Is Pinterest worth your time and attention? The short answer—it depends.
A client recently asked me about Pinterest; someone had suggested she should use it to build her business and she didn't know anything about it. Now, if you're in technology, consulting, marketing or something related, you may be shocked she'd never heard of the latest online success story. But, if like me, you're used to dealing with small business owners, or professionals who exist almost entirely outside of these fields or who don't have a lot of free time to surf the web, then hopefully this won't surprise you in the least.
As for my client, she's got her hands full servicing her own clients and managing her existing business development and marketing avenues. So I don't blame her one bit for not keeping current with the latest "greatest" whiz-bang online I'm-not-sure-what-it's-for-but-everybody-should-be-using-it tool in the hopes that maybe it'll pull eyeballs to her website or blog or Facebook page or motivate enough of the right kinds of people to engage with her in some form of social media so that, fingers crossed, at some point, when they trust her, they'll feel safe enough to want to meet her in person and then, perhaps, buy something from her.
Hey, I barely had the patience to write that paragraph, so, no, I don't blame my client at all—it's why I skipped Pinterest myself, and a whole host of other "fad" media channels, when it first began to register all those many months ago. But, my client's business is lifestyle-related and one that could actually benefit from putting her design aesthetic, personal style and personality on display in a social media forum; so Pinterest is a good option for her.
Because of my client's interest I set up an account so that I could understand how Pinterest works and evaluate how well it suits different types of business needs.
I started by selecting a pre-set category--Books Worth Reading—for which I figured it would be fairly easy for me to add a few pins. It wasn't hard to accumulate a handful of covers of books from my favorite poets and all time favorite novels I'd read and would recommend to just about anyone. Okay, but that's an easy category for someone with an MFA in Writing. And truth be told, I'd already spent more time on Pinterest than I'd planned and only had one board with a handful of pins—this is something I like to call "the rabbit hole effect," which you may know better as "the time suck" of many social sites.
The next thing I did was create my own category, one related to my business, which I called Customer Experience. Here I must confess I ran into what I consider a bigger dark side of Pinterest from a business perspective. I entered a series of search terms, including "customer experience," "customer strategy," and "customer education." What I felt in response to what appeared on my laptop screen each time, well, I'm not sure there's a word for it—or, more precisely, one word for it. I was left glassy-eyed, dizzy and with a kind of gnawing sense of despair. One thing was for sure; I wasn't going to put any of those search terms into Pinterest again. Now, of course, I can add wonderful visuals that I find online to my board to represent any and all of those terms and to augment the dearth that exists currently on Pinterest, but I don't usually find a lot of those, which is probably why there aren't any (or many) on Pinterest either.
And there’s the rub. The stuff that I would love to find on Pinterest isn’t there, like great visuals expressing or explaining the customer experience, which I know exist because I’ve seen them.
So, is Pinterest worth your time and attention? The short answer—it depends. If, like my client, your business or career is highly dependent on your sense of style or design, or it's easy to transmit your message through pictures, then, yes, check it out and start showcasing who you are. If, like me, it's kind of tough to represent your value in visuals, then you may want to pass it by in favor of more useful communication tools.
If you're using Pinterest as a business development tool and experiencing success, I'd love to hear about it—feel free to contact me.
Focus on your audience and center your activity around theirs—cheer them on, help them out, raise them up—connect what they’re doing online with what you want to achieve.
Whether you’re looking for customers or career opportunities you know you’ve got to be and be seen online. The question is: Where and how should you be seen so you get the right people to notice you? And, to make things even more complicated, should you figure out the answer to the question, tomorrow everything could change. That’s what social media has done not just to online marketing but marketing in general.
So, how do you make the right decisions for your business or career to invest your resources wisely? Here are a few rules of thumb for maximizing your social media ROI:
Focus on your audience and center your activity around theirs—cheer them on, help them out, raise them up—connect what they’re doing online with what you want to achieve and you may just have a blue ribbon recipe for social media marketing success.
Unless feedback relates to an isolated issue for just one customer, the problem will only get worse the longer you ignore it.
