Since debuting several months ago, Pinterest has been one of the most discussed social media sites so quickly out of the gates. Naturally, with all of that hype comes a lot of backlash too.
While the layout of the social curation platform is actually quite straightforward, there are a lot of mixed opinions about Pinterest, ranging from questions about copyright infringement to even questions about leadership behind the scenes.
Right now, it seems one of the biggest questions is just how valuable is the information being posted to Pinterest, either to consumers or the original content providers. When it comes to retail and brand-building, in general, many analysts actually agree that Pinterest offers more positive opportunities than one might expect.
Steven Kramer, president of multichannel commerce platform Hybris in North America, explained to me that most brands will have an opportunity to benefit from Pinterest as it evolves.
Pinterest is a place where consumers can curate the brands, products and activities that compose the lifestyle they are living or striving for. Brands that create a lifestyle like Whole Foods, Restoration Hardware or even car brands will benefit from this consumer curation.
But proactive use of Pinterest as a marketing tool could be quite a balancing act as well.
Scott Forshay, a strategist for mobile and emerging technologies with commerce and digital marketing firm Acquity Group, posited that "brands should certainly be cognizant of how best to monetize earned media exposure and the web traffic it generates, but they must also avoid alienating the audience by overtly pushing commerce in an arena built on authenticity."
However, Forshay added that "today's digital consumer demands authenticity and look to brands to provide inspiration," and that Pinterest is capable of helping brands succeed on both accounts.
There is warranted room for concern and caution when it comes to using Pinterest as a medium to connect with consumers.
Bruce Warren, vice president of marketing of Empathica, a customer service management program provider, referred to the amount of control consumers have over a brand’s message as a double-edged sword.
The positive engagement levels generated on social networks has the potential to be tremendous. However, negative feedback can be shared just as quickly, if not faster. In the case of Pinterest, the visual focus of the site has the potential to impact the aesthetic appeal of a brand and can have positive connotations for users.
Some website managers have not been keen on having their content shared so easily on Pinterest. Thus, there are solutions emerging, such as ScrapeShield, that can be setup to block any kind of pinning whatsoever.
Given that a recent Adobe survey asserted that most retailers and marketers undervalue social media by nearly 100 percent, maybe it's not surprising why there's so much doubt about Pinterest. Furthermore, considering approximately 58 percent of U.S. consumers aren't on Pinterest, that's not going to impress or encourage support from online retailers as well.
Yet going forward, Pinterest and other emerging social media platforms beyond just Twitter and Facebook really do have the potential to reshape retail and e-commerce strategies.
Kramer reminds that retailers should immediately start tracking the referral traffic generated from Pinterest, much like they would from any other source, to figure out the potential value and where they stand.
Warren asserted that Pinterest has reinforced "the new-found control consumers have in the brand-consumer relationship," as "brands can no longer dictate their message and what they represent to the masses."
He concluded, "Pinterest offers a unique twist on this new relationship dynamic through visual influence, causing retailers to focus on design appeal and positioning their products in the best light aesthetically."