Does it have marketing value? For whom?
As with most things in marketing and PR, the answer is – yes and no. It depends on what businesses you’re talking about, and how marketers and PR pros utilize it.
Pinterest’s appeal and value is in the visual. The most popular “pins” are visual items that people have been sharing for ages, such as wedding dresses, interior design inspiration, fashion and travel destination photos – think dog-earing a glossy magazine or snapping a cell phone photo of a dress and sending it to your friends. Early adopters of Pinterest are companies in retail or who deal in visual commodities, such as craft sales site Etsy, shoe manufacturer Toms and celebrity photos from People magazine.
Some marketers believe Pinterest has potential for B2B marketing, but this seems to only provide real value for companies with an already-robust media presence. Since Pinterest is an aggregator of visuals, it helps if companies have an active blog with visual elements such as infographics, or if the company deals in creative visuals that can be used on boards. And of course, B2B marketing is only as useful as there are companies you want to notice you and interact with on Pinterest. For other companies, using Pinterest as a sort of evolving gallery and an extension of existing web presence could be useful if they have the content to keep the Pinterest page interesting.
It’s hard to “pin down” the value of Pinterest as a spreader of content. Some retail sites indicate Pinterest has driven significant traffic, but “pins” are spread very thin across the platform – the sites that are sources of the most pins, like Etsy, only claim about 3 percent of total pins. Things that “go viral” on Pinterest likely have less staying power and overall views than viral memes on Facebook or Youtube, for instance, due to the decentralized nature of Pinterest with pins spread across many boards.
The fine-print writing on the wall – Pinterest as content appropriator
Pinterest might be a great way to show off content and spread it to a targeted audience, but the legal niceties might not be so nice for individual users and companies.
The user agreement gives hints that Pinterest might not be just a warm and fuzzy content aggregator. The agreement gives permission for Pinterest to distribute any uploaded content, which is a huge no-no for creatives dealing with original work. Members give permission for Pinterest to “use, copy, adapt…and otherwise exploit” any member-uploaded content, while at the same time affirming that the member has sole worldwide rights to the content. The latter is a large burden for casual users who likely find most of their content in the tricky ownership world of the Internet, and obtaining permissions for every upload could hamper the spontaneous nature of pins in the first place.
Pinterest also recently introduced a “no-pin” HTML tag, allowing sites to protect content against pinning, which also seems against the spirit of Pinterest. The move, which protects Pinterest against copyright concerns, is reminiscent of Youtube’s agreeing to take down copyrighted videos and work with the owners of the content on their terms. It might seem like a small thing, but it shows that Pinterest is not immune to legal growing pains, which might not ultimately benefit the end-user.
So what’s next for Pinterest? Should we encouraging clients to use it?
Pinterest recently announced that it will soon be releasing an API, meaning that tech companies could start getting VC funding to create useful apps. This could help the business and retail side of Pinterest, aiding companies in capturing Pinterest traffic in useful ways to increase sales.
The site continues to grow at an astounding rate, but for now it remains a platform mostly for individual, casual users. As Pinterest’s wave continues to rise, however, early-adopter companies and their PR and marketing teams will continue to think of ways to use and harness the growing platform’s energy. It remains to be seen if Pinterest is simply another arrow in a company’s social media quiver or if it has real bottom-line value.
For a company trying to take the long view of social media platforms, Pinterest might be too new and narrow in marketing potential for clients to adopt it now. At the rate its growing, and with signs that it wants to add value for businesses through apps, there might soon be a way to determine that pesky ROI. For now, adoption of Pinterest will likely stay within retail, creative and visual-based companies, or companies with a lot of resources to devote to social media marketing. Because let’s face it – as useful as Pinterest might prove to be, social media fatigue is setting in for individuals and companies alike.