The concept is simple but the audience is vast. Pinterest gives home to doodlers, dreamers and inspiration-board weavers and allows them to label and save items they treasure.
“Pinterest has the advantage of being just different enough than other social media platforms to make it relevant,” said Mikinzie Stuart, founder of PR Geek Speak and digital junior account executive at Peppercom. “Like Tumblr, it’s heavily based on graphics but has the functionality and organization of social bookmarking platforms like Delicious. Typically when you pin something, you’re not just sharing an image, you’re sharing the link to that image, whether it’s a how-to, a blog post or a product on a retailer’s website.”
Best described as a combination of Delicious and Flickr, the site allows users to upload their own photos and re-pin other users’ photos. Members pin and re-pin items onto boards that they name. They can also follow people by choosing to see all of their posts or only posts from specific boards. Members can like and comment on pins and can view pins from people they follow, from everyone on the site, or break it down by category. Most pins are linked to a website that has more information on the item or project.
In the PR space, there are a lot of uses for Pinterest. It’s an outlet for sharing and discussing ideas and once a photo is re-pinned, it has the possibility of crossing the eyes of several members.
Before you get started, heed our interviewees’ advice: It’s important to spend time to understand and explore the community.
“It is an interesting way to show your work,” said Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich and author of the Spin Sucks blog. “More than 80 percent of people learn visually so if you can provide them a visual way to get to know your company, you’re going to have success. Even better – if you can use Pinterest to tell a story and give customers and prospects a way to share your story with their networks.”
The Mayfield Group Public Relations added Pinterest to its social media plan in January, said principal Autumn Barnes Mayfield.
“In our public relations industry, so much of our story-telling revolves around painting the picture through words and images to educate the media on our clients,” she said. “The Mayfield Group felt that if we incorporated image-driven social media platforms to our agency’s brand storytelling it would help potential customers and media learn more about us.”
Over in the offices of Skirt PR, president Adrienne Eckert Petersen and her crew joined Pinterest about a month ago.
“Highly circulated and visible publications and media companies that we admire are on Pinterest,” she said. “It is such an amazing social media outlet because the individual boards we create can show the personalities of all Skirt employees. I call it a ‘visual Twitter’ because it is great for short attention spans but can really be touching and poignant at the same time.”
While Skirt hasn’t fully tapped into the site as a PR resource, they’re finding it as useful tool to illustrate the individuals behind the Skirt PR brand. On Skirt’s account, each staff member has a board where they can pin items.
“Everyone who works in this office is so creative and has an amazing eye for trends, fashion, color and style,” Eckert Petersen said. “I think Pinterest serves as a great resource to display those distinctive interests. It is a great creative resource and works as an inspiration board that helps the team generate ideas while monitoring trends in the marketplace.”
“It’s a good way to show an aesthetic vision,” she said. “Instead of explaining your vision with words you can create a board and pin photos that illustrate your vision. Then, you can show clients and co-workers. It definitely got my office interested.”
Depending on the client’s goals, Noricks says, it offers a lot of potential. Those in the décor, lifestyle, fitness, fashion, jewelry and even home-building fields may find it useful as a collaborative tool or to create inspiration for branding.
According to Stuart, Pinterest adoption is just starting to pick up within PR communities, as the platform is fairly young. Some brands currently using Pinterest include Nordstrom, The Humane Society of New York,Nina Garcia and Real Simple.
“Like anything I would recommend to a client, it would be based on whether it’s relevant for their audiences and brand messages,” she said.
Enid Hwang, community manager of Pinterest, says brands are welcome to create accounts, and there are already quite a few building a presence on the site.
“A brand’s account is no different than a regular user’s,” she said. “We strongly discourage any user to pin purely for self-promotion. For example, exclusively pinning products or images from your own site is not the primary goal of Pinterest, nor is it an effective way to expand your reach.”
A good place for beginners to start is to create boards and toy with the tool, says Norricks, but it’s also smart to look at how others are using the site since the average user has no tie to a brand. A good trick is to perform a keyword search and see what other people are posting in the area you want to pin.
“I also use it as a blog discovery vehicle and find new sites that are a potential fit for a client,” Norricks said. “You never know what the possibility will be; it offers a unique community.”
Some brands are creating groups for members and fans. Stuart said she was added to a group pinboard for Cabot Creamery Cheese.
“As a brand I would probably only add my mega-fans and brand evangelists,” she said. “But it’s still something cool brands could do.”
If you’re like Dietrich, you may not have an immediate need to use the site for clients but you will want to keep tabs on it.
“We work with B2B clients so we’ve not added it to our [social media] plans,” she said. “But I do a ton of speaking across the country and I’ve added it to my ‘trends to watch’ piece.”
Dietrich uses the site personally and keeps abreast to how it builds engagement and awareness for brands. She thinks it is a fun and interesting tool for businesses that have something visual to show.
Eckert Petersen notes the importance of transparency and making the experience multi-dimensional by sharing a wide-range of pins.
“We don’t cross the line of shamelessly promoting only our clients,” she said. “If we are featuring something from our clients, we will note that. We’ve also encouraged clients to use it as a vehicle for expressing their point of view and connecting with consumers in a visual way.”
Social media offers companies a lot of ways to interact with consumers and Eckert Petersen believes Pinterest has the best potential to connect companies to individuals.
“By viewing and sharing photos that are decidedly not business-related, companies can interact and form stronger relationships.”