Technology Management: Pinning for customers
Technology Management: Pinning for customers
08/07/2012

How some rental companies are using Pinterest

Pinterest isn’t the newest kid in town, but it has fast become one of the most popular social media sites out there right now. Consisting of boards and pins in almost every category, the website is a way to share photos of everything from ideas to events to products.

Whether Pinterest activity can be linked directly to business is not certain, but users can be linked to activity on websites, which can lead to potential sales. For many, it’s one of several avenues to gaining and communicating with new customers.

“I look at our Google Analytics all the time,” says Tiffany Riordan, director of marketing, Atlas Party Rentals, Boynton Beach, Fla. “Under our ‘Referrals’ tab within Google Analytics, Pinterest keeps showing up as the No. 1 driver of traffic to the Atlas site. This month it brought 73 percent new visitors to our site and they spent about three minutes on our site once they arrived on it from Pinterest. Those are pretty impressive numbers in our world.”

The response so far also has been overwhelmingly positive for Party Reflections in Charlotte, N.C., says Cristin Lee, business development manager. “Partners and clients have been excited to see Party Reflections on Pinterest and have ‘liked,’ repinned and followed our page. As we continue to utilize Pinterest as a part of our social media strategy, we can expand upon our existing clients and reach new customers.”

“I think our measurable results are in the buzz we create, in the fact that people are looking,” says Robert Sivek, CERP, vice president of The Meetinghouse Cos., Elmhurst, Ill. “You are getting name repetition. Is that worth anything? I think, yes. I think our clients perceive us as leaders in the industry. I don’t think it produces a huge influx of new people, but it reaffirms us to our core industry. Our brides are there. The first thing we ask a bride is whether we can see their boards. We have to know how to use it to connect to brides today. Clearly, there are results there,” he says.

Lee agrees. “Ask any event planner if their wedding client has a Pinterest page and the overwhelming response will be that they do. Pinterest is a great social media tool for Party Reflections. We can ensure that our clients can experience our capabilities and services through the images posted on each board and our staff can stay ahead of the curve as it relates to trends and uses of our inventory. We can follow all of the industry publications on Pinterest and be a resource to our clients. For all of those event planners with clients on Pinterest, we can take the ideas generated on a client’s Pinterest page and make it a reality with our products and service.”

The format of Pinterest works well, all say, once the possibilities are tapped and the process is understood. “I think that the Pinterest format is exciting because it is visual and interactive with our client base,” Lee says. “Not only can we showcase the incredible events of which we are the rental provider, but we also can demonstrate what can be done with our extensive inventory on a variety of boards. The individual staff boards provide a creative platform for the sales representatives and allow them to stay ahead of the trends in our industry.”

Sivek says Pinterest can become a destination for idea exchanges as well. “We make use of a feature in Pinterest that others may not know exists. Once we’ve met with a bride and have a plan in place, you can create a board that multiple people can pin to. When you create a board, you can add another user. So, each bride has a board and we post to each other on that board. That includes the planner, florist, bride and anyone else working on the project in our company. It’s kind of a cool little feature. I do wish we could have a couple of private boards, but that’s not an option,” Sivek says.

“We use it. We love it. We were on it early as a company, because if you don’t get on those movements early enough, you might not protect your brand. If we don’t stay on those trends and get the name, we might lose our identity,” he says. Pinning relevant content also can help drive the right sort of viewers to your page and boards.

“Pinterest allows you to upload images from your internal portfolio of event pictures or uses of your products,” says Lee of Party Reflections. “These images and videos on our boards represent the high quality products we rent and our extensive capabilities in terms of service and implementation. Many of our partners send us pictures of their events and we happily pin these images to illustrate a finished product. Finally, when a staff person is scouring the Internet for images, ideas and trends, Pinterest makes it very easy to link those discoveries to the Party Reflections board it is repinned to. Pinterest automatically adds the link in, which the image has been repinned from, and then the staff person adds a description to the image.”

Riordan says determining what constitutes relevant content for social media is done on a case-by-case basis. “At the end of the day you have to provide content that the user is going to benefit from. These mediums are not meant to sell, sell, sell. They are meant to create good content that someone is going to want to share,” she says.

