You’ve likely heard lots and lots about a newish social network called Pinterest in the last couple of weeks.
Many bloggers are talking about it in the same giddy ways reserved for the last few next big things, but let me offer some relief. Pinterest is an interesting site with some real, immediate applications for online retailers and Etsy merchants, but the site itself offers little for most typical businesses and it’s certainly not the next big thing. (I wrote about it late last year if you want some information on Pinterest for Business)
I usually know that once small business owners start asking me about a strategy for using some new tool it’s time to speak up.
In fact, it’s the search for the next big thing that is hurting many businesses. You know what the next big thing for every business is? Find a way to clearly differentiate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it from everyone else that says they are doing what you’re doing. That’s the next big thing. Pinterest then might actually be used as a tactic to support that, but never the other way around.
I think the thing that leads to so much confusion and frustration for business owners these days is that there’s an entire generation of online pundits (generation is about every three years in online punditness) that missed out when blogging tipped and that weren’t at SXSW in 2007 when Twitter raced on the scene, so by gosh they aren’t going to miss the next big thing and are willing to proclaim – “this changes everything” about any tool that gets a little white hot.
Here’s the thing. I kind of like Pinterest, I kind of like Foursquare, I kind of like Twitter and on and on, but the main thing I like about every new tool is what it can teach us once it develops buzz and users. So you see, I’m not opposed to anything other than people selling tools as strategy.
The great learning from playing with Pinterest and even exploring ways to use it to help support your objectives is that you get to witness how important visual stimulation and social sharing is in the grand scheme of attracting interest. I’ve had the opportunity to study how some early Pinterest adopters use the tool and it’s a fascinating study in the behavior of online users.
Like the entire category of infographics has done, Pinterest has plenty to teach us about how to create interest on our own website, in our own presentations and in the stories we use to attract potential clients – that’s what makes Pinterest worthy of the investment in time and not some magic fairy dust promise of traffic and riches.
In fact, I would suggest you look into some other sites employing visual scanning and visual stimulation to actually make money. There may be greater learning to be had at sites like The Fancy, Fab.com, Visual.ly or Polyvore.
The big message in all of this though is clarity of purpose. Until you’re clear on your marketing strategy every new tactic will sound like the next big thing.