In an industry where words are our main currency, it’s frustrating to see how quick people are to judge a book by its cover. But moan as we might about the dumbing down of this, or the misrepresentation of that, there’s no denying the importance of the visual image in engaging with a reader and ultimately getting him or her to buy our books.
People respond instantly to visual stimuli, whether picking up a book or choosing a new pair of shoes. If we like a brand, an author or a particular subject, buying into the images associated with it makes us feel like part of that club—think branded merchandise, fan tattoos, pin-up posters.
It’s therefore no surprise that the arrival of virtual pinboard Pinterest is creating such a buzz, not just for social media junkies but for brands looking for new and engaging ways to promote their products.
Founded in 2009, Pinterest is a social sharing website with 12 million monthly unique users (approximately 200,000 of whom are now in the UK); it’s one of the fastest-growing social networks online and has been hailed by some as the next social media game changer (after Facebook and Twitter). And it’s not just a pretty place to pin your favourite pictures: according to Shareaholic, Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Reddit, Google+ and LinkedIn.
So what does this mean for publishers? Regardless of whether you’re riding the social media wave or are slightly more cynical, now is definitely the time to be experimenting with Pinterest. No one knows its exact potential, but the idea of exploring innovative ways to tell a story and deliver content to our readers online is one that we should all be getting excited about.
Engagement is key—as with any social media, Pinterest is not just a tool for shameless self-promotion, pushing out covers and content. Every profile comes with the default board "Books Worth Reading" which is certainly a start—great if you can get your titles onto the book boards of key influential pinners—but it has the potential to be used for so much more: creating an environment for your readers to explore; giving titles a lifestyle positioning by image association; seeking reader feedback; running competitions; crowd sourcing . . . the list goes on.
Publisher activity on Pinterest is very much in its infancy, with a lot of companies still getting to grips with yet another social media tool. Some are a little further down the line; one great example being Scholastic in the States, which has managed to create an engaging environment for book lovers which absolutely avoids the hard sell.
Authors like Little, Brown’s very own Carole Matthews are also getting involved, reaching out to readers with boards covering everything from cakes and baking to recommended reads.
Is Pinterest the new Twitter? Only time will tell, but every sign suggests it’s set to grow in terms of both users and influence. And at a time where every online reference, link and referral is of increasing importance to publishers, it would be foolish not at least to dip a toe in the waters.