Anyone who knows me will tell you: I’m completely commitment phobic. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of emerging social media networks. I cringe whenever a new one is released because I simply Can’t. Handle. Another. I’m on Twitter, I’m on Facebook – what else do I need? But every now and then a social network comes along that sweeps me off my feet and makes me believe in the amazingness of the Web all over again. And for me, the social network doing that right now is Pinterest.

Wait? Pinterest? Is that really anything more than an outlet for pictures of sleeping cats, fancy home décor and items deemed orange?

It is.

I’ll tell you why I love it and why, as a brand, you should love it too.

One of the great things social media has done is that it’s undeniably changed the way businesses and consumers are able to interact. It broke through an imaginary wall that had long divided the two and allowed businesses to share parts of themselves which, in turn, allowed consumers to seek out businesses that are weird in the same way or that believed in the same things. Last November I spoke at TEDx about how through the Web, weird became profitable. Weird became something businesses could leverage. To me, that’s where social media is most effective – when businesses use weird to be strategically authentic and show customers their essence. It’s when they let certain parts of themselves hang out so their customers can get to know whose behind the product or service that they love so much.

And that’s what Pinterest does really well. It epitomizes what is right and powerful in social media. Sure, Mashable may still use it to hoard marketing infographics for page views, but that’s not how it’s most effective.
Pinterest works best when brands show customers what’s going on below the surface. When they allow consumers to see the spirit of their brand by showing them not what they do, but why they do it – what inspires them, what moves them, what the company culture is based on. They do that all through topic-specific boards.

Some examples:

I’m a big fan of Chobani yogurt. You can find their products both in the Outspoken Media fridge and in my fridge at home. I’m also a fan of Chobani on Pinterest because instead of just trying to hawk yogurt, they give me a glimpse behind the company. Stuff that shows me not what they do, but what they’re about.

Their Nothing But Good board gives me a sense of company culture, the Chobani Fit board reinforces the brand’s focus on health and wellness, and the Let’s Travel board gives another look into what they value.

Sure, I know they sell yogurt, but now I get why. I see the passion behind the business.

Whole Foods also uses Pinterest to show what the company is about at its core. What I like about the Whole Foods Pinterest board is that, even if I’ve never had a single encounter with the brand, based on the boards I immediately know what it represents.

There are boards dedicated to the Whole Planet Foundation, the We’re Used To Reusing board shows Whole Food’s commitment to recycling, and the How Does Your Garden Grow board focuses on real gardens. Even if you’ve never been inside a Whole Foods, you get the essence.

Of course, it doesn’t just do that for brands. Pinterest can show you the essence behind any user. What if you were a brand targeting Joanna Lord? You heard her speak at Affiliate Summit, you’ve identified her as an influencer, and now you want to see what moves her. Just take a look at her collection of boards:

What more could you possibly ask for?

The power of Pinterest for brands is its ability to convey to customers the core of your brand, without hawking a product. Something else I really love is that it Pinterest forces brands (personal and otherwise) to think about this idea of being strategically authentic and to “pin”-point who they are, why they do what they do, and what they want people to know about them. For all the energy social media experts have spent trying to explain to people how to build their brand and how to decide what it is they want to be known for – Pinterest gave us all a visual example of how to do this simply by existing.

How could you not fall in love with that?

I love Pinterest as a tool to help brands cut the crap and connect with customers on a passion-level. Because that’s where business is done.

What’s your take on Pinterest? Are you using it? Ignoring it? Have you fallen in love like me?

[If you’re a brand looking for some cool ways to leverage Pinterest, there’s a great article on OpenForum that lists 5 cool ways.]


About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.


28 thoughts on “To Pinterest, A Love Letter


  • Andy Nattan on said:

    Wow, it’s been a while since I didn’t get on board with a Lisa Barone post.

    I can’t stand Pinterest. I don’t like using it, I don’t like reading it, and it doesn’t seem to offer me anything.

    Yet everyone’s telling me it’s wonderful and I need to embrace it.

    Am I the only one that doesn’t love Pinterest?


    • Lisa Barone on said:

      More than most sites I definitely don’t think it’s for everyone, but I do think it can be really powerful in humanizing large brands or helping people understand the passion/culture behind certain small businesses. It takes a lot for me to give a new site a real chance, but I think there’s potential here.

