Pinterest – visual asset accelerator

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Pinterest, a visual scrapbooking social network site, has taken the world by storm, as people and businesses identify and share images and videos with others around the world. In its 2012 Digital Marketer Report, Internet tracking service Experian estimates that Pinterest utilization has accelerated to the point where it is now the third-largest social network by number of users.

Beyond the number of users, the time spent on the site has continued to grow, with comScore ranking it tied for second in average minutes/visitor, right after Facebook, according to Statista. This rapid growth has taken place in a far more condensed period of time than that experienced by other prominent social media sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Slideshare, YouTube, and Twitter.

What is it?

Pinterest is a visual sharing service where people and businesses can create boards and pin or re-pin images and videos to these boards. You can also follow all of the boards or selected boards of Pinterest users with content you find useful.

Setting up a Pinterest account is relatively easy. Go to the site and request an invitation. Once your invitation is processed, Pinterest will walk you through setting up your boards. They'll start you out with some default boards that you should probably change to boards more specific to your industry, business, and customer-engagement strategies. They'll also walk you through how to add a "Pin It" button to your toolbar. This button will facilitate your ability to pin visual assets to your boards as you navigate the Internet and execute your Pinterest strategy.

Here's what Chris Brogan had to say about Pinterest in a recent video:

What can you pin?

You have several options on sourcing for the digital assets that you can pin to your boards. Among the assets that you can pin are images, infographics, figures and YouTube videos that you find on the Internet. You can also upload your own images to your boards and give pinning privileges to others for a specific board or boards. As you follow other boards, you'll be able to re-pin their images and videos to your Pinterest boards, a shortcut for the visual digital asset acceleration that this article references in its title.

To understand how Pinterest works, I've embedded code from one of the Pinterest pins on theWebChef Pinterest account. This embedding capability is one of the added benefits in the use of Pinterest.




How does it work?

You can follow individuals/companies with Pinterest accounts or you can follow specific boards that you might find interesting. For those of you on Twitter, the board would be somewhat analogous to a list where you are reliant on the board owner(s) to curate content to the board. Given the number of boards that a single Pinterest account can have, you might want to pick and choose and select to follow only those boards that have content you find particularly interesting.

Who is using it?

Pinterest's adoption was originally driven primarily by women, interested in sharing fashion, recipes, home ideas, craft tips, etc. Men have joined these early adopters with their own interests in visual asset sharing in a broad range of categories. Experian estimates that the usage is now 60% women and 40% men, although I've seen estimates that up to 70% of users are women.

Lately we've seen that businesses both in B2B and B2C are jumping on the Pinterest "Brand Wagon."

What are some examples of businesses using Pinterest in business-to-consumer marketing?

In consumer marketing, Pinterest is being used by retailers to share their new lines, new colors, consumer tips, popular culture references, designers, looks, special promotions, and other interesting fashion trends with a wide range of followers. Among the retailers doing this are high-end fashion retailers like Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus; midmarket retailers like Kohl's and Macy's; and specialty retailers like grocer Whole Foods and Anthropologie.

Many of these retailers are adding a "Pin It" button to items on their websites to encourage social sharing with others on Pinterest, much like visitors using the "Like" button share products and content on Facebook. Mashable reported in February on research results by The Find that 9% of the top 300 online retailers, as measured by Internet Retailer, had implemented a "Pin It" code to their online merchandise listings.

Here is a sampling of Wisconsin retailers and what they are sharing on their Pinterest accounts:

  • Online retailer WisconsinMade – seasonal gift items, Wisconsin books, Wisconsin cheeses, and much more.
  • Specialty retailer Orange Tree Imports – showcasing hot products, seasonal offerings, specialty retailer tips, activities on Monroe Street, and interesting orange-colored images.
  • Direct marketer The Company Store – sharing products, products by color, and gift ideas.
  • Multi-channel retailer Lands' End Canvas – promotions, styles for him/her, and other fashion tips.

Does it have applications in business-to-business marketing?

