Friday 25 April 2014

Pinterest Changes Improve Storytelling

In a recent video from NBC Nightly News Ben Silbermann, the founder of Pinterest, shared that his childhood bug collection was part of the story that transformed his passion for nature and science into the third most popular site on the web. Ben developed Pinterest as a place for individuals to share their own stories, interests and passions in a digital sense, with the goal of connecting online inspiration with offline action. When it comes to Pinterest, a hobby as unique as bug collecting can be the start of a story that means so much more.

Pinterest is grounded in the simplicity of collecting, sharing and discovering images of inspiration and passion.  Yet, what I find to be the beauty/addiction of Pinterest are the stories that are discovered between every pin. What we “like, love, live and dream” are the foundation of every story. This post will take a dive into the updated Pinterest layout and a revised Terms of Service, to discuss the perspective Pinterest is bringing to social media storytelling.

Changed Layout

Vertical Leap

One of the most noticeable changes to Pinterest is the new layout of personal profiles. Personal account information is now located at the top of the page and individual users have the option to add a personal description, similar to a Twitter Bio.  The layout has also shifted from a horizontal arrangement to a vertical layout, presenting more boards in the first row. Key analytics, such as number of followers, boards, pins and likes, are also located at the top of the page.

Cover Pins

Account boards now place greater focus on “cover” pins, rather than the board’s collection of pins.  When Pinterest first announced changes, the cover pin was consistently updated to reflect the most recent pin.  However, as of April 5, Pinterest announced changes that allow users to select a cover pin from any of the pins featured on that board. When a user selects a pin to be featured as their cover, this will remain the core image for that board, regardless of the pins that follow. However, if an individual does not select a cover photo the most recent pin will continue to be the primary cover image.


Telling a Story

Pinterest has always been a visual based site. However, the new layout provides new ways for brands and individuals to tell a story. Similar to reading a traditional book where the cover is the basis for what lies ahead, brands can display an image to identify the story of every board. Below we’ll take a look at three different ways a brand can leverage Pinterest to tell their own story.

1. The Big Picture – Storytelling

One of the best aspects of Pinterest is the fact that every board has the ability to tell a story. For example, Kate Spade created a Pinterest account that focuses on living life in color. Every board title features the word colorfully, such as, “Charm Colorfully”, “Live Colorfully”, “Travel Colorfully”, etc. In addition, all of the pins feature a hashtag in connection with the board theme, such as #thinkcolorfully.  Rather than just showcasing a collection of pins that represent the Kate Spade icon, the account managed to tell a layered story of the brand. Pins of nostalgia, beaches, food and vintage fashion that appear to be independently unrelated, manage to tell the story of a brand.

2. Transmedia Storytelling

In today’s world a story is often told as it happens. We now live in a real-time world and the most successful story is one that connects the various platforms in a seamless fashion. Pinterest is one of the latest additions to the cloverleaf of Transmedia storytelling.  In a recent example, Oscar de la Renta used the platform to live pin a bridal show featuring images, before, during and after the bridal show. The board generated 15,786 followers. The platform gave followers a first hand view of the show as it happened, in addition to behind the scene images of preparation. When a brand has the opportunity to connect pins to a larger experience online and offline they will not only make the most of their experience on Pinterest, but they will engage followers in a meaningful way.

3. Encourage your Followers to Tell a Story

If you think back to your childhood bedtime stories, the best ones were not always the ones read word for word, but the collaborative ones filled with imagination and creativity.  As a brand on Pinterest you should not only focus on telling a story, but also encourage your followers to tell their own. Creating contests that look beyond simply pinning images is one way to successfully engage users with the brand. Pinterest scavenger hunts and designing dream home DIY boards are a few ways to engage users beyond pinnng to win.

Updated Terms of Service

As brands think about how they can tell a story on Pinterest, the recent copyright issues have sparked a lot of questions. As a result, Pinterest has updated their Terms of Services to be more consumer facing and to address the key issues of concern.

Pinterest has introduced three new documents that include, Terms of Service, Acceptable Use Policy and Privacy Policy.  Below you will find a few key points to note as you continue to engage on the platform or consider launching an account.

  • Within the original Terms of Service there was a note that granted Pinterest the right to sell any content that was posted on the site. In the new Terms of Service Pinterest has acknowledged that this was never their intent for the site’s content and they removed this mention altogether.
  • A key issue Pinterest has faced is that the majority of “pinned” images are from third party sites. Similar to sharing content on other social media sites, Pinterest is requesting that users follow acceptable social media etiquette for sharing content on Pinterest. Clearly representing the original source and being mindful of where you are pinning from is the best method for a user who would like to pin third party content. However, Pinterest also took their own steps to address copyright infringement by providing an updated system that allows the owners of intellectual property to quickly and easily report the violation to Pinterest. Websites are also provided the opportunity to block pins from being pulled from their site. This would work similar to Facebook settings, which prevents users from pulling any images off of the site.
  • Pinterest addressed issues related to images that express self-harm, by taking a firm stance against removing images that showcase, ”nudity, hateful content, or content that encourages people to hurt themselves.” While other social media sites such as Facebook have a similar stance, a great deal of responsibility still falls on individual users to immediately report images that represent self-harm in any way. However, the fact that Pinterest is taking a firm stance regarding the issue will help keep users accountable for what they pin.
  • Attribution: Pinterest is continuing to improve the importance of attribution, starting with a recent announcement between Pinterest and Flickr. According to the Pinterest blog, “Images with sharing enabled on Flickr now have a Pin It button, and pins from Flickr now have a clear attribution statement on Pinterest.” The key implication from this change is that pins pulled from Flickr, will have a permanent reference to the original source that can’t be edited by other Pinterest users. Pinterest is currently rolling out attribution for additional sources, including YouTube, Behance and Vimeo.

The changes to the Terms of Service highlight that Pinterest is addressing key issues. However, since Pinterest is focused on sharing content from all over the web the copyright issue will always be an issue of importance. Being respectful and authentic is still the best way for a brand to engage on the platform, as well as sharing content from sites that are trusted. Brands that have developed blogger relationships can also work with their core group of bloggers as another source of shareable content.

Several brand sites and blogs have taken an additional step of placing the “pin it” button on their content, essentially providing permission to share their content on Pinterest.  For example, on Edelman Digital you can find the “Pin it” button next to the other social media icons on every post.

The Evolution of Pinterest

I would imagine that the majority of longtime Facebook users can’t even remember what the site looked like prior to the newsfeed and brand pages. In the coming months, Facebook timeline will become the new norm. Change is inevitable in the social space in order for the story to continue to evolve. While this is the first set of major changes for Pinterest, it will be far from the last.

In order to prevent brands or individuals from being added to spam or unwanted contributor boards, Pinterest has updated their settings to require individuals to accept an invitation prior to being added as a contributor to a board. Pending invitations will be visible to individual users at the top of their profile page. The original creator of the board will now be clearly labeled and the contributing pinners will be listed below, with a reference to the pinner that invited them.  The creator will reserve the right to remove any contributors at any time.

Private boards and the development of an iPad app are all being talked about as future updates for the site. A recent mobile study from Rich Relevance highlighted the strong growth of mobile shopping, specifically noting that two thirds of all mobile shopping takes place on iPads. The connection between Pinterest, mobile and commerce will likely be a trend that is closely watched in the future. As the site continues to evolve, brands and users should not only focus on how they can engage on the platform but how they can spark a passion in users, even if that passion is a bug collection.

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