Email Best Practice Pros: Pinterest Pins Engagement On Email
Pinterest has been a social media and content powerhouse. Columnist Steve Dille shows how its smart integration of email marketing has been a critical part of that success story.
What’s the fastest-growing social media network, with what may be the greatest potential future upside for marketers? Picture this: It’s Pinterest.
Its success is exceptional, a pattern of continual growth — and a big share of that success owes to how Pinterest has shrewdly deployed email to onboard users, reinforcing its brand, engaging its community and giving marketers imaginative new options for reaching consumers.
Growing Across Every Index
- The results of a Q1 2015 study by GlobalWebIndex showed Pinterest had a 97% increase in active users over the past year, far outdistancing most competition…at a time when Facebook’s growth in active users backslid into the negative.
- Pinterest is also becoming a leading content-sharing platform. According to a new report from online content distributor ShareThis, which analyzed more than 120 social media channels and 2 million websites, content sharing on Pinterest jumped 19.2% in the latest quarter; LinkedIn sharing grew 15.1%, Facebook rose 14.7%, while Twitter dropped 7.6%.
- The Pew Research Center tells us the share of online adult women using Pinterest grew from 33% in 2013 to 42% in 2014, with men getting in on the act, too, increasing from 8% in 2013 to 13% last year; the total proportion of online adults on Pinterest grew to 28% in 2014, with 17% of Pinterest members using it daily.
“Putting Pinners First” & Tracking User States
There’s no secret about how Pinterest gets these results: It’s happy to share its sustainable growth strategy and its mantra of “putting Pinners first” by delivering a superior user experience.
Crucial to that strategy is how Pinterest constantly tracks user states, segmenting in the following way how people are using the service:
- New signup: When a new person joins Pinterest.
- New –> Dormant: When a new Pinner doesn’t use Pinterest in the 28 days following signup.
- Monthly Active User (MAU) –> Dormant: Pinner was an active user, but hasn’t used Pinterest for 28 days.
- Dormant –> MAU: A Pinner uses Pinterest after having been inactive for 28+ days.
Pinterest also leverages metrics that let it estimate the amount of value users are getting from the service, allowing the company to make adjustments to maximize that value — and user engagement.
These, obviously, are the analytics that dictate Pinterest’s communication strategy with its millions of users.
The cornerstone of that strategy? Email marketing.
How Pinterest Uses Email
Pinterest’s email marketing targets all the segments mentioned above, creating points of engagement fine-tuned around any user’s engagement preferences or level of activity, and artfully extending the holistic Pinterest experience to user inboxes:
• Invitation Emails: Would-be users, after submitting their data, receive an emailed invitation, which gives “membership” a cachet other social networks lack. The wording of invitation emails reinforces that sense of a special community, even offering rules for proper user behavior.
• On-brand design: Emails from Pinterest stay in character and emulate the clarity and simplicity of the site UX/UI, creating a unified user experience across all touch points.
Unlike some social sites, Pinterest emails don’t make the brand the hero, with gratuitous or distractive elements, but focus on subscribers’ likes and interests, suggesting content they might enjoy, continually re-engaging them with the network and community.
• Its highly selectable Account Settings menu allows users to set the type and frequency of updates they get, from “weekly inspiration” emails through heads-ups (daily or “as-they-happen”) when somebody likes your pins, re-pins them, etc. It’s a combination of flexibility and selectivity/empowerment that appeals to the targeted user.
• Partner integration into emails from Pinterest is always done in the same low-key, conversational style, often as part of themed or seasonal/dates-of-note updates; the focus is typically on brands being part of value-added communications (“10 Tips & Tricks For Staining Wood!”).
• Pinterest is designed for easy, low-threshold integration with a marketer’s own email and digital marketing efforts. After all, as founder Ben Silbermann pointed out, Pinterest succeeded because it was built to easily enable grass-roots marketing and virality, not because it had better technology.
