In my formative years as a Tridelta at the University of Southern California, the term “pinning” assumed a completely different connotation. Being pinned was a rare occasion that meant, “Gee gosh, this dude really like likes me.” Now it isn’t young fresh-faced sorority girls getting pinned by meat head fratties, but aesthetically pleasing Internet fodder to virtual scrapbooked photo boards. Yeah, I’m talkin’ about the latest craze, Pinterest.com.
When I finally used my Pinterest invite, which had grown musty, buried in my inbox beneath dangerously tempting Fab.com emails, I wasn’t sure how I felt. Pinterest was easy enough to set up, but it presumptuously asked me to create “boards” right out of the gate. In setting up my profile, I was offered a list of starter suggestions, using general interest buckets as a diving board. Despite the clean design and easy navigation, I became overwhelmed and abandoned the site, seeking refuge in the safer waters of Tumblr.com.
A year and a half ago I joined Tumblr as a platform for my personal blog. I’m at a point in my Tumblr relationship where we understand each other’s nuances, and quirks. I’ve finally settled into a general groove with my newly assembled live feed, which now streams all sorts of original thoughts, reblogged images, prose, poetry, memes, conversations, and videos. Tumblr and I have been going steady for a while, so why do I need to start seeing a niche social site on the side? Even if it offers a bevy of beautiful imagery (and an easy-going lack of substance) how much highly pushable content can a girl handle?
I took a moderately unscientific survey amongst my peers, based on the sparse statistics of a Facebook poll, and came to the conclusion that die hard Tumblrs have no interest in Pinterest, and those who never started tumbling just want to pin. My initial repugnance to Pinterest made me realize something about this new strain of push button content sharing. In order to easily push and share content with your social networks or followers, you first need to cultivate enough resources. That’s scary, and you want to know why? It’s a commitment.
Millenials avoid commitment like the plague, so acceptance can sometimes take a little coaxing from our early adopting friends. Before we sign up and create a user name, it feels like we need several trusted sources to promise that building shareable content silos is a worthwhile investment of our time. However, just because you follow social trends and adopt new technologies with ease, doesn’t mean you’ll give it up to any new platform.
Startups are no longer secured membership from early adopters, because we’re all just a little over socialized. In fact, the recent influx of niche social sites has created a greater sense of discernment amongst the heart of social media. As users begin to understand their value as social participants, they become choosier. Companies need to try that much harder to win user acceptance and trust. More importantly, it’s even more of a challenge to create active brand champions amongst followers.
I’m an avid social media consumer all day, but from 9-5 I’m also a marketer who gets paid to look at social media from a promotional perspective. Unfortunately, that mentality doesn’t have an off switch when I am not in the office so I can’t help but ask myself how this new trend will affect advertisers. One thing is certain; this type of easy push button content sharing will only spread. According to Hitwise, by mid-January of this year Pinterest was ranked as the 60th most-visited website in the US, with total visits growing from 10 million to 17 million since the start of the year. Mashable reported that Pinterest driving more traffic than monolith Google +. If those stats don’t impress you, Pinterest posers like Pinspire and the mustachioed Gentlemint (AKA Pinterest for men) are rapidly gaining popularity and activity.
So the real question as a marketer is: do you ride this wave or not? While there is little evidence to show this is an effective means to conversion, it is a guaranteed way to overload your Google Analytics reports. But really, it comes down to your audience. With niche social sites on the rise, it’s becoming increasingly important to narrow your demographic. Be picky about which platforms to use, and identify if that’s where your audience is having a conversation. If so, you need to get talking. Here are a few key rules to follow when using push button sharing as part of your social media strategy:
Get Off Your Soapbox
Just like any social media platform, success is bred from an active conversation between consumer and advertiser. Standing on your soapbox and shouting from a loudspeaker will do little good.
Don’t Be a Wallflower
The key to increasing and keeping momentum on these sites is to stay social. You can’t just create profiles, expect them to grow legs, and go grab your audience on their own. It’s crucial to push out fresh content on a consistent basis, and be active in the community.
Pro Tip: Try using Pinterest to generate user interaction by running creative contests like girly online retailer Modcloth.
Buy in Bulk
On most major social platforms, it is advised to limit the amount of content pushed out over the course of a day. Browbeating your audience is a real concern in social media. However, this strategy demands you throw that mentality out the door! Push out as much content as you can, or you will get lost in the upstream. These rivers of content moves quickly; if one of your posts gets passed, make sure you catch your audience on the next round.
Pro Tip: Reblogging and repinning are easy ways to keep the content flowing.
Get the Buzz Going
Use these platforms as a means of “vibe branding” and not as a way to promote individual product launches. They are a great way to creatively secure your brand’s position in the industry and an easy way to drive traffic. With so many types of content sharing available on social platforms, scrapbooking your brand can be a unique and visually stimulating strategy. In addition if companies want their products to shine in these arenas, the content they create should conform to that “Instagram” “Urban”, and “DIY” aesthetic to which so many of these platforms adhere.
Whether you are a user, advertiser, or both, it’s important to recognize 2012 as the year of niche social sites and push button content sharing. I suppose I need to give Pinterest the old college try. However, I think I need to recover from the sensory overload before I can go back to the pinning board.
To read more about Pinterest for brands, along with my interview with Callan Green from Sony (a brand that’s definitely doing Pinterest right), check out my article in Forbes — “Four Pinterest Marketing Tips“.