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Pinterest is a social media wishlist

Pinterest’s format revolves around the idea of a noticeboard or scrapbook. Users can create any number of themed “boards” before “pinning” user-generated images or videos to them or uploading their own. The same pin might be added to many different boards across Pinterest, which hosts a total of more than 30 billion pins.

Once they’ve set up their own boards, users can choose to follow other users’ boards to curate their experience of the site. Pinterest says that as users follow more people and boards, their main “feed” or dashboard will become more relevant and personal to their interests.

Pinterest’s culture is deeply feminine, although men are its fastest-growing demographic. It is focused on aesthetics and aspirational lifestyle images in a similar way to Instagram, although it tends to skew towards a less glamorous impact – Pinterest has more recipes and fewer selfies.

Given that many people use Pinterest to pin pictures of items they admire, places they want to visit or food they’d like to eat, the site is a goldmine for retailers wanting to find out about customer preferences.

Benji Hall, customer services director APAC at EngageSciences, says studies have shown that the average annual spend of Pinterest users can be $140-$180 per order, compared to the $60-$80 spent by Facebook and Twitter shoppers.

Pinterest’s head of operations Don Faul told the Wall Street Journal the company planned to unpack more of its user behaviour data for advertisers this year, saying it would focus on “intent data.”

“Our users are expressing their future intent. It’s not the shoes they bought last week, or where they went on vacation six months ago.”

Further to this, Pinterest introduced “App Pins” in February, a function which allows users to pin Apple apps to their boards and have them downloaded straight from Pinterest. Rumours that Pinterest plans to soon incorporate a “buy” button onto the site have also been widely reported, and it opened up “promoted pins,” otherwise known as advertising, to all brands in the US in January.

Sharp told the Guardian there had been minimal backlash to the advertising which appeared in users’ Pinterest feeds.

“They’re not really even ads. If you show someone a version of the homefeed without the promoted pins label, and one with it, people might be hard-pressed to pick out which one is an ad,” he says.

“It just gets back to the nature of Pinterest: brands happen to create a decent percentage of the stuff you find, and as long as we keep the format native to the experience, and as long as the type of content feels relevant… It’s not a service about your friends, so brand stuff doesn’t feel like a jarring disconnect.”

Pinterest is less popular than Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr, but eMarketer estimates its US user base will reach 47.1 million this year.  It has more than 70 million users worldwide.

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Amy Sznicer, owner of popular Auckland blowdry bar Dry & Tea, has more than 20 years of experience as an executive retailer in Australia and New Zealand. Her salons have a strong presence on Pinterest – Sznicer considers the scrapbooking platform so valuable that Dry & Tea’s 16 boards, encompassing 383 pins, are used in the company’s three Auckland salons every day.

“Any brand that’s got any product would be crazy not to use [Pinterest],” she says.

Traditionally, salons use magazines and trade publications to help customers choose a style, cut and colour, but Dry & Tea uses Pinterest instead. At each salon staff show customers iPads which come loaded with curated images.

The boards are all themed around collecting similar images of different hairstyles. If a customer wants ideas about an “up-do”, they can scroll through the 66 looks in Dry & Tea’s “Loved UP” board, or check out the staff suggestions under “Catwalk & Party Ready.”

“Gone are the days in a salon where the old hair board comes out with the different colours on it,” Sznicer says. “We go straight to Pinterest instead and it’s much more interesting for the customers.”

She says the platform is extremely collaborative as each staff member can use it, adding their own inspiring images to the existing collection. Sznicer is not fussed about potentially promoting other salons by showing customers images of their work.

“We collect so much on Pinterest and we use it in the salon for inspiration on trends and colour.”

Sznicer says that the key to mastering social media is to understand that each channel really does do a different job, and it’s best to use each one for the purpose that’s best suited to it.

At Dry & Tea, Pinterest is the workhorse and virtual catalogue of looks, while Instagram is all about telling the brand’s story through pictures. Facebook is used for promotions, offers and other messages suitable for a high-volume audience, and the “least critical” channel, Twitter, is the voice of the brand.

“[Social media] should be a two-way dialogue between you and your worldwide audience,” Szcnicer says.

She feels social media can now provide better value for businesses than traditional advertising, saying many larger retailers in Australia and beyond are now keeping bigger teams of social media experts than marketers as social media provides a “cut-through” directly to customers.

“That two-way dialogue can’t happen in a traditional advertising space.”

This story was originally published in NZ Retail magazine issue 737, April/May 2015.

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