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Pinterest may be social media, but its differences from Facebook, Twitter and others are what some marketers find attractive.
In particular, Pinterest-marketing firm Ahalogy sees the platform working more like search than social media, said President Bob Gilbreath, because people come there with shopping or usage queries in mind, content tends to last longer, and keywords play an important role.
So Ahalogy recently developed a Liftwords system that analyzes trending words and phrases by product or service category and automatically suggests them to people writing Pin descriptions, much like search-optimization programs. PepsiCo's Quaker Oats, working with agency VaynerMedia, is one of the early users as it builds a fast-growing content trove with Pinterest.
Quaker's digital lead, Elena Parlatore, sees Pinterest as something of a search-social hybrid. But another big difference from other social media she likes is the relative lack of snark and negativity there compared to other social media.
"In general we're investing in content and platforms that are helping us modernize the brand," Ms. Parlatore said. "We champion a great start to the day, and a great start to the morning. Pinterest is a place to dream, where consumers are optimistic. We love that connection." She also likes that content has almost limitless shelf life on Pinterest; some of the oldest Pins that Quaker used starting in late 2013 are still getting engagement.
"It's a continual opportunity to get in front of consumers, because Pinterest is not as evolved as some of the other platforms like Facebook or Twitter, where you're really paying to play," she said.
But Pinterest has an almost insatiable appetite for content, which "is both a blessing and a curse," she said. Quaker is generating 70 Pins a week to take full advantage of the opportunity, she said. "But it's very labor intensive, and that's why we definitely needed a partner."
VaynerMedia, which leads content creation for Quaker on Pinterest, has in turn tapped Ahalogy, which makes content available from its network of bloggers and media companies, which license their content in return for optimization and analytics services from the Cincinnati-based ad-tech firm.
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Beyond just feeding the content beast, Ms. Parlatore likes the "authentic consumer voices" that Ahalogy's network can provide, and analytics around what's getting the most response.
Liftwords has proved useful in supplementing what VaynerMedia already knows about keywords that work in search and social media, said Maribel Lara, the agency's account director for Quaker.
"We certainly have keywords in mind," Ms. Lara said, often around seasonality, but Liftwords also make "recommendations for things we wouldn't have thought of."
In general, beautiful images of food do well on Pinterest, Ms. Parlatore said, but so do new "usage occasions" for oats, which is exactly what Quaker is trying to encourage. One popular idea has been "overnight oats," or standard Quaker oatmeal layered with yogurt, topped with fruit and nuts, and left in the refrigerator overnight. The brand also has seen success from alternate prep ideas, such as using slow cookers, or even putting oats in a blender to turn them into flour when they run out of wheat flour.
Is it all paying off? Calculating the return on investment "is a tough one, and we're still working on it," Ms. Parlatore said. "I'm not sure any marketer has figured it out. But we know it's the right place to be for Quaker. We're seeing wins on the engagement side."
The longevity of content on Pinterest figures in its favor for ROI, even if that also makes it a little harder to measure with such tools as marketing-mix models, because the impact is spread out for months or even years.
"We consider it an always-on channel, which is different than other digital channels," she said. "So this is one we're committing to much more long term, like search or a website. We're putting a larger investment behind it, because we know it will live on."