Tech Talk: Pinterest for Online Window-Shopping and More

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A recent New York Times article listed Pinterest as one of the social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, where fluency is considered a “work necessity,” and Time listed it as one of the top 50 websites of 2011. For several indie booksellers who have made Pinterest part of their social media marketing efforts, it has been easy and fun to use and better than Twitter for connecting with customers.

Pinterest is a searchable, virtual pinboard or scrapbook, on which users “pin” pictures, videos, or quotes from another site or upload their own content. It’s a collage of different images — for example, “Bookstore and Bookshelf Porn” from Aaron’s Books in Lititz, Pennsylvania, or “Bookstores We Love” from Village Books in Bellingham, Washington — sorted according to boards or topics. Others can follow your boards and re-pin your pins. Pinterest has been called a visual Twitter.

“I feel that everyone, especially readers and booksellers, should see this as more of a visual ‘word-of-mouth’ way of putting information out there,” said Linda Parks of Fireside Books and Gifts in Forest City, North Carolina. “Unlike Facebook, Pinterest allows its users to search by category the things they best love or are curious about. Even though it feels very personal when you are putting together ‘your’ boards — it’s really not about you. It’s about the projects, places, people, and things you want to share with others. It’s a great way to cross-promote.” (Parks provided a quick Pinterest primer, featured below.)

A couple of stats that differentiate Pinterest from other social media hopefuls, according to Mashable (which had a lot to say about Pinterest), is that 82 percent of its users are women. With recent Verso Studies identifying 64 percent of avid readers as female, Pinterest seems a perfect fit for bookstores. Shareholic reported that it drove more traffic than Twitter to online publishers in February.

That was the experience of Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina. “Even in the short two weeks we’ve been on Pinterest, I seem to be reaching more of my local customers through it than I do through Twitter,” Hendrix said. She sees Pinterest boards as a way to show off in-store displays “so that online customers can ‘window-shop’ your store.”

Hendrix got started on Pinterest at the recommendation of Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Executive Director Wanda Jewell, whose board as well as others she started following “to get a sense of how to use the medium.”

Now is the time to start pinning to get a sense of how Pinterest works, said Jewell. “I think it has great potential but, as with all social networking, the key is to grow your audience,” she said. “My advice is get in early and carve out a niche.”

Jewell and Nicki Leone, a former bookseller and current SIBA marketing consultant, have both been experimenting with Pinterest. “I have had it for awhile but had not really gotten active until I saw how BookExpo was using it,” said Jewell.

Jewell created several boards, including Cool Stuff Bookstores Do Besides Sell Books, where she pins “cool things stores are doing”; Bookstore News, which is more consumer-focused, and Books Worth Reading. The SIBA Pinterest presence, which Leone oversees, has boards such as Extraordinary Booksellers and SIBA Book Award Nominations.

Parks and Patty Miller at Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store are among the booksellers who find Pinterest is less of a chore than other social media marketing. “Anyone can figure it out in minutes, because it’s so easy,” said Miller. “I keep the pin-it button in our bookmarks bar. It only takes seconds to share something by clicking on that button, so it’s really not time-consuming to keep up with it.” And, she added, “We’re having lots of fun looking at the boards of other book people, too.”

Parks said, “I’m loving Pinterest! Not only do I often find great websites I didn’t know were out there, book reviews, and additional entertainment news, but I also find great home and fashion ideas and cute images that make me laugh out loud (and laughing is always good!)”

Tattered Cover has been using Pinterest for about a month. Its 42 boards include “Shelf Portraits,” “Authors We Love,” “Literary Oddities,” events, and various other Tattered Cover related content. “I think Pinterest is a useful way to spread the word about our store, but it’s also fun to share interesting ideas and websites,” Miller said. “It provides a convenient place to ‘pin’ things you want to come back to later for a closer look (it’s like a string around the finger).”

Fireside’s Parks also uses Pinterest to communicate with customers. “My main intent when using Pinterest is not only to let people get to know the personal side of me a bit better, but also to expose them to books, authors, art and entertainment projects that I support or am involved in,” she said. “I handle all the media outreach for Fireside and have found Pinterest to be another great way to direct people to our website and blog (as well as other blogs about what’s hot in the book industry today).”

Fireside has added a “Pin It” button to its website and posts in-store marketing directing customers to all of its social media sites. “I have, much to my pleasure, had customers who, once they started using Pinterest, inquired about titles I feature on my ‘Great Books‘ board,” Parks said. “This has resulted in book sales as well as customers liking and repinning those books on their boards!”

“Just sign up and start pinning,” said Miller. “Type your interests in the search field and a world of Pinterest boards relating to those things open right up to you.”

Linda Parks’ Quick Pinterest Primer

It’s easy to sign up and set up a profile page and create your first board. Once your page is set up and you have labeled your board — START PINNING! You can click on the Pinterest logo across the top and it will give you the option of searching ‘Everything,’ ‘Popular,’ ‘Gifts,’ etc. Under the ‘Everything’ option you will see one labeled ‘Film, Music, Books.’ This is a great place for booksellers to start, because you can easily repin books and blogs that others have posted (when you mouse over images, you will see ‘like, repin, or comment’ prompts — very easy to click and add to your board!)

You can also add pins by uploading images from your own bookstore website (book covers and author event photos) or by browsing your personal files for similar items to upload. Be sure to categorize your boards and pins so that they show up in category searches and add links whenever possible. This is what exposes you to a very large number of Pinterest users.

“If you have a Facebook page as well, then your most recent ‘likes’ and ‘pins’ show up on your Facebook profile page. This also applies when others like or follow your pins; you become part of their activity stream (on both their Pinterest and Facebook pages) — information which is seen each time people log on to their page or look at your page — both broadening your reach and making it very easy for folks to visit your board(s). I think the key is to pin items regularly and to consistently give people fresh images and information to keep them coming back!”

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