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2018-05-Pinterest-Blog

Evaluate, Calibrate, Repeat: Pinterest Shows How Autopilot Slows Innovation

By Jamie Gilpin / July 18, 2018

As marketing leaders, thinking about return is the day-to-day.

Return on investment, return on time, return on effort, return on resources—prioritizing where and how to take action.

So, when you find a marketing strategy that works, you tend to stick with it. You set it and forget it. If it ain’t broke….

It’s totally understandable. And it’s a trap. Marketing, and in particular social media, is changing at too rapid a pace. What worked a year ago may be obsolete today. Platforms and the best practices for using them are constantly emerging and evolving. Just look at all that’s changed with GDPR and online privacy in the last few months alone.

If you’re not consistently evaluating how you use different social channels and calibrating your strategy, your team could be missing out on major opportunities.

Need a prime example? Look at Pinterest.

A Pin for Your Thoughts

When you think about Pinterest, it’s probably as one of many social channels. And your team is probably managing that way.

But Pinterest isn’t a social network in the traditional sense, and it never was.

It’s used primarily as a visual search engine, that enables people to discover and do things that they love, to the tune of two billion searches each month. Social functionality exists on the network, but it’s been minimized over time. Pinterest even went so far as to retire its “Like” feature in 2017. Facebook this is not.

Yet more than 200 million people use Pinterest every month. Sixty-one percent of users said they’ve discovered new brands and products thanks to the network’s ads, and half say they’ve made a purchase because of them.

And these users don’t just buy, they buy more. Compared to non-users, people on Pinterest spend 29% more on retail and are 18% more likely to buy a new vehicle. They spend 5% more on groceries than the national average. And, Pinterest is where you’ll find half of all Americans who spend more than $1,000 on travel.

The company’s CEO describes the platform as a “catalog of ideas,” and those ideas can be tied directly back to your top line. Just ask the 93% of users who said Pinterest helps them plan for purchases.

Given all of this, why did only 31% of Fortune 500 companies use Pinterest in the past year? And of those, how many took time to zero in on the platform’s unique strengths and tailor their tactics accordingly?

When’s the last time your team presented a Pinterest strategy to you?

Fostering Innovation

You may be wondering how you’re leveraging (or more likely, not) one of the world’s largest digital platforms. It’s because even trail-blazing startups are quick to fall into a comfortable rut once they find a strategy that produces results. Larger, older legacy organizations, even more so. It’s human nature to double down on what you’re doing if it seems to be working.

But marketing moves faster now, and social is arguably the fastest. Even if ROI benchmarks stay constant, we have to ask ourselves, “Is there something better?”

Pinterest is just one potentially lucrative example. New social and digital opportunities are always arriving, and existing ones never stop changing. Here are a few ways to keep fresh ideas coming and ensure you’re keeping up

First look outside your walls. The experts on your team are a huge asset, but they’re not the only voices you should hear.

It takes legwork to do more than simply stay abreast of news and trends. To discover what’s new and valuable, consider setting an expectation for every person on your team to attend at least one social or digital vendor demo per quarter.

Why push your team to systematically sit through demos from marketing stack vendors? Because great salespeople are educators as much as they are persuaders. You don’t have to take their word as gospel, but if your team keeps hearing the same new ideas or trends over and over again, it’s time to take a deeper dive into your digital marketing strategy.

In the case of Pinterest, your team may already have discovered that half of millennials in the U.S. use the network every month. And that while it’s considered a women-centric destination, 40% of all new signups are men.

Next, it helps to have a data analyst, or team, on hand. You need someone who can both measure social performance and interpret what the numbers mean. If you’re going to revamp part of your strategy, you need expertise in forming and testing hypotheses. Before assigning a bigger budget to Pinterest ads, for example, get data to back up that decision.

Finally, encourage your team to step back and reevaluate its strategy. Carving out this time is non-negotiable. Set up shop offsite and tell your team to engage in an extended thought exercise: If you were building a new social strategy from scratch, what would it look like?

For instance, how might Pinterest fit into the organization’s game plan? What processes and workflows could maximize results? What pitfalls need to be avoided?

The “Stop, Start, Continue, Change” model is always a good approach:

  • What is not working in our strategy that we should stop doing?
  • What should we start doing instead?
  • What’s working well and should continue?
  • What’s working but needs changes to work better?

Also, after any campaign or project or test, an exercise of “Hits, Misses, and What We Learned” will help make the next test that much more successful. Maybe you’ve invested too much in the wrong channel. Or maybe there were problems with execution. Without a thoughtful, candid retrospective, assumptions can lead you down the wrong path in the future.

Pinterest may not be the right fit for every organization, but it’s emblematic of social as a whole—it’s evolved significantly since its launch and too many organizations are missing out.

Consistent evaluation and calibration needs to become second nature to succeed on social.

When it comes to your strategy, if it ain’t broke, it could be soon.

Jamie Gilpin

Jamie Gilpin

is the CMO at Sprout Social. She is an experienced marketing leader with demonstrated success in growing brands in the technology space through strategic positioning.
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