The Promise of Pinterest — Opportunities for Outdoor Companies?

Apr 4, 2012

Topic: Business

Have you checked out Pinterest? Chances are its users have checked you out and are already linking to your products and driving traffic to you or your dealers. A Google search for blogs that mention Pinterest yielded 90.6 million results, including wtfpinterest.com, a blog dedicated to chronicling and critiquing some of the more bizarre posts on the website.

Launched in March 2010, Pinterest is a highly visual online “pinboard” that allows people to organize and share things they love. Users pin images they find around the Internet to their own Pinterest boards using a “Pin It” app they can download into their web browser. The app automatically grabs the online image, as well as the source URL, and adds it to the user’s selected pinboard. Users organize their images on their own themed pinboards, which other users are free to browse, comment on, “like” and “repin.” The more activity your posts have, the more likely they will make it onto the coveted Popular board, thus broadening your exposure exponentially.

While Pinterest can sometimes seem cluttered, social marketing gurus have latched onto it as an increasingly effective way to drive people, particularly women, to clients’ sites. Some reports now credit Pinterest with driving more blog traffic than Twitter.

Still not pinterested? Consider this: Pinterest’s unique users increased 52 percent to 17.8 million in February 2012, making it the third fastest growing major U.S. website, according to the research firm comScore, Inc. It’s rapidly closing in on Twitter for e-commerce referrals. Yet many of the most sophisticated outdoor vendors and retailers who embed Facebook and Twitter buttons onto their product pages have yet to do so with Pinterest.

For marketers, the goal is to work your way from the top of one of Pinterest’s 16 main category boards to the top of the site’s widely viewed Popular board. By embedding a “Pin It” link on their product pages or creating a Pinterest page of their own, a vendor or retailer can encourage Pinterest users to post images that will link back to their website just like Delicious, Digg, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and dozens of other social media websites do.

In the case of outdoor brands, Pinterest’s most relevant category boards include Fitness, Women’s Apparel, Men’s Apparel, Outdoors, and Travel and Sports, although others such as Design and Humor have potential. Also, users can search the site for specific products, brands, users and phrases, such as “camping gear” or “adventure travel.”

At this point, however, it’s not clear how important Pinterest will be for outdoor product companies. Last week the site’s Popular page was dominated by images related to home décor, fashion apparel, humor, weddings and personal care products. Lifestyle-oriented brands can potentially benefit from the site, but — as with any emerging social media platform — leveraging Pinterest for outdoor industry uses will require a certain amount of momentum in the outdoor space. With more outdoor companies pinning, the potential increases for users to latch on to this content and spread it virally.

Rules of the game might be changing, however, as Pinterest is still refining its business model. In a March 27, 2012, blog entry, digital marketing expert Colby Almond raised questions about whether Pinterest changed its algorithm in a fundamental way, making it more difficult for new users’ posts to end up on the Popular board.

One thing is for sure: Given Pinterest’s rising traffic and popularity, brands and retailers should at least explore what it has to offer. It could become another must-have arrow in the social media quiver, but it does require a time investment. If you choose to dive in, be prepared to make regular pins since this is the key to driving traffic to your pinboard and, ultimately, your website.