Why Everyone Needs To Hyper Down Over Pinterest (& Why It Might Never Work For Your Brand)

I was in the elevator on my way to a client when my friend Moe asked me “What IS Pinterest?” 

This would be the first of several hundred times I would have to explain what is was.

“That sounds stupid.” was the response. (Later, “Is this PINTEREST?” would become his slam-du-jour.)

Pinterest is a collection/curation tool which has taken the social web by storm recently (the invite-only site has recently become the #3 social network, after Facebook and Twitter

So what? Sew buttons! (and making crafts, and doing other things urbanites like to pretend they’re into before they go to their corner bar and get shitfaced.)

Pinterest allows you to upload and “pin” things you like and find while you’re looking up videos of Seahorses giving birth. It has captured the imagination of many users because it’s a visual onslaught of the cute, the handmade, and the aspirational. (It’s the Bloody Caesar of the internet: you see one, you want one.)

Pinterest recently hit critical mass after 3 years in the market. It does one thing extremely well: It taps into humans’ natural urge to show others who they are by publicly declaring the things they like, and showing off their collections.

I like to think of it like how some of us obsess over which photos are tagged with our name on Facebook: you want to show the outside world only the carefully-curated version of you you think you are on your best day.

Once the traffic began to tick up, some brands began to leverage it. (Notably, Martha Stewart, Bergdorf Goodman, and the Travel Channel These brands became heavily followed, repinned, and had great referral traffic back to their sites.

This begat an endless stream of brands jumping into the Pinterest pool feet first. This began the “Pinterest backlash,” and the inevitable “does Pinterest REALLY WORK?” questions. 

Well, what’s the verdict? It’s the same verdict as with all social networks. To butcher a phrase from James Carville, “It’s the content, stupid.”

Pinterest works because of its content-rich brand stories which inspire, and which end users like to aspire to and incorporate into their lives.

No one would pin a 30 dollar chair from WalMart, yet a modernist chair on West Elm’s Pinterest board received 48 likes and 120 plus repins. 

Similarly, if your brand’s promise and story don’t fit into the basic themes of Pinterest, your “Pinterest strategy” (not a strategy, a tactic) will die on the table.

To be likeable and repinnable on Pinterest, you have to offer users something at a glance which they want to experience, build, or live in. (The clue is in the “best of Pinterest” lists, where the boards most re-pinned share the terms “I want this” “I love” “Yummy” “Want to visit”)

The best thing your brand can do when approaching social media is to do an audit of what the most active areas therein share. Who are the most influential people there? What are THEY into? Does that dovetail in any way to your brand?

If the answers to any of these are “no,” you need to speak up, and not press forward on Pinterest.

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