About Lucy Hamilton

Planner/Analyst in Source:WM

Pinterest: Three golden rules

There’s no two ways about it. Amongst the plethora of social media sites trying to enter the mainstream, Pinterest is the latest one to break through and the one sparking the most (p)interest (erg) amongst bloggers and marketers alike. A platform where users can find, bookmark and share content across a range of topics, brands are now looking to figure out how they can (and should) be using it for their business.

There are a number of blogs out there which have already done their round-up of important tips, including Mashable (a general guide for users) and Social Media Examiner (specifically for businesses) – both good reads. In my view, the three most important things to remember are:

1)      Use it yourself

This is the number one most important thing about any social medium, let alone Pinterest. As with all new things, there are a lot of people out there questioning the value of Pinterest. To those I say: remember how we all used to feel about Twitter. While the odd person continues to complain that Twitter is just for telling everyone what you had for breakfast, rarely have these people ever actually used it. Similarly with Pinterest, to someone who has only read about it/ had a cursory glance it may appear as nothing more than an accumulation of slightly whimsical wedding ideas with the odd internet meme thrown in. Dig a little deeper and you will find a space where people curate their own content across range of interests – be it feminism, food, charities or political causes (the current Kony 2012 campaign is everywhere). And just like with Twitter and Facebook, the more you use it, the more you get out of it. Even early adopters of Twitter took a while to get into it. These things take time and if you invest a bit into them I promise you it will be worth it (a bit like the Wire, or Mad Men). More importantly, using it will help you see how other people use it, which leads me to my next point…

2)      Inspire, don’t sell

This has been said on every post anywhere about Pinterest but it is so important that I must say it again. On realising the wish-list quality of users’ boards it is tempting to immediately see Pinterest as an opportunity to show off your brand’s products. But to do this is to misunderstand how people are using it. We should all know by now (but perhaps some of us need reminding now and then…) that the key to all social is content. The easiest way to understand this is to think how you personally use Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest as a consumer. You look for people who are posting awesome things about topics of interest to you – let’s face it, the only reasons other than content that any of us follow or like a brand is (1) for free stuff or (2) because we work on them. Why would you follow a brand that only pins their products, unless you are already an avid fan? Look at Bergdof Goodman or West Elm for great examples of brands that could easily have gone down the shop route but instead opted for a variety of style inspiration boards. You can follow the whole lot or just pick specific trends/ styles that interest/ inspire you. Similarly Whole Foods Market is inspirational to any foodie without being overtly sales-y. At the end of the day, we don’t use Facebook or Twitter as a shop, why the temptation with Pinterest? Especially when one of their rules is to ‘avoid self-promotion’.

Bergdof Goodman creates trend-specific boards for inspiration

3)      Use it for insight

Given a large part of what I do in my job revolves around audience insight, one of the most interesting potential benefits to me comes from Lauren Drell’s suggestion that once you have built a base of followers you use this as a way to gain qualitative insight into your audience. On one level you can easily learn about how they are repinning/ liking your own content, to find out whether you’re seen as inspirational, funny or a bit of a joke.  On the next level, it’s also relatively straightforward to have a look at who or what your followers also follow, as well as at their own boards to see what interests they have outside of your specific category. In this way you can gain a deeper understanding of who your audience is, in a way that is perhaps more ‘natural’ than a survey or group. You can widen this out to not just your followers but any followers of a particular category or topic, as suggested by  Grant McCracken who sees this is a method of understanding how people map things in a way which is ‘more telling than language’.

Pinterest is no longer just a place to plan a wedding or share a recipe. In the States the numbers are growing fast and the UK is catching on too. With Facebook’s new pages encouraging brands to go more visual, this is the way people are sharing content. Other manifestations of this trend – such as the rise of infographics and people tweeting pictures instead of written updates – demonstrate that the majority of people prefer a visual communications style – this is also why Pinterest is so captivating. If you haven’t been on yet, give it a look. But beware, it’s addictive. So much so that I am finding it difficult to finish writing this blog as I will no longer have an excuse to sit on it all day.

Social Media Week Diary – Part 2

Last night Ella and I went to “Using Data from Social Media to Improve Performance”, an event excellently moderated by Cathy Ma (Head of Social Media, IPC Media).

