Reluctantly Pinning My Way Around Another Social World

Guest Post by Laura Beck

Last month, I finally broke down and joined Pinterest. I didn’t want to. I held off for as long as I could, for a few reasons: I have a hard enough time keeping up with Facebook and Twitter, my two social means of choice; I heard Pinterest is a time sink hole, hours suddenly vanish and you are still pinning away; and I heard Pinterest is for housewives with lots of time on their hands: that cannot be me!

But you see, it is exactly my customer. Now at nearly 1.4 million users DAILY, Pinterest users are nearly 70% women, 50% with kids, most in that coveted 25-35 year old age bracket, and most with upper middle class or above household incomes.

THAT is exactly my customer, my target. You see, not only am I personally almost exactly that demographic (thought aged out now at 40), but this is who I market my business to. I couldn’t afford to miss Pinterest, for my brand, especially now with the opportunity to get in and “get pinning,” while it is still evolving.

My business, stripedshirt.com, focuses on fan-wear for women, kids and babies. Two color combination striped shirts to support a team, school, cause, organization. Women, aged 25-35, with kids and with disposable income are my ideal target. Pinterest gathers them all for me. OH AND my product is extremely visual – multi color shirts. Pinterest is built for beauty, color, great images, physical goods, pretty products, designs.

I’ve been on Facebook and Twitter for my business since day one, simultaneously setting up these business table stakes while getting my URL and building a website. But, I had not yet taken the Pinterest leap as of a month ago, honestly, out of fear that I’d get personally sucked in and lose more precious hours of my already-too-short days to yet another online social time suck.

I was intrigued, of course, especially by the recent “tipping point” for Pinterest. See, Pinterest is hardly new. It started Thanksgiving 2009. It’s been around over two years now. But this one is a strange one: it took off very slowly, plodding along really until something magical happened that other startups would likely kill to replicate. Somewhere around September 2011, Pinterest started taking off like a rocket ship. (Was it truly the power of PR? Pinterest was included in a Time Magazine Top 50 Best Websites of 2011 list in August. Who knows. Again, if the magic trigger could be identified, oh, how others would jump on board!)

Per Wikipedia, in January 2012, comScore reported Pinterest had 11.7 million unique users, making it the fastest site in history to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark. And founder Ben is now a beloved name and face to thousands of Mommy Bloggers and average middle aged American women. I heard he was mobbed, rockstar-style, when speaking at the AltSummit conference in January.

Somehow, refreshingly, Pinterest ignored the latest start up mantra of “Fail Quickly” and stuck with it until that magic moment when it went viral about six months ago. Shouldn’t be a surprise, Pinterest was BUILT to be viral – pinning and repinning is all about the “network effect” and, like Twitter, you don’t have to be friends to follow, or like, or pin. Also like Twitter, search in Pinterest is great (unlike Facebook), to find what you like, dig into topics of interest, find other inspirations.

And, a bit like Etsy, Pinterest is super easy, and all-inclusive about “selling” – simply add a dollar sign ($) to your image description and it beautifully tags the image as something for purchase. And you can post and pin your own stuff with ease, pimp your own goods! (Please, Pinterest, take your time in monetizing this feature, I know you will, but for the poor start ups out there, take your time!)

For all these reasons, I broke down and personally joined Pinterest, to be able to promote stripedshirt, my ecommerce business, THROUGH my own personal account. That’s deliberate. I do believe there will be strict rules for businesses on Pinterest, soon, regarding ecommerce and affiliate programs, percentages of sales to Pinterest and others. And I know soon we’ll be hearing a lot more about trademark and copyright rules with images. The big guys, and brands killing it on Pinterest like Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living can roll with those punches. Little startup me wanted to be more cautious.

For now, I’m one of the 12 million pinning away in Pinterest, and my business images, my products to shill, are clearly featured on my own boards, with information, URLs, pricing details indicating they are products for purchase, easy clicks to transactions. My friends are repinning my stuff and the images are starting to spread beyond my personal network to the wider Pinterest world.

Have I gotten a sale yet directly from Pinterest? Not that I can tell. But brand building and visibility is king. And again, if I’m a brand that cares most about Moms with kids, it would be dangerous to dismiss the power of Pinterest and be absent from it. It’s where my customers are, it’s where I need to be.

How about you? Have you also reluctantly pinned your way into a new social corner?

