Programming

The New User Engagement? Stick a Pin in It

Networks offer six simple rules for succeeding in latest social media tack 3/12/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

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The biggest ideas on the Web can sometimes be the simplest.
That’s the case with Pinterest, the latest social media darling to
capture the attention of the Internet and media industries alike.

Pinterest, for the uninitiated, is a set
of online bulletin boards of sorts where
users (who are overwhelmingly female)
can “pin” images they find around the
Web to boards organized around a topic
or theme. Popular categories on the site
include fashion, food, design and weddings.
For TV networks with series that
tie into those subjects, Pinterest is quickly
becoming an important tool to drive
Website traffic and, hopefully, viewers.

HGTV, which has had a presence on
the site since last spring, first realized
the power of the platform when it started
seeing visits and page views coming
to HGTV.com from Pinterest.

“Without us really doing a whole lot
on there, people were just pinning our
stuff. We started to see in late summerearly
fall, it popped up into our top 10 referrals for the week,” says
Chad Parizman, director of mobile and social for HGTV. “That’s when
we said, OK, there’s de! nitely something here.”

For early-adopting networks that have already started experimenting
with Pinterest, the site has become another asset to promote content,
with networks—especially those chasing female viewers—now
considering it a vital prong in their social media strategy alongside the
industry gold standards of Facebook and Twitter.

“If people are on Pinterest, then that’s where we need to be as well,”
says Pam Russo, VP of digital for TLC.com.

Television’s presence on Pinterest is generally quite new; the majority
of networks interviewed for this story joined the site in the last few
months or weeks as Pinterest has gained popularity. But despite being
in the early stages, digital executives are already learning how to best
leverage Pinterest for their brands, and B&C has compiled their tips
into a list of six best practices for the site.

1. A Picture Is Worth
a Thousand Re-Pins

The biggest differentiator of Pinterest from
other social sites is that it’s a highly visual
experience. Because pictures, not text, dominate
the boards, finding eye-catching content
around series and networks is essential to
gaining traction on the site.

One of HGTV’s most successful posts was
on a high-end closet—perhaps not the most
obvious of page-view bait. But the great photography
of it contributed to more than 1,000
re-pins in the first week, according to Parizman.

The importance of visuals determines
which series can work on the site. Very social
or highly rated series may lack the strong
images that determine success on Pinterest,
meaning that at least for now, networks are
taking a selective approach to which series to
promote on the site.

“The criteria will be, is there some compelling
visual that people are going to want to look
at, otherwise it doesn’t make sense for this specific platform,” says Jen Robertson, senior VP
of digital media and business development for WE tv, which currently
has boards for its wedding programming and Braxton Family Values.

The reliance on strong visuals has even led some networks to evaluate
producing content specifically for the site—single images with
overlaid text and beautiful photographic shots that may not exist as
part of traditional marketing materials.

“We’re having an internal discussion now—do we shift a few resources
to come up with content like that in order to fulfill what
people expect there?” says one broadcast network digital executive.
“The last thing I’d want to do is put up a screenshot and say ‘Watch
the show.’ That’s just not relevant to this audience.”

2. Pin Down What Women Want

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a female-skewing social network, pictures
of attractive male TV stars do well on the site.

“Sexy works,” says Rick Haskins, The CW executive VP of marketing and digital programs whose network has boards called “The
Shirtless Guys of The CW” and “CW Eye Candy” to feature its handsome
male stars.

Building the boards around attractive men instead of around one
series has also allowed The CW to cross-pollinate its shows with the
hope that it can take fans of The Vampire Diaries, for example, and introduce
them to other shows on the
network. While a link between
engagement on Pinterest and
viewership can’t be proven—
yet—Haskins says comments do
show users are discovering new
shows on the site.

“You absolutely do get that kind
of a-ha moment that does indicate
that your method of moving from
one show to another tends to be
working, at least with that one
comment,” Haskins says.

The same principle applies
to other categories digital executives
say work well on the site—specifically
fashion/style, food/recipes and weddings. While
there are boards built around specific series in
those categories, it is just as common to see several
related series represented together.

“To pin something to a show would not really
be serving our audience the way they want to
be served,” Russo says.

3. Play to Emotions

That subset of the bulletin board, the so-called “dream board,”
manifests itself on Pinterest, with execs saying that inspirational and
aspirational content tends to work well on the site.

Lifetime has boards for its series Army Wives and Drop Dead Diva
built around the emotional appeal of the shows. For Army Wives it
posts images related to patriotism, while Drop Dead Diva’s focus on
friendship and fashion. NBC cites a similar compatibility for The Biggest
Loser
; the network plans to launch a board for the reality series
featuring healthy recipes in the next few weeks.

“What’s great about Pinterest is the platform really allows people to
convey feeling and emotion and sense around a property,” says Evan
Silverman, senior VP, digital media for A+E Networks.

4. SEO Counts

Unlike on Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest users are loyal to content,
not brands.

“People tend to actually follow individual boards more than the
brand as a whole,” says Parizman, who notes that HGTV has 10,000-
18,000 more followers on a given board than it does for its HGTV
account. “Whether or not they’re viewers or fans of the brand, they’re finding our content because of the way that it’s tagged, because we
end up showing up in one of the streams.”

TV Land, which used Pinterest as part of its social media strategy
for the season-two launch of Happily Divorced, also stressed the importance
of search engine optimization (SEO) for its board showcasing
fashion from the Fran Drescher series.

“One of the best practices was to make certain it is optimized so people
can find it,” says Erik Flannigan, executive VP of digital media at Viacom
Entertainment Group. “We worked to make sure that if people were
searching for fashion, or another aspect, they could still find our page.”

5. Be Authentic

HGTV has been on Pinterest for almost
a year already. In mid-January, the network
overhauled its strategy for using the
site based on the principle of feeling like a
member of the community without being
overly aggressive in pitching its content. Its
solution was to name four employees to curate
their own design boards representing
their personal style through the HGTV lens.

“They are there acting as ambassadors,
getting into communities they specialize in
or have personal interest in,” Parizman says.

Other digital execs mention the importance
of treating Pinterest like a two-way
street—not just pushing network content,
but re-pinning user posts and responding
to comments.

“I think a successful board is one that the
fans really contribute to and feel a part of,”
A+E Networks’ Silverman says. “If our board
represents what the show or our network is
about and users feel that authenticity, then I
think it’s a successful board.”

6. See What Sticks

Pinterest is still a social network in its infancy. Experimenting television
executives agree that determining how to best use the site is
still in an R&D phase, where you almost cannot go wrong with what
you post.

“I think eventually there will become a saturation point where we
have to focus on things that are working better for us,” Haskins says.
“But right now, we’re in that growing, pre-saturation stage.”

Part of the reason execs are not jumping to conclusions about what
works and what doesn’t on Pinterest quite yet is that the analytics by
which to measure engagement on the site are still primitive. Staffers
who manage networks’ Pinterest accounts have to check each board
manually to track metrics like follower count, number of pins and
comments. They have reported that followers can fluctuate wildly—
seemingly inexplicably—as Pinterest’s technology struggles to keep up
with its rising popularity.

For now, networks are still experimenting with how best to leverage
Pinterest for their brands and say they will be watching to see how the
site and its users evolve in the coming months.

“That’s always important to follow the user, especially with a new
social site like this, to figure out how people are using it and make sure
we’re providing that experience in the same way,” Robertson says.

E-mail comments to amorabito@nbmedia.com
and follow her on Twitter: @andreamorabito

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