Beyond Pinterest: How to Weave Internet Bulletin Boards into the Brand Marketing Mix
As the social web evolution rolls on, a new breed of social discovery sites have emerged that offer a multi-media alternative to text-based forums like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. While these so-called Internet bulletin boards, like 20blinks, Pinterest and others are still working to build momentum, the gathering audiences have already attracted the attention of brand marketers and PR professionals.
For marketers, these sites represent a tremendous opportunity to gain authentic insight into their target audience, to see the world through their customers’ eyes. By posting their favorite images, video clips and audio snippets on 20blinks, for example, “Blinkers” reveal the essence of their personality—what makes them tick—to create a truly unique online identity. Beyond the typical demographics and numbers-game of audience analytics, these more intimate glimpses of user profiles uncover subjective nuances that might otherwise go unnoticed by pure demographic analysis.
For example, sites like 20blinks and Pinterest allow individuals who might otherwise differ greatly demographically to connect and collaborate over shared interests and hobbies, shattering the clichéd notion that “birds of a feather flock together.” Users might share similar taste in art, music, fashion, home decor or travel destinations, yet differ significantly in age, gender, ethnicity or religion.
Unlike Facebook, Google and other online properties that rely purely on text-based entries and search results to bucket users for marketing purposes, multi-media bulletin board sites permeate these boundaries to provide deeper, more contextual insight into audience likes and dislikes based on subjective audience feedback. These platforms allow for many people from widely diverse backgrounds to pursue the same idea—even when that commonality might seem unlikely—and curate and re-rank the content based on their view of its relevance to this idea, rather than some algorithm’s determination of relevance based purely on the text associated with it.
In addition to subjective ranking, these sites provide an audience penetration point that’s higher up in the desire funnel, at the discovery phase. Google, Facebook and other text-based engines rely on users to know what they want and actively search for it. But, as Semil Shah pointed out in his TechCrunch examination of the Rise of Pinterest and the Shift from Search to Discovery, at sites like 20blinks and other Internet bulletin boards, users don’t necessarily have a pre-conceived idea of what they want—but they know what they want when they see it. This dynamic gives brands the opportunity to introduce products, concepts and content much earlier in the decision making process and actually drive discovery.
Given this opportunity, how might brands use sites like 20blinks and Pinterest to reach these gathering crowds?
- Create a brand account that’s fed with images, video and audio clips that reflect the brand/lifestyle image you’re looking to convey. This approach moves beyond offering the typical product discount for Facebook fans and builds brand loyalty and engagement at a higher level.
- Work with bulletin board platforms to cultivate a “featured feed” that displays brand content prominently or more frequently, yet fully integrated into the home page, newest, hottest or other key site indexes. For example, users who “pin” or “blink” images related to specific travel destinations can be served images, promo videos and other content related to local accommodations and attractions directly into their stream.
- Place small, unobtrusive sidebar ads on related page views that fit with the overall theme of the content stream and the site. For example, the Aruba Tourist Office might run a multi-media ad featuring serene views of sand and surf complete with the natural, tranquil ambient audio on pages users tag as travel destinations.
- Leverage bulletin boards as part of contest and promotional campaigns, asking users to pin or blink their original images, movies, music and other content that inspires them. When announcing the winner, drive traffic back to the bulletin board by posting the announcement with images and video.
No matter how you propose to leverage Internet bulletin boards as part of the marketing mix, it’s absolutely vital to remember the core tenents of brand engagement over social media: authenticity, transparency and sincerity are a must. Make it absolutely clear that the feed originates from your brand’s team, offer content of value that is more than self-serving and do so with a sincerity that invites open exchange, rather than a one-way, brand-driven conversation. Social-savvy web audiences are quick to spot a veiled attempt to infiltrate their ranks with pure brand rhetoric.
On the other hand, seamless integration of content that offers them a sneak-peak, keeps them “in the know” and allows them to stay on the cutting edge as opinion leaders by discovering and sharing the next big thing will win acceptance and loyalty.
Published: February 7, 2012 By: