BEA Show Notes: Pin This: Pinterest A Great Tool to Drive Traffic, Build Fans

Even with all the recent hype over social networking site Pinterest, many publishers may not be fully aware of its enormous potential for book and magazine marketing—or even what, exactly, the service is all about.

Looking to remedy that state of affairs, “Pin it on Pinterest: Driving Traffic to Your Brand,” proffered insight and advice to a standing-room-only crowd at Book Expo America (BEA) in New York yesterday.

Kathleen Schmidt, president and CEO of book publicity firm KMSPR, presented numbers behind the popularity of Pinterest, which allows users to share and organize images uploaded or found around the Web. In May 2011 there were 418,000 users of the site, she said; by January 2012, that number had jumped to 11,716,000.

“Pinterest drives more traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined,” she said. The site is also very “sticky”: users spend an average of 1 hour and 17 minutes browsing the thousands of pictures of clothes, recipes, travel destinations, arts and crafts, a myriad of wish-lists of consumer products and miscellany both popular and obscure.

Many use the site as an organizational tool or even a way to research purchases, decorating or entertaining ideas and how-tos. Eighty-seven percent of users are female, Schmidt said; most are between 25 and 54 and a majority come from the Midwest, South or Central U.S.

Early and successful adopters on Pinterest were Etsy, Whole Foods, Real Simple and furniture company West Elm. Especially successful book publishers on the site include Random House, Crown, Vintage, Penguin, Harper Collins and Scholastic.

Scholastic is “probably are the model I would look at if I were a publisher,” Schmidt said. “They really know what they’re doing on there.”

Wall Street Journal reporter Katherine Rosman, an early Pinterest fan, uses the site both personally and professionally.

When reporting, Rosman asks permission to take pictures of a subject and make a Pinterest board to go along with the story. “I’ll put in information in the caption that’s not really anywhere in the story, and when you click through the pictures it goes through to the story on Those things have gotten tons of traffic,” she said.

Bethanne Patrick, executive editor of Book Riot and principal at Book Maven Media, also spoke about the site’s ability to add a backstory and other elements of interest to a published work.

“Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has done an amazingly interesting Pinterest board about how the designer was inspired for the book jacket of ‘Imagine’ by Jonah Lehrer,” she said. “And it’s not just about making [the cover] or putting it together … it shows [the artist’s] inspirations for the paper art that’s shown on there, and it’s wonderful. It makes me think, ‘This is really interesting. What is this book about?’ And that’s what you want it to do.”

Followers are built on Pinterest through “repinning,” which is similar to retweeting on Twitter. Patrick noted the speed with which a following can be built on Pinterest; while followers may never reach the astronomical numbers of some Twitter users, it is easier for a larger number of users to build a significant following. This can enhance other parts of a social media effort, as has happened with Real Simple magazine, she noted.

“It combines influence, which is very high on places like Twitter, with discoverability, which is low on Twitter,” she said. “So that’s something that should interest all of us in publishing.”

Limitations of the still-new site include what panelists agreed was a poor mobile experience, a need to better define what the service is and questions about copyright infringement. (The site allows websites to block pinning, and pins carry over any watermarks or copyright information included with them; panelists noted, however, that many photographers embrace Pinterest as a great way to promote their work.)

Rebecca Schinsky, associate editor and community manger at Book Riot, stressed that, like all social media, promotion on Pinterest must put community-building first.

“Don’t ever think of Pinterest or any of the social media outlets as purely promotional,” she said. “Not all of your pins should drive back to your website. … You build trust be showing other things you are interested in as well.”

An example she gave is a recent Book Riot Pinterest board showing author Toni Morrison’s many hairstyles. “There is no reason the world needs a Pinterest board of Toni Morrison hair-dos over the years,” she said to laughter, ” … but it provided our readers who are interested in Toni Morrison with other places to go, other resources they can click through to.”

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