I've been thinking that this whole social media thing is like physical fitness; you have to get into the right "good" habits, learn to do things that might be uncomfortable and even hurt a bit at the beginning so you can develop your network, sharpen your social media reflexes, and, perhaps, even become addicted to one or more activities.
This became even more apparent to me last week while I was sitting out on my terrace working away amid the traffic and construction sounds of midday Manhattan. I was deep in my own world of thought when I noticed my cell phone flashing an incoming call from an unrecognized number. Now, it may sound strange but I don’t actually receive a lot of calls on my cell as my business is largely conducted online, in person or via email. To be honest, I don’t even know if there was a last time someone I didn’t know called me in the middle of the day on my cell, so I was definitely suspicious, but too curious not to answer.
The call was from my cell phone company, Sprint. Well, what I mean is, it was from a Sprint representative—more precisely, their Vice President of Customer Finance Services who was calling me regarding an article I had written about my recent customer experience that centered around their automatic bill pay feature.
I'll admit I was kind of abrupt when I answered. This was partly because it's really hard to hear on my terrace when there's traffic and construction, which seems like all the time these days, and partly because I expected it would be someone asking me for money, which, if you work from home like me, is pretty much the gist of every call you do receive from 9 to 6 that isn't from someone you know. However, after I realized who was on the phone and why they were calling, I moved inside so we could conduct a proper conversation.
Like an Olympian, the VP got right down to business. Firstly, she apologized for the inconvenience and dissatisfaction I experienced both with the communications supporting Sprint's automatic payment system as well as for the customer service I had received; this went a long way toward changing my tone. So, we were off to a good start. Then, she mentioned Sprint’s awards for customer satisfaction and how they were a top ranking company for customer experience with small and medium-sized businesses and, to me, that was a definite misstep. Frankly, if someone has experienced the opposite of excellence in either or both of these categories, I’m going to suggest that, yes, there’s a time and place to mention these plaudits to them; pick the wrong time and place and you only succeed in rubbing salt in an already irritated wound. I’ll give you a hint—it’s not right out of the gate, you have to earn back a good bit of trust and goodwill first.
Okay, so things were looking a little iffy, but then something really interesting happened: The VP explained to me that around the time I had originally set up my automatic bill pay Sprint was experiencing an issue that delayed automatic payments. It was this very problem that had prompted me to make manual payments, which then overrode my auto pay setup; a maddening situation that happened twice. Next, she admitted that the company had not properly communicated to customers how their automatic payments would be affected to reset expectations. And finally, she assured me that this kind of oversight would not happen again. For lack of a better metaphor, that was a home run.
Basically, Sprint took the negative feedback it received and turned it into a positive by identifying a significant flaw in their system that could be damaging to their customer experience and bottom line in the future. Now Sprint knows that understanding and addressing the impact on all aspects of their customers' experience is a high priority when issues arise. And this is really important not just to Sprint but to any business that receives customer feedback from whatever forum it may come. Unless the feedback relates to an isolated issue for just one customer, the problem will only get worse the longer you ignore it. Far better to flip that negative around and credit your customers for helping you improve your service, product, experience, etc.
Before we got off the phone the VP scored another couple of easy points—she gave me her direct contact information, a credit on my account and offered to send me her information via email, which I accepted and received in short order.
While my original experience with Sprint’s customer service left quite a lot to be desired, I must give credit where credit is due—in the social media realm Sprint seems to have its act together. Their response was rapid and effective, which is exactly what a social media response strategy should be.
After the VP and I hung up I went back out on my terrace and checked TweetDeck; it seems my article had been retweeted several times earlier in the day, which explained how and why I'd received that personal call. The whole experience gave me a new appreciation for the muscle of social media and the first tangible evidence that, like a good exercise regime, if you stick with it, you will begin to reap its rewards.
If you can't figure out how to reap the rewards you seek from your social media efforts or don't even know where to direct your energies, let's connect. You can reach me on @GrowBeyondNY or by email.