Monday, March 26, 2012

Is Your Business Missing Out on Pinterest?

Pinterest, which has recently exploded in popularity, is allowing consumers to explore the web in a new, exciting way. However, using Pinterest for businesses is a still a bit of an enigma to many. So how does it work and what can it do for your business?

Pinterest is the first social media site to recreate the feeling of flipping through the Sunday ads of the newspaper.  Major retailers that have already caught on to the site’s potential have started filling up the pin cache with images for users to look at and pass around.

As consumers search for their next purchase, they look for an item or service that will enhance their lives in some aspect. The challenge for companies and advertisers is to provide context to these consumers and show them how their product or service will do just that. Pinterest, a new social media platform, is providing this context to consumers in a whole new way.

Acting as a virtual pinboard, users can browse thousands upon millions of photos, which can be sorted into categories that specifically interest the user. There is something for everyone – for homebodies, the site is filled with everything from gardening, to home décor, to recipes; while the more adventurous are able to discover travel destinations, sports and art. Once the user finds a photo that intrigues them, they can click the “Repin” button which automatically links the photo to their personal account and shares the item with all of their friends, acting as a referral service. This feature gives businesses a tangible reach for their marketing efforts as the number of “repins” or “likes” that a photo receives is tracked.

Pinterest is also handy for people who have images to collect for a specific purpose. For many artists and designers it could easily replace the physicalmood board, sketchbook, or scrapbook as there’s just so much more potential for collecting images.  Brides-to-be and wedding planners create pinboards for inspiration, as do interior designers, both amateur and professional.

The site’s contributions have a definite leaning towards those topics that might be classified as women’s interest – that is home décor, food, and fashion. One contributor writes “It’s like fantasy football for girls”

More importantly, when a user clicks on any photo, it acts as a link and routes the user to the company’s website, driving traffic and buying power.

Right now, Pinterest is invite only, and there’s quite a waiting list. The site has well and truly hit the high notes in social media, scoring amongst Time Magazine’s best 50 websites of 2011. comScore reported in February 2012 that Pinterest just hit 11.7 million unique monthly U.S. visitors, crossing the 10 million mark faster than any other standalone site in history.

Web optimization company Maximiser has posted an interesting infograph deconstructing Pinterest for eTailers and Content Marketers.

Facebook wrongly conflates the social graph with the interest graph, assuming that if your friends like it you will, too. Facebook is organized around the social graph first, whereas Pinterest is focused on the interest graph. Sure, your Facebook friends are probably all on Pinterest, but the true focus of Pinterest is not social. It's interest. Users organize around interests, making Pinterest a natural space for shopping.

AdAge's David Teicher wrote about how Pinterest is driving traffic to sites like design magazine RealSimple. But more importantly, he writes, "the true potential in Pinterest may be in its ability to impact purchases, which is why retailers like Etsy, Nordstrom, and Lands' End have taken to developing a presence on, and strategy for, this new platform."

Quickly becoming the highest driver of traffic on the web, businesses need to be aware of this new social media platform and find ways to leverage it. Pinterest is now ranked higher than Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined for referral traffic. Virtually overnight, Pinterest has become an extremely relevant way to drive targeted traffic to your website.

As such, the brands which are really making Pinterest work for them are, at this stage, cool home and lifestyle brands such as Whole Foods and Real Simple, and fashion brands such as Bergdorf Goodman. These highly visual brands make good use of the more intuitive and visually oriented interface which is better suited to them than is Twitter or even Facebook.

Pinterest already is driving buyers to some websites. In the last six months, the retail deal site has seen a 446 percent increase in web traffic from Pinterest and sales resulting from those visits have increased five-fold.

"We continue the Pinterest conversation with [the] members by following their pins, and we love to give feedback outside of the shopping category -- whether that means commenting on a great recipe or [giving] a heart next to our favorite pet pics," says social media manager Sarah Conley. "We also see Pinterest as a growing resource to better understand our members and the larger retail landscape."

According to the latest infographic published by digital advertising agency Modea, Pinterest’s users are:

68% Female
28% are well-off
On the site for 16 minutes per visit
50% with children
Most likely to be 25-34 years old (27%)

How can brands and companies utilize this platform to their advantage? Here are three ways to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon to reach an already established female audience and a rising male audience.

Contests. Use Pinterest to host contests for "best Board" or give away prizes for the most "Repins" on a topic (topics can be open to "Pins" from others, or a selected few).

