How Brands Use Pinterest Contests To Catch The “Back To School” Crowd

Pencils and Pinterest Contests For Back To SchoolThis year, big brands and small businesses are running Pinterest contests to stay on top mind of those starting school in the fall.

thredUP, an online children clothing exchange site, ran its “Style to Win $100” contest to moms searching for new-to-them duds for the school year. Entrants’ “Back To School Inspriation” board had to feature at least five images from the inventory on This requirement allowed for lots of window shopping time on the company Website. Even if entrants did not win the $100 thredUP gift card, they still got inspired by the affordable, eco-friendly finds on the company Website — perhaps leading to a sale or two.

The environmental blog Mother Nature Network is hosting a “Back to School with MNN” repin giveaway — a few days are left in this contest to win an iPad and an environmental book library. Those who enter the contest must repin from a designated board that contained pins of MNN articles centered on tips for a greener education. Through referral traffic and repins, Mother Nature can clearly see which articles resonate with pinners. This information can help form upcoming ideas in their editorial calendar.

Meijer, a department store in the US Midwest, has run two back to school Pinterest contests this summer. The Sharp Looks Room Decor Contest holds the biggest bounty with $200 to spend at any of their stores. What’s neat about this “pin it to win it” contest is that it not only gets referral traffic from required pins off their Pinterest page and Website, but it also gets tons of user-generated content by permitting entrants to go to Meijer stores and take their own pinnable photos of products that catch their eye. Pinterest isn’t well known for original uploads by users, but it’s worth noting this experimental move.

Spring semester is just a few months away — many students will travel abroad, take entrance exams, or transfer to a new school. If you’re a business, how might you leverage a Pinterest contest to help these pinners on their new adventures — all while meeting your business’ marketing and sales objectives?

Photo Credit: Flickr CC/martijnnijenhuis


4 Must-Dos For a Successful Pinterest Contest

Four Leaf

Type “Pin It To Win It” in any search engine. See that neverending list of Pinterest contests?

The good news is that brands are experimenting with Pinterest. The tricky news is that since Pinterest does not currently have any guidelines for contests, the way in which these contests are run are let’s just say, quite broad in scope.

To find common trends among all these promotions, I examined 20 different aspects of 100 Pinterest contests. I saw many of these contests through to their end date and found that the quantity and quality of entries were lower than anticipated.

It takes more than luck and Pinterest buzz to create a successful pinning contest. Here are four essentials that will improve the results of your next “Pin It To Win It” contest.

1. Map Out The Contest Goal

You need a clear business goal for your Pinterest contest. Goals might include one of the following:

  • an increase in Pinterest followers
  • more Website or blog traffic
  • feedback on pinners’ preferences (related to your brand)

Once that’s been determined, figure out how you will measure the success of that goal.  What metrics will you use to gauge success? What tools will you use to track these metrics?

This might not be the “fun” part of the contest, but is by far the important part. While Pinterest use is on the rise, your manager’s acceptance of it as a vital marketing tool is probably not. You have a better chance of impressing your boss by saying, “This is what we wanted to get out of our Pinterest contest. We measured this goal through this method. And we got these (hopefully stellar) results.”

2. Require A Follow

One factor I analyze in my Pinterest contest research is, “Does the contest require you follow the company on Pinterest?” Out of the 100 contests I reviewed, want to guess how many do not require an entrant to follow the host company on Pinterest?


That’s right — nearly half do not ask entrants to join their Pinterest boards. Why is that? Do the brands not want to engage with entrants after the contest? Or conversely, do the companies want pinners to “win and run” as I explain in my article on sweepstakes junkies? Neither one is a very sound business practice. So do it right — require the follow — even if gaining followers is not the prime goal of your contest.

3. Establish An Entry Portal

Let’s now think of how you want to gather the entries. Pinterest’s search is emerging. In other words, its search is nowhere nearly as robust as the functionality you might use every day on Twitter or Google. Thus, searching for any hashtags and brand mentions that your contest might require is not a reliable way of gathering entries.

