The Value of Pinterest for B2B Communicators
A picture speaks a thousand words. This adage has never been more relevant than today with people’s (digital) attention spans continuing to drop: from an average of 12 seconds twenty years ago, today, it’s hovering around the 8 seconds mark. So, how do digital communicators still reach, inform and activate target groups? Strategies that embrace visuals as a key component can be part of the solution. Using imagery – videos, infographics, pictures, posters and others – enhances brand storytelling as well as marketing products and services. Images work as they break up long reams of text and engage the brain in a way words simply can’t: Up to three days later, users still recall 65% of the visual content they have seen compared to only 10% for written content.
Pinterest has been on the rise since its conception in 2009. Initially, more of a mood board exercise for DIYers, it turned itself into a platform with a much broader appeal – and, today, that also includes B2B communication.
In this post, we walk you through the perks (and also risks) of Pinterest and detail how PR and marketing experts alike can leverage the platform to boost their communication efforts.
What is Pinterest?
At its core, Pinterest is a powerful visual search engine. Users search for a keyword or phrase and are served a large variety of visual content. With that approach, Pinterest hit a nerve and, therefore, continues to grow: in the second quarter of 2019, now publicly listed Pinterest – available in more than 30 languages – reported more than 320 million monthly active users around the world. While much of its early days were dominated by US users, in 2018, 80% of signups came from other countries. Today, more than half of its users – or pinners as they’re called – come from outside the US with Brazil being the second biggest market for Pinterest followed by India (with 8% and 5% of pinners, respectively).
Obtaining country-specific data is somewhat of a challenge but for Germany, for example, media measurement and analytics firm Comscore reports that the platform has amassed 12 million monthly unique visitors. The most popular categories with Germans are Food & Drink, Beauty, Women’s Fashion, Home Décor and Art.
Digging further into the numbers: pinners mostly access the platform via mobile devices with 85% of users doing so. In total, there are currently about 200 billion pins distributed over 4 billion pinboards. Over 80% of Pinterest users are female although men represent 40% of new signups. Half of all pinners earn $50,000 or more per year, with 10% earning more than $125,000. From a B2C perspective, the platform is used to inform purchasing decisions. In fact, 93% of active users state that they use Pinterest when planning a purchase while a further 87% said they’ve actually bought something that they first saw on the platform.
With so many social networks and platforms available, it can be difficult to justify adding yet another one to your arsenal. But, Pinterest stands out:
- Follower counts don’t matter: As Pinterest is more of a search engine than a social network, people who aren’t following you are just as likely to see your content as your followers. Studies show that a person with 10,000 followers can get the same amount of traffic as someone with 50,000 followers. As Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann puts it, “our job is to help you discover ideas for yourself. Those ideas come from other people, but the objective is not to get a lot of followers or to impress others“. Therefore, on Pinterest, communicators don’t need to build a huge follower base to validate claims for credibility and authority. Still, the more followers you have the better you will rank in terms of Pinterest SEO.
- Pins have longer lifespans: Unlike other social networks, Pinterest content doesn’t disappear moments after you’ve posted it. Research shows that the average half-life of a pin is 3.5 months compared to, for example, Instagram where posts have a shelf life of just 19 hours. Pinterest lends itself to work with evergreen content providing value to communicators for longer periods of time (which is more difficult on other platforms) translating directly into higher exposure levels.
- Advertising: Facebook and Instagram currently attract most of the advertising revenue on social networks. But, Pinterest’s ad revenues are expected to hit $1 billion by 2020. Today, with relatively low ad prices and minor competition, this provides a great opportunity for communicators.
- Social responsibility: Studies show that social media usage carries substantial mental health risks. Pinterest is keenly aware of this and Pinterest Product Manager Annie Ta confirms that “for a number of years, we’ve worked with emotional health experts to address pinners in distress.” So, if users search for terms relating to suicide, the platform shows results such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Search terms such as “self-harm” or “bulimia” have been blacklisted years ago and users simply don’t get any results. Also, in July 2019, Pinterest launched a new feature called “Compassionate Search” which aims to help eliminate stress and anxiety:
Pinterest for B2B: Tips for communicators
Pinterest is slowly launching new features actively benefitting B2B brands: the platform has recently launched a new support scheme for brands to create “video pins” – short videos to share on Pinterest as additional visual options to drive engagement. PR and social media expert Lisa Buyer says that “for brands looking to get PR exposure and ROI out of social media at a time when Facebook is frightening and Instagram is inundating, Pinterest could be the perfect channel offering up some of the most attractive opportunities”.
