I’ve been perplexed by the strength and tone of the backlash against Pinterest by some well-respected names in the the nonprofit social media world. I kept asking myself, “why are people being pins in the mud about Pinterest?”
Pins In The Mud?
“Let’s be honest here. Outside of driving traffic and Pinterest follower counts, most people don’t have any outcomes to offer. Pinterest is a huge experiment from the marketing perspective. Fewer people have real answers to the ROI question.”
“Clearly, we’re well in the “Pinterest for good” stage now – and it’s the intersection at which I’d like throw up a big stop sign.
I’m not at all convinced that Pinterest is an important platform for social ventures.”
“Clearly, if you pin it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will come. These are big brands we are talking about — granted, it is still early on in the game — these numbers aren’t looking so good.”
These articles aren’t just sitting out there on their own, either. Mavens such as nonprofilt social media goddess Beth Kanter and social business consultant and visual thinker David Armano are referring people to these articles on Google + and Twitter, potentially reaching a combined 450,000 people.
What happened to the days when new social networks were opportunities to experiment? Where is the advice that was once free-flowing by these same people to give these networks a try and see what works?
Luminaries such as Chris Brogan wrote a post about Twitter in the early days called 50 Ways Marketers Can Use Social Media To Improve Their Marketing that is emphasizes with the words experiment, learn, and try.
TechSoup said, “More than most technologies, success in social networks depends on your sense of adventure,” in a post titled Should Your Organization Use Social Networking Sites?
Beth herself counseled people to experiment in her presentations:
They’re Not Pins In The Mud
If you’re not reading carefully, you might miss it, but these folks are not being pins in the mud. They may not be as straight-forward as they have been in the past, but I believe these smart thinkers are simply advocating the same thing they’ve always advocated: Have a measurable plan.
(And between you and me, I think they’re a little annoyed with the pinperts, pinjas and pinturus out there who have already formed “best practices” guides even though brands have been involved for a VERY short amount of time on Pinterest.)
A review of Geoff’s presentations reveals that he has always been focused on business outcomes, which is the point of his recent post, and somewhat hotly debated in the comments. He simply wants to know what quantifiable benefit the brands in Pinterest are receiving from Pinterest. Traffic is good, but it doesn’t equal a conversion.
You’ll notice that Beth even uses the words “eventually” and “see your social media strategy come to life.” I’ve heard Beth speak many times and she is a fan of experimentation, but measurable experimentation so that the failures you will inevitable have will be informative failures.
Tom is a little trickier in that he feels, rightly so in my opinion, that Pinterest, like Facebook, takes advantage of our social capital as prosumers, and essentially we do the work for the network. However, this is becoming the way of the world, and user generated content is becoming the tool of kings. We all win, most of the time, because we, as prosumers, get satisfaction out of creating and the networks provide a place for us to do so. Tom’s more pertinent point is that Pinterest offers little concrete benefits (list building, little integration with websites) to brands yet . The key word is YET. This is early days, and if the evolution of Facebook and its attitude toward business is any indicator, then those benefits are coming, and building a presence now will pay off in the end.
Saya advocates using the Pin It button first, so that brands can learn what kind of content from their site is pin worthy in the eyes of their consumers. Sounds like a learning exercise to me.
Pinterest may be the newest thing to get our attention, but the rules of the game haven’t changed. The steps you should take to enter and conquer a new social network still apply:
- Identify your objectives for the network and make sure they are measurable objectives
- Learn the etiquette of the network first by listening and watching
- Identify the people in the network who matter to you
- Engage with them first, before asking them for anything
- Iterate on all of the above as you evaluate results along the way
There still may be some of you out there who are thinking, “Great, James, but what if it takes my brand six months to get any kind of strategy in place?” If that is the case, I feel sorry for you, but I know how it can be. I’d suggest the following. Personally take on numbers 2, 3 and 4. Then, set up a minimal presence on Pinterest and make it all about your consumers’ ideas for your brand. That could be a couple of things: repin their items that include your brand (possibly few and far between) or ask them what they want to see you pin.
As Geoff says in his post, the case studies that are meaningful have yet to appear. I, for one, eagerly await them to see what works for whom. Those best practices will form one day for real. For now, be smart, be adventurous, be methodical, and don’t be afraid to give Pinterest a try.