Instead, tell your entrants to send you their submission by either:

  • posting the URL of their entries as a comment on a contest pin on *your* board
  • posting the URL of their entries on a blog post that announces the contest


  • posting the URL to a form that you create through an application like Google Docs

I’ve listed these three methods from least effective to most effective. Adding a comment to a blog post (the second bullet) is slightly better than the first choice because it will give some love to your blog or Website. The third bullet (Google Form) allows you to ask for additional information — including the point I make in the next “must do” — and presents the data in a way that is easy to use and manipulate.

4. Capture Entrants’ Email

Pinterest has no direct message or reply message function like Twitter. Nor does it have a private message feature as you’ve seen on Facebook. So you need a provide a way to contact your winner (or perhaps all entrants).

23 of the 100 contests I analyzed did not factor in way for the brand to contact the winner via messaging or email.

Using the suggested entry portals I mentioned earlier, you can require that entrants put their email address in their comments on your contest pin page or blog post. But know that many people are hesitant to put their email in such public places — especially as in this instance, it will be implicitly connected to their Pinterest page.

An alternative that some companies have used is to tell entrants to send the URL to a branded email address. (You’ll then of course have their email handy.)

However, a Google Form might again be your best bet. It is a private way for entrants to provide their URL, email, and full name (in case they used a screen name on Pinterest).

Here’s a question for YOU: Why might your business benefit from having entrants’ email addresses — besides telling them they’ve won a prize? If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’ll know why getting addresses is really a must do.

Ready to use these suggestions? Then take this handy chart below to map out your own Pinterest contest.


If you run (or ran) a Pinterest contest that you’re especially proud of, please let me know in the comments section! I’m always looking for happy endings.

Headline Photo Credit: Flickr CC/cygnus921

Pinterest Analytics: How To Choose The Right Tools And Metrics

Cake with Pinterest Frosting

I recently gave a corporate Webinar on Pinterest for Business and was blessed with a lively Q&A. During the session, one marketer asked me, “Does Pinterest have anything like Facebook Insights, where you can find out the demographic background of your followers and see which posts are performing well?

It was a great question, but man — my answer was going to squelch the “Pinterest Can Be Awesome!” vibe of my Webinar.

Currently Pinterest offers no collation and reporting of statistics. However, there are a fair amount of third party applications that synthesize Pinterest user and pin stats. To save you time in researching them all, I’ll run down what you should seek in your go-to Pinterest analytics tool.

Engagement With Your Pinterest Content
At a minimum, find a tool that can capture repins, likes, and comments of your pins in a systematic way. First, the tool should let you sort these numbers online to see which pins rise to the top. With this information, you can determine what makes a winning pin for you and consequently figure out how to curate more pins of that type. This video from Pintics shows its ability to sort Pinterest data online.*

Second, the tool should have download capabilities. Curalate provides data downloads so that you can sort your data offline and show it off it in the way that works best for you.

Clicks are another metric to pay attention to, especially for pins that come from your Website. I have found Pinerly to be a good tool to capture clicks.

Pintics, Curalate, and Pinerly are among five Pinterest analysis tools I summarize in the below chart.

Battle of The Pinterest Analysis Tools Comparison Chart

Your Influence on Pinterest
In the same vein of Klout and Kred, PinReach and Pinpuff (featured in the above chart) will give your Pinterest account a numerical grade based on what they determine to be your influence in the Pinosphere. Both of the said Pinterest services grade you on a scale from 1-100. Given that many social analysts still question the validity of Klout’s algorithm, these aren’t necessarily numbers to run to the tattoo parlor with. But this data point can serve as a benchmark in a Pinterest growth report or comparative analysis.

Traffic To Your Website
Although Pinterest is not about making a hard sell, your business strategy on Pinterest should include driving traffic to your Website and converting that traffic into sales or signups. Pintics and Curalate can tap into your Google Analytics data and tell you more about traffic patterns from your pins.

So Which Pinterest Tool Should I Choose?
As you’ll see in the above chart, there is currently no free tool that covers all my basic analytic requirements. If you’re on a tight budget, consider using a combination of these tools. While it’s not ideal, it’s certainly easier than manually cutting and pasting from Pinterest.

