Developers: Use Pinterest to Drive Online Engagement

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Seth Cargiuolo
Chief Knowledge Officer / Director, Digital Strategy

So, unless you’ve been trapped under a rock for the past month or two, you’ve probably heard of Pinterest, the new social media darling that has made headlines for its explosive growth. Further, everyone from bloggers to retailers to businesses have noticed that Pintrest is now referring more traffic than many other traditional sources, even Google and Twitter.

“With Pinterest, savvy developers and project proponents have a rare opportunity to drive public engagement for their projects and identify and convert supporters.”

A much more detailed beginner’s guide to Pintrest can be found here, but here’s the gist: Pintrest allows users to “pin” photos they’ve found online to customizable “boards” on the site and share their finds with friends and strangers alike. Boards are usually focused on a category – clothing, for instance, or recipes, cars and motorcycles, interior design ideas, and the like.

As users browse the pictures other users have put up, they can re-pin them to their boards, comment on them and “like them” or more importantly, click the picture to see where it came from. Each picture is also a link to the website where it was found – and therein lies the magic, not just for typical B2C plays like sellers of jewelry, purses, shoes and fishing poles, but also for proponents of real estate projects.

“Developers can enter this space and harness this inbound link power and use it to drive public engagement and build support for their projects.”

How? For developers and project teams who have established an inbound marketing program, it’s very simple. For digital marketing novices, it’s still pretty easy, but may take a little more time.

Hopefully, you’ve taken the first step and developed a quality web presence for your proposed project. If you have, you’ve doubtless collected some excellent imagery – renderings and sketches, elevations, layouts, stock photos of customers/neighbors enjoying themselves in, on or near the project, and the like. This is what you’ll need, as Pinterest is obviously a very visual medium.

You’ve got the key messages laid out on your project’s website (x number of jobs, this list of already-leased retailers, y number of tax dollars to be generated, z number of green kilowatts you’ll produce, and the like – all the features and benefits of your project). Make sure you’ve got strong, evocative, interesting photos mated up to the messages and pages throughout the site, and you’re ready to go!

On Pintrest, create a “board” for the project, or a series of boards aligned with key messages (jobs, taxes, environmental benefits) and start pinning your web pages, using the most evocative imagery you have. Give each pin a short, clear description of what this pin is about (two or three sentences, max – let the picture talk).

Be sure to mate your Pinterest account to your Twitter and Facebook presences, and actively reach out to your potential audience by sharing your Pinterest link on your mailers, fliers, and social feeds, and email blasts.

“Finally, be sure that on every page you link with a picture on Pinterest, you have a clear and easy call to action for your inbound clickers to engage with – ask them to sign up for your email newsletter, for instance, or sign a letter of support addressed to the city council.”

Of course, Pinterest is like every other social network – you have to use it properly, be honest about who and what you are, be authentic, and engage with users for more than just to push your message. Pinterest may not be right for every type of real estate project, or for the outreach mix for every development team.

That being said, inbound marketing is an essential part of today development and permitting environment and we strongly encourage our clients to undertake well-planned and well-executed digital marketing efforts for each of their projects.

In 2012, as the data shows, Pinterest will likely be an important component of that kind of campaign. Pinterest may not be a powerhouse forever, but for the next few years at least, it’s going to be a very powerful tool for attracting and engaging your audience. Digital engagement, if conducted wisely, leads to priceless supporter conversion and identification. And of course, more supporters converted and identified means more positive voices to turn out to your permitting hearings, and an easier permitting process for your project.

Seth Cargiuolo is Chief Knowledge Officer & Director of Digital Strategy for The Saint Consulting Group. Although he tries not to admit to it in public, inbound & content marketing gets him “all fired up”. If you dare, you can see his “pinterests” at http://www.pinterest.com/carge77.

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