Many of the larger hospitality firms have failed to prioritise the increasingly-popular Pinterest social network, leaving the door wide open for boutique hoteliers to pip them to the post on this platform, according to digital marketing consultant Carole Luck
Established in December 2009, Pinterest is fast becoming a major player in the social-network league. In March 2012 it became the third-largest social network in the US, according to Experian Hitwise, behind Facebook and Twitter. It has also become a network with increased stickiness — with visitors staying longer.
Pinterest is clearly providing a new marketing channel for any hospitality or travel brand by driving both awareness and sales potential through fabulous imagery. Nevertheless, like all the major social networks, it takes time to understand and assimilate the opportunities it offers.
Pinterest probably demands more commitment from you and your team than the other major players like Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, you need to think about your communication strategy and do some careful planning before opening a Pinterest account for your hotel business.
The name Pinterest is really derived from the concept of a pinboard; somewhere we can pin items of interest. Often postcards or photographs of favourite places we’ve visited are destined for a pinboard — which is why this social network is so very relevant for all travel-industry players, particularly boutique hotels. Yet it is other industries which, so far, have grasped the commercial opportunities it offers.
In particular retailers, who traditionally have been ahead of hospitality and travel in the UK on the ‘embracing social media curve’, have staked some Pinterest territory. The best examples of Pinterest content at the moment, however, are provided by US firms.
In October last year, Econsultancy cited publisher Random House Books, with almost 1.5m Pinterest followers, as one of its top five Pinterest-savvy businesses because it goes “beyond pinning merely its own products on the wall”.
This is one of the key lessons to learn in any social-media activity: share relevant content that will be of interest to your target market, always do more than simply and unimaginatively pushing your own product.
With Pinterest, perhaps more than with any other social media, it’s worth looking at involving your creative agency to help you by providing content for your Pinterest profile.
Your objectives should be to gain followers and the ‘repinning’ or sharing of your content, as well as visits to your website and ultimately measurable sales and a healthy return on investment.
This all sounds relatively easy but it is difficult to achieve well. The visual nature of Pinterest demands professional-looking images or ‘pins’ and, therefore, this content is probably best delivered by the creative people you call on to help you represent your brand and hotel identity in more traditional media.
Steps to success
If you really feel that your budget cannot stretch to additional agency fees, Gabriela Taylor, in her 2013 book Pinterest Marketing: The Ultimate Guide, lists 31 tools, many of which can help with the design of interesting pins, and some of these tools are free.
Practical steps to be taken mirror those of other social networks: consistent brand identity and a strong company bio including links back to your own website to drive traffic — all good for SEO and trackable via your analytics.
Similarly, add a “follow” button to your Pinterest profile on your own website and email signatures — this will be spotted by ‘pinners’ and will increase your number of followers and, subsequently, boost pin and board sharing.
Pinterest is also much more than an image-sharing network. YouTube video content can be shared here as well as blog articles and unique ‘infographics’ — so when you think Pinterest, think more than just pictures.
If you only have a small marketing team and cannot devote too much time to Pinterest, I would advocate the quality over quantity approach. Establish a small number of carefully thought-out board themes, pin regularly to them and think outside the box for content. Instead of a food image why not include a ‘how to’ YouTube video for one of chef’s favourite sauces?
Follow other relevant profiles like attractions and tourist organisations and share or repin other pinners’ content. With more than 34,000 followers, the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Pinterest profile, easily accessible from the “connect” area of its website, is a good demonstration of interesting pins and boards covering a wide variety of travel-related topics. However, it seems that many major hospitality brands are neglecting this network leaving the door open for more agile, smaller companies.
The future of Pinterest looks bright for travel-related brands particularly with its latest innovation ‘Pinterest Place Pins’, announced in November last year, using the Foursquare location API and Mapbox’s map technology.
This move clearly takes Pinterest beyond a ‘pinboard’ concept to become a mobile travel planning tool — one to watch and, if you have the resources, embrace ahead of your competition.
• Look at what others do on Pinterest to gain knowledge
• Pinterest profile — be on brand, informative and relevant to attract followers
• Include a “follow us on Pinterest” button on your own website / email signatures
• Seek help from your creative agency for professional-looking pins and boards
• Choose and plan relevant Pinterest board names and categories