Once Pinterest opens its API to developers, my hope is that tools will include the following data:

  • location stats of followers
  • list of most engaged pinners
  • follower growth rate from month to month
  • day parting analysis
  • hashtag analysis

These are features you should also hunger for. If the Pinospshere can’t come up with a robust analytics tool, then folks in the C-suite (or nearby cubicles) will continue to be leery of the time put into your company’s presence on Pinterest.

So … what tools have you used to track your business’ pins on Pinterest?

Do you like my comparison chart on Pinterest analytics tools? If so, please share it with friends by pinning it to your Pinterest board or including it in your next tweet on Twitter!

Headline photo credit: Flickr CC/shardsofblue

*It’s been over a month since I’ve signed up for an invite to Pintics, but I don’t yet have the ability to access to my data to show you first hand.

Does Social Media Automation Make You Look Like A Tool?

Collection of tools in a tool beltIf you are active on a variety of social media platforms, you’ve probably invested some time and money on social media automation tools.

When done right, these tools can save you tons of time online. When done in haste, social media automation can produce in lower engagement, fewer clickthroughs, fan disinterest or fan turnoff.

Let me run through some of the biggest examples of “unsocial” automation and give ideas on how to right these wrongs.

This is the biggest pet peeve of Twitter hipsters so I’ll mention it first.  If you’re newer to Twitter, let me explain. An automated direct message (or “auto DM”) can be set up to send each new follower a pre-written message from you.

How to offend: I have yet to see an effective use of an auto-DM. Think about a seemingly simple, non-salesly message like “Thanks for following!” It might be a stretch to call this offensive. But would such a message encourage you to direct message back or to pay extra attention to that person’s tweets? (It’s never encouraged me to do so.) Another troublesome auto DM type is one filled with calls to action like “Follow me on Facebook!” or  “If you want healthy eating tips, go to my Website!” To this I say, we just met. Let’s see how our first date goes before I meet the rest of your family.

How to engage: Unfortunately, auto DMs have soured folks on direct messages altogether. But non-automated DMs can be a wonderful method of reaching out to others. I send direct messages to congratulate people with new jobs, console people for a loss, and check up on people I have not heard from recently. As a business, you can send a personalized discount code or message to a Twitter influencer or a highly engaged follower.

Follow Friday is a weekly celebration on Twitter where you tell your followers about other worthwhile tweeps to follow. The hashtag #ff often indicates this occasion, as seen here in this example.

Follow Friday Message on Twitter from @kristinlaj

Example of a Follow Friday tweet (curated by @kristinlaj — not a program)

How to offend: Many use automation tools to figure out who to include on a #ff. These tools often include their brand name in the tweet so that people know that the tweet was created by their software program. If you use such a feature, keep in mind that the people mentioned in the #ff tweet will know that you relied on a computer algorithm rather than your heart (or mind) to create a simple tweet of praise. What might that say you or your brand’s commitment to your followers?

How to engage: For most, it takes just a minute to review your Twitter replies or retweets from the past week. Who showed you extra love there? Was there a tweep you met offline that you’d like the online world to know about? Take that info and put it into a meaningful #ff tweet. To take your praise up a notch, pick a day *other* than Friday to tell your tweeps how wonderful that  particular person is — that unexpected tweet might better catch people’s eye.

Many social media dashboards and apps allow you to write just one message, and with a few clicks, send it off to more than one socal media platform. But think before you click “send.” Can people on Facebook make sense of your tweet? Will your tweeps be able to read your entire Facebook post without clicking a link?

Good use of dashboards doesn’t involve posting as quickly as possible — it involves a bit of thinking beforehand. The following two examples are the biggest offenders I’ve seen as a result of overzealous automation.

Hashtags are keyword in a Twitter message that start off with a hash (or pound sign). I’ll use a sports example. Let’s say you’re a New Yorker who likes to tweet from a baseball stadium in the Bronx. You’ll probably use the hashtag #NYY, #Yanks or #Yankees on Twitter this season.

