Q&A with Inside Social Marketing speaker Raman Sehgal of Ahalogy

Raman Sehgal is the Vice President of Client Strategy at Ahalogy (formerly Pingage) and is a true master of Pinterest marketing. Sehgal will speak at the upcoming Inside Social Marketing conference, Dec. 3-4 in New York. He’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts of Pinterest — a highly-visual platform that is seeing great success with conversion — in a Dec. 4 session, “Utilizing Pinterest: The Business of Social Content Curation.”

Register for the event by clicking here.

Sehgal recently spoke with SocialTimes about Pinterest marketing.

1. What are some brands that are really doing well with Pinterest (and why)?

Piperlime – This is such a fun brand by our friends at The GAP. Piperlime is doing all the right things on Pinterest. They’re pinning lots of relevant content daily – their own products, as well as broader fashion and beauty content – where we help them drive a brand action post-click. Their boards are well-organized – and their feed is super-relevant. It’s not hard to see why their customers are really engaging and converting, which helps Piperlime connect the dots to social-ROI from Pinterest.

Town House Crackers – This is one of Kellogg’s first brands to really take Pinterest seriously (and a personal favorite in my household). While they’re still quickly growing followers (having only launched in last month) – their pins are mouth-watering, and should not be viewed on an empty stomach! Rather than wait on creating a ton of expensive content, Town House chose to curate some of the most engaging food content on Pinterest thru our Content Network – which ladders up to their brand promise of “easy entertaining.” As a result, growth in their first month on Pinterest has been phenomenal.

When picking brands that do really well on Pinterest – it’s really easy to only consider “vanity metrics” (# of followers), but it’s critical to look deeper at “quality metrics.” Measuring growth rates, traffic/conversion rates, and the ratio of repins to followers reveals a lot about a brand on Pinterest. These relative stats really matter, as they drive the performance of the more absolute numbers.

A brand with a lot of followers and so-so content cant easily get engagement, but what value are they adding? By looking at key ratios and growth rates, we can get a real apples-to-apples measure of how brands are really performing versus each other, see what’s working/not, and optimize.

2. Are more companies starting to come around and get on board with Pinterest now?

Absolutely, as more brands start to realize the importance content plays in their marketing strategy, they are starting to realize that Pinterest can be a real-game changer. Reach is important, and the viral nature of content sharing on Pinterest really delivers more than anything I’d ever seen as a brand digital marketer. More importantly though, Pinterest really has the potential to deliver meaningful new engagement between brands and their current (and future) consumers. Smart brands are starting to wake up to this, and are exploring ways to shift dollars from less efficient/effective social and digital platforms towards Pinterest marketing solutions.

3. What types of campaigns/strategies seem to work best on Pinterest?

While Pinterest can be a great component of an ad campaign, it’s more important to view it as an “always on” piece of the overall marketing strategy – similar to social media, search, and content.

Being authentic is key – how can your brand help add value to her life? Because that’s why she’s on Pinterest – she’s looking to discover content that can make her and her family’s life better everyday.

It’s not about gaming the system. Contests and quick promotions (“Pin it to win it!”) don’t work for social media in the long term. While they are easy, they usually only provide quick, non-sustaining boost to your brand’s social engagement. Myself, and many other brand marketers have learned this the hard way.

The real way to win on Pinterest is to deliver marketing with meaning – curate great content that adds value to her life, and then connect with her at the right moment of truth, after she’s chosen to engage with the content. Test and learn. Always be trying new things – see what works/doesn’t – and optimize, constantly.

4. What do marketers still need to figure out?

For all things digital and social, marketers are always trying quantify the value/ROI of their investment – not just in dollars, but in their time spent, which is often even more valuable. Linking social engagement to tangible business results really makes the case for sustained investment in new platforms, and some, like Pinterest, are better than others.

Marketers are also trying to figure out the right way to link content marketing into their social/CRM programs. Creating content, and optimizing the distribution of it on via social media is neither cheap or easy. Companies that can add value here – beyond just selling “do-it-yourself” tools and dashboards – become trusted partners once they can prove meaningful results.

5. How does a Pinterest marketing strategy differ from other social channels, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? What special considerations need to be taken before a company drafts a marketing strategy for Pinterest?

Facebook is mostly a conversation with your friends, Instagram is about picture-based expression, and Twitter is for sharing thoughts, links, and headlines. Pinterest, while a very social platform, is more about content discovery. Pinterest is not just pinning pretty pictures, it’s about finding content that inspires and adds value to your life – dinner recipes, weekend outfits, holiday gifts, craft projects, travel ideas. On Pinterest visual content is shared socially, discovered casually, and engaged with personally

For marketers to win on Pinterest – they need to think beyond their product and advertising. What valuable content can your brand curate – whether it’s your own content or sponsored content – to add value to her life? It’s not about the perfect-looking pin, but about the pin that’s perfected for discovery. Who are the right partners that can help you create, source, and optimize content, and constantly test and learn to accelerate results that tie back to business objectives? Given our deep experience and expertise in brand-marketing and data analysis – we like to think we’re good fit here.