Right now, all over the country, women are sitting at their computers showing the world exactly what they want in their next home, and it’s happening on Pinterest.
In a virtual world where social networks breeze in one day and are gone the next, it can be difficult to know where to invest your marketing time and efforts. But Pinterest, which allows users to share photos they either take themselves or find around the Web by "pinning" them to different boards, has earned its stripes. And as a visual platform highly used and trusted by women, it’s a new-home builder’s marketing dream come true.
Earlier this year, Pinterest hit more than 11 million unique monthly visitors, surpassing the 10 million mark faster than any standalone site in history, according to comScore data. Of those users, 97% are women, with an especially strong presence of upper-income women aged 18 to 34—in other words, a home builder’s target market.
And women are not only using the network, but they’re also trusting it: According to BlogHer’s annual study on women and social media, women trust recommendations that come through Pinterest more than those from any other social media platform. Of the 2,071 women polled, 81% reported they trust Pinterest recommendations, compared to 67% who trust Facebook recommendations and 73% who trust suggestions on Twitter. And nearly half of those polled reported that they had made at least one purchase based on a Pinterest recommendation.
"From our experience, Pinterest is most effective at reaching affluent women," says Dawn Sadler, founder and chief content strategist at Builder Target, a consultancy specializing in online marketing for home builders.
Sadler theorizes that Facebook requires too much personal information that affluent women may not want to make public. Pinterest allows for greater privacy and provides a clean, easy-to-use layout that doesn’t require a large time commitment for users to access or share what they like. "People are consuming so much information on the Web that they might not take the time to read a 300-word blog post," she says. "But a photo is a great way to get the word out."
And because it only takes a few seconds to re-pin an image, "it’s very viral," says Brad Bombardiere, CEO and owner at Reality Concepts, which specializes in Web design and Internet marketing for home builders. "Once you pin something people are very willing to re-pin, and you get SEO credit for each re-pin in addition to the physical traffic back to your site."
But even more important, Pinterest is the place to associate your brand with a lifestyle buyers crave. "We use Facebook for demographics-based advertising. We use Google to aim at people looking for a product in a given location. And we use Pinterest as brand advertising," Bombardiere says. "This is something that has a big effect pretty quick for a very low cost."
Thanks to its ultra-visual format and the audience it reaches, photos illustrating beautiful design are particularly popular, and a perfect opportunity to associate your brand with sought-after design.
Sadler recommends using design and product photos that tie into lifestyle and tell the story of living in a given home or community, curating photos to reach out to your target market. "If you’re targeting young families, have a board about what it’s like to be a kid in your neighborhood." She also recommends telling the story of life in the neighborhood with boards that feature local restaurants, parks, and other amenities.
Of course, the caveat to sharing photos that will positively reinforce your brand and entice others to share them is that first you need to have beautiful photos. "Now more than ever you have got to invest in the very best photography you can buy," Sadler emphasizes. "More than ever, it’s a line item that needs to be in your budget."
Working with a site so dependent on photography also brings up copyright issues of which builders need to be careful, warns Melissa Bennett, an account manager at mRELEVANCE who oversees the social media campaigns for Atlanta-based Ashton Woods Homes. "It’s different using it as a builder than it is for individuals. Because of copyright issues, we don’t want to re-pin other people’s pictures." Instead, Bennett focuses on pinning photos Ashton Woods owns all rights to, as well as "liking" and commenting on other people’s pins, which also helps to drive traffic back to Ashton Woods’ pin boards and website.
When uploading your own photos to Pinterest, it’s critical to include an alt tag in the photo’s metadata that is fairly specific about what the photo includes, Bombardiere says. "That’s how all search engines find photographs. Pinterest won’t find it without the alt tag."
It’s also important to pin often, as the most recent pins show up at the top of the page.
But the effort is definitely worth its payoff, Bombardiere says. "We’ve seen quite a bit of activity pinning and re-pinning, as long as you’re consistent. And that can extend a builder’s brand further than they could ever imagine. It’s pretty powerful."
Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.
For more on this topic, read this article from our sister publication, residential architect.