How to offend: If you or your business is at Yankee Stadium or watching the game at work, tweet on — but don’t also shoot out those hashtag tweets with every key play to your Facebook friends and fans. Facebook is not used for real-time news and it’s no home for hashtags.

How to engage: Twitter — and even Tumblr and Instagram — use hashtags all the time. Use tags there so other fans (and perhaps a few haters) can find you and your messages. If you want to let your Facebook posse know of a critical moment in the game, copy a sent tweet (or Tumblr or Instagram post), paste it back in your dashboard or app’s “compose” section, remove the hashtag, and then click send.

If you want to write about a user on Twitter, you use an @ sign, followed by his name. For example, if you want to tweet about Duran Duran’s suave bass player John Taylor, you’d write @thisistherealjt.

How to offend: If you’re at a Duran Duran concert and want to tell your tweeps about the different moves John makes with each song, go for it. Non-Duranies can figure out who @thisistherealjt is with a simple click or two. But your buddies on Facebook? They’ll have no clue who you’re talking about.

A tweet about @thisistherealjt

If you saw this message on Facebook, would you know what @seaweedgirle was talking about?

How to engage: Use those @ signs on your tweets and Instagram photos from the show. Heck, I became buddies with a great lady in Hartford as a result of tweeting from a Duran Duran concert. Many of your Facebook friends or page fans would like to know about your time at the concert, but one photo or message will do. Use a similar cut and paste protocol as you might with a hashtag.  Copy your sent tweet (or Tumblr or Instagram post), paste it back in your dashboard or app’s “compose” section, remove the @ sign, write the user’s real name, and send off your D2 love.

If you found these tips on social media tools and audience engagement helpful, please “Like” it on Facebook or share it with your LinkedIn connections!

Photo credit: iStockphoto

My 2 Lessons and (and 2 Books) from BlogWorld Expo

BlogWorld and New Media Expo took place last week — over 100 sessions of social media education at my disposal! In this video, I run down two primary themes I saw or heard throughout the conference.

I also give props to two new books that I found so interesting that I bought them on the spot instead of bargain hunting as I usually do.

Watch this video and let me know what else you want to know about BlogWorld and New Media Expo! I’m happy to share more of my experiences with you.

Why I Won’t Help You With Your “Win an iPad” Contest

Three Winning Stars

I recently wrote an article about Twitter contests at live events where I equated an iPad giveaway to having an Elvis impersonator at your booth.  I’ll leave it to you to figure out why having The King at your conference booth might not be a wise investment. But let me delve more into the reasons why giving away an iPad will most likely detract your business from reaching its social marketing goals.

It Invites The Wrong Crowd 

Did you know that there is noteworthy community of people who enter sweepstakes as a full-time hobby? These prize-winning fiends are called “sweepers” and are way serious. They even have email accounts set up for the sole purpose of entering contests. iPads are a MAJOR score for sweepers — so if you’re doing a good job promoting your contest, they’ll find you, fill out your entry forms, and heavily skew the target market you hoped to attract.

Think about the goal of your contest for a second. Then check out this episode of “Wife Swap” that features a sweeping family. Do you want your iPad to go to them?

It Kills Word Of Mouth About Your Brand

While an iPad contest can certainly provide you with tons of new Facebook fans, these new fans might very well be sweepers or other people simply looking for a nice gift or back-to-school tablet. If they don’t have an interest in your brand, they most likely will “unlike” your page shortly after entering the contest. Worse, they’ll stay on as fans but will hide your status updates from their news feed. At a minimum, these will not be the folks you’d hope would join your Facebook community, regularly “like” your updates, and tell their friends about your page or products.

It Is Expensive

Contests should not be a loss leader for you. They should be geared to either drive sales or provide the potential of future sales. An iPad 2 currently runs for about $400. If you don’t think you can drive more than $400 of business as a result of your contest, think of a more affordable prize.

It Is Illegal

You wouldn’t think this is the case from the plethora of iPad contests around — but it’s true. According to counsel I have spoken with, in addition to the news announced in early 2011, iPads may not be used in third-party promotions. (Note: If anyone knows of a reversal of this rule, please let me know!)

