Thursday, November 22, 2012

Visual Social Media: Evaluating Pinterest vs. Instagram

Instagram and Pinterest
Earlier this month, Instagram and Pinterest each made important announcements. Pinterest finally engaged the marketing world by opening access to business-specific accounts, and Instagram took the leap from mobile to global by announcing the start of its public profile pages.

Since the announcements, bloggers everywhere have proclaimed these changes as not unexpected, but strong next steps for both Pinterest and Instagram. In contrast, I’d argue that both moves represent something more–a developing shift in social media. Visual media platforms, like Pinterest and Instagram, are relatively new, and they’re growing fast. As they adapt to find their niche in the ever-crowded social media market, both companies will strive to attract marketers’ attention–good news for us!

Pinterest Updates

If you analyze the announcement from Pinterest, you’ll see that not much is really changing about the platform as they integrate business accounts. Pins are the same; boards are the same. The overall user experience still feels like Pinterest. The difference comes in for the businesses. Now, everything from Piggly Wiggly to Prada can have a Pinterest account with tools to boost their marketing efforts’ effectiveness. For instance, business Pinterest accounts offer widgets and buttons that can be added to your website to help bring clients to your Pinterest page. In addition, there are case studies and best practices guides that enable businesses to improve over time and try new techniques.

Instagram Updates

The changes at Instagram are a different ball game. By adding web profiles to their already enormous mobile presence, Instagram (and Facebook, its owner) is making a huge move to swing users toward the Instagram way-of-life. The profiles don’t necessarily change what Instagram is about–phone pics with retro filters that make even your parents look cool–but it opens up a huge, new portal of accessibility. A key takeaway from the announcement is that although Instagram is entering a wider world of online social media, users can still only add content that’s original. There’s no “pinning” content from other sites.

Pinterest vs. Instagram

That last point is the key factor that will continue to distinguish Pinterest and Instagram as time goes on. Already, Pinterest has been recognized as having a huge marketing potential because of how naturally sharable its graphical content is. Pinning is as easy as tweeting, and yet the bounds of a picture are not nearly as restricting as a character limit. For this reason, I think Instagram continues to be a limited tool for most businesses. Yes, companies can certainly upload content, but by opting to limit sharing across websites, Instragram limits companies to content production–that can be a critical limitation for smaller businesses, especially.

Of course, Instagram is only in its first step of web integration. Already, Instagram profiles look like a clever cross between Facebook and Pinterest. In the future, I have no doubt that Instagram will be moving rapidly to take hold of the visual social media market. Whether Instagram and Pinterest fall into a high stakes rivalry over the control of visual social media is still unclear. The only thing clear is that marketers have huge things to gain from using these new platforms.

Helpful Tips For Both Platforms

To begin formulating your strategy, here are three tips for making Pinterest and Instagram work to your advantage:

  1. Use Instagram to demonstrate your business’ creativity, lifestyle, and social flair. Right now, Weidert Group has a board on Pinterest dedicated to “Weidert Group Culture.” As good as that board is, Instagram is a whole social network built on marketing lifestyle. We might stand to benefit to orient more of that content toward Instagram.
  2. For Pinterest, demonstrate your interests and expertise. Although Pinterest has plenty of room for your business’ personality, its wide-open sharability allows you to show the world what your company is like by the kinds of intereractions you have. Pinterest enables you to describe your niche, your community, and your values, so fill your boards with that kind of content.
  3. On either platform, it’s key to engage potential clients interactively. Don’t just become a content machine. It’s important to repin and share content amongst your online community. Interactivity can also serve as social forms of calls-to-action–for example, photo contexts can be run using hashtags on either platform, or users can create a live visual narrative of an event or campaign using Instagram.

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