A lot has been said and written about Pinterest in the past few weeks and months, from how marketers can use use it to drive traffic to how affiliate spammers are using it to generate income. However, I’m going to take a slightly “bigger picture” view of Pinterest.
How Should Web Publishers Use Pinterest
There have been countless articles about how to extract short term value and traffic from Pinterest. Just as many social media gurus playing dulcimers while sliding down rainbows will point to companies like Chobani who use it to “connect with their fans” (although how anyone can meaningfully connect with thousands of fans in excess of Dunbar’s Number remains a mystery to me). But what marketers and publishers should be doing is using Pinterest to understand and research their customers not to force things down their throats-and especially not to pollute the web with more useless infographics.
The Marketing Lie ? Attention Does Not Equal Customers
The truth is the one thing modern online marketing “professionals” seek more than anything else the praise and recognition of their marketing peers. That praise and recognition gets THEM a dose of pseudo celebrity, which, if they are smart, can be turned into getting themselves customers and generating billable hours. The needs of their clients and the effectiveness of their campaigns for getting new customers are secondary matters. The primary goals are perpetuating fame and ego stroking. The success of their campaigns usually comes from riding on the pseudo celebrity status and the “reach” of the guru, which is measured by some meaningless statistic like Klout Scoure, and the sheer number of their lemming like followers. This isn’t just about online marketers. Real world offline marketers rarely “connect” with their intended audiences or demographic. If you don’t believe me, read this article on why marketers are having a hard time reaching generation “Y”
Young people do not want what the title photo shows, a Sonic done up like “The Fast and the Furious” circa 2002. Young people would rather get herpes than go to the “Sonic Lounge” at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. Ask Ford how their “Fiesta Movement” worked out, and I mean sales to young people, not just “social media impressions”. Car companies that indulge in these silly campaigns are like an obese person trying to lose weight by switching from Coke to fruit juice when what’s really needed is hard physical exercise and most importantly, self-discipline.
How Website Owners Should Use Pinterest to Understand Their Customers
Earlier this week Dana Todd asked why I (a forty something, married male) had a Pinterest board dedicated to Wedding Dresses. My initial response was that it contributed to that special brand of crazy, which I have been carefully cultivating over the years. Truth be told, there is more than a kernel of truth to that statement. However, the real reason is slightly more nuanced. IMHO to be a successful marketer, you have to immerse yourself in the world of your customers. You have to do so from their point of view and their perspective, not from yours in the ivory tower of the corporate boardroom, trapped behind a bunch of slide shows and power point presentations filled with carefully crafted and manipulated data. To really understand your customers you have to walk in their shoes, breathe their air, feel their situations from a first hand perspective. Sure, it may sound like bunch of voodoo zen fortune cookie wisdom, akin to the concept that to really know what it’s like to be in a forest you have to “be the leaf,” but there is some truth to the practice.
If you run a wedding site, you should be following and watching what types of wedding dresses are people pinning and reacting to. Yes, celebrity weddings will influence what brides want to wear, but if you really want to taste the sweet nectar of knowledge, you personally have to pick the fruit straight from the tree and take a bite ? not wait three weeks until it’s sitting neatly packaged in the produce aisle of your local supermarket and has lost most of it “nutritional and informational value.” Yes, I understand you’re “management” and your job is to guide the process, to make sure things get done, but don’t underestimate the value of getting your hands dirty once in a while. There’s a good chance you’ll learn something ? maybe even something worthwhile.
So what are the takeaways from this post:
- If you have the time to get involved in social media, be on the lookout for ways to do it that let you see real data from real consumers, not manipulated data in a PowerPoint
- Marketers in every area are almost always like insurance salesman trying to sell you a whole life insurance policy ? also known as the one that financially benefits them the most
- Embrace criticism from your customer-don’t fear it. 99% of the time that customer is telling you what’s wrong with your product or service and how to fix it (looks squarely at Google+ team and Vic Gundotra for the gross incompetence in how PAYING Google apps customers are still being treated as second class citizens on Google+ with the lack of migration tool)
- Don’t be a short sighted marketer and strip mine Pinterest for traffic, filling it with spam to the point that it’s useless. Take a long term view and use it as a rare, unfiltered window into what your customers aspire to or think is awesome.