Peter O’Neill (L3 Analytics), who spoke about the importance of measuring flow between social media and websites, organised the event because he couldn’t see why we would have a social media week with no talks about measurement. Here are a couple of titbits on what the other speakers had to say on social media analytics:

Joshua March – Co-founder/ CEO at Conversocial

Brands often ignore importance of customer service when managing their social media presence. Having a social media expert responding to customer complaints or requests is not enough. Well may they refer a customer to an email address or a phone number, but if a person has chosen to contact you via your Facebook page it is either because they don’t want to email you or because email already hasn’t worked. Put a customer service person (or team) in charge of monitoring your Facebook page or Twitter account, and have a target response time of under an hour.

Josh’s  presentation can be found on the Conversocial blog:


Simon Cast – Head of Products at PeerIndex

Simon Cast – who moved from rocket science to influencer algorithms – presented on how brands can use influencers to gain reach in an efficient way. It was questioned how accurate these algorithms can be (something I’ve previously blogged about). He sees a future where algorithms for these tools are made public (as with PageRank), and could be amended for purpose. If this eventuates this could be an exciting step to keep brands in control of who they see as influential by amending these algorithms themselves.

PeerIndex’s website is here:


Christian Howes – Consultant (recently seen on Big Brother)

Pretty proud of having been banned from major betting retailers, Christian Howes showed how social media analysis can help produce predictions for reality TV shows’ winners and losers. From him we can learn that it’s how you present data just as much as using your brain.

This last comment perhaps seems obvious but I think as analysts we can often forget that part of the puzzle. Cathy Ma hit the nail on the head when she described analysts as storytellers. We have so many data sources available but it is up to us to constantly ask what the data is actually telling us.

Under the Influence: Klout scores and their role in marketing

Many advertisers in the US have partnered with Klout to offer free perks to influencers

How influential are you on the web? Tools such as Klout and PeerIndex, which assign scores based on analysing your social media activity, cropped up a few years ago, but it is only recently that advertisers are beginning to notice. In the US, Chevrolet, amongst others, partnered up with Klout to offer free test drives to those with high scores.

At face value, this feels like an efficient way of targeting and influencing those consumers who are not only the most likely to be talking about brands, but the most likely to be listened to. One tweet from them about a brand will not only be seen by their thousands of followers, but there is a higher likelihood that the tweet will be retweeted or replied to.  This endorsement will have the added weight of not be coming from a faceless brand but a trusted voice. Further to that, the desire to get free perks will in theory encourage other people to strive to be influencers. They will make the effort to increase their score, by increasing their followers and improving their technique for getting retweets. They will themselves tweet about brands and their new followers will see (and hopefully engage) with them. A few free perks will in theory result in a huge number of impressions for a brand, all coming from trusted sources.

Unfortunately, at the moment the reality is (as Monty Munford, among others, has already pointed out), these tools are not always accurate. The algorithms differ between the tools: someone with a high score on Klout may do incredibly poorly on PeerIndex. True, they are constantly amending their algorithms, but there nevertheless seems to be large room for error, and worse, manipulation. People who want a high score know how to play the system: fake accounts spamming their followers can achieve higher scores than a real person giving less frequent, but genuine (and genuinely interesting) opinions. Even the topics of influence on Klout don’t always make much sense. Sample size of one: My personal Twitter has a tiny Klout (I keep my tweets private so my pride will survive), yet apparently I am highly influential when it comes to shopping. I have no idea how this has happened. Most of my tweets are about me making a fool of myself in airports or talking about Whoopi Goldberg yet somehow the algorithm decides that I am influential about shopping.

Even once the algorithms get sorted (or people learn how to read scores with the required pinch of salt), it all comes back to that much-quoted statistic that 90% of word of mouth is offline. It may come as a surprise to some, but not all influential people have a Twitter account (Whoopi only has hers as a way to avoid Twitfraud). Certainly, digital influence must play a large role in many brand campaigns, but Klout and PeerIndex are not tools that are relevant for all brands. Those whose core audience use social networks as an intrinsic part of their life should of course learn about these tools and how best to use them. Others, whose most influential exponents may be voicing their opinions outside of the online sphere, should not fall into the trap of assuming that unleashing a Klout campaign ticks off their desire to engage with influencers.  It is tempting to get over-excited by the prospect that there is a quantifiable way to measure influence on social media. When that measurement is still flawed, and not even relevant for many brands, we should not fall back on these measurements. We should instead continue to  use creativity and common sense to make sure these campaigns are working at their most effective.