What is Pinterest and How Does It Apply to Email Marketing by Wikus Engelbrecht @WKS_Engelbrecht

What is Pinterest and how does it apply to email marketing

Learn what is Pinterst and how does it apply to email marketing.

Much to everyone’s surprise, at the turn of 2012 the runaway-hit social networking site wasn’t Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+. It was in fact Pinterest, the latest social media craze that seems to have captured everyone’s attention.

Pinterest is essentially a graphic social bookmarking network. It has quickly shot into the top 10 most visited social networks of the past year – having already attracted more than 10-million registered users – and continues to gain popularity, even making Time’s list of the 50 best websites of 2011.

The concept behind the image-based platform is simple enough: users create and name boards of anything they like and post relevant photos on corresponding boards, while sorting them under a number of defined categories. Pinterest allows you to pin various items onto your pinboard, where the “pins” are images and videos collected from anywhere on the web. For ease of use, you can download a browser extension which allows you to quickly pin anything you find online directly, sharing it to get the opinions of others and to get them to share it.

Users have the option to follow one another based on their own interests, viewing photos that are displayed on a visually appealing pin board-type feed. The follow system works just like Twitter, so you can “unfollow” any friends, organizations or boards whenever you want. People can also share their finds with friends and are allowed to edit comments on others’ images before saving them to their own pinboard.

While Pinterest has now been around for a while, marketers need to begin establishing a presence on this platform (if they haven’t already), as it’s really just starting to ignite.

According to comScore, the average Pinterest user today spends 98 minutes per month on the site, compared to 2.5 hours on Tumblr, and 7 hours on Facebook. Furthermore, a recent Shareaholic report indicated that Pinterest accounted for more than 3.6 percent of all referral traffic in January 2012: which was more than Google Plus, LinkedIn and YouTube combined.

But with yet another social network to keep track of, how can companies best use this platform in conjunction with email marketing campaigns to their advantage?

For starters, it’s important to understand that Pinterest goes far beyond simply just sharing or liking things of interest; it allows users to actively collaborate on various topics. As soon as you add contributors to one of your pinboards, you can (with a little initiative) work together to plan an event or product release, or collect insights and information for a new project.

Some companies have already set up accounts on Pinterest and asked users to repin and like their images. If users like what you put out, the people who directly visit your boards will repin it. In turn, their friends will see your images and have the option to repin them, and so on down the line. While you can of course opt not to be registered on Pinterest, there is a huge benefit to setting up an account in that you can have more control over what comments people make about you and your products, just like on Facebook.

Pinterest is based on image sharing, so the key factor to leverage it as a supporting advertising and communication channel is to pay attention to how these images are integrated with email sends. The better the image; the more likely a user will want to click on it for further information and pin it. You can include a small description of an image you post on Pinterest or place it in your newsletter, for example, along with a link that leads users to the specific page on your website that hosts the image. Doing this gives you even more opportunity to tell users about your product, service, or company. So Pinterest certainly works very much in favor of a visually-pleasing email.

You can also offer a “pin it” button next to the products on your site. This gives users the option to share what they shopped for with their friends. All it really takes is one pin or repin to get your product noticed by many more people – fantastic if you are in the retail industry or sell products via your website.

Pinterest can help you get more out of your marketing and communication efforts in a number of other ways:

1)    Using social media to promote blog entries and other content-based efforts has become a commonplace ingredient in the marketing mix and many bloggers have started using Pinterest to share the images in their latest posts. This works best if one uses an attractive picture to accompany new entries, largely for the express purpose of pinning, to help intrigue users and get more traffic to the blog via Pinterest shares.

2)    Include Pinterest links with their other social media links in the header or footer of an email, with “Pinterest” text next to the icon. As Pinterest is still fairly new when it comes to social networks, some ESPs may not offer social widgets for it yet. In this case you can create your own icon to import and place anywhere on your template, linking it to your own image board. Ask subscribers to use the follow button for Pinterest to support the content of your weekly newsletter. As some readers may be unfamiliar with the platform, provide clear calls to action related to any Pinterest activities so that they do not end up on your image board unwittingly and become confused or disinterested.

3)    Leverage popular pins in your email campaigns by letting your audience help you determine which images to use. Check which of your Pinterest-shared images resonate the most with people interested in your brand and then use these images in your email campaign. You can even integrate comments from any one of your popular pins, which is a very easy way to get user-generated content.