      [Until marketers come in and bastardize the whole thing.]


    • Sully on said:

      @Andy – As of late Dec, 59% of Pintrest’s audience was females between the ages of 25-44 (source: http://mashable.com/2011/12/22/pinterest-video/). The adoption rate with this demographic means it really resonates with women, which is probably why Lisa loves it so much.

      I know plenty of women in that demo that will rip pages from magazines of dresses, hairstyles, furniture and more. In all cases, it’s something they want to save. I feel like Pintrest is the digital version of this.


  • Kristy Bolsinger on said:

    I love it. This post and Pinterest. I’ve been addicted for awhile now. It keeps me up at night. Literally.

    That said. It reminds me a lot of Twitter in the beginning. I hear a lot of “I dont’ get it”‘s. Interestingly most of those tend to come from men. Right now it’s incredibly female-centric and dominated. As Pinterest grows up and more men find creative ways to use it (yes, I understand you don’t love all of the content in my “sparkles” board) I foresee a huge increase in adoption in that demo. Should be an interesting ride for them.

    Assuming us marketers don’t kill it that is ;)


    • Lisa Barone on said:

      Ha, yeah, I guess right now most of Pinterest revolves around pinning sparkly things, cupcakes, and wedding dresses. :)

      Because it is so visual, I think it’s a really interesting platform to easily convey to someone what you’re about, what you believe, and what you spend hours on the Web researching. From a brand perspective, that’s a cool way to get that information to your consumers, as well as to research people and trends.

      From a users perspective, Pinterest is where you go…AND THEN NEVER LEAVE! :)


  • Leslie Banks on said:

    Andy – if you don’t like Pinterest – I don’t think people should feel pressured to use a platform they just don’t click with. For me, I’m still struggling with Google+. That’s the beauty of social media. You can adapt tools and platforms that are relevant to YOU.

    I am using Pinterest for more personal expression. I’m a visual person and I have always loved bulletin boards and scrapbooks and collecting things that inspire me. I like Pinterest for the exact same reasons – I can pull different things I see and like online together in one place.

    It’s interesting to see companies jump in and use it and I agree with Lisa’s point here:
    “When they allow consumers to see the spirit of their brand by showing them not what they do, but why they do it – what inspires them, what moves them, what the company culture is based on.”
    I think this is one of the values of social media and why people want to connect to a company at all.


  • Kristi on said:

    I LOVE it. It took me awhile to ‘get it’ but I did a few months ago (the Chrome plugin helped!) and now I browse in there weekly. I love to get new recipes and fun crafts and gift ideas for my kids school.

    I’m also attempting to work in it as a marketer :) It’s been fun exploring.


    • Lisa Barone on said:

      The Chrome plugin is huge!

      The OpenForum article I linked to in the post does a good job laying out some realistic ways that brands can really leverage. If you haven’t checked that out, I’d encourage it.


  • anthonydnelson on said:

    Lisa- I can’t seem to find the Pin It button on the bottom of this post. :)

    Seriously though, I’m betting that button becomes the 4th most popular sharing button across the web over the next year or two. Battling with SU and Reddit to be on webpages along with FB, Twitter, and G+.


  • Alec Perkins on said:

    I really like the idea of Pinterest, and it seems like a logical next step from what many have used Tumblr for. The reverse that you mentioned is also interesting, taking advantage of the visual, bite-sized, interconnected nature and using it to show the personality of the company, instead of or as complement to a traditional blog.

    BUT, the web interface makes no sense to me. The pinboard style is fun and novel, but feels like it fights my scanning pattern. Perhaps it’s the vertical nature, while I’m used to L-R reading? I’m inclined to think this because I love the way photos are displayed on Google+, and the main difference is a horizontal disposition instead of vertical. Also, I feel like nothing is where I expect it to be.

    It’s frustrating (I even bitched about this on Twitter just last night), because I’ve been using Evernote for a while to collect inspirational images, articles, etc. A social twist on that has a lot of potential.


