Hotel Industry Blog

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Very Pinteresting! The new Social Media tool

Bookassist's CEO Des O'Mahony discusses the potential of the new kid on the social block, Pinterest


Launched in early 2010, Pinterest ( is basically a classy-looking visual online scrapbook. But the ease with which you can add information and reorganise content, and the way that it is shared, is what makes it very different from other clipping sites. is now one of the top 10 social networks. The site's stated mission statement is to "connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting." Once you have an account, you can easily “pin” photos or videos to the site and have them arranged in your different “boards”, each of which can have a certain theme. It’s like visual tweeting.

The highly visual site has already achieved more than 10 million unique users, with a growth rate faster than the flagging Google+. Interestingly, over 95% of those currently interacting with Pinterest are female. That’s not surprising giving the amount of fashion-oriented visual content that is currently on the site. But the content profile is rapidly evolving.

Getting Online

Right now, you can only join Pinterest by invitation from an existing user (though you can also request an invitation on the site). Once you have an invitation, your sign-up process first assumes you will connect Pinterest to your Facebook or Twitter account. This means that, by default, your actions on Pinterest will be automatically shared on your Facebook timeline and/or Twitter account unless you expressly turn off that sharing in your Pinterest settings later.

Once you’ve signed in initially, it will then suggest people for you to immediately follow based on your defined interests. Again, this is a default step so you’ll probably have to go and unfollow some or all of these unknown people later. But it is a good introduction to the platform to see what others are doing. And in the absence of any of your own friends being currently on the site, it’s not a bad way to start you off until you get the feel of it all.

Adding Stuff to Boards

Boards are analogous to pinboards that you stick interesting information on. You can create any number of boards and theme each one with whatever you are interested in collecting or displaying, for example “Hotels that I’ve stayed in”, “Places I dream of”, “Architecture I admire” etc.  Pinterest requires that your boards fall into certain pre-defined categories however. You can choose whether your boards are open to allow others to pin stuff on them too and collaborate on your theme.

Adding content to your boards on to your Pinterest profile is simple enough. On the site menu bar is an add function so you can choose files from your computer and add them to a specific board via the “Upload a Pin” function. Or you can enter a URL and let Pinterest go gather all the images at that address for you to choose from using the “Add a Pin” function.

The Pin It Bookmarklet

Better still, there is a bookmarklet option that you can install on your browser’s bookmarks bar so that images on any site you are visiting can be quickly pinned. Unfortunately, the behaviour of the bookmarklet is patchy, since images or videos that you see in a site may not actually be visible to the Pinterest bookmarklet at all if they are background images, or Flash content, or elements of certain javascript slideshows etc. There is certainly huge potential for copyright violation also in capturing other people’s images. This is bound to become an issue as the site gathers momentum. At least what you pin always carries the original URL of the source, so tracking the origin of pinned content is easy.

There is also of course a Pinterest iPhone app to make adding photos a snip.

Likes, Comments and Follows

The ubiquitous idea of “like” and comment is here also. Similar to Facebook, to comment on other people’s boards, you both have to be following each other. But in terms of how your content is shown online, the parallel with Facebook stops. Your content is visible to everyone.

Like Twitter’s re-tweet, people can re-pin your content to their own boards if it suits their theme. Good quality content can quickly go viral in this way, though it’s hard to track where your content is ending up.

Discovering as an Influencer

The home page of Pinterest is a constantly changing random view of people’s interactions with the site. It can be fascinating to scroll through, and quite addictive. Especially since the home page is designed to be “limitless” and scrolling just continually adds new content to the bottom so you never reach the end.

Browsing in this way allows for easy discovery of new information in a way that search cannot tackle, since to search you need to already know what you want. This is where a site like Pinterest can have a real impact, since it allows ideas or concepts to be visually assessed and to trigger ideas that might eventually lead to a product search or purchase elsewhere. In that sense, Pinterest has an opportunity to be an influencer on purchasing and on service choice in a way that Google currently cannot.

Hotel Orfila in Madrid on Pinterest is building local information 
of interest as well as themes for potential guest categories.

Your Hotel's Opportunities

Pinterest’s search bar is the easiest way to sift the material and find interesting content. A simple search for “hotel” reveals some great content, and shows the opportunities that hoteliers have to get quality content onto the site. 

What is very clear is that high quality visual content is a must. The strong visual appeal means that interactions are highest for stuff that clearly stands out from the page. 

Organising a hotel’s material into quirky, interesting boards is also a draw. Few people will look twice at boards called “My Pictures”, but unusual titles and good comments written with a view to good search engine marketing and keywords will certainly help move your content to front of stage. 

The key measure of success of content on Pinterest is whether your content is repinned or not. Just like retweets, you can’t get your message out to a wider audience unless you do something unique and compelling. That’s the challenge for hotels on Pinterest.

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