Pinterest…Where Are All The brands?

After having launched just over two years ago, Pinterest is increasingly becoming integrated into our social vocabulary. True, the demographic still skews older and female, and the launch might not have been as buzzed about as other social platforms such as Foursquare, but the growth rate and amount of time spent onsite is staggering. By now this isn’t a secret to consumers or brand advertisers, so why aren’t brands effectively leveraging Pinterest or incorporating the platform into their digital marketing strategy? In the 25 months since it’s inception, Pinterest has gone from generating 1% to 17% of social media revenue. This still pales in comparison to Facebook’s 82%, but it dwarfs Twitter’s 1% and if other social platforms have taught us anything, it will likely continue to grow at a rapid rate. This only further begs the question – “Where are all the brands?”

Currently the top brand on Pinterest is Perfect Palette, a wedding blog providing color palette recommendations for brides-to-be. Perfect Palette has almost 250,000 followers while the next brands are a distant second. Real Simple and HGTV have 100,000 and 50,000 brand followers respectively. This is a drop in the bucket when compared to the number of followers the top brands on Facebook had amassed after two years.

Take Procter and Gamble for example. With brands like Tide, Febreze, Pampers and Swiffer clearly targeting women as their core demographic, Pinterest presents the perfect platform through which to promote brand advocacy, grow affinity and inspire purchase. The potential to harness communal value, then using it to generate momentum behind a product is tremendous. Add to that, Facebook and Twitter integration points and you have the ability as a brand advertiser, to maximize impact and exposure across multiple social touchpoints.

Buyers referred from Pinterest are 10% more likely to buy something and spend 10% more on average than visitors who arrive from other social networks. Pinterest takes the best of Facebook and creates a simple amalgamation of social features. Sleek design and nice visuals coupled with brief captions, provide the ideal type of platform to host a variety of indirect advertising rarely used as effectively. To further validate this, a branded pin without price is twice as likely to be shared than the same pin with a price. Right now one of the most liked and re-pinnned items on Pinterest is a bra with iPhone pocket aptly named the Joey Bra.  An end user on Pinterest can not only like or repin the bra, but they can also click-through to purchase on the brand’s site.

JoeyBra featured on Pinterest
JoeyBra site, linked to from Pinterest
JoeyBra site, linked to from Pinterest

It’s only a matter of time before an influx of brands bombard Pinterest, similar to the way they did Facebook. With that in mind, it’s prime time for marketers to capitalize on the lack of clutter. A smart brand would make Pinterest a key component in its social strategy.  A highly visual integrated campaign, leveraging the connectivity with Facebook and Twitter to share out content from Pinterest and then link back to it, would be ideal. The way Pinterest lends itself to recommendations and the ease at which those recommendations can be shared while closing the loop to purchase, is an example of the functionality and UI so many other platforms are trying to create or evolve to. That said, at least for now we can appreciate Pinterest for what it is, while at the same time, preparing for what’s to come.

Does it really mean anything to be a Foursquare Mayor?

I currently hold 6 mayorships on Foursquare. I wouldn’t consider myself a super user but I have a large friend network so this isn’t too bad considering. It’s fun to walk into a place that you frequent and then receive a unique offer simply because they want to give you a little something extra. In New Orleans, a place I called home for 5 years, they have a saying for this called lagniappe. A French Creole word used almost exclusively in Louisiana that means “a little something extra.” This may come in the form of something you receive at the time of purchase, like the extra donut in a bakers dozen, or even a compliment, something for good measure.

In Foursquare, lagniappe is typically extended at the time of purchase. At Starbucks this means $1 off a Frappuccino, while Pizza Hut rewards mayors with free breadsticks. This is different than rewards you earn for checking-in. In Manhattan many of the bars and restaurants on Third Avenue reward users with a free draft beer the first time they check-in, while mayors receive 15% off their tab. There is a clear distinction between a reward you receive for checking-in and a reward you receive for achieving mayor status. Greater rewards are extended to mayors as these are the people who return most frequently – the regulars.

