Seems like every blogger I read has written a post on the topic. My Evernote files are bursting with clips that include pundit opinions, technical overviews, marketing tips, how to’s, case studies, best practices, infographics, metrics, statistics, diagrams, roadmaps, seriously long lists of tactics to help you “make the most” of Pinterest, and even a few spoofs. The Pinterest eagle has landed and everyone wants to be the one to tell you how to use it to market your brand.
I know it’s driving massive traffic, but …
As the owner of a service-based business, I don’t expect to generate leads from Pinterest. Even if I did post quotes or images that related to my marketing and writing skills, I find it highly unlikely that they would lead to an actual engagement. Branding overhauls, content strategies, and e-books are not exactly impulse buys. But that’s not to say that I don’t believe I’m getting any value out of the platform. (And, no, I’m not just saying that because I don’t want to have to give up pinning pictures of beautiful barn homes, cute animals, and word geek sayings.)
… I just want it to be fun.
Maybe it’s my inner cynic, but I am a little grossed out by the stampede to monetize and “marketize” this platform. I’m a marketer myself, so it might seem out of character for me to be turned off by the sudden influx of crassly promotional pins that have started cluttering my Pinterest feed. At least once a day, I find myself unfollowing specific boards just so I can purge the overtly commercial items from my otherwise all-fun-all-the-time feed. I don’t want Pinterest to become just one more place where people can broadcast their offers. I don’t want it to become integrated with the rest of the social management tools so that people can simultaneously push the same images and comments to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and so on.
I spend time on Pinterest to get away from my usual work routine – to see new things that I don’t see in my typical, work-driven web travels. I spend time on Pinterest to spark my imagination. I go there to collect images that make me smile, inspire me, or perhaps give me a new perspective on an old problem. And I go there to share myself and learn about other people, because …
… once upon a time, social platforms were actually about being social.
And that’s the piece of the Pinterest puzzle that people are missing. Somehow, by reaching this critical mass of users and clicks and press coverage, the site has been transformed from a fun way to share ideas and dreams into a source of traffic. Most of what I’ve read about “how to use Pinterest” is about how to use it to drive traffic somewhere else – how to use Pinterest as the bait that lands fish on your own website.
Again, as a marketer, I get this. I really do. But, I’m discouraged to think that people are so willing to overlook the smaller, more intimate opportunities that a social network like Pinterest offers.
If a picture is worth a thousand words …
… then Pinterest is worth one hell of lot of words. As a writer, there’s a part of me that sighs with resignation over the immense popularity of this visually-driven site. As I recently commented on Mark Schaefer’s clever post about the rise of Pinterest, “Perhaps the dolphins really are the more intelligent species and language is just a kind of evolutionary speed bump. Perhaps Pinterest will pave the way for communication sans words. We will simply point and use emoticons to decide whether the person we’re conversing with is friend or foe.”
But, the issue of our declining desire to engage with the written word aside, I do admit that – even for a writer – pictures offer a certain immediacy of understanding that is appealing. You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their Pinterest boards. There are patterns, preferences, even – potentially – subconscious themes. I haven’t analyzed anyone else’s boards, but in looking at my own hoard of pins, I was surprised at how much of myself I had revealed through this visual format, this subtly passive (after all, I’m not creating this content, I’m simply passing it along) method of saying, “This is who I am.”
And that’s what it’s all about.
I’ve said before that the secret to any social platform or social content success lies in its ability to help people express themselves. It’s never about the platform or the brand or the product or the service. It’s about the individual and giving her a way to say, “This is me.” For all intents and purposes, Pinterest is a digital locker door in a global high school. You took care to decorate your locker in a way that expressed your style and personality and beliefs. And each time you opened your locker, you revealed that visual reflection of your insides for all the world to see. And sometimes, someone would notice something you’d hung up there – a saying or a picture of a band or a piece of your own artwork – and stop to make a comment or ask you a question. In that instant – you were connected by your shared affinity with that image. You learned, with very few words, that you had something in common, shared some small piece of a belief or a vision. Contact was made – human contact.
Those are the types of connections I like making on Pinterest. It’s not that I’d be disappointed if I somehow managed to generate a lot of new traffic to my website, but I’d honestly be more pleased to make some intimate connections with individuals. After all, business is ultimately about relationships and, in my experience, having a few strong relationships is much more effective (and fulfilling) than chasing after a larger number of casual relationships.
What do you say? Should we be embracing the “marketization” of Pinterest, or taking the slower approach with a focus on one-on-one relationship building?
–> If you’d like more about Pinterest, check out the FOCUS Q&A Panel moderated by Ann Yastremskiof Marketing Profs and featuring Amanda Maksymiwof OpenView Labs, Jessica Meher of HubSpot, Olivier Blanchard of BrandBuilder Marketing, and little, old me. It was fun. I used the term “Pinterest Pimp.” 😉
Image Credit: Ben Watts