Editor’s note: This story and video clip are taken from Ragan’s new distance-learning portal RaganTraining.com. The site contains more than 200 hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses. For membership information, please click here.
Sure, it’s easy for a colorful brand like Disney—or an agency with a mission as memorable as NASA’s—to fill its Pinterest site with striking pictures.
But how are you supposed to pull off a Pinterest board when you sell software or conduct business without those organizations’ cachet?
Don’t go crying to Jeremy Porter, director of unified communications at the marketing agency Definition 6. In a Ragan panel on storytelling through images, Porter recalls his first job out of college. Others might have considered his client—a toilet manufacturer—to be a visual dud.
But when Porter visited the factory with a photographer, he found some winning images.
“There were thousands of toilets lined up, and there’s this one guy going row by row, looking at the toilets,” Porter says. “He’s quality control; he’s inspecting them.”
Splendid! They shot a picture and released it, and the Associated Press spread it to newspapers all over the U.S.
Here are some tips for your visual storytelling on Pinterest:
1. Don’t just think product (or mission). Think story.
Who, you may ask, tells stories on Pinterest? Isn’t it all about pictures? Not so, say social media strategists who have built major success for their organizations on the platform.
If you’re not finding potent images in your organization, maybe you just need a different approach to Pinterest. Think about your people and what they do, not just about your products or services.
The organic grocery chain Whole Foods collaborated with other brands in its hometown of Austin, Texas—with nonprofits, an ad agency, and the local branch of a major hotel, among others. Just before South by Southwest, the organizations launched a joint effort to tell about what they love about their city, says Michael Aaron Bepko, global online community manager.
The goal was to give visitors a reason to explore the city, but it also brought the brands some exposure apart from their standard Pinterest streams. “It’s a really great solution if you don’t have much time,” Bepko says.
3. Choose stories that illuminate your products
Rather than just show shelves full of organic raisin bran or bottles of olive oil, Whole Foods offers images with a story behind them.
The grocery chain’s Whole Planet Foundation makes micro-loans to developing world farmers and others whose products are sold in the stores. In its Share the Buzz board, Whole Foods emphasizes the importance of honey bees to agriculture. The company posts pictures of coffee beans from East Timor, featuring its product while telling a good story. It has done this many times over.
“This is the real person that lives in the community,” Bepko says, “and this is what they’re doing with the loan that they got. They’ve actually started a noodle-making business in Thailand, and now they’re able to support their family.”
4. Use Pinterest to drive traffic
Pinterest is a great way to bring people to your website, several panelists say. Find an area of interest that overlaps with your brand. You can draw viewers in by knowing what’s of interest to your community.
“Everyone who has any kind of interest of anything in the universe is on there,” Bepko says.
5. Think strategically
Go all in, sure, but think through your objectives on Pinterest first, says Kevin Dando, director of digital marketing and communications at PBS.
Before slapping up random pictures, PBS started by discussing why it was moving to Pinterest, what it would name its board, what it would pin there, and how it would use search engine optimization to drive traffic. The organization took a month to develop a strategy before it launched.
A year later, “that manifesto has really held up,” Dando says.
6. Showcase your events
Take a humorous tone—people love to share wit—and use your hometown as a reference, says Samantha Hosenkamp, social media director for Ragan Communications. But also show off your events.
“Take pictures of the event, of attendees if they’re willing, just of everything that’s going on, and pin it to the board—make a board just for that,” Hosenkamp says.
The photos give attendees memories they can refer to later. Hosenkamp has also pinned shots of interesting sites and restaurants around Ragan’s conference locales, providing a resource for attendees.
7. Mention your Pinterest ‘pin of the day’ on Twitter
PBS does this, and Twitter drives heavy traffic. The top five (or more) clicked links invariably come from “pin of the day” tweets.
8. Carpe diem
All right, this example concerns Twitter, but the lessons also apply to Pinterest and other social media platforms. Seize the day—or better yet, seize the instant.
Dando drove traffic—and won media mentions—when he plugged PBS and added a “Downton Abbey” hashtag during the Super Bowl blackout.
“This might be a good time think about alternative programming,” he tweeted.
Are you ready to seize the next big moment?