Product approval. Find out how people feel about a new product's look, well before launch. Track the number of times your photos are repinned, and what comments users add to the stream. "Think of it as a social media focus group," Constance writes.

Showcasing your personality. Use photos to showcase your brand's personality. Magazines can post past and present photos to share places they've covered. Local politicians can start a "Board" highlighting their community work. In the description, link your pin to the original story; descriptions often get repinned along with images.

The site does have some drawbacks for businesses. If your product or service isn't particularly visual, your images may not tie directly back to your brand. Pinterest also doesn't offer business-oriented features, and its search function prioritizes pin and board subjects ahead of "people," the category that brands would fall into.

If you run a lawn-care center, for instance, pin pictures of landscaping you find online or snap in your community. If you're a brick-and-mortar store, pin shots of the interesting sites and people around your neighborhood and photos you take at community events. You also can search through Pinterest's categories and add some inspirational, funny or beautiful images you find.

Software company Intuit published a helpful infographic to help businesses figure out if Pinterest is right for them. If your business is contemplating joining Pinterest, follow the below guide to help decide whether it’s a smart decision

View a larger image here

An Israeli creative advertising agency named smoyz ran an a campaign for Kotex called ‘Inspiration Day’, which involved sending out gifts to female users of Pinterest. The strategy of sending gifts itself is nothing new, in fact the same agency ran a similar campaign for Kleenex through Facebook last year, but it is the medium through which the campaign is carried out that makes the difference, and the very nature of Pinterset lent itself exceptionally well to this campaign.

In Panama, Peugeot is running a Pinterest-based competition to encourage followers on the site. The company has pinned various puzzles depicting different car models, with pieces missing.

People can search for and find pieces, pin them on their own boards and share it with Peugeot. The first five people to complete their boards win prizes.

Pinterest has surged in popularity for a different reason than Facebook. It’s not connecting to people that matters to us while we’re using Pinterest. It’s the exact opposite – we’re connecting through things. Places we’ve been, places we want to go, things we want to buy, landscapes we want to see, tastes we want to experience – they’re all there.

The Huffington Post hit it right on the head when it said we’re flocking to Pinterest not because we’re sick of sharing; we’re simply sick of each other. Probably that is exactly why currently, Pinterest doesn't allow you to message individual users. The only way to reach a user on Pinterest is to comment on one of her pins or @mention him in a comment.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SEO Takes a Back Seat Over Content

The current Head of Webspam Team within the Search Quality Group of Google, Matt Cutts, announced that SEO is going to matter less in that sites with good, quality content that don’t do a lot of SEO could potentially rank just as well, or better than a bigger site with a bigger SEO budget and a lot of SEO tactics implemented. Changes to Google’s algorithm have the ability to make or break businesses. Google is sending out the signal that you should worry less about the current SEO trends, and more about producing great content, and that they’re “leveling the playing field” for sites that don’t pay as much attention to SEO.

The disclosure came earlier this month at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas during an open panel — entitled “Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!” — with Google’s and Bing’s webmaster and web spam representatives.

Cutts stated; “All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimisation or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect."

No one but Google knows what, exactly, is "over-optimization." However, Cutts did mention that Google is looking at sites by “people who sort of abuse it whether they throw too many keywords on the page, or whether they exchange way too many links, or whatever they're doing to sort of go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area.” It’s widely believed that keyword stuffing and link exchanges are already spam signals in Google’s algorithm, so either Google intends to ratchet up the amount of penalty or dampening that those spam signals merit algorithmically or they have new over-optimization signals in mind as well.

This algorithm change coupled with the earlier launch of ‘Search Plus Your World’ – a change that makes search result a combination of content that has been shared with you privately through social media  along with the matches from the public web means a site can jump from #30 to #3 in the SERPs just because someone in your Google+ circles shared the link. Getting an RT from The Huffington Post can jump your blog post from #8 to #1. It’s a brave new world of social SEO – and it’s one that no SEO can afford to ignore.

Under traditional SEO practices, a modern startup would have no chance at ranking for highly competitive keywords. The other sites have been down in the trenches too long; it’d be nearly impossible to knock them off their SERP pedestal without years of campaigning.

Social SEO makes it easier for smaller fish to compete with the big guys. A tweet that receives a viral-size number of retweets can mean as much as a link from a top-ranking site; a +1 from a friend can send your site to the top of the social SERPs for that friend’s entire network.

Social media should already be a part of your business strategy. Now it’s time to harness the power of those social media accounts for your SEO strategy – or risk falling behind while your competitors cash in on their social chips.