February 26th, 2012 | 4 MIN READ

My Obligatory Pinterest Post

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

It seems every blog feed I subscribe to has had a post or 2 on Pinterest in the last few weeks. I held off on doing a post for Get Elastic because I believed the marketing potential was limited to fashion, beauty and home/garden brands. But the more I read about how people and businesses are using Pinterest, the more I see broader impact.

Consider this my 'pinboard' of interesting things I’ve gleaned from the articles I’ve read.

1. It's teaching web users how to navigate differently

Many conventional things we do on the web are learned behaviors, introduced to us by innovative and disruptive web companies. For example, portal sites taught us to navigate through text links:

Even ecommerce designs from the late 90's reflected the portal look:

Somewhere along the way, ecommerce design evolved from lists of text links to predominantly image-based design and merchandising. Blogs made way for microblogs and "ticker" style news feeds. Design trends tend to form around a handful of sites that introduce something to the world, that people enjoy using.

Pinterest's popularity is already influencing other website designs. Easy Living magazine's home page has embraced the image-block style navigation that Pinterest has popularized (but didn't invent).

This could change the way some websites organize and merchandise categorical information and wishlists. For example, music and movie streaming services can merchandise by cover art - like scanning a shelf at a real video or bookstore. Image navigation also makes sense for tablet and smartphone apps, images are larger targets to hit and can improve usability.

2. It drives sales.

Facebook's challenge to marketers is the fact users are not primarily hanging out in social networks to be marketed to, but Pinterest is all about material goods. Within the thriving community, there's plenty of Attention, Interest and Desire -- so Action is not a giant leap. In fact, Pinterest has already become an affiliate with a number of large e-stores - it's intentionally a "commercial" community.

Without any promotion, John Fluevog shoes has generated sales from "word of pinboard."

With a proactive engagement strategy, this shoe brand could really kick it up a notch.

Many brands are already running Pinterest contests to rally their fans. For example, Wayfair offers a chance to win a $50 gift card for creating Pinterest boards using Wayfair products.

Pinterest marketing is a natural fit for magazine publishers - one of the network's most followed brands is Better Homes and Gardens, with over 18,000 followers.

BHG's pinboards are a way to repurpose content in a creative way that opens up discovery to a whole new world of fans. "Pins" lead back to the articles the images originate from, which contain bold calls-to-action to subscribe to the magazine.

While 83% of American Pinterest users are female, in the UK, 56% are male. Pinterest-clone Gentlemint is intentionally geared toward men, and may be the right avenue for brands like GQ or Indochino.

3. It's an alternative to blogging.

Of the 85 retailer blogs by the Internet Retailer Top 500 list that were alive in 2007, only 44 are still around. It's tough to create content that people care about enough to subscribe to when you are a commercial brand, and dedicating resources to content creation is a significant investment.

A lot has changed in the last 5 years, and sharing shorter quips through Twitter and Facebook are quicker and cheaper ways to keep engaged with consumers. Pinterest is another opportunity to engage, as a "content curator," whether the content is your own or from around the Web.

Some marketers believe Pinterest is not the place to promote your own items, but I don't see an issue with it. (Nobody bats an eye at sharing your own content and links through Twitter). Williams-Sonoma uses it to expand the reach of its vibrant blog:

As with Facebook, Twitter and Google+, you can grow your audience by promoting your profile through email and as a call-to-action on your website.

4. There's SEO Opportunity.

Though some links carry the "nofollow" attribute, link juice still flows from from profiles, boards and in pin descriptions. It's a good opportunity to get some deep links to product pages, and if you link to your own boards from your blog or other domains you control, you can boost the value the links on individual boards pass.

The caveat is you won't get anchor text - it defaults to the root domain.

While Pinterest is not going to be a home run for every brand, there are a number of ways you can explore it - even if you're not a clothing store. And if Pinterest isn't the right market for you, you can expect niche "clones" to pop up that may be a better fit in the near future.

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