“Certain things are easy. If a great image has a plate in it or a Chiavari chair, I can use it because I know Atlas rents that product. It gets a little stretched when I pin things like wedding dresses and cake toppers, because those are not items that we rent. That is why it is so important to use things like Pinterest and Facebook as only one part of your overall marketing strategy, not as your whole marketing strategy alone,” Riordan says.

“I do not think that a new customer, who knows nothing about Atlas, is going to go to our Pinterest site and be able to figure out that we are a rental company. However, I know that a new customer, who sees our website, follows us on Twitter and Facebook, and then sees our Pinterest page, might,” she says.

“We try to keep the taglines witty and enticing,” Sivek says. “We kind of let the boards speak the main message. We try to name our boards things like ‘inspiration,’ so that you get the feeling by the board you’re on. We really do try to keep it relevant, although we have one or two boards for silly stuff. There is room for silliness. We try to keep our Facebook a good portion of ‘make me smile’ posts.”

How often to update social media sites like Pinterest is up to each individual. “Each board is updated at a different rate based on the frequency of images taken internally and received from partners, as well as the time that staff members have to spend on the Internet,” says Lee of Party Reflections. “In an ideal world, images on the boards should be updated with an image or two a couple times each week. The intent is to keep the boards fresh with new ideas, color palates and event trends. Pinterest also recommends that each board has at least seven to nine total pins on the board to ensure that your Pinterest page is visually appealing and full. It is not enough to pin one or two images and never return to the board. As with all things social media, no activity means no interest in your Pinterest page.”

One element to remember is the customer viewpoint, Riordan says. “I always try to think of the customer’s needs first. I don’t pin just to pin. I pin when I think the customer would benefit from seeing it,” she says.

“We keep it up every day,” Sivek says. “I have a personal Pinterest account, with a Meetinghouse board. David [Halsey, floral director] looks at my boards and transfers it to our site. It’s kind of previewed in that way. Using multiple administers, we could both pin, but having one administrator keeps it consistent. He handles Pinterest, but I handle Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook, I think it’s important to have a personality. We have a definite Facebook persona. It becomes too much if one person does all of our social media.”


The Pinterest phenomenon

Pinterest.com is the latest obsession on the Internet. Users — both men and women — can get lost in its vortex. The site has spawned “Pinterest parties,” where guests make or bring items that they have found instructions for on Pinterest.

So, what is Pinterest? Can it help bring in business to your rental store?

That depends on how you use it and what you hope to get from it. Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. A “pin” is a captured image link from a website and a “board” is a collection of pins under a designated category. For example, a Pinterest user may have a “wedding board” where he or she collects “pins” of ideas for the ceremony and reception, such as flowers from a gardening website, dresses and tuxes from a fashion or shopping site, and jars or vases from a decorating magazine site.

  • Getting started on Pinterest. To join Pinterest, you must be “invited,” but the process is simple and invitation instructions are emailed to you in seconds. Go to pinterest.com and click on the red box to request an invite. Provide your email address, click the button and soon, you’ll get a message in your email inbox acknowledging the request and a link to check out some pins.

In a few hours, you’ll get an invite to join Pinterest. The email message will tell you how to create your account and include some basics on Pinterest etiquette, including being respectful and authentic, and making sure to credit your sources.

Once you are “in,” you sign in with your email and create a password, or you can sign up with Facebook or Twitter. Keep in mind that you will have to manage your posting on Pinterest with your chosen method of logging on. Also, your posts on Pinterest can be linked on your social media if you want them to be.

Choosing a name is another decision you’ll have to make when signing up for Pinterest. You’ll need a first and last name, and Pinterest says many brands use “official” as the last name. Accounts without first and last names are those that were grandfathered into the new account rules. You also have the option of changing page views. You only can look at “Pinners you follow” or “Everything,” which includes topics such as “Architecture,” “Cars & Motorcycles,” “DIY & Crafts,” “Geek,” “Photography,” “Science & Nature” or “Weddings & Events.” You also can change views to see videos, what’s popular or gifts, and you’ll have the option to choose a price range to search within, from $1 to $500 and up, for gift ideas.

  • Pinning items on Pinterest. The first thing you’ll notice is that you can “re-pin” items from other boards or re-pin whole boards. You also can download the “Pin It” button and pin things from their original source. You can install a “Pin It” button on your website, so that viewers can “pin” that content. You also can download a button that says “Follow me on Pinterest” and you can access Pinterest on your iPhone.

