Should you be on Pinterest?

PinterestPublications have rushed to embrace social media, and it’s become commonplace for a periodical’s website to include invitations to “Follow us on Twitter” and to “Like us on Facebook.” You’ll see these icons on the EPA website, along with one for joining the EPA group on LinkedIn, a social media platform which tends to be more career-focused than the others.

Facebook is the indisputable giant on the social media landscape, with some 55 percent of the market at the end of 2011. Google+ is closing in, with about 18 percent of marketshare, and Twitter has about 12 percent. Expanding to those popular platforms is a natural step for a publication.

But nobody can have a meaningful presence on every social networking site. Even if you’re already active on all of the big three, you simply don’t have the staff to also keep up with Buzznet, CafeMom, Eons, GoodReads, LifeKnot, SocialVibe, Wellwer, and a host of other platforms you’ve never heard of.

Which brings us to Pinterest. This relative newcomer is one of the fastest growing social services in the world, reaching 10 million monthly visitors more quickly than either Facebook or Twitter. That fact by itself has companies giving it a second look. Pinterest is a pinboard style image sharing site that encourages users to “pin” images they find interesting. Users can browse other pinboards and “like” or “re-pin” images that interest them. The site is particularly popular with American women.

What does that mean for your publication? To Pinterest or not to Pinterest – that is the question.

Not surprisingly, opinions vary.

In a recent discussion on one of EPA’s e-mail discussion lists (now EPA's member forum), David Korff of Reconnect Ministries wrote, “Pinterest is a good avenue to do ministry, if that ministry is visual in nature or can be made to be visual in nature. Organizations that I have worked with have taken the content they have and with "beautiful" images have visualized their content and put text and tags and links in the comments for it. This can inform or lead people back to your site where they can find more.  Keep in mind though, that Pinterest's audience is primary female and if that matches the target audience of whatever you’re doing then it  may be a great place to go.”

Grif Blackstone of the Good News notes, “We personally don't use Pinterest for our publication because we are focusing on doing a few things well versus all things badly. Pinterest’s ‘About’ page says clearly what the purpose is for their site. Since articles, journalism, local news or relevant stories are not what their target audience is, we stay away.”

At the 2012 EPA convention, Sheila Seifert from Focus on the Family discussed Pinterest. She said they had decided not to pursue it among their social network interests, until someone "pinned" an item from Focus to their pinboard. Focus received quite a bit of traffic as a result. Now Pinterest is part of Focus' marketing plan.

Whether or not your publication chooses to use Pinterest probably depends on whether you have content that is a good fit for the platform. It should come as no surprise that publications like Martha Stewart Living and Real Simple are the leading publications colonizing Pinterest. In fact, Time Inc.’s Real Simple recently said that Pinterest was driving more traffic to its site than Facebook.

You should also consider the "opportunity cost" of a presence on Pinterest. Every hour spent keeping your Pinterest presence up to date is an hour that's not available for Twitter, Facebook, or your own website.

If you decide to establish a presence on Pinterest, here are a few ideas you might consider:

  • If you frequently run “how to” articles, Pinterest might be a good fit. Photos of finished projects with links to step-by-step instructions are a natural for Pinterest.
  • Recipes are a hugely popular subset of the “how to” content world, so if you run recipes it’s probably worth thinking about sharing photos and links on Pinterest.
  • If you have a story that’s illustrated by a captivating image, you can put that image on your pinboard with a link to the story on your site. But be sure you’re addressed copyright questions for any images you share.
  • A pinboard on Pinterest could be a great way to share links to resources related to a story – video, photo galleries, websites, etc.

If you decide to create a presence on Pinterest, it won’t work to just port your existing Facebook or Twitter campaigns to the new platform. Keith Pollock, editorial director at told AdAge, "What works for Facebook isn't necessarily working for Tumblr, and what works for Tumblr isn't necessarily working for Pinterest. ... With each one of these platforms, it's just a completely different behavior and different need, and we try to approach each one with different objectives."

Don’t expect to be able to directly monetize your Pinterest presence. But if you have content that is a good fit for Pinterest, and have a proven method for monetizing traffic once it is driven to your site, Pinterest might be worth considering.


Posted Aug 26, 2012