Once upon a time, Pinterest was this cool new social media platform that no one had really heard of yet. I could pin things without the worry of getting weird looks from anyone I knew in real life (hello cheeky someecards) and lament how everyone else was TOTALLY missing out.
Fast forward nine months, and everyone is raving about Pinterest: my old classmates, my workmates, even my friends’ families. Which is cool..
But throughout the past few months, I’ve been noticing that some people (and brands) are still missing the mark when it comes to the hot, new social network.
While it can be argued that it’s up to the user to decide how to use a social media platform, there’s certain worst practices that people should learn to avoid (auto-DM, anyone?). Here’s a few signs that you might be pinning it wrong:
1. Your pins aren’t visually interesting
Pinterest is a VISUAL platform. That means the things you pin should be VISUAL-ly interesting. If you, or your brand, don’t share interesting imagery that links to deeper content, you’re going to lose interest from your audience.
Some worst cases I’ve seen use Pinterest as a social bookmarking site, like Delicious. While Pinterest does have similar functions, it typically revolves around the image first with the content coming secondary i.e. photos of food, crafts, natural phenomenons, art, etc. linking to more information about that image. Not just pinning the istockphoto or creative commons stock image someone decided to tack onto their post.
2. Your description is misleading
Another worst practice is writing a description that isn’t accurate to the pinned image. For example, there’s a Kickstarter project featuring silver coffee bean-shaped objects called joulies that regulate the temperature of warm drinks. But I’ve seen the same image on Pinterest with instructions to spray paint coffee beans silver.
This can be particularly dangerous for brands because it spreads misinformation about your product, especially if it’s linked to a generic image from Google [just to give some perspective, this pin with the wrong description was re-pinned 346 times..and counting (h/t @prcog)].
Which leads me to the next worst practice..
3. Your pins don’t link to the correct URL
One of the things that really gets my goat is when I click on a pin and instead of being linked to that piece of content, it links to the homepage of a website and I have to scroll back through to find the correct link. Or pins that link back to Google Images or a Tumblr feed.
Users (especially brands) should take due diligence to make sure they’re pinning the right link – both for the benefit of your followers and to give credit to the original source of the content.
4. You use Pinterest to life-cast
In case you haven’t noticed, Pinterest’s interface isn’t very friendly to self-uploaded content that leads to actual source material. Sure, the option is there, but it’s the trap door of the platform since it doesn’t link to anything but itself unless you go back in and edit the entry. Here’s an idea: JUST. DON’T. Honestly, I don’t even know why they haven’t removed that feature yet.
Let’s just get this straight: Pinterest is NOT for life-casting. No one cares how much you and your friends like to party, the conference your brand sponsored last week or the 500th low-fat soy mocha latte unless it links to deeper, relevant content.
If you want to simply lifecast through pretty images, join Instagram.
5. You use Pinterest in vain
Last but definitely not least, avoid pinning the majority of your pins from your own website or blog. There’s a Pin Etiquette page for a reason!
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, nobody cares WHO you are, they’re just interested in WHAT you like. Case in point: when you click on a user’s profile, the “about” portion is only a small part of the page and is pushed to the side, while pinboards are at the forefront. That’s because engagement on Pinterest isn’t profile-specific but rather board-specific: the identity of the user comes secondary to discovery and curation. I think this is what makes it so popular with people who don’t care much for Twitter or Facebook.
From a marketing standpoint, brands need to realize it’s not about their agenda when it comes to Pinterest (the WHO). Instead, focus on the personality and interests of the brand, which ultimately highlights the lifestyle of their customers (the WHAT). When brands do pin their products, it should be an afterthought unless it’s intended for a product-specific board. However, the product can relate to the overall theme of the pin – such as an ingredient in a recipe, a piece of furniture in an attractive living room, etc. This is something Chobani does extraordinarily well.
Some of the worst users I’ve seen on Pinterest are pinning mostly their own content/ products/ promotions. Instead, take a fractioned approach and create multiple pinboards according to key interests surrounding the brand in order to attract your target audience. Everyone has different ways of deciding how much of your own content and how much internal and external content to post — 80/20, 90/10, 70/30 — but the key idea is that you’re sharing more external content than your own. Aside from being less slimy, it helps establish a better relationship with your customers and expands your reach as a brand.