11.7m users and claimed its 10 millionth user quicker than any other standalone site in internet history.

Set up in 2010, the US-founded network uses imagery as the core of its network system, thus creating a clear point of difference from existing heavyweights Facebook and Twitter, which are word based.

Users organise and share images on their own virtual pinboards, arranging them by topic such as food, design and events. The site then encourages users to interact with each other by sharing ‘pins’ with other users, allowing them to ‘re-pin’ images and follow users whose ‘pins’ they like.

Harnessing the power of the pin

Is Pinterest good for UK businesses? How can it be used to support UK campaigns? It is perhaps too early to judge, but already many US businesses have used the site to support their own marketing work.

The visual nature of Pinterest lends itself to businesses whose goods and services can be presented well, and food companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Kraft have been early advocates of the site, using the network to showcase their products and encouraging users to share those images, thus ‘spreading the word’, in a virtual sense.

When The Travel Channel decided to start using Pinterest, they asked their Facebook fans what content they should include. This led to pinned imagery showcasing stunning scenery, cityscapes and destinations across the globe. This forms part of a strategy to drive users to watch the company’s television programmes and visit their website.

Department store Bergdorf Goodman meanwhile asked users on Facebook to pin images onto a specially created pinboard showing the things they can’t forget each morning. They then added in some ideas of their own and linked those images to the pages on their website selling those products.

What these examples have in common is that they brought together customers into a shared space, allowing them to express their own creativity, and thus creating an ‘added value experience’ for those customers and a positive feeling for the brands.

Sharing the vision

And this is an important point. Businesses on both sides of the Atlantic who are using Pinterest successfully to support their marketing campaigns have grasped the sites’ ability to offer a free promotional channel that, importantly, is endorsed by other users.

A popular image can be ‘re-pinned’ on hundreds of other users’ pinboards, mirroring the ‘like’ button on Facebook. Striking images can potentially be seen by thousands of users – each of whom can be guided to the originating business’ main website. In the US, Pinterest is now driving more users to web pages than Twitter or YouTube.

Alternatively a posted image can be linked to a business blog post, driving viewers to read content and offer opinions.

Getting your timing right

As with other social media sites, businesses using Pinterest most effectively are those who understand the networks’ ‘product life cycle’ and its demographics.

In the US, Pinterest is much more embedded than in the UK and the core user profiles are 25-34 year-old women within the upper levels of income. The most popular ‘pins’ mirror this demographic, with crafts, gifts, hobbies and interior design often shared.

With Pinterest still fairly new to UK shores, currently just 200,000 members but rising fast, the typical user follows a more ‘early adopter’ profile – males aged between 25-34, again within the upper levels of income, who share ‘pins’ covering venture capitalism, blogging and design.

Businesses must therefore understand Pinterest’s ‘product life cycle’ within the UK market in order to use it effectively. If your target market is wealthy women in their 30s, then you need start planning to use Pinterest quite soon. If you have predominantly male customers a more immediate presence may be needed.

Have you pinned yet?

Are you using Pinterest? Are you finding it useful? Are you thinking of trying it and looking for advice from other SMEs? We’d love to hear from you and share your experience of the network with other readers. Feel free to comment below and get the conversation going.

Source: Guardian

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