Individual users — or business users such as caterers, event planners or contractors — can go to your website and pin images they find to their own Pinterest boards. This can include anything that comes in image form, including things like chairs, décor, lawn equipment, events and job sites. The image will link back to your website, so if someone is interested in that product, they can find the source.

  • The cost. Nothing, according to Pinterest. The owners/creators decided in the beginning not to charge any fees for the service and uses outside investors to fund the operation. Adding in advertisements is one concept on the drawing table, but as of June 20, no advertising was on the site. “Even though making money isn’t our top priority right now, it is a long-term goal,” the website states. “After all, we want Pinterest to be here to stay!”

What if, after reading all this, you’re not interested in people pinning off your site? Pinterest has code for that, which can be added to the head of any of your pages, so all of your would-be pinners will be told that “pinning is not allowed from this site.” However, this won’t prevent people from copying and posting images from your site to their computer.

To find more answers for business accounts, go to Pinterest.com, click on “Help,” “Support” and then scroll down to the business section for questions and answers.


Creating a Pinterest policy

With any social media, tagging, emailing, citing or pinning other’s work is cause for concern of violating things like copyright. Pinterest is a particular potential minefield, as often items may be “pinned” without permission.

Robert Sivek, CERP, vice president, The Meetinghouse Cos., Elmhurst, Ill., says ethics are a major consideration with Pinterest. “You’re agreeing to some pretty hard things when you post things, because you’re saying you have the rights to what you post. As a corporation, you have to make sure you have permission. You’re basically telling them you’ll protect them from any lawsuits. We have rules as to who can post in our company,” he says.

Currently, David Halsey, floral director, administers Meetinghouse’s Pinterest page. “We won’t take pictures randomly from the web and pin them, but we will re-pin others from Pinterest and post our own,” Sivek says.

Others agree that caution may be necessary when using Pinterest. “When we embarked on creating a Pinterest page for Party Reflections, we decided that the content of our boards must meet certain criteria before being posted,” says Douglas Crowe, CERP, director of sales, Party Reflections, Charlotte, N.C. “Pins need to be reflective of our inventory and we need to be able to reproduce any given use of a product. The last thing we would want on our Pinterest page would be an image of a design or theme that we ourselves could not replicate with our inventory.”

Having a policy is essential to maintaining a consistent message, no matter what the social media. “We ask that nobody posts pictures from our events to Pinterest or Facebook without clearing it with us first, because they are on the job as a paid person. We have that problem with vendors. When the vendor comes in and posts the job they did, you can lose your identity pretty quickly. We’ve gone through this on Facebook,” Sivek says.

“Pinterest has a tool, which prohibits pinning from your site,” Sivek adds. “It will keep people from pinning directly from your site, but if they copy it to their desktop and pin it from there, it will be pinned and it loses its source. So, when you prohibit pinning from your site, it may show up anyway and you may lose the credit.”

For more information on the legal and ethical considerations of Pinterest, go to pinterest.com, click on “About,” “Copyright” and “Terms & Privacy” to see how the company addresses these issues. — Whitney Carnahan
 


Posting processes for Pinterest

Once you are on Pinterest, you’ll have a home page with five boards. Standard board topics include “For the Home,” “Products I Love,” “Favorite Spaces & Places,” “My Style” and “Books Worth Reading.” You also can add custom boards and change the titles of the boards.

At the top of the page, you’ll see a search button to the left. To the right are the options of “Add,” “About” and your name. Under your name, you’ll have options including “Invite Friends,” “Find Friends,” “Boards,” “Pins,” “Likes,” “Settings” and “Logout.” Click on “Add,” and you’ll have the option to “Add a Pin,” “Upload a Pin” or “Create a Board.” Click on “About” and you’ll get a list to choose from, including “Help,” “Pin It Button,” “Careers,” “Team,” “Blog,” “Terms of Service,” “Privacy Policy,” “Copyright” and “Trademark.” Basically, you’ll find all the ins and outs of Pinterest a click away.

Pinterest also is following in the footsteps of Facebook, by allowing users to “like” or comment on others’ pins. These “likes” and comments are saved under your profile, so that when you go to your home page, you can find them. Comments can be seen by the original pinner, so be careful. — Whitney Carnahan