Social Media for the Pure Hearted?

An interesting discussion has been going on at Pinterest, one which has, I think, implications for any discussion of social media and business.

The facts of the case are fairly simple. Inbound marketing software company Hubspot made a board of their own e-books, pinning them quite simply with no ad copy and a simple URL leading visitors back to them. They are free ebooks, and I for one always enjoy them.

Someone came along and commented “Stop advertising!” and another said, “STOP!” At that point a discussion broke out, and you can read it (and get the info about the e-book, too) at Pinterest.

Pinterest bans self-promotion, but not business pages. Shonagh Woods gives a nice summary of their stated position: “Pinterest’s Etiquette statement is understandably ambiguous, after all that. Whilst it does say ‘Avoid Self-Promotion’ it does not state that you absolutely cannot ‘Self-Promote’. It also states that ‘If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away!’ – so again, you can pin your own work if so desired, and you think people might like it. But they do add the caveat: ‘try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.’ With the operative words being ‘try’ and ‘purely’.”

You can’t announce your sale on Pinterest, then, the way you can at Twitter. Otherwise, it’s the same as any social media marketing issue; I’ve written about the overall issue in “Why People Hate/Love Social Media Marketing,” and I think the same points still apply. You can’t treat social media like advertising and expect it to work well for you.

Pinterest is different in some ways, though. For one thing, it’s supposed to be pretty. I kind of feel like the ebook in the illustration I (okay, slightly sarcastically) put together for this post would be fine at Pinterest, where Hubspot’s gray, no-frills ebook drew the eyes of the local vigilantes. In fact, the ebook in my illustration (without the sarcastic composite) has been pinned and repinned multiple times at Pinterest by various people and nobody seems to mind.

I see clothes, food, household goods, craft supplies, and all manner of consumer goods being pinned at Pinterest by individuals and by companies which doubtless hope to gain some commercial benefits, and I’ve never seen an objection before. The frilly pink and gold luminosity of most of those pictures is probably not a coincidence.

In social media, fitting in and being one of the group is always a good tactic.

Another thing about Pinterest is that it really isn’t all that social. Someone at Forbes said that Pinterest was winning over Facebook in the retail traffic space because “… if your business is selling stuff, a social network of stuff beats a social network of people.”

There are some discussions there, and there are some people who follow their IRL friends and squeal, “That would look so cute on you!” but people mostly aren’t making friends at Pinterest. One of the main reasons for making boards at Pinterest is to keep all the bookmarks for the party you’re planning in one place so you can find them later, something you could really never accomplish with Twitter or Facebook. People follow one another with no further interaction most of the time. In that situation, and with complete freedom to follow and unfollow people at will, it’s hard to see how what I pin on my board is another pinner’s business any more than what I put on my wall at home is my neighbor’s business.

Pinterest is a great place to share stuff, but it costs someone money to run it. Our local coffee shops are also great places to share, but we accept that we have to buy some coffee sometimes so they can keep their doors open. Pinners probably ought to recognize that someone has to foot the bill; on the internet, that generally means some form of advertising, however subtle and well photographed it may be.

My takeaway from this, on behalf of those of our social media clients for whom we manage Pinterest accounts, is to be careful to fit in. Two objections to a pin mean nothing in the scheme of things, so I don’t think we can take much from it, but I’d be interested in your opinion. You can write in the comments below, email me, or join in at Pinterest at the link above,with or without flowers.







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