The growth of Pinterest use in B2B will accelerate as businesses figure out ways to take advantage of using this social network to share visual assets and other textual content pinned through visual images to drive traffic to their sites. If you believe the adage that "every company is a publisher," then Pinterest may be yet another of the many new social media distribution tools for sharing your content.

Some of the B2B brands that are on Pinterest include technology providers like Shareaholic, email service provider Constant Contact, Software as a Service provider Salesforce, and a broad range of advertising agencies and architectural firms showcasing their projects. Salesforce has created boards related to working at Salesforce, customer success stories, San Francisco lifestyle, humor and fun, great reads, and Silicon Valley trends to showcase their culture, their location, their customers, and the value of their services while highlighting their role in the greater high-tech community.

Not to be left behind, we have traditional business publishers on Pinterest like The Wall Street Journal Fortune, and Forbes joining tech publishers Mashable, CNet, and others to take advantage of the Pinterest revolution.

In Business is among the business publishers that have a Pinterest account, with our boards showcasing IB events, Madison people, Madison places, Madison resources, Wisconsin higher education, Milwaukee sites, and more. Check us out at Pinterest/IBMadison.

Lest you think this is not a tool being embraced by the Fortune 500, we have behemoths like GE joining in. GE launched a Pinterest site that seems to be more of a corporate communications tool right now.

What are some tips to effective Pinterest implementation and utilization?

First thing to do is to grab your brand name on Pinterest. Unlike domain names that require registration and provide some degree of brand-name protection, the rules of the game on Pinterest and many other social media sites are to capture your brand names as soon as possible. For those whose names are generic, who are already too late, or have mischief-makers in their midst, the potential for brand hijacking – of the intentional or non-malicious sort – are many. For example the Macy's Pinterest account is MacysOfficial, because Macy Shortell had already claimed Pinterest/Macys, and the Staples Pinterest account name, Pinterest/Staples, is claimed by Penny Stapleton (6 boards and 0 pins). Staples is using Pinterest to promote and engage customers with their highly visual promotional products line through the account StaplesPromo, a site they created to capitalize on this segment of their product portfolio to reach their desired target markets.

Like most social media activities regardless of platform, the key to building engagement is by sharing interesting, informative, or humorous content, not simply promotional pushes about your products or services. For some businesses with a strong inventory of visual assets, the options for what to choose to distribute through Pinterest are immense. The individual assets can be pinned, with the appropriate description posted and the hyperlink modified to more closely align with the location of the content you are sharing.

Here are some specific items worth pinning:

White papers: If you have a white paper that you want to share, create a pinnable image of the cover with the hyperlink changed to either the download location of the white paper or the registration page for the same. (See Experian example: The 2012 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report:

Videos: If you have educational videos that you have released via YouTube, be sure to pin them to the appropriate board(s), along with distributing them through your Facebook account, through Twitter, and through embedding on websites and/or blogs. You can see examples of videos that we've pinned at In Business at our IBTV Boards.

Infographics: The visual nature of Pinterest lends itself to sharing infographics about your industry, consumer trends, product trends, etc. You can see many examples at theWebChef Social Media Board.


The opportunities for organizations to use Pinterest in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer customer engagement are only beginning, with lots of new, creative ways being introduced to capitalize on an evolving platform as part of your digital asset dissemination. The challenges in using the platform effectively are also growing as issues like link spam, search-engine stuffing, and digital asset management rights start to bubble up around this new social media tool.

To find out more about Pinterest, check out my Pinterest Board theWebChef, with over 50 infographics, ebooks, and other visual assets about the who, what, how, why, where and future of this tool.

I'd love to hear from you on how your organization is using Pinterest.

For more on the latest tips, techniques and resources on e-business and marketing, you can follow me @theWebChef and/or follow my boards on Pinterest at

For insights on the Madison business community, please follow us @IBMadison, or for statewide news and insights, check out our new In Business Wisconsin website and follow our new Twitter account @IBWisconsin. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and now Google+.

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