Do advisors really need yet another social media venue for communicating with clients? One could make the argument that advisors have quite enough on their plates using Facebook and Twitter and staying compliant doing so, not to mention actually advising their clients.
So, is there any value to Pinterest, the online pinboard where users can “pin” images they want to remember and share them with followers and friends?
“On the surface, it doesn’t look like that way,” Dan Skiles, executive vice president at Shareholders Service Group, told AdvisorOne on Thursday. “What’s interesting, though, is that it’s a low-commitment sharing board where you can quickly see what other people are sharing.”
He used the example of a hotel. In searching for a particular hotel, you can see what other people have said about it, as well as be introduced to new hotels you may not have heard of.
For the most part, though, Pinterest is still more of an entertainment or social tool than a business tool, Skiles says, at least for now. “It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.”
Some advisors, though, may find a use for the site. Corporate Insight, a business intelligence and research firm, released a white paper on April 26 that examines some of the ways financial services firms can use Pinterest in their marketing strategies. Below are some of the ways advisors could adapt those suggestions:
1) Retirement: Firms have already relied heavily on visual advertisements aimed at pre-retirees. Interactive, image-centric retirement marketing campaigns could transition nicely onto Pinterest, according to the paper. Prudential’s Day One Stories microsite is one example.
2) Savings and Investment Goals: Advisors can engage clients by posting photos of savings and investment goals. The paper refers to Principal’s Dreamcatcher microsite, where investors post photos of their investment goals, as an example.
3) Lifestyle: Advisors can post photos that appeal to clients’ target lifestyles from sponsored events such as concerts, sports games, and other partner venues. Corporate Insight refers to American Express as an example, but also mentions ING Direct for its emphasis through social media on savings tips and user stories, and AARP for using Pinterest to post infographics on financial topics.
4) Contests: Holding contests or sweepstakes is another way to engage clients and prospects, though it may cost a little to offer some kind of incentive, but Corporate Insight notes that overall, contests can be simple and inexpensive. For example, followers may vote on preferred reward items by “liking” or “re-pinning” an image.
5) Charitable Giving: Advisors can use pinboards to show how they give back to their communities. Boards can be used to highlight firms’ various charitable initiatives, and advisors can encourage their clients to post pictures of charities they support.
One use for Pinterest, according to Eric Clarke, president of Orion Advisor Services and 2012 IA 25 honoree, is in gaining referrals and increasing brand awareness. According to Experian Hitwise, Pinterest is the third-most-visited social network in the United States with more than 23 million visits in the week ending April 21, and it had 104 million visits in March. And that’s not including mobile users. In January, Pinterest users spent an average 89 minutes on the site, tying with Tumblr and second only to Facebook, according to ComScore. Global engagement increased 512% between May 2011 and October 2011.
Another way advisors may be able to utilize Pinterest is in their client appreciation efforts, Skiles of SSG said. If advisors follow their clients’ Pinterest boards, they can see what their clients are passionate about. “It’s a good way to connect with what they like.”
Says Skiles (left), “It’s kind of like a brainstorming tool where you can brainstorm with other people you don’t know.”
Skiles suggested advisors who aren’t sure what Pinterest is worth use it personally for a time and decide if they can incorporate it into their marketing strategy.
In whatever manner advisors see themselves using Pinterest, if at all, Corporate Insight offers five recommendations to help advisors utilize the website.
First, it’s important to understand the audience. Estimates of users’ age distribution are fairly consistent, putting most users between 25 and 54. However, the gender distribution is a little more complicated. According to MDGAdvertising, which compiled data from Google’s Doubleclick Ad Planner, 87% of Pinterest users are women. Using data from the 12 weeks ending Jan. 28, though, Experian Hitwise found 60% of Pinterest users are women. A spokesperson for Pinterest said the site does not share user data or demographics. Nevertheless, it’s a fair assumption that the majority of users are female.
Clarke (right) agrees that understanding who is using the site is important for advisors. “It’s critical for advisors who market toward that niche to do something creative,” he told AdvisorOne on Friday. “I haven’t seen a social media platform so skewed in one direction before.”
“Pinterest is interesting because unlike other social media networks out there, the majority of users are women,” Andy Rooks, senior research associate for Corporate Insight, told AdvisorOne on Monday. “We’ve seen a range of statistics depending on who you ask, but if advisors are looking to market to women, Pinterest is a good place to be.”
Advisors shouldn’t limit themselves to using Pinterest to communicate solely with their female clients. “While firms should build their Pinterest strategy with demographics in mind, they don’t necessarily need to limit themselves in this regard,” according to the white paper.
Pinterest is largely image-driven, but advisors shouldn’t limit themselves that way either. The white paper recommends advisors post videos and infographics, as well as photos.
For example, if advisors have videos discussing market commentary, Pinterest is an ideal place to use them, Clarke says, because clients can easily share resources through the site. What’s more, it’s superior to YouTube because content is more targeted, he says. “In YouTube, the variety that comes back that’s unrelated can be annoying.” Pinterest users who go to their advisors’ pinboard know they’ll find something of interest that they can easily navigate, Clarke says.
Corporate Insight also recommends that advisors find a balanced content mix. “Advisors should be consistent” with their pins, Ben Pousty, head of marketing for Corporate Insight, told AdvisorOne. “Don’t make it look like your pinboard has been abandoned.” In addition to posting new content, advisors should also share, or “re-pin,” content from other users, he says. Pinterest has a lot more lasting power than Facebook or Twitter, Rooks says. “The majority of content on Pinterest is re-pins,” Rooks says. “There’s a lot of recycled content, which gives it more lasting power.”
Advisors who decide to experiment with Pinterest should avoid excessive self-promotion, Corporate Insight recommends. “This is true across all social media,” Pousty says. “People are trying to learn about you and your firm.” Posting news clippings of every little mention a firm receives can come across as self-indulgent, he says. That’s OK if it showcases advisors’ expertise, but advisors need to find a healthy balance of content that speaks to their background and experience, and serves as a source of education.
Finally, advisors should promote across all their social media properties. The white paper notes that integration with Facebook has shown an increase in engagement on both platforms. It’s also important that advisors who do decide to use Pinterest link content back to their websites, Rooks says. Pousty agrees: “Once you get the prospect back to your website, that’s how they learn the most about you.”
For Clarke, though, it’s not just about Pinterest, but all social media. “Advisors need to stay on the cutting edge,” he says. Pinterest may be the latest platform to come out and get popular, but advisors need to keep thinking about how they’ll use the next new platform—and there will be a new platform.
“Advisors need to be open to new platforms that are going to come out. The favorite flavor [in social media] changes, and this is a case in point,” Clarke says.
“Advisors need to think about how their business fits with the platforms that are popular today,” he continues. For example, even advisors who consider themselves prolific social media users with profiles on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn aren’t going to bother with MySpace in 2012. Even if advisors decide to use Pinterest today, that doesn’t mean they’ll still use it in two or three years.
“Advisors should definitely be aware of [Pinterest],” Clarke says. New social media sites pop up so quickly, he says, and have the ability to gain relevance so quickly, that advisors shouldn’t ignore social media as a way to extend their brands.