4)    It’s also useful to try and determine how Pinterest boards support your current email marketing campaigns, and start to test how Pinterest can increase your email engagement levels and responses. Send out a Pinterest-optimized campaign to the socially engaged segment of your email list and see what the reaction is. Try tying specific Pinterest boards to your email calendar; such as holidays, big events, social media trends, special sales or any highly supported Pinterest category to which you can establish relevancy.

5)    Because of its commenting facilities, Pinterest is an ideal platform on which to introduce a new product, gather initial reactions and firsthand opinions about an item’s look and feel – kind of like a focus group. With Pinterest, marketers can easily get and analyze consumer sentiments. As users repin a photo, businesses can gather more intelligence and use it to decide whether their companies should move forward with production and distribution, to justify any necessary changes before they do or roll-out cancellations in the worst case scenario if they find that a new product has missed the mark (saving large amounts of potentially wasted venture capital). So experiment with this by calling out new product launches on your email newsletters linked to your Pinterest presence, and then wait for the feedback.

Pinterest is a playground for the visually-attuned and the pictorially prone. Marketers will get a lot of value out of using the platform as long as they adhere to and make use of its very specific nature.

Furthermore, Pinterest and email have a lot in common once you think about it:

It allows users to decide what aspects of the web are worth sharing, instead of randomly browsing via a search engine – so, like email, Pinterest is about targeted content sharing. It’s a great way to make your creatives go the extra mile and do more for your company.

Using the power of images, companies can create buzz around products and tailor-make more personal and visually charming experiences for their audiences.

As with all other social media channels, as Pinterest continues to grow we’re likely to see more integration with hosted email marketing solutions everywhere. Don’t wait. Get pinning today.

Takeaway: Pinterest holds immense potential for brands to interact with their audiences and to visually entice current and potential customers. 

Meet the author:

Wikus Engelbrecht

Wikus Engelbrecht

Wikus Engelbrecht is a marketing copywriter and journalist at GraphicMail, an international email and mobile marketing service provider. He has been active in professional language and media work since 2003, primarily in the digital environment. Contact him at [email protected] and follow @GraphicMail on Twitter.

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  • Chief eMail Officer
    March 2, 2012 at 6:37 am

    Hi Wikus…

    Thanks for the great insights to Pinterest.

    I have signed up but I have to ask you this question.

    Do we really need another social network? Aren’t we over tasked as it is.

    As much traction as Pinterest has, I think I will stick to trying to keep up with my blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter channels.

    Did I miss any?

    Thanks again, looking forward to your next post.


  • Wikus
    March 2, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Hi Jeff,

    It’s always fascinating to study a new player in the digital space, to conceptualize
    what kind of impact they will make on the industry, and figure out how to best leverage their tools.

    The value of Pinterest is in it’s social / visual nexus.

    Unlike some other social networks, that basically just duplicate the capabilities of their rivals, Pinterest does something different. And because it does this well, it could achieve adding a whole new layer to the social sphere, instead of just giving users more of the same.

    Granted, not everyone will be interested, and not all users and business stand to gain as much from efforts on Pinterest as some others might. A small business person that retails fashion items online will probably get more traction than, for example, an accounting firm.

    However, if the issue for now is simply just whether to sign up for an account or not; if you don’t have it, you can’t benefit from it.

    Do we really need another social network?

    This question was raised very frequently in 2011, and the debate is still ongoing.

    I think that this is a case-by-case consideration. One needs to evaluate what exactly is being provided and how people are engaging with it, so let’s begin by placing Pinterest-use in context.

    According to some numbers featured recently on by the Wall Street Journal, regarding the average amount of minutes spent per visitor for various social media sites during the whole month of January; we can see that Pinterest had a significantly higher score than LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace and Google+ all combined (nearly double in fact).

    So whether we like Pinterest or not, or think that we don’t need it, the research shows that it has captured people’s attention and is experiencing relatively high periods of usage time per user (which has breached the 10 million mark and continues to rise rapidly).

    As marketers, communicators or business people; we need to go fishing where the fish are.

    If we find that clients or potential clients are amassing somewhere, then we need a presence there, end of story, even if it is just to help funnel them to what we ourselves may consider to be more important or more direct channels. And if they lose interest in a particular platform and move elsewhere (which may or may not be inevitable), then so do we.

    Hunt where the game is; isn’t that the law of the jungle?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on Pinterest
    for now to follow how things develop.

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