Businesses have finally figured out the strategy for Facebook. Build a page, place visual content and add the odd link. Buy ads to push that content through the platform’s EdgeRank filter and while you can’t expect direct sales, you can expect to pick up the kind of brand awareness previously provided by traditional advertising — combined with the engagement and viral spread that only social media can deliver.
Pinterest, however, still has the corporate world confused.
The site places a greater emphasis on sharing than on original content. Instead of writing about their lives, users pin on their boards pictures they find on the platform and across the Internet. That gives companies plenty of opportunity to obtain organic reach — provided they can post imagery that’s attractive enough to win pins and comments — but the demographics are heavily skewed; no less than 80 percent of the site’s 70 million followers are women. It’s not too surprising then that the most popular pins tend to be pictures of wedding favors, home décor, hair styles and even salads.
For companies that sell consumer products of interest to women, Pinterest can provide rich pickings, helped by the ability to place price tags on product pictures. But for large firms and those that provide services, especially services that have little appeal to Pinterest’s specific demographic, the site can look like a challenging environment.
Many, in fact, have chosen to stay away. Of the top 200 companies on the Fortune 500 we found that only 71 have opened Pinterest accounts. That might appear a healthy percentage but of those just 24 have actually used their accounts to create boards and pin images. The remainder have simply chosen to grab their company names before other people do. While they have websites and they may have Facebook pages, barely 12 percent of the world’s 200 biggest firms have seen a reason to manage a platform that only allows them to post pictures.
They may be right. Of those that do manage their boards, even the most active have relatively few followers. Microsoft’s 21 boards, for example, have just over 2,000 followers, making it one of the most successful of the Fortune 500 firms on Pinterest. On Facebook, by contrast, the company has around 4 million likes. Even though its posts on Facebook won’t reach all of those potential followers, its potential organic reach is far higher than its maximum audience on Pinterest.
And yet even though Pinterest appears to be a platform on which women primarily collect pictures of clothes and cushion covers, some companies are putting real effort into their Pinterest activity, posting not just their products but information about their firms.
Comcast California Shows Remote Controls
Comcast, for example, operates a number of regional boards of which the most active is Comcast California, with fifteen boards and more than 300 pins. Some of those boards contain the kind of content you might expect to see from the company’s marketing department. Under Technology, followers can see pictures of the new remote control, embedded video from the company’s YouTube channel and shots of the Comcast X2 home screen. Those are content items that may be of interest to users, although few have actually been repinned or marked as favorites. Another board, called California Life, has done a little better with images that have a much broader appeal. Few of these pictures have come from Comcast itself; more have been pinned from news sites, travel pages and food blogs.
But the most common boards on Comcast California’s Pinterest account are about its community work. Boards show pictures of its Comcast Cares Day, its Leaders and Achievers program, its Hometown Heroes and its Read Across America campaign.
The pictures the boards contain show images of the company, not pictures about the experiences of the company’s customers. For Comcast California, Pinterest is a place for corporate communications as much as a channel for users to swap images of its remote control, set-top boxes or the shows it delivers to people’s homes. It’s a place to boast about itself rather than to advertise to or engage with customers. It’s little wonder that the account’s managers are largely talking to themselves; despite all that effort, the account has just 69 followers.
Kindred Health Beautiful At Every Age
Kindred Health, another Fortune 500 company, does something similar but it does it a little better. The healthcare company that operates transitional care hospitals, nursing centers, home care, and hospice services, has eighteen boards on Pinterest which together have nearly 300 pins.
Some of those boards contain visual content that is moving and touching. Beautiful at Every Age celebrates love and life among the elderly. Most of the pictures on the board have been repinned and favorited, including a collection of photos from the wedding of 87-year-old Bill Stauss and 100-year-old Dana Jackson at Kindred’s Rosewood Health Care Center.
Boards about Alzheimers, home care and diabetes can all appeal to the company’s clients and to anyone affected by the issues the pins illustrate.
In addition to those boards though, Kindred Health also runs two boards showing activities at its Clinical Impact Symposium.
It’s possible that the discussions held at those symposia were of vital importance for the future of medical care, and it’s possible too that shareholders in the company would find them interesting. It’s more likely though that someone at Kindred Health considered the meetings to be an important part of the company’s work and wanted them to be promoted. The images of people in suits standing in suits and delivering talks, however, are neither interesting nor photogenic. It’s no surprise that none of them has been repinned or favorited.
The account is doing a little better than Comcast with 266 followers.
Join Oracle’s Team
Fortune 500 companies on Pinterest do occasionally fall into the trap of showing themselves and their work instead of pinning pictures that might appeal to others. But there’s one form of corporate communications on Pinterest that stands out more than any other by Fortune 500 companies: recruitment.
Again and again, we see accounts and boards managed by the company’s human resources department and run with the goal of attracting potential new recruits. For those companies, Pinterest is a kind of visual LinkedIn.
Oracle’s sixteen boards, for example, are all focused on different aspects of working for the technology firm. A board called “Loving Life @ Oracle” invites followers “to get on board and join our team” by visiting the company’s careers Web page. Other boards show how Oracle workers keep fit, enjoy their time away from the desk and even work as interns.
One company that has managed this strategy particularly well is Southwest Airlines. With eighteen boards and nearly 13,000 followers, the company is one of the most successful Fortune 500 firms on Pinterest. Even pictures of the airline’s CEO win favorites and repins, and a collage of images accompanied by text that asks followers if they’ve “ever wondered what it’s like to be an intern @SouthwestAir” has picked up number of comments.
One follower describes her excitement at applying for an internship in the fall; another states that she wants to apply for an HRM position. The company itself responds to both of them by placing a link to its application form and encouraging followers to tell their friends.
That reaction from a surprisingly large audience is unusual on Pinterest, and Southwest’s ability to both attract followers and engage them is telling. Like other firms, the airline does post images that are intended to enhance recruitment but most of its boards and most of its pins are photogenic, interesting and fun. Followers get to see attractive pictures of large planes, of destinations and of shots taken from window seats that are very similar to pictures taken by passengers. Boards showing travel style, vintage ads and airplane-themed craft and cakes contain exactly the sort of content that most appeals to the users of Pinterest.
Southwest shows the gap between the potential benefits to Fortune 500 companies of using Pinterest and their ability to make the most of an image-based platform with a very special demographic. Companies that see the site as a way to talk about themselves and their activity struggle to make ground. They fail to attract followers, and as their content is ignored, they cause other companies to assume that there are few advantages to be obtained from using the site.
The few companies that are getting it right focus their efforts on sharing content that relates to their activities but which appeal to audiences on the platform. They might show food or fashion or places but when the company then adds other content related to recruitment, it finds that the ground has already been laid. It has both an audience and the good will necessary to turn that audience into potential employees.
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*This post is part of SteamFeed’s Corporate Syndication program. SteamFeed was compensated to re-publish this post.*