Laura Beck IS Pinterest. She’s a 40 year old Mom of two with a disposable income that could easily be blown on the gorgeous products featured on Pinterest. With 20 years of PR experience, she threw it all to the wind and started www.stripedshirt.com May 2010. stripedshirt is two color combination shirts to support a team, school, cause, organization, worn by exactly the kind of women – and their kiddos – who are loving and living in Pinterest today.

SXSW Interactive 2012: Key Takeaways

Originally published on WCG’s blog.

What is SXSW?

If you haven’t ever been to South by Southwest interactive (SXSWi), it’s somewhat of a surreal experience. For anyone in the digital/social media space, it has become “the” conference to attend due to the sheer number of startups, brands, thought leaders and level of networking that goes on during the course of the event. This year, nearly 25,000 paid attendees descended on Austin, TX — many more attend without a badge – to network, attend sessions, drink and eat good BBQ (and not necessarily in that order).

Given that this was my fifth SXSWi and it’s been interesting to see the changes that have taken place with the event since 2008. The biggest shift in the event over the years has been the involvement of big brands and a transition of mostly blogger and social media types to folks that do PR and marketing as their full time jobs. It’s also meant more corporate sponsorships, more hype and more traditional media coverage. None of these things are good or bad, they just change the vibe of the event significantly. And while some people who have been attending SXSWi for a while feel like the conference has lost its mojo, I see it as part of the maturation process of social and digital media in the corporate world.

SXSW Dashboard

This year, our agency, WCG, pulled together a dashboard* to track some of the conversations and activity happening at SXSWi (pictured above). One of the things we wanted to measure was the overall share of conversation of some of the SXSWi sponsors based on Twitter conversations… and more importantly, how some of those sponsors stood up to popular Austin phrases like breakfast tacos, cowboy hats and boots. Our search query looked for the presence of a #SXSW hashtag with one of the keywords on Twitter. Not surprisingly, we saw breakfast tacos overtake the likes of Apple and Samsung a day into the event. We also tracked things like:

  • Twitter velocity – how many tweets mentioning #sxsw #sxswi or #precommerce, the tag for our own pre-SXSW client event
  • Check-in activity around downtown Austin
  • Top words mentioned in conjunction with #sxsw (in a word cloud)
  • Top mentions of @wcgworld (one of our Agency’s Twitter handles)
  • Most active Twitterers mentioning #sxsw

While part of building the dashboard was for fun, we also wanted to get a better sense of what the macro activity around SXSW would look like this year. The two big take aways for us were 1) spending large sums of money at SXSW doesn’t necessarily get your brand talked about (unless the name of your company happens to include the words “breakfast tacos”) and the volume of conversation on Twitter grew over the conference demonstrating that Verizon, AT&T and Sprint did their part this year to keep the data connectivity up and running this year (years past, not so much). Understanding how your brand can participate meaningfully in these conversations is a huge opportunity that many companies ignore.

Other Key Take Aways from SXSW

  • Location-based services are here to stay (read: foursquare) but they are starting to evolve into a new flavor that includes something called proximity services. The big players in this space are companies like Highlight, Sonar and Ban.jo. In a nutshell, these services connect you to those people nearby that are either in your social graph or should be by looking at your similarities. While these services do provide a value to some, their ultimate utility to the mainstream user is still questionable.
  • Customer engagement is top of mind for many brands that have moved from the ad hoc to strategic use of social media. This means putting more thought and energy into mainstream channels like Twitter and Facebook is critical. It also means paying attention to emerging channels like Google + and Pinterest to evaluate the utility for customers and enthusiasts.
  • Big data is big and getting bigger. For anyone that doesn’t know what “big data” is, it’s essentially the ability to collect, store, process and analyze Terabytes or even Pedabytes of data (think customer conversations, search, location-based activity, census, etc.) Historically, this has been difficult due to lack of affordable storage and processing power. This is quickly changing and spells a whole new way for companies to look at trends and insights.

What did you see at SXSW this year? My colleague, Chuck Hemann, shared his take aways here. If you have a post or observations you’d like to share, please include in the comments below.

 

*Normally when we build these types of dashboards, we use a broader set of channel data (blogs, forums, Facebook, news) but in this case, we knew a lot of the real-time activity flows across Twitter (we also wanted to keep development cost/time down to a minimum).

 

April 16 is Foursquare Day: Are you in?

Do you love foursquare? Wesley Faulkner and I do. And we want to show our pride by celebrating foursquare day on April 16 in Austin with a party and a little charity while we’re at it.

If you’re interested, the first step is to sign up on Meetup here.

More details will be released on that page over the next week. If you would like to be one of four team captains please leave a comment below.