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.

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.

Digby Localpoint: The Future of Location-based Marketing?

As an enthusiast about the mobile/location-based services space, I’m always excited to hear about ground-breaking new technologies and services, particularly those that are built with businesses in mind. To that end, I couldn’t resist sitting down (virtually) with my friend and director of product and development at Digby, Doug Wick. During our conversation, Doug and I discussed Digby’s latest location-based offering called Localpoint.

<Aaron> What is Localpoint?
<Doug> Digby Localpoint is a SaaS mobile technology platform designed to help retailers deliver a best-in-class mobile app experience for their loyal customers, focused on location-based marketing, analytics, and commerce. It has four components: Venue, Outreach, Analytics, and Storefront. A mobile team simply drops our libraries into their existing app and can then deploy geofence-based notification and rich message campaigns through Localpoint Venue and Localpoint Outreach, and derive powerful insight through Localpoint Analytics. If a retailer doesn’t have a mobile team, we can help them build an app using Localpoint Storefront, which comes pre-wired with the other three components of Localpoint.

<Aaron> Tell me more about Localpoint’s four modules.
<Doug> Sure, let’s start with Venue. This is the ability to drop a geofence around a specific store or public venue like a park, airport, or sports stadium and use that geofence to identify and communicate with people who are there. Campaigns can be set up to either be triggered by an event (like a check-in, product scan, store entry, or store exit) or can be set up to launch at specific times to one or more specific locations. We call those messages “announcements.” Think “blue light special” but much more powerful.

<Aaron> Localpoint Venue is essentially the ability to create your own white label location-based app ala foursquare or Shopkick. Why should retailers do this instead of spending with one of those apps, which have pre-built audiences?
<Doug> Ideally they would do both. Network apps like foursquare and Shopkick are paid media opportunities, which allow retailers to potentially access new audiences. However, a retailer’s own app represents an opportunity to get much closer – literally in the pocket – of their best customers. Retailers who invest in this way won’t be disintermediated and won’t face repeat acquisition costs, lowered share of voice, and lack of data ownership. The best mobile strategies will access new audiences through mediums like network apps, mobile SEM, mobile ads, and other paid opportunities, and convert them to app owners.

<Aaron> What does Outreach Do?
<Doug> The idea with Outreach is large-scale or “market size” geofences that allow you to localize a push notification to drive app engagement and store traffic to a local store. This is to activate loyalists, and can be used in a very complementary fashion with Venue. This particular component is especially interesting for local high-frequency retail models like grocery, convenience, and drug stores as well as quick-serve restaurants. But really, every app should have the ability to get your attention with a message that is location-based.

<Aaron> What about something that is also near and dear to my heart, i.e. analytics?
<Doug> Most mobile analytics out there treat an app like a website and simply track user activity to the app – download, opens, clicks. The true opportunity for mobile analytics is the ability to measure app activity relative to location. Localpoint Analytics allows you to set up geofences that give you web-style analytics for the physical world. Imagine knowing the same things about your retail stores that you do about your website – how many people visited, how long they stayed, what they did on the app while they were there. These are the types of insights that simply aren’t available through any other technology, and will lead to extremely powerful, business-changing insight.

<Aaron> Doesn’t this have the potential to be a little Big Brother-esque?
<Doug> An excellent point and touches on a unique characteristic of Digby’s technology. First, Localpoint Analytics only uses venue-sized geofences for measurement, and our technology only measures the activity of an app installed by an opted-in user in and around those geofences. The rest of the time, the device knows where it is but we don’t. Localpoint simply waits for the device to tell us when it’s close to something we care about. We’ve spent a lot of time and resources investing in patent-pending location detection technology that maximizes accuracy while protecting users by keeping power-draining GPS use at a minimum and ensuring user privacy.

<Aaron> Loaded question here but why do you believe location is such an important part of consumer mobile?
<Doug> We feel that no other single thing you can learn about a mobile user unlocks the unique power of the mobile platform like location. Not only does it help you be contextually relevant, but location also tells you more about a consumer’s intent than anything else. Our goal is simply to help retailers be “where their customers are.” This statement is meant to be taken literally and figuratively.

<Aaron> Tell me more about the Storefront module.
<Doug> Storefront is our most retail-specific Localpoint module, and allows us to quickly bring to life an app that features everything a consumer expects from a retailer: Rich, full-featured product catalog, commerce, and store locator. It is a best-in-class search, browse, and buy experience. And out of the box it is wired to communicate with and leverage the other three Localpoint modules. Many retailers still don’t have apps, and we feel like they might want one when they see what the entire Localpoint platform can allow them to do.

<Aaron> Yes, many retailers still don’t have their own apps. Why should they?
<Doug> I think many business, especially retailers, approach building an app like they are building a website. That is why many retail apps that do exist, even some of the most well-designed ones, look a lot like a miniature version of the full web experience. The fact is that the most important thing that apps can do is something most of them aren’t doing: communicate with the consumer. Communication is still the primary purpose of the phone, and by downloading an app the consumer has already told you they want you to be a part of their daily life. By not taking advantage of that opportunity, businesses are missing out. Our goal is not only to put that opportunity within arms reach, but also do it the right way, with the highly relevant location context that consumers expect.

