Are your customers Pinterested?

I’m going to try and not let this post fall into the trap of Pinterest-bashing as seems to be increasingly easy to do so these days. The inevitable backlash from Pinterest being the cool new kid on the block is in full swing, and for all the fawning, doe-eyed ‘Pinthusiasts’ clamoring to praise the site, and all the marketers running round like headless chickens trying to discover how best to use it for selling stuff, there’s the growing band of dissenters taking the contrary opinion.

I’m not going to get into the site’s various pros and cons, or even my personal opinion of its uses, but I did want to address a wider issue that has had further light shown on it by the furore surrounding Pinterest. Social media bandwagon jumping. As it stands, there is already a marketing ‘bible’ on the shelves for Pinterest, with more sure to follow, and every day we see new blog articles on the ‘top tips’ or ‘how to set up your Pinterest Brand page’, or ‘How to make money out of Pinterest’ and so on, and so on. There is an uneasy feeling of herd mentality at work here.

That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing; hell, if the service is useful, it will naturally gain members and popularity. But I’m thinking more from the social media marketing point of view. “If you build it, they will come” – (except that they might not).

Social media Gurus/Rockstars/Ninjas/etc are often beat with a common stick that more-or-less says they don’t know what they’re doing, and are making a quick buck out of the naivety and misinformation within the industry. A few years ago a lot of social media strategies conceived by amateurs revolved around simply telling brands they needed a Facebook/Twitter page (and then a YouTube/Tumblr/Slideshare etc etc.) Why? Often purely because it was new, and everyone else was doing it, and more importantly, because brands often had no idea what they were doing, and needed ‘expert’ help. Cue exploitation. As for any kind of strategy beyond that? Well it didn’t usually exist.

Thankfully as the fledgling social media marketing industry has grown up, so have the brands, and this throwaway strategy of having a presence on a social network because ‘every one else has’ has started to fade away and be replaced with more savvy, informed, methodical strategies that have come to the fore.

But then Pinterest comes along, and the practice begins all over again. Brands start clamouring for a presence on the new site because they can no longer turn to any site/newspaper/magazine without reading about it. Meanwhile agencies are more than willing to oblige, and casually toss it atop their existing ‘social media strategy’ to fester and hopefully produce some results.

But surely a good social media strategy should revolve around one thing – your customers, and your interaction with them in a social environment on their terms. That is what a ‘social’ business needs to concern themselves with, not what’s cool, not what’s new, but always what your customers want.

Resources are so stretched at most brands and small business for social media marketing at the best of times, and it’s not useful to spread yourself thin, you will be less efficient and less effective. You need to find out where your customers are, and engage with them there – This is such basic social media 101 that I can’t believe I’m even typing it. Yet agencies and brands are still ignoring it. They’re setting up Pinterest pages without the faintest clue as to whether their customers are there or not. Meanwhile, the real customers, the advocates, the critics, are discussing your product on a much less exciting, dour, colourless, boring, dusty old forum site. And you’re missing it.

Sure, have a vanity Pinterest page, throw up some images of your products and link them back to your ecommerce site. Great. For some brands, this is already proving a useful and profitable strategy. But this will take time, content, and man hours, and unless you’re basing this strategy on solid data, user information, site traffic statistics and hard evidence that your customers are there to be engaged and marketed to, then it’s potentially a massive waste of time, and you’re falling victim to yet more social media bandwagon jumping.

It’s not about cool, it’s about ‘customers’.

@thomcas

@Testifydigital