July 24, 2012

How Pinteresting!

Unless you somehow avoided the media, Internet, and most human interaction in the last year, you’ve surely heard of Pinterest, Silicon Valley’s latest social media darling. Maybe you’re already dabbling with it for personal use— “pinning” pictures of wallpaper patterns, low-fat cheesecake recipes, and snapshots of future vacations to boards that organize ideas for your bathroom renovation, summer barbecues, and anniversaries. Whether you’re uninitiated, a novice, or a power user, Pinterest is an appealing and intuitive tool for curating and sharing images that inspire you. But does it have a role in an AEC marketing strategy? And if so, what role is that, given the functionality and flexibility of the other popular social media sites? I’ve pondered these questions for a while, maybe you have too. Let’s get to the bottom of this.

What are some compelling reasons to launch a Pinterest profile and get pinning?

AEC is a visual business.

This is probably the most convincing argument I can make. In fact, Pinterest was co-founded by Evan Sharp, a former architecture student at Columbia University! Surely, it must have an application in our industry if it was co-conceived and is currently designed by one of our brethren! Whether your firm specializes in glossy high-concept residential architecture, precision engineering of complex bridges, or the painstaking construction of research hospitals, the culmination of your efforts is a new or reimagined architectural statement. Pinterest offers an attractive platform for you to organize, curate, and share photos of the final project or images that capture the design and construction process as it unfolds.

Pinterest is now the third most popular social media site, behind Twitter and Facebook.

That’s right. Pinterest has now eclipsed LinkedIn and Google+. From May 2011-May 2012, Pinterest grew 4377 percent, where LinkedIn expanded 67 percent, Twitter grew 58 percent, and Facebook grew just 4 percent.

Pinterest is also gaining ground on “engagement” i.e., how long a user spends on the site. Pinterest users spend on average 89 minutes per month on the site. While Facebook is still king, with users spending 405 minutes per month, Pinterest overshadows Google+’s meager 3 minutes per month. “So what?” you might say. Pinterest has captured users’ imaginations, encouraging participation, sharing, and connection between members.

Earlier this year, Pinterest referred more traffic to external websites than LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+ combined, and it’s threatening to unseat Twitter and Google.

In January, Pinterest directed 3.06 percent of all referred web traffic, up from just .17 percent last July. Twitter directed just 3.61 percent and Google, masters of the search universe, mustered just 3.62 percent. There’s something about the interface and the type of content available on Pinterest that inspires users to “click away” to another website. In my view, the whole point of social media is as a channel that drives traffic back to the hub, in this case your firm’s website. It is on your website that you present your credentials, show your firm’s personality, and differentiate your brand. Pinterest gives you a new mechanism to attract an audience to your website— people you can educate, entertain, or enchant.

With all these compelling reasons, why hesitate, right?

WAIT. STOP. HALT! Here are a few reasons to remain skeptical and proceed with caution.


Pinterest’s users may not be your target audience.

Women make up an overwhelming 68.2 percent of users, while men comprise just 31.8 percent. A significant number of users, 27.4 percent, are comparatively young, 25-34. While 35-54 year olds make up 40 percent of users. The majority of Pinterest users hail from the Southeast, Midwest, and Northwest. Finally, the site is currently dominated by images of home décor, fashion, crafts, and food. Any one of these considerations might make it unsuitable for your marketing program.

Your firm lacks original and arresting visuals, the resources or wherewithal to create them, the creative expertise to develop a strategy, and the time to maintain your presence.

Returning to Pinterest’s basic premise and the first bullet point in this post, the AEC industry is visual and Pinterest is an immersive visual experience. Ho-hum images will fall flat because they will have to compete for space and emotional resonance with the other provocative imagery on the site.

The other factors are typical limiting conditions on any social media activity. Proceeding without a strategy— and without a way to measure success— can doom your efforts to failure before you start. In addition, someone must shoulder the responsibility for sustaining the profile with new images; otherwise, the profile quickly grows stale and earlier efforts are squandered.

Your website is not a clear and confident expression of your firm.

If the goal and purpose of Pinterest is to capture the attention of a user and then inspire them to follow a link back to your website, then your website really ought to reflect your firm’s values and philosophy, and how these achieve their full expression in your culture, process, craft, aesthetics, and completed projects. If your website is out-of-date or simply doesn’t convey the firm’s identity anymore, then a visit to your website by someone unfamiliar with your firm is a missed opportunity to communicate what makes it unique and differentiates it from competitors.

So what’s next?

Well, you know the sophistication of your marketing program and the resources you have to evolve your strategy. If your firm is enjoying success from your participation in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you might want to experiment with Pinterest. Develop a few pinboards and see if they direct traffic to your website. If, however, your firm is new to social media, you’ll want to evaluate social sites carefully to determine which ones provide the best platform for your thought leadership and position your firm to forge meaningful connections with current and prospective clients.

Other Resources:

HubSpot: How to Use Pinterest for Business e-book

Pinterest Case Study: Life as an Architect

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