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We were over at a friends house watching the Texan’s playoff game a couple of weeks ago and during one of my trips to the kitchen I couldn’t help but notice the wives hovering around the kitchen table staring at my neighbors’ iPad screen as she scrolled through some of her favorite recipes on Pinterest.

This was my first introduction into the world that is Pinterest and according to ReadWriteWeb, the excitement that is Pinterest has to do with the way the tool leverages everything that’s hot in social right now: great user experience, a clean retro visual design, content curation, social collaboration and subscription – and calls everyone who isn’t using it “a big dork”.

As many of you know I fancy myself as being up-to-speed with what’s going on with social media but I have to admit that I had no clue that Pinterest had been around for almost two years.  If that makes me a “big dork” then so be it.

In order to shed this newfound description of my presona, I decided to open a Pinterest account to` try to get a handle on what’s so intriguing about this new “top 10 social network” and how it may benefit the hotel community.

What is Pinterest? – Pinterest is designed as a place to organize and share online images that you find interesting or inspiring. Once uploaded or shared on Pinterest, these images become known as Pins, which the user can place on customized, themed Boards. You can create Boards for any topic imaginable and the possibilities for hotels are endless. Here’s how the Travel Channel uses Pinterest.

The Audience – Before we go any further it is important to note a couple of things as it relates the Pinterest audience (mainly women) and their purchasing power and social influence.  I’ve provided you with some demographics below but keep in mind that women should not be considered as a ‘niche’ market because they account for 85% of all consumer purchases including everything from autos to health care and a robust 92% of all consumer purchases as it relates to vacations!

In addition, interaction between women through online community Web sites, forums, and message boards have a ‘dramatic’ influence on driving product preference, loyalty, and purchases.  Reaching women more effectively isn’t rocket science but is well worth the effort no matter what the channel.

According to Experian Hitwise and comScore the site has over 4M registered users and 1.5M visit the site on a daily basis spending 14 minutes on the site on average.

Google Ad planner shows that users are:

  • Largely women (a 80% to 20% ratio). So there’s some truth to Matt Buchanan’s post on Gizmodo yesterday that proclaims Pinterest as “a Tumblr for ladies”.
  • Aged mainly between 25 and 44 (accounting for 55% of the group, 30% are 25-34, 25% are 35 – 44)
  • Just 25% of users have a bachelors degree or higher
  • The majority live off a household income of $25-75k

Creating an Account – I’m going to gloss over this step because most of you know how to create an account but it’s important to note that you can’t become a member immediately because you have to be “invited” by Pinterest to join the community.  This process takes about a day or two.  After you have been approved you can start Pining.

Settings – If your hotel is on Facebook and Twitter make sure you enable both of these networks through your settings so followers can potentially connect with you through these channels.

Pining – A Pin is an image added to Pinterest. You can link to an image from your Web site or upload an image from your computer. Pins can include captions, like “A relaxing day at the spa” or anything else you’d like to include in the caption.  I experimented with the caption and found that I could add a detailed description (this test was over 175 words) and was able to include a link to my site as well as my email address.

Thought – If you’re say the Omni Fort Worth and your hotel is running a promotion on your site called “Soothe Your Senses at Mokara Spa” you can use Pinterest to market the same promotion.

Here’s a quick example of how this hotel can use Pinterest to market this spa promotion:

  1. Create a Board and name the board “Spa”.
  2. From the Board Category drop down menu select “Hair & Beauty”.
  3. Select “Just Me” in the “Who can pin” question (you can invite others but that is and advanced lesson for another time)
  4. Select “Create Board” and your ready to start Pining.
  5. Next go back to your Web site page that contains the details of the spa promotion and Pin the spa photo and assign it to the “Spa” Board.  Here are the instructions to Pin a photo from your toolbar to your Board.
  6. Next Copy and paste the verbiage that has already been created on your Web site page and paste it into the “Description” field.
  7. Lastly, copy the page link of the spa promotion from your Web site (http://www.omnihotels.com/FindAHotel/FortWorth/Spa.aspx) and paste it into the “Link” field located underneath your caption.
  8. Run to your GMs office and show him how you’ve created another distribution channel for your hotel and make sure you let him know that it didn’t cost a dime.  Next book a ticket to Paris and pay for your vacation with the bonus money he included in your next check.

SEO – I have purposely side-stepped the topic of SEO and how it relates to linkable image assets so I have provided those details for you here or just forward the blog to your e-Commerce team for their review.

Thought – If you are a full or limited-service hotel think of all of the amenities that you have on site and outside of your four walls and create separate Boards to attract members of your Pinterest community (possibly your next customer).

In the “Description” field make sure that you include links back to your hotel’s Web site and any other pertinent information that will allow a member of the community get in touch with you or the hotel.

  • Create a Board that features your room categories and include some salient points
  • Create a Board that features dining options, your menus, and promotions
  • Create a Board that includes background information about your management team and fellow (front and back-of-the house) associates
  • Create a Board where you can share photos of a guest’s wedding or family reunion
  • Create a Board that includes information about your city
  • Create a Board that includes information about upcoming events in your area
  • Create a Board that includes local restaurants and nightlife
  • Create a Board that includes attractions such as historical buildings and museums
  • Create a Board that includes the location of a movie theater and shopping
  • Don’t forget video.  One of the best channels to market your hotel is through YouTube videos. If a video link is Pinned, Pinterest embeds that video inside the Pin. It’s a good way of sharing additional info with your current and prospective customers.

When you get comfortable with some of the marketing options at your disposal start inviting your audience to contribute to your Boards.  To add a contributor to one of your Boards, click to the Board’s edit page. There, change the Pin setting to “Me + Contributors.” Then, you can add his/her name. You must be following at least one of that user’s Boards to add them as a contributor.

Here is how I am experimenting with Pinterest and I see some great opportunities with which to incorporate it into my client’s social media strategy.  Let me know if you come up with anything that could be helpful!

As they say, “Happy Pining!”

Tom Costello is a Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter or contact him by email.