Foursquare, in their 3.0 release a few months ago, created a “Specials” section in the main nav where users can search nearby destinations based on whether or not they offer rewards for check-ins or for mayors. This update came in response to critics who said brands had no way to clearly monetize the LBS and “Specials” is a feature loyalty programs can be built upon. Clearly this is something that Foursquare wants to emphasize and it’s not surprising that so many brands want to participate. It’s really a win-win situation for both user and brand if executed properly. The user receives a tangible reward for their loyalty (lagniappe) and the brand receives ongoing customer loyalty and social props that will probably come in the form of evangelism on the social web.

This all sounds good in theory, but unfortunately in reality, it’s not so simple. I was at BLT Fish in Manhattan just last Friday. I have held onto the mayor title for the last 6 weeks and I’ve been anxious to redeem my reward, which is pretty generous – a free lobster roll. I shared my excitement with Twitter and I even got a couple of responses from @BLTFish as you can see below.

I went Friday night at around 6:00 before any real dinner rush had formed. I beelined it to the bar for a few drinks and to show the bartender my mayor status as instructed by Foursquare.

After a few drinks I sat down to order and then showed the server my phone before he put the order in.  The server, who was clearly channeling Todd from Wedding Crashers and probably shouldn’t have been in the service industry to begin with says, “Ohhhh yeahhh I’m like so sorrrry, this is like only good at like the barrrr.”   His insincerity and cloying tone immediately prompted me to ask for the manager who then told me the same thing. Knowing this was wrong, I referred to the above tweet and offered the phone up, twitter message clearly displayed, for validation.  The manager said he would check with corporate before shuffling off.  Unfortunately he never returned.

I guess I was most disappointed with the fact that the manager never came back to apologize, or even to inform me the roll wouldn’t be on my tab. My server also disappeared and sent 3 other people to bring out my food and drink. Good or even decent customer service would dictate an apology or at least an explanation, especially considering the whole reason I hold the mayorship in the first place – I’m a regular. I go there, I check-in, I spend money.

My point is this, if you are going to run a Special on Foursquare then all the details need to be communicated from the top down. Starbucks uses a “Need to Know” sheet that is posted next to the cash register. This includes detailed information on Foursquare promotions and rewards, as well as the promotional code the server should be using when tabulating the bill in the system.

Many brands that run Specials fail to do this and it is an unfortunate, albeit common problem. The main objective, when offering a Foursquare Special, is to promote positive experiences and increased loyalty.  So when the mayor, or whoever else is checking-in  receives their reward, they will then evangelize their experience on the social web and via word of mouth.

Even though BLT Fish begrudgingly honored my mayorship, I am left with a bad taste in mouth – the fish was good but the service and overall experience were terrible. The question I posed to the Twitterati is this: “Is my one measly lobster roll really worth losing me as a customer and even more importantly, the negative sentiment that will be amplified throughout my social network?”

Sadder still is how some words are lost in translation across a thousand mile divide. The only lagniappe I received was a headache followed by a stomachache. That’s a little something extra I would have cared to avoid.

KickApps Rocks Social Media Week

I’m not usually into shameless plugs but it would be a travesty not to recognize the KickApps Dev team for putting together an exemplary social media experience for Social Media Week. From livestream video in multiple cities, to the interactive map, real-time Twitter stream and share functionality it really looks and functions superbly.

Also check out Alan Wolk moderating the Offense / Defense panel tonight at JWT at 6 p.m.

Below is a link to the Facebook page so you can see what I am talking about.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Social-Media-Week-New-York/165112893507912?v=app_4949752878

Social Selling: How to Make Social Impact Your Bottom Line

2011 marks a new year and another chance to examine the evolution of social strategy. In working with brands from a consultative perspective,  it’s very interesting to note the changes in their social strategies, content creation plans and especially social benchmarks in comparison to last year’s. Last year it was all about the undefined. It was social strategists and marketers trying to convince the c-suite to pull money from existing buckets with proven ROI models and invest it in a rapidly emerging, but still unproven medium of social media. 2010 was really the first year that the majority of businesses and brands actually set aside a bucket for social. BUT, and this is a big BUT, they did so without having any solid ROI model or meaningful business metrics.