• Pinterest has recently launched Marketing Developer Partners (MDP), “a program that helps businesses optimize and scale their Pinterest marketing and improves Pinterest for Pinners” by letting businesses take advantage of a stable of developer partners who’ll help them build solutions around Pinterest APIs, which could include integrated email marketing.
• Pinterest itself recognizes smart email marketers, with a “greatest hits” board of brands cleverly using Pinterest as part of their email campaigns.
How Marketers Integrate Pinterest With Email
Here are some of the tips and tools marketers use in integrating Pinterest as part of their own email efforts, making its flexibility and ease of integration pay off:
- Incorporating Pinterest links alongside images in emails allows product images, infographics, photos or other images to be easily posted and seen. Sephora, among others, does a great job of this.
- Pinterest-worthy presentation: Email design, copy and creative should mesh with Pinterest’s own motifs, which are all about beauty of display.
- Mobile email optimization matters, since as much as 80% of Pinterest’s traffic comes from mobile devices, so any Pinterest-based email program has to work seamlessly on tablets and smartphones.
- Make Pinterest boards exclusive to email subscribers, with an RSS keeping them on top of what’s going on within their subscriber community.
- Sneak peeks and content boards exclusively for email subscribers extend loyalty, hosting any number of different promotions, sweepstakes, gamified interactions and more.
- Drip reveals: Got a new product you’d like to build buzz around? Marketers do drip campaign “reveals” of only slivers of the product, so subscribers can gradually “assemble” the total image.
- Incorporate popular or notable Pinterest content into your emails: For example, what are this week’s most-liked images?
- Votes & polling integration: Ask subscribers to offer their instant reactions on products, pictures, and so on, and include a counter at a brand’s Pinterest board.
- Influencer content inclusion: Horchow partnered with key designers and bloggers to feature content from these “Pin Pals” in a dedicated email campaign during National Decorating Month, allowing recipients to make purchases directly from Horchow’s Pinterest boards.
- Pinning rewards: Send subscribers pinnable graphics of products with embedded e-commerce links; if they pin them and others click through for purchase, the e-commerce site rewards subscribers with store credit or promotional rewards, as Zully has done.
- Become a pins curator: Don’t just steer subscribers to your own boards, but clue them in on other sites and items they’ll find interesting via your emails, making you more authentic and trustable in their eyes.
One Key Lesson: Pinterest’s Email Infrastructure
To make its own email marketing work, Pinterest’s email infrastructure had to be the right fit, and the biggest learning here may be in the choices Pinterest made in optimizing deliverability and engagement:
- Pinterest, like any large sender, is potentially reaching users across thousands of ISPs, each of which sets their own unique policies and bounce codes for combating spam.
- Pinterest originally used a shared public cloud-based infrastructure, but switched to a dedicated cloud email delivery service (in its case, SparkPost).
- One quick benefit: With a dedicated service, Pinterest needn’t worry about other senders damaging its reputation.
- SparkPost (full disclosure: SparkPost is a service of this columnist’s employer, Message Systems) utilizes a proprietary Adaptive Email Network (AEN), compiling daily email data from global ISPs and the world’s largest senders and processors of email, which it says constitutes over 90% of global email traffic; constant analysis of message disposition data allows for the creation of intelligent sending rules, meaning fewer bounces, blocks and delays.
- Nothing changed in terms of Pinterest’s creative content, cadence or strategy, but adopting the proper infrastructure has helped with optimizing engagement from sends to Gmail, according to SparkPost.
Pinning Its Growth On Email
Pinterest may be the best object lesson out there on how integration between social media and email marketing can succeed, not just for the social network but for marketers who are seeking ways to leverage Pinterest’s enviable growth, reach and potential.
By perfectly integrating a holistic online experience with its email marketing, giving marketers a wealth of options for using it as part of their own email, and adopting a deliverability infrastructure that optimizes email engagement with its community, Pinterest has set the bar high — very high — against its competition … and that’s a huge part of why it’s lapping the field.