  • Monica Wright (@monicawright) on said:

    I haven’t been spending enough time on there lately, but Pinterest is almost like catalog browsing – I still enjoy browsing catalogs that are sent to my home. Only now I get to share the stuff I like, even if I have no intention of buying anything. One downfall is that I wish that you could post images from Facebook. In any event, this is going to seem like a complete fluff comment, but one of my favorite boards is Kristy Bolsinger’s “Hair” board. Yeah, it skews female.


  • Joe Hall on said:

    Here’s what I want to do: Use pinterest as a brainstorming tool for projects…like collect content ideas and design conscepts…Then share boards with team members and clients…but I can’t label boards appropriately then….folks will see my work and clients, and it won’t let you make your boards private.

    So pinterest if you are reading this, please make an option to make boards private, then your fun sharing site could turn into a powerful brainstorming app for internet marketers!


    • Cody Baird on said:

      Brainstorming for projects is a great idea. Thanks Joe! Adding something like circles in Google + would be brilliant. The privacy with + is one of my favorite features. I dumped Facebook years ago because of the lack of privacy. I wish all the social networks would jump on the privacy train. For me that is the direction for the future.


    • Diane on said:

      Joe, Pinterest has made it pretty clear so far they don’t see private boards as part of their vision. You should check out gimmebar, which has this option. I use it for “work” stuff and Pinterest for personal stuff.


  • Karen Bice on said:

    “I cringe whenever a new one is released because I simply Can’t. Handle. Another. I’m on Twitter, I’m on Facebook – what else do I need?”

    Cringe is the appropriate word for me when I hear of a new platform or get an invitation to one. :) I have a hard enough time managing the platforms I’m already on. Anyway, I registered with Pinterest several weeks back but haven’t had the time to figure it out yet. I’ve heard some good things about it though and have seen a lot of PR and posts about it. I enjoyed reading your post about it, Lisa.


  • Susie Blackmon on said:

    I’ve loved Pinterest since started on it, and especially love being able to share products from companies that I admire, as well as all things ‘cowgirl’ that are passions of mine. Loved the enthusiasm of your post, and enjoyed reading what you had to say about Pinterest.


  • Wasim Ismail on said:

    Pinterest is getting more and more attention day by day, I think it’s simple to use, and for a business its great platform to show off their brand in action. I can see the fashion industry really using it to push their lifestyle out.


  • Carrie on said:

    I’m a huge fan of Pinterest but I suspect that, like Facebook, once the big business starts to exploit it (and once Pinterest gives in to the ‘potential’ of big business) I will no longer enjoy using the site.


  • Ishak Latipi Mastan on said:

    Great article, Lisa and I am glad I stumbled upon it!
    I am a great fan of Pinterest. I am a visual person. Pinterest is great for business especially if your product is for women.


  • Eric Marshall on said:

    I’ve been trying to resist, but just kept hearing too much about it…so, finally this week I asked my wife for an invite :) Haven’t dug too deep, but we have some clients that it may work really well for. To your point about showcasing “behind the scenes” stuff, I’ve always thought Facebook is a good place to do just that as well. Brands that use Facebook to post what’s going on within the company are really intriguing to me…especially photos. I almost always click on photos posted from events, offices, production facilities, etc. Because Pinterest takes the visual aspect to a whole new level, I can definitely see this carrying over, as you pointed out.


  • Kara Buntin on said:

    I do custom wedding cakes, and I use pinterest for my business relatively frequently. I also curate a board for my bridal association. On that account each business that’s a member has it’s own board, and I pin to articles that they’ve been featured in, pictures from their websites, etc etc.

    One thing I found to use pinterest for was to show clients specific examples of cake designs that I was thinking about for them. It’s a lot easier to show people cakes than it is to describe them. I can put a collection of examples together with notes about each, then direct the client to that specific board. They’ll probably then start wandering around my other boards, which keeps my name in their mind longer. Very convenient for building a relationship with the client.


  • Susan Krzywicki on said:

    The blending of personal and business is often driven by women. It is a valid trend: bringing us back from the Henry Ford era of mechanization of humans into work units.

    Pinterest is driven by women’s desires to communicate visually in a casual, personal way.

    Get the connection? Often, men think that if a woman did it, it must be something beneath their notice. We must grow out of this old way of condescending in order to be fully actualized humans. Sharing is a powerful human attribute. Being real is the key – to life success.


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