Jets fans gathered for a rally in Times Square Thursday in anticipation of Gang Green’s AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Yes we got a million Facebook fans last year.” “Yes we were @mentioned 5 million times on Twitter.” “Yes we’ve got unerring positive sentiment.” “Yes to all the above.” But when we break this down and look at how all the social media buzz is impacting our bottom line, it becomes a very difficult question to answer. In the past it was, “we know we need to put up a Facebook page as quickly as possible” and now it’s, “we have a Facebook page but how can we use it to make money?” Luckily we’ve made it this far but we’re still not taking the time to really think through the answer in a smart way that we can prove time and again. Part of the reason is because there isn’t a true set of globally accepted metrics – but trust me, we’ll be there soon.

In the meantime it’s all about strategy. Brands need to start treating social strategy like they would marketing or any other strategy. No savvy marketer would ever pump a million dollars into a marketing strategy without some semblance of what the return would look like, but this is exactly what’s happening with social.

Okay. So what does this all mean? It means we need to get back to selling – SOCIAL SELLING. Essentially it’s all about adding real marketing messaging that will drive people to purchase and then (now this will really blow your mind) enabling them to do so. This should be the core of your social strategy unless you are cause based.

People know that even though brands have created fun and engaging experiences on Facebook, look at Oreo, Starburst, Vevo, Red Bull, Ford, MTV, Starbucks and the list goes on and on, but at the end of the day the consumer isn’t stupid and they know a brand really wants them to BUY something.

Many of these brands have great social experiences, games or apps but they aren’t getting anything meaningful and measurable in return. This can only go on for so long before the c-suite says, “Alright ACME marketers, you have 16.5 million fans on Facebook but you don’t have any meaningful analytics that will prove this is really impacting my bottom line.”

This probably sounds familiar and to put it into perspective using a real world example, lets look at a professional sports team that is using social media to drive sales, establish itself as a leader in it’s space and most importantly, impact it’s bottom line. I am talking about the New York JETS and the Wall Street Journal has a great write-up on them in today’s issue. The JETS are doing extremely well with all the social intangibles (“intangibles” means social metrics that don’t necessarily have an impact on ROI) such as social mentions; they lead the NFL with 1 million; twitter following, they have the largest; and Facebook fans, they have the third most among NFL teams.  These are all great stats but the JETS are also excelling at something most other teams and brands for that matter haven’t figured out, SOCIAL SELLING.

Here are some ways the team is using social to generate revenue and directly impact it’s bottom line (taken directly from the WSJ article) “The team’s Fireman Ed Chant app ($1.99) is the second-best selling paid sports app on iTunes. Their Ultimate Fan app on Facebook, which allows fans to make predictions and stage virtual tailgates, has four sponsors, making it a rare revenue-generating Facebook app for a sports team.”

The JETS are also utilizing social apps such as Twitter and Foursquare to better the customer service experience. They use Foursquare to upgrade your seats if you check-in at a game and they leverage Twitter to, “solicit advice from fans on everything from staging rallies to the stadium experience.”

The JETS have figured out the answer to the social paradox; creating and implementing a social strategy that has actual benchmarks, real sales metrics and a positive, measurable impact on ROI. Even if you aren’t a fan of the team you have to admit they’ve gotten something right (aside from Hard Knocks).

A sound testament to this is the fact that the JETS are already planning to increase the social media component of sponsorships to 50%. That’s up 40% from this year. That should be a call to arms for all social strategists – Social Selling does work and when you can provide meaningful metrics and demonstrate the impact on ROI, you will be rewarded with larger budgets to do even greater more innovative things in your space. To that I say, “J-E-T-S! JETS. JETS. JETS!”