<Aaron> Doug, Localpoint sounds really interesting, I look forward to seeing a demo soon!
<Doug> My pleasure Aaron. Anyone that’s interested can see more details on our website but I’d be happy to give you a demo soon! And thanks for taking the time to learn more about Localpoint.

I (Still) See You

A couple of years back I wrote a blog post called I See You. It was based on a concept borrowed from numerous groups of indigenous tribes world wide but re-presented in the runaway hit movie, Avatar, where the native inhabitants of planet Pandora used the term to acknowledge one another in a deeper way than just saying “hi” or “what’s up.”

What reminded me of this post and thus this concept were interactions I had recently with several different companies across a few different industries. Some of these customer service interactions were better than others but in each case, there is a key take away that I would suggest other companies — big and small — take note of.

JetBlue – I fly JetBlue about 50% of the time I fly. This has a lot to do with the fact that they service many of the direct flights from my hometown of Austin, TX to places like New York, San Francisco and Boston. However, I also like JetBlue because of their friendly service, snacks, built in televisions and comfortable seating. Two weeks ago, I was flying home on a fairly packed flight from SFO to Austin. It’s not a long flight (3 hours) but a little tricky to try and use my laptop when stuck in a middle row. After unsuccessfully asking the kind woman at the ticket counter if I could switch to an aisle or window seat post-check-in, I reached out to Twitter. Believe it or not, I wasn’t expecting anything as I really try to not be “one of those people.” If anything, I like to use my social channels and reach for good versus anything negative. And in this case, I used a little of both by saying, “@JetBlue, you know I love you but not looking forward to the middle seat from SFO >> AUS. ;(”  Much to my surprise, JetBlue tweeted me back within minutes and asked me to direct message them my flight info to see if they could do anything about it. Unfortunately, the flight was so full, even the social media folks couldn’t pull strings but as you can see from this blog post (and my ensuing tweet), just the fact that they acknowledged me and made an attempt to help went a long way toward making me feel like I was a valued customer. Now other people in my social graph know that too.

Key take away: sometimes just reaching out and trying to help (in a meaningful way) goes a long way toward surprising and delighting customers

Lexus – if you’ve never owned a Lexus, it’s worth buying one some day just for the service (and trust me, they are damn good cars). This past weekend, I needed to drop my car off to be serviced. In addition to arranging a loaner car for me, Lexus walked me through all the work that needed to be done (new breaks and a tire replacement). What I appreciated most was that they presented me with all the information, the pricing and the pros and cons of waiting versus doing certain things sooner rather than later. And in particular, I was very impressed when after letting me know that my tire wasn’t in stock but that they could have it within two days, the service representative agreed with me that taking my car to a tire specialist was actually a better idea than waiting and letting them do the work. You can bet that I tweeted positive feedback about my experience with Lexus.

Key take away: Being transparent and providing your customers options, especially when big price tags are involved is much appreciated.

American Express – While reviewing my online statement, I realized that I had been errantly charged for four purchases that I hadn’t made during a recent trip to JFK airport. After trying to remedy the situation directly with the vendor in question, I called Amex (business account) and immediately got in touch with a customer service rep. Within three minutes, they had taken all the necessary information they needed from me, walked me verbally through what the next steps looked like and let me know that they would take things from there. On top of that, they thanked me for my business (in a genuine “I’m not reading off a script” kind of way). They also reminded me of a valuable service they offered every time I used the card to purchase airline tickets (something I do regularly).

Key take away: Quick access to a customer service rep, minimal operational nonsense and then a well-informed acknowledgment of my relationship and a genuine thank you for my business.

Bank of America – In stark contrast to my experience with American Express, this one was a little rocky. Similar to my American Express story, I also had an errant charge on my BofA Visa card (tried paying for food at the same broken kiosk with a different credit card). After calling BofA and entering all my pertinent information into the system, the first customer service rep I spoke with asked me to provide significantly more information. That wasn’t a huge deal except after giving her all the necessary information, she let me know that she was going to have to transfer me to another specialist rep. While I wasn’t thrilled with this, I expected that she would hand all of the information I had provided (in addition to the fact that I had been “validated”) to the new rep. Not so. Instead, I had to provide all of my information again from scratch, a fact I let the rep know I was not happy about. Here’s where BofA scored a few points back. The rep apologized several times and acknowledged my frustration. It didn’t make it go away but I appreciated that she at least tried to smooth things over.

Key take away: Create smoother hands offs between systems and reps. And when you put an 800 number on your website (particularly, the logged in portion where you know what my relationship is with you) for a particular type of call, you should be better about actually getting me to the right place. Oh, did I mention that I’ve been a customer since 1993?

So which company has “seen you” recently? Which company didn’t that should have?