Pinterest reaches new customers using photos
Liz Hochstedler, Associate Editor
June 11, 2012
Filed under Features
It seems a lot of people are “pinning” lately. No, they’re not pinning the hem of their riding pants, or adding pins as a hardware on their leather vests. What the more than 10 million users of Pinterest are doing involves pinning photos of products to their virtual pinboards. And if your dealership’s photos aren’t on the site at all, you could be missing a captivated audience.
Pinterest was launched more than two years ago, but it really began gaining steam last fall. During the week ending Jan. 28, the site received nearly 21.5 million total visits, according to The 2012 Digital Marketer by Experian.
Though few powersports companies have gotten into the mix — less than two dozen dealers were found recently using the search terms “powersports,” “motorcycle” and “Harley-Davidson” — some are blazing trails into this new social network.
What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is an invitation-only social network that relies heavily on photos. Its primary demographic is women, with reports citing a female lean of 60-90 percent, and people ages 25-44, according to Experian.
“It’s really self-explanatory. Visually it’s like a corkboard in your office, and you’re going to pin pictures on your corkboard,” said Heather Blessington, CEO of Duo Web Solutions.
Users create pinboards on their virtual board, representing topics that interest them. Users can add links they find themselves, or they can re-pin photos and links from other users. A search function allows users to seek photos and boards in specific categories.
“It’s a way to learn about people in pictures quickly,” Blessington added.
Though there aren’t a lot of powersports companies in the Pinterest game, yet, some jumped on board over the last few months as traffic skyrocketed.
One of those early adopters in our industry is Ural Motorcycles. The sidecar-motorcycle OEM joined in January as a way to boost its social media presence.
“It’s a huge demographic, and it’s a huge market that usually isn’t really motorcycle-oriented. You break into markets that you typically wouldn’t access,” said Jon Bekefy, director of strategic marketing communications at Ural.
Ural is using the social network to grow its audience and perform some market research. While working recently on Ural brochures and its website, the company posted a few images on Facebook to gauge its followers’ interests.
“We had our own ideas of what would be strong, but it made us kind of sit back,” Bekefy said, adding that Ural didn’t let the consumers dictate the end result, but the company did feed off their input.
Gear supplier Castle X also joined Pinterest in January, and it has already seen some success with the network.
“There have been a number of people, mostly ladies, that reposted what we’ve posted. A lot of people weren’t familiar, for example, that we offer boots for ladies, specifically for ladies,” said Kelly Neuville, media specialist for Castle Sales.
Knowing Pinterest skews toward women, Neuville started filling the Castle X Pinterest page with women’s gear. However he also added merchandise for men and youth to the mix.
“What we’re trying to do is pull our customers into dealers by doing everything we’re doing on social media, so if we can get that pull going, it’s beneficial for the dealers,” he said.
And Pinterest isn’t just for large companies. Though the number of dealers with accounts on the site is few, those who have joined are enjoying its reach.
McKenney-Salinas Powersports in Gastonia, N.C., had nearly 40 followers within its first two months of pinning. Owner and operator Don Willis said he was attracted to the site after watching his wife visit it daily.
“To my amazement, people started following us,” he said of his initial onslaught of followers.
Willis posts 10-15 photos every two weeks. His boards highlight anything from concept bikes to in-store specials to community
attractions. The dealership’s most popular post so far has been one of a motocross rider on a beach. Willis’ goal with Pinterest is to become closer to his local community.
“We’re in a time right now where each one customer makes a difference,” he said.
Fox Powersports, with three locations in Michigan, joined Pinterest to get more women involved in motorcycling and its dealerships. With her marketing focus on women, Internet marketing manager Beckie Poland posts anything female-related, from gear to ideal riding locales to motorcycles.
“It’s actually been quite interesting for some things that I think some might like, they don’t really pin, and for others its like, ‘Wow, I’ve got all these messages that these things are re-pinned,’” Poland said about her experimentation with the site.
Fox Powersports’ most popular post has been one of a March of Dimes bike built by Paul Jr. Designs. It has been re-pinned more than 80 times and liked more than 20 times.
“There are so many other free marketing tools that you can go to, and this is one of them,” Poland said.
Those who have already begun using Pinterest say they find the network is another channel to reach potential customers.
“Not everyone is going to every single channel like that, so if you get something to every channel, you’ll hit a lot of people that you would have missed,” Neuville said.
Blessington suggests dealers jump in and try Pinterest by playing around with the site and slowly building up boards on interesting topics. Though Pinterest is an invitation-only site, dealers can gain access through an invitation from a friend or by requesting an invite from Pinterest.
“I say just experiment with it and don’t think you have to have some big strategy about it,” she recommended. “I think if you personally think it’s interesting, you should upload it.”
Blessington cautions, however, that dealers shouldn’t start a page and not contribute to it.
“You need to be consistent with it, but you need to decide what that consistency is,” she said. “You post when you have something to say, so specifically with Pinterest, you’re going to have something to say when you’ve had an event, when you’ve been at an event, when you have some new customers to showcase.”
Bekefy has discovered the posts that gain the most traction are those that involve Ural’s bikes in different scenes and situations, rather than standard catalog images.
“What we found that really works is kind of taking the corporate look and feel out of it and being a little more playful and fun with it,” he said.
He recommends dealers pay attention to the audience and keep in mind that naked models on bikes don’t have the same appeal to female audiences as they do to men.
“You kind of have to know who’s using those pages or those channels and address your message to those people,” he explained.
Neuville recommends dealers focus on their particular store when posting, to keep customers on track.
“The biggest thing is branding, if you’re a dealer, to brand your dealership name or what you do. You have to show people what your brand is about,” he said.
To keep people interested across all of Castle’s social media pages, the company saves certain material for each network.
“Put some stuff on Pinterest that you don’t put on Facebook, and cross-promote,” he said. Neuville also recommends businesses put YouTube videos on Pinterest and mention their YouTube channel in their profile descriptions.
Blessington said dealers should also be social on Pinterest and not just post their own products or services.
“Re-pin other peoples’ stuff and be sincere and genuine about it,” she advised. “Don’t just randomly click on something that seems related. If you’re going to re-pin, re-pin and comment as well.”
Dealers should take a few months to get used to Pinterest and see if it works for them, she said. To ensure the staffer in charge of social media isn’t getting overworked, Blessington suggests those employees borrow a few moments of their usual Facebook time and instead use that time to build a Pinterest page.
Deciding to take the leap
Neuville admits calculating a return on investment on a site like this can be difficult, but he’s glad Castle is on board.
“Really to gauge ROI for any of this is very difficult, but as long as you’re using it and showing it and people are looking at it, it keeps you in front of them. It keeps your brand in their head,” he said.
When Pinterest members post on a specific topic, they’ll receive a weekly email about posters who pin related items, so if a customer is posting about motorcycles, there’s a chance they’ll eventually be connected with your motorcycle posts.
“I think your demographic is going to find you. When you load a picture that is powersports related, then Pinterest is going to show you boards that are related,” Blessington said.
As Bekefy points out, dealers need to get involved with social media if they want to find fresh customers and stay connected with new prospects.
“As a dealer, certainly, you can only sell motorcycles for so long to an aging market. You’ve got to find different demographics,” he said.
Missing out on key social networks like Pinterest could mean missing out on sales.
“The core demographic is using these social entities, and they’re not just using them, they’re actively attracted to businesses that are using them in the right way,” Blessington said. “You’re missing an opportunity if you don’t get on board.”