So while an iPad might be an easy and coveted prize, it should take a back seat to a prize that speaks tons about your company and what you offer.  That’s the juicy stuff I like to brainstorm about with my clients. As a marketer, I want my clients and their randomly selected entrants to all come out winning from a sweepstakes.

If you found this post on social media contests helpful, please “Like” it on Facebook or share it with your followers on Twitter!

Photo credit: iStockphoto

5 Twitter Contest Tips To Drive Qualified Leads To Your Conference Booth

Foot TrafficOn a crowded exhibit hall floor, it’s hard to for businesses to attract attention. Your booth could rent a popcorn machine or hire a celebrity lookalike to pull in visitors — as many do. But do those stunts bring in meaningful traffic to your booth? How often do those booth visitors stick around, look through your merchandise, or ask your team meaningful questions?

If your business is already active on Twitter, consider using this platform to bring more qualified visitors to your booth. It’s certainly a more cost-effective way to drive traffic. And with strategic planning beforehand (along with the help from the five tips below), you can use your 140 characters to maximize the number of signups, leads, and potential brand evangelists at your event.

1. Find Out If Attendees Are Active On Twitter

A key way to determine the “socialability” of the conference is to hunt down a conference hashtag. Why is this important? Because if you add the hashtag to your tweets, it will be seen your followers in addition to conference goers who are following this hashtag. Without this hashtag, you’ll just be tweeting to your followers — many of whom will be hundreds of miles away from the exhibit hall.

Your conference host should have a good sense of the Twitter usage of its market. Two weeks before your conference, check the conference Website or Twitter account. Has an official hashtag been set up yet? If not, search Twitter or Google by using the name of the conference in quotes, the year, and the word hashtag. Here’s a search I did for a BlogWorld, a conference I will attend in June.

Searching for the BlogWorld East Hashtag

Using Google to find a conference or event hashtag

Once you get the hashtag, type it in Twitter or your favorite Twitter app to see if potential customers are already tweeting with the tag.

Be sure to also keep an extra eye on your competitors’ tweets during this time. Are they talking about the conference? If so, are those tweets getting many retweets or replies? What are those responses saying?

If not much activity is sparked prior to the conference, you may wish to save your contest for a more active event. If there is indeed buzz, than carry on with at least the next step.

2. Determine If Your Tweeps Are Mobile

Tweets from the International Reading Association 2012

Tweets from International Reading Association 2012 Conference (#IRA2012)

About half of all Twitter users use a mobile application to tweet. For a booth marketer, that means potentially one in every two tweeps may not have a handy way to show you a contest tweet, take and upload a photo to win a prize, or use a hashtag from the conference floor. If hashtag activity has begun for your conference, see from what devices people are tweeting. If you find folks are tweeting primarily from iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, or Android applications, you’re in luck. If the majority of tweets hail from the Web, a Twitter contest might not bear fruit for this conference … but keep it in your toolkit for an upcoming event.

3. Hook The Prize Back To Your Business

iTunes, iPads, and Starbucks gift cards are often popular prize giveaways at conferences. But they’re really the equivalent of that popcorn and Elvis impersonator I talked about earlier on. When your winner is  jamming to her newly purchased Jack White album or is nursing that tall soy chai, do you think is she going to be thinking about you and the products or services you represent?

Think about a prize that a winner will value,  remember you by, and perhaps purchase for or recommend to a friend.

4. Make The Contest Simple

Conferences are a busy time for both attendees and exhibitors. If the contest takes you more than 140 characters to explain, it’s too complicated for your information-overloaded attendees. An easy-to-enter contest also makes it easier for you to administer and choose a winner.

5. Offer a Wrap Up

Be sure to follow up your contest by announcing the winner. A happy winner could very well retweet your message to share her glee (and your username) with her followers. And thank all those who entered and who chatted with you about the contest.  A goodwill gesture like that might just overcome a tweep’s disappointment of not winning a prize!

What Twitter contests or promotions have you used at events? Which ones were successful? Which ones failed to reach its desired goal?

Photo credit: iStockphoto

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