Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Technology

A Thousand Words

A booming interest in Pinterest expands to insurance marketing

If your “Jeopardy” answer is, “What’s a picture worth?” then you’re well on your way to understanding the focus of this month’s column. Pinterest is the social media tool du jour. It has broken onto the business scene with such a bang that there already are comparisons to Facebook and Google+ in terms of its growth and potential for marketing.

So what is Pinterest and why should you care?

Pinterest is similar to other social networking sites: a platform where you can share with friends things that you find interesting. It allows you to find people with common interests and expand your presence through a very tight filter of visuals, both pictures and videos. 

After joining Pinterest and creating an account, you can use the standard topic pin boards—such as art, home décor, apparel —or you can add your own specific topics. 

Related: Read Rick Gilman's previous column "Information Overload."

There are more than 30 standard board topics. Pinterest is available by invitation only. Would-be users can request submission through the website or through a friend who already is a user. I suspect reason for Pinterest’s exclusivity is to add a little sense of cachet.

Catalogue your visuals with boards, similar to how Google+ lets you catalogue people by putting them into Circles. By being topic specific, boards help followers choose whether to follow you as a pinner or a particular board because that topic is of interest. Followers can “repin” a visual, “like” a visual or comment on it. 

After setting up your starting boards (you can add new boards at any time), upload the website’s “Pin It” button in your browser bookmarks, which will allow you to pin something as you browse the Web. In theory, as you go about your normal Web activities, when you come across something you would like to share, click the “Pin It” button and Pinterest displays those visuals into your account.

Not only can you pin what you find on a website, but you can upload your own pictures or videos. This can be great for businesses and individuals who want to use Pinterest to share experiences or events with family and friends. But that comes with a big caveat: Be careful what you upload for pinning. Because Pinterest is about pictures, not everything is “pinnable.” 

Worldwide rights to your content

In the fine print of the terms of use, Pinterest states that by pinning content to its site, you are granting Pinterest the right to do anything with the content, including modifying or selling it. 

Under the “Member Content” section, it states in part: 

By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.

Though it’s probably not that different from other terms of use on other social networking sites (frankly I haven’t looked that closely to them), it seemed a bit onerous when brought to my attention.

Who owns the copyright?

Pinterest’s copyright agreement seems to be ask members to accept the sole responsibility for any copyright violations resulting from content pinned without permission. If you had to get written permission to post prior to pinning, Pinterest wouldn’t have a chance of success. That’s partly why they encourage you to reference back the picture to the source when you pin it.

Related: Read another column by Rick Gilman "Polls and Pundits."

Also in the Member Content section:

You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.

An industry platform

One quirky aspect of Pinterest arises because it is a visual-based platform. If you find a website that want to share, you won’t be able to pin it, unless it has enough of the properly formatted pictures. If unsuccessful, you receive the following apology:

Sorry, we can’t see any big images or videos on this page.

Pinterest can only benefit your social networking standings if you include visuals. The best example is in your blog. Don’t just concern yourself with what to write about, but also consider what visuals support that topic. The more and better the visual, the better your blog will be found and the greater chance it might get pinned.

Despite these issues or copyright concerns, Pinterest has real potential for insurance agents—not in the traditional marketing methods you may use, but definitely as a means for developing your brand in the community, driving traffic to your website and supporting the marketing efforts of your commercial accounts.

Let’s say you write coverage for several dry cleaners. By having a board of pictures of clients’ establishments or different types of clothing/fashion (a popular topic among pinners), you can tie your dry cleaning board back to client’s websites. Ideas for driving traffic could include having a contest of the worst stains they’ve cleaned with before-and-after pictures, with followers voting for the best cleaning job.

As I mentioned that fashion is a popular topic, data from Monetate, a provider of online marketing technology, shows that “total same-store referral traffic from Pinterest to five specialty apparel retailers rose 289 percent from July to December 2011.” They also claim that Pinterest drives more traffic than Google+.

As with all social media networking, your presence shouldn’t be about you or the products and services your agency offers. The content or pictures you pin should be about defining your brand and  finding creative ways to visualize the qualities you affirm and that reflect your agency’s culture. 

Related: Read the article by Rick Giman "Password Secrets."

Create a board of pictures of your staff at work and doing fun things. If you have company events, post those pictures. If you’re involved in fundraising activities or other community events, upload those pictures. Then build some boards around the markets you specialize in, which will be a great way to attract similar business to your agency.

For your personal lines business, try creating a board focused on do-it-yourself projects or home decorating ideas. For example, if you specialize in insuring vintage automobiles, build a board with information and pictures of classic cars.

Whatever you do, don’t spend too much time on it. The workflow of Pinterest into your daily activities is pretty seamless and all the while you’re building a presence on this new platform, extending your brand and having fun, too. Be sure to engage everyone in your agency. The wider the participation, the greater the boards will be. Make sure you have established a goal and guidelines for what boards you’re pinning and minimize the pinners you follow, at least to start.

Similar to other social networks, #hashtags can be used to help with the searching. In the meantime, how many words can you visualize?

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