The latest platform to join the social media brigade is Pinterest, the virtual pinboard.
The image-based marketing platform provides an alternative to the message and text based platforms that already exist, and potentially it targets a different audience. But is it an effective marketing tool for product-based organisations?
A recent article published in mashable detailed the story of Whole Foods, the world's largest retailer of natural and organic foods, with stores throughout North America and the United Kingdom. They launched their brand account in July 2011 and were one of the first brands on the site. In the article, Michael Bepko, global online community manager for Whole Foods, explains their use of Pinterest is not so much about selling, but about increasing brand awareness. They use the platform as an avenue for communicating the organisation's values and the lifestyle the team aspire to, in a visually pleasing way - by creating an aspirational lifestyle, Whole Foods can convert casual pinners into brand enthusiasts and, hopefully, customers.
Bepko explains the site operates by, "Whole Foods teammates cruise blogs and follow writers on other social platforms, exposing them to a massive array of content that's relevant to Whole Foods' core pillars. When something strikes a cord, it gets pinned".
And because the point of Pinterest isn't to push products or self-promote, but to help people explore and deepen their interests, consumers don't feel like they're being marketed to.
It's certainly an interesting story. Given the widely held adversity to direct selling, this approach certainly has merit. Pinterest enables your brand to be publicised organically by its strongest advocates; those customers with an interest in your products. In addition, it's worth recognising the SEO and traffic referral benefits gained from having a presence on the platform.