“Journalists” drive me nuts.
If you want to understand someone’s motivation, then look at how they’re compensated.
Journalists are in the business of getting more pageviews. That’s how they get paid by advertisers.
The only metric traditional publishers care about online is pageviews. I’ve experienced this first-hand by working directly with a multi-million dollar media company.
So journalists specifically choose topics that will drive more visits and increase pageviews. And when a topic becomes “trendy” or “hot”, other journalists jump on and ride the wave.
You’ve probably seen this the past few months with Pinterest. It seems like you can’t go a day without reading another article on “how important it is” or “how you should be using it”.
But here’s the deal.
I don’t care about driving pageviews to make advertisers happy. That’s not how I make money.
I make money by providing results to help businesses grow. And if my advice isn’t good, then I don’t get paid.
So here’s some advice when it comes to Pinterest:
Don’t waste your time.
Why You Shouldn’t Waste Time Pinning
All businesses have constraints.
And that’s especially true for your most valuable resources: time, money, and energy. If you had a large budget and staff, then I’d say “pin away”.
But chances are, you don’t.
That means you have to make trade-offs. You can’t invest in several different buckets. You have to choose wisely and prioritize which activities you’re going to invest your precious resources in.
Your time has an opportunity cost. So the marketing ROI of each activity you choose has to be worth it.
Here’s why most small businesses shouldn’t waste their time with Pinterest.
The Wrong Kind of Traffic
The only goal of Pinterest is to drive traffic back to your website or blog.
There’s no way to engage with others users in a substantial way, or deepen your relationship with existing customers. (I know they have little features to interact, but they’re not great.)
So the only business objective for using Pinterest is to drive more traffic and get new customers.
And therein lies the problem.
Traffic from Pinterest is the wrong kind of traffic.
Like StumbleUpon and others sources of “viral” traffic, it comes quickly and leaves quickly.
During the months of Jan 1 to Mar 28 this year, Copyblogger reported that their Pinterest traffic had a bounce rate of 91.7%!
For those unfamiliar, “bounce rate” means they spent less than 10 seconds on your site. Do you think anyone subscribed to their blog, or bought one of their products in 10 seconds?
I don’t care if Pinterest sends more referral traffic than Twitter, Facebook or anyone else. If 90+% of that traffic bounces, then it won’t lead to more, new customers (no matter how you analyze the data).
Now in fairness, the Copyblogger article goes on to share some great information on how to improve the bounce rate. So you should definitely check out that article and see their suggestions. But I’m not trying to be objective here. I’m trying to make a point.
This is the main reason people shouldn’t waste time with Pinterest. Because as a marketing channel who’s main purpose is to drive traffic to get new customers, it does a terrible job of it.
But here are two more supporting arguments.
Too Few Users
Based on some in-depth research (read: Googling), Pinterest has anywhere between 10 – 15 millions users. Sounds like a lot, right?
Now let’s compare that to a few other social networks.
- Facebook: 850 million monthly active users
- Twitter: 200+ million users
- LinkedIn: 100+ million users
- YouTube: 2 billion views per day
- Google+: 90+ million users
- Foursquare: 20 million registered users
Now I know Pinterest is relatively young. So it’s probably not done growing.
But if you want to make the growth argument, then you should take a look at YouTube, which is poised to blow up as internet-enabled TVs start hitting every single household. So if you’re debating on whether to jump on the Pinterest or YouTube bandwagon, I’d say the latter.
And YouTube integrates nicely with Google+, which (a) has more users than Pinterest, and (b) also improves your SEO.
Either way, when your goal is to acquire new users, then reach of that channel will always be important.
The key to using social media as business development is to focus on the right audience. So you don’t need a huge reach. If it matches your target customer, then you should see good conversions.
So if you don’t have the same reach on Pinterest (because of too few users at this time), then you need to make sure the audience is right.
And that’s where it gets interesting.
TechCrunch reported that “over 97% of Pinterest’s Facebook fans are women”. Because we don’t know official figures, let’s assume that means that the overwhelming majority of Pinterest users are in fact, women (which should be of no surprise to anyone).
And according to this infographic, we can learn some more about Pinterest:
- 68.2% female
- 66.8% between the ages of 18-44
- 50% of users have kids
So basically (generalizing), Pinterest is full of young moms. Which is great, if your target market is young moms.
But what if you sell car parts? Or how about software? Or games? Or golf equipment? Or anything else that doesn’t match that target market?
Then you won’t convert any, and 90% of your traffic will bounce.
And then you’re back at the beginning. It’s like that traffic never came in the first place. Except for your wasted time, energy and effort.
The Bottom Line
We all know that you can slice and dice statistics to prove any point you have. And a lot of my argument is generalizations, so anyone can disagree with me.
But I’m simply trying to make a point, and use data to paint a picture for you.
When you have tight resource constraints (time, money, energy), then you need to choose carefully, and invest in things that work.
If I were you, I would invest in:
- An awesome blog writer who will execute your content strategy
- Search engine optimization to bring in new visitors on a consistent basis
- Email marketing, which still has the best ROI of any online channel
- Lifecycle email marketing, because most current and past customers get neglected by companies (and the key to future profitability is by increasing the lifetime value of these customers)
- And other forms of inbound marketing that improves your marketing ROI
If you’ve done all those, then great – experiment with Pinterest. But I know most small businesses are falling short in these areas.
So if you have to choose between one of these and Pinterest, then choose the proven, successful ways of driving business.
And please, don’t make strategic online marketing decisions based on what’s popular or in the news.