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Brands love Pinterest

Pinterest

We’re loving Pinterest in my office. It’s a great tool for creating collaborative moodboards for inspiration. But brands are getting into even more of a lather about it than we are – and we can understand why. Here are six reasons that brands are going crazy for the internet’s newest darling.

1. Pinterest is the fastest growing standalone site ever

That’s right. Pinterest just hit 10 million unique visitors in the US faster than any standalone site ever. That’s impressive. And Pinterest seems to have hit its ‘hockey stick moment’, where growth goes from steady to huge. Any mass audience gathered together in one place is attractive to brands, and Pinterest is no exception.

2. Pinterest drives traffic to retailers

According to Mashable (via a study by Shareaholic), Pinterest is driving more traffic to retailers than Google+, YouTube, Reddit, MySpace and Linkedin combined. When considered in light of the huge growth Pinterest is experiencing (see point 1), this is only going to get greater – and brands can leverage this traffic to sell more product online.

3. It is easy for brand sites to integrate with Pinterest

The Pinterest ‘pin it’ button is SO easy to add to a product page on a brand or retail site – via a little bit of code – enabling users to pin directly from the brand site and therefore drive further traffic. Brands can not only profit from Pinterest, but fuel its growth – a virtuous circle.

4. Pinterest attracts female shoppers

According to TechCrunch, Pinterest’s growth is being propelled by ‘18-34 year old upper income women from the American heartland‘. It might be a cliche to say that women like to browse and take time to enjoy shopping, whilst men are more mission-oriented, but if that cliche holds, then Pinterest is the perfect stepping stone to a purchase – offering a fantastic browsing experience with a link to a retail or brand site when the user is ready to take the final step and make the purchase.

5. Optimal design – in more ways than one

There are two points to make about Pinterest’s design. First, it’s device neutral – the flexible design means it’s optimised for smart-phones through to wide-screen monitors – meaning it can benefit from mobile traffic just as much as desktop traffic. Second is that the layout feels instinctively more like a shop window – encouraging browsing behaviour (see point 4) and delivering up users that are more ready to buy. What’s more, their approach is being embraced by the wider web, and starting to become more and more widespread – witness what Mashable calls the ‘Pinterestification of the internet’.

6. Focus on product

There are no two ways about it, Pinterest pushes products. You might think you’re just re-pinning a cute teacup that reflects your esoteric taste, but your pin will help others find that product and buy it. People are actively creating Pinboards that act as wishlists – for birthdays, Christmas, weddings, or just that end-of-month payday. Because consumers are driving this, they are almost granting brands permission to get in on the act. Consider this: consumers don’t really use Facebook to post pictures of things they want – clothes, kitchenwear, books, whatever – and so when brands try to use Facebook for that it comes across as forced and corporate. But on Pinterest the environment is all about posting products: it’s a win scenario for brands.

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Are consumers turning into bullies?

No bullies

I remember, back in 2008, preparing a presentation on social media and how it was starting to have a huge effect on customer services. Twitter was starting to gain traction beyond the early adopter/techie types, and brands were desperate to leap onto the band wagon. Facebook was already massive, and a relatively small number of brands were starting to use it well with others using it badly, and still more sitting on the sidelines, enviously looking in at the party, but too scared to get involved.

My advice to the client at the time was ‘you can’t afford NOT to get involved’. There had already been a number of famous cases of brands being seriously damaged by complainers who had taken their grievances to social media, and had been ignored by the brand in question. The internet had done its thing, and before the brand knew it the grouch had been turned into a cause célèbre, the public complaint and lack of brand action had gone viral, and the brand’s reputation was in tatters.

So far, so meh. Old news, right? Well yes, but recently I’ve been noticing, and getting increasingly annoyed by a new(ish) phenomena. Brand bullying. This is where some opportunist saboteur turns to Twitter complaining of poor service or poor quality or some other perceived snub from a brand, purely to see whether they can screw some free stuff out of said brand. They invariably use a holier than thou tone and seem to think that the world will side with them purely because they’re shouting, loudly and in public. And they’re not far wrong – ‘the internet’ is the ultimate champion of the little guy.

Brands often respond to this public airing of dirty washing by doing exactly what the opportunist wants – throwing a freebie at it. No matter whether the whinger was an incredibly brand-loyal person with a real grievance, and therefore worth responding to and nurturing, or someone who has heretofore demonstrated zero brand loyalty, if they complain long and loud enough, they’ll be looked after.

This pushes a button for me. It’s inherently unfair. And it actually goes against the internet ethos: the internet has given power to the individual, but (to quote Uncle Ben Parker) with great power comes great responsibility – and if the individual abuses that responsibility the power should be taken away from them. So I suddenly find myself in a slightly unlikely position, and questioning whether brands really do need to oil every squeaky wheel. Maybe there’s a better way. Maybe there’s a way to take the sting out of the complaint without giving in to the bullies. Maybe brands should stand up to them, sometimes.

This is obviously a much more delicate an operation than I make it sound, so really I’m throwing it out there as a question. Any social media managers out there care to weigh in?

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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