Here are some recommendations on how to get the most out of the platform:
- Make your website pinnable: Simply add a “Pin It” button to your website visuals prompting visitors to share and save them to their own Pinterest boards;
- Enable Rich Pins: ‘Rich Pins’ allow you to show users relevant information about your Pin, providing them with a sort of preview of the actual piece of content;
- Write search-friendly captions: SEO is a must if you want your pins to show up in relevant search results. To do this, pepper your pin captions with relevant keywords and phrases;
- Experiment with paid pins: If you want to reach a wider audience, try paid pins. Businesses can choose the demographics of the people they’d like to reach with their pin and boost their visibility in search results;
- Pin regularly: Get into the habit of pinning content regularly – both, your own and curated third-party content. Brands pinning 5 times a day on average experience higher growth;
- Keep a consistent aesthetic: Ideally, you want users to recognise your pinned content straight away. So make sure you stick to your corporate identity across all platforms – including Pinterest.
Using Pinterest for PR
Pinterest can be also an effective platform for engaging different PR publics successfully:
- Create group boards to build connections with industry influencers. As social media expert Douglas Idugboe puts it, “Pinterest is a platform where you can contribute to other boards and earn recognition. If you contribute, like and share other Pinterest users’ boards and items with similar interests, it serves as a passive PR tool for your business“;
- Tell your story using strong, memorable visuals. People process visuals 60,000 times faster than text and colours increase content retention by 78% – the perfect recipe for highly engaging content;
- Build online relationships and communities through informative and relevant content. Pinterest users are more likely to recommend your brand to others when they view your content as helpful;
- Share behind-the-scenes stories for example from your employees and customers;
- Pin interesting data such as industry trends via infographics that outline a recent study or images and video taken at events. Research from Hubspot shows that infographics are typically twice as likely to be shared than any other visual content on social media.
B2B Communications on Pinterest comes with risks
Pinterest offers some great advantages, particularly when it comes to referral traffic whilst giving your content a much-needed SEO boost. Pinterest actually generates more referral traffic than the likes of YouTube and LinkedIn. For SEO, having an active Pinterest account also helps the SEO of your website since for every post you share, Pinterest creates a stored link acting as an inbound link.
But, there are some risks which need to be managed:
- ‘Collaborator Hijacking’ – A very specific Pinterest threat is the so-called “collaborator hijacking” which happens when a board you have been collaborating on starts showing off-topic content that is mostly undesired and sometimes also violates Pinterest’s content guidelines. In the worst case, this could severely harm a brand’s image and reputation. Only collaborate with people or organisations you know and trust – keep this in mind when accepting invites to collaborating on other boards;
- Copyright issues – On Pinterest, the risk associated with copyright is high. Christopher Boffoli, a Seattle-based photographer sued Pinterest because his works have been unrightfully posted more than 5,000 times on the platform and Pinterest, according to him, was not doing enough to protect the intellectual property of photographers. There’s a lot of discussion around whether pinning certain images constitutes copyright infringement. But, as long as you’re posting original content or re-pinning posts already shared to the site, you’ll be playing it safe;
- Business Isn’t a Focus (yet) – As we mentioned earlier, Pinterest started as a glorified mood board for DIYers. While it has moved away from this, there’s still an emphasis on lifestyle content. But, more and more business-related content is popping up on Pinterest, particularly white papers and infographics, as more B2B brands start using Pinterest systematically.
Examples of B2B Brands on Pinterest
Inspiration is everything when it comes to Pinterest. Here are some examples of B2B brands leading the way:
General Electric (GE)
Multinational conglomerate GE is one of the biggest B2B players on Pinterest. With around 1.7 million monthly viewers, they are reaching a lot of people with their content (which is about everything from fun science DIY to pressing environmental issues).
Social media management platform Hootsuite posts case-studies from their most successful clients and campaigns on its Pinterest boards which makes for an interesting read for buyers and communicators alike.
Multinational IBM has around 130.000 monthly viewers on Pinterest. Their profile showcases product-specific content as well as inspirational content to attract the broadest possible audience.
Outlook: Pinterest for B2B Communications
Pinterest’s user base grew by 50 million between 2018 and 2019, so, it’s safe to say that it’s not going away any time soon. It’s rather the contrary, since the advent of new features – also geared towards B2B brands – show the platform’s continued dedication to making a mark.
With visual marketing not set to die down anytime soon, Pinterest has the opportunity to rise up as an effective addition to the marketing mix of B2B brands. While the platform’s monetisation strategy is still in its infancy, it’s on a par with the early days of Facebook advertising when companies could relish in cheap clicks and powerful targeting. If B2B brands are quick, they can enjoy some early success through promoted pins.
But it’s not all pay-to-play. Pinterest remains and will continue to be a great platform to share useful content with prospects that pushes them further down the marketing and sales funnel. If you haven’t already thought about it, now is the time to iron out your Pinterest strategy and start putting your visual content to your advantage.