PALO ALTO, Calif. — Pinterest, the most recent darling of the social media world, is seemingly made for people who enjoy food and want to share it. Users create virtual pinboards on any subject they like, where they can tack photos that are linked to articles or web content.
The themes of these pinboards often exert users’ personal style or interests, whether through food, fashion, home decoration or craft ideas.
With customers actively sharing food ideas on Pinterest, it’s not surprising that some retailers have been using Pinterest to share recipes with beautiful images of food, information about fresh foods and cooking tips.
PCC Natural Market’s food writer Karen Gaudette said the retailer started “pinning” early this year with just a few boards that mimicked PCC’s Twitter and Facebook outreach. These included “a daily dinner recipe, dessert ideas, articles on health and cooking topics within our community,” she said.
Since then, Gaudette said PCC has expanded to 15 boards with seasonal recipes and cooking tips for specific food groups PCC customers are interested in.
“Each of these boards is in line with our brand. We offer our members and shoppers high-quality, healthy foods and celebrate eating what’s in season,” she said.
As the main person who works with Pinterest at PCC, Gaudette said she spends only about 10 minutes a day updating boards.
“It helps that I’m one of the main marketing writers and also have a hand in developing our videos, podcasts and other media, so that I have a running library of content in my head from which to pull ideas.”
Pinterest boards can help establish retailers as cooking resources and get consumers excited about food.
Gaudette said she has been experimenting with themed boards that answer common customer questions like, “What do I do with this kale? How do I fit more whole grains in my diet?”
“The ‘How to enjoy leafy greens’ board features PCC Deli recipes, a podcast we created about their nutritional benefits, an article from our Sound Consumer newspaper, and one of our in-house PCC Quick Bites videos with cooking tips from our nutrition educator,” Gaudette said.
And Pinterest users have been responding to PCC’s content. After a month of PCC’s using Pinterest, Gaudette said that the site became one of the top 10 referring sites to PCC’s website, pccnaturalmarkets.com.
Produce For Kids has also had success with using Pinterest. Public Relations and Social Media Manager Amanda Keefer told SN that PFK’s Pinterest traffic just edged out Facebook traffic last month.
PFK, which pins content from PFK’s own recipes as well as recipes from food bloggers, has around 70 followers for each of its boards, with themes like great ideas for sides, salads, appetizer ideas, delicious decor and seasonal bites.
PFK tries to include those recipes that incorporate the freshest, in-season produce, Keefer said, noting that PFK looks for simple and unique ideas that would appeal to parents.
PFK even added three members of its Parents on Produce advisory group as contributors to their own Pinterest board.
“They can pin whatever they want to it, whether it be from their own blog site or from something that they found from another site that they think our followers may be interested in.”
The social media heavyweight Whole Foods Market has been very active on Pinterest, pinning content from its own site and other websites. As of last week, Whole Foods had over 19,600 followers.
While a lot of the content Whole Foods pins is recipe related, its boards include beautiful photos of fresh foods, favorite books, crafts and gadgets.
Like PCC, Whole Foods chooses its content based on its customers, and those customers are likely to be interested in things like quirky crafts (growing succulents in old wine corks) or in simple, new recipes (oven baked avocado and egg).
Alison Ilg, president of Ilg Communications in Atlanta, stressed that pins need a good visual with information or tips, such as recipes, coupons, suggestions for different ways to use household items, ideas for home parties, or seasonal information. A summer-themed board might show shoppers which produce items are in season, she suggested.
Along those lines, a retailer might highlight different cuts of meats with links to recipes.
For a Pinterest user to click on an image or to re-pin the image to one of her boards, it has to be a great image, Ilg said.
“I think that’s the goal, too, you want people to go to your place, but you also want them to pin, to post what you have up there on their board.”
With social media in general, brands don’t want to be too self promotional, so supermarkets don’t want to be just pin back to their own web content, said Jessica Levin, president of Seven Degrees Communications, Edison, New Jersey.
“Supermarkets, they’re in a great position because anything they go out and pin, people are going to have to come back to them to actually purchase … ingredients.”
Also, Levin said retailers should make sure their presence on Pinterest fits the brand of the individual retailer. A high-end retailer might look at sophisticated recipes, where budget retailer might go for budget-friendly meals.
To vary board content, Ilg suggested that retailers might partner with produce boards or sources they trust, and pin to their content.
While Pinterest is an interesting tool for sharing information, there are some copyright concerns retailers should keep in mind. Individual Pinterest users are liable for copyright infringement, not Pinterest.
“Most of the time, when someone uses Pinterest, they’re sort of grabbing that image, it’s taken out of context and it doesn’t go with its source or a way to credit where it actually came from,” Deborah Gonzalez, intellectual property lawyer and founder of Atlanta-based legal consulting firm Law2sm, told SN.
“So a lot of the images have copyright by the photographer who has taken it, or has copyright by the illustrator or the artist who drew it.”
Even if retailers choose to use their own content, there are other concerns.
While Gonzalez was hopeful that Pinterest will eventually be learn how to assure content creators their content is being protected while allowing people to continue to share inspiration on Pinterest, she urged caution, noting businesses have a higher probability of liability than individuals.
“And so I think companies, businesses, right now need to be very, very careful. This might be a thing that they just want to wait and see,” before participating in it, Gonzalez said.
“But, they should still be aware of the conversation, aware that it exists.”