BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

A vision of the visual ...

I've known one of the authors of this book for a couple of years, both via the local Social Media scene, and from the late lamented Syncubator center where she had an office and P2PMicroversity (a start-up for which I'm a consultant) had “desk space”. Since she knew I was a book-reviewing fool, when this came up she asked if I'd be interested in having a go at it (duh!) and presented me with a signed copy at the release party last week. I also got to meet some of the publicists from Que Publishing (who I've had intermittent contact with on other books) at the party, which was down at Rockit (a frequent host for Social Media events). Anyway, this is to provide a bit of transparency to the fact that I'm not exactly coming to this book “cold”.

The authors, Jess Loren (@ChiTownJess) and Edward Swiderski (@ESwiderski) are the principals of the Kambio Group agency, which specializes in social media marketing … this book, Pinterest for Business: How to Pin Your Company to the Top of the Hottest Social Media Network is obviously an extension of their efforts in that context. I suppose at this juncture I need to take a step back and ask, do you know about Pinterest? … although, in the social media world, that's about like asking if you've breathed any air, I realize that in the “real world” these things take a while longer to get into the common consciousness. This is a site where you create “pin boards” on which you “pin” graphics. It's been around for a couple of years, but was in an invite-only “beta” until just this past August (the book was done before this change to open sign-up) … however, in that time, it managed to become the third largest social media platform (behind Facebook and Twitter), and was the fastest site to reach 10,000,000 users. There are various ways of getting graphics onto one's “boards”, “pin it” buttons provided on a site, a “pin it” thing you can install in your browser, and ways to directly upload from your computer.

The key thing, however, in approaching Pinterest for Business is that it is “for businesses” ... this is not really a guidebook for everybody, but a look at how companies can make use of this social media tool. Why should businesses want to be involved? Well, although the book doesn't really get into flinging around the data, there are figures out there which show that users are engaged with Pinterest for far longer than most other sites, and that it “converts” at a far higher rates as well. The book is structured as a walk-through, from basic explanations of what's what, and where the various bits are on the site, and how they work, to how Pinterest interfaces with other platforms. It then goes into some “psychology” of image-based messaging … in this it also introduces the “format” for most of the book, bringing up a subject, and finding somebody (in many cases these appear to be Kambio's clients) to interview on that topic … most of the book is set up with these brief interviews.

I must admit that I found the flow of the book less than ideal with this format, as there weren't a lot of clearly demarcated “topic shifts”. The authors introduce a subject, bring up a company that is doing something within that general area, go into an interview (or an extensive quote) from a representative of that company, then roll right into the next thing. I felt this would have greatly benefited from some graphic/design separation of these sections, and, to a large extent, chapters 3-6 (nearly 40% of the book), is one long run of this. There is a “design element” of screencaps of various companies' and individuals' profile images from Pinterest, but these don't necessarily divide topics (frequently 2-3 interviewees are involved in one subject), leading to a bit of a sense of run-on that could have been avoided by graphic elements (lines, themed dingbats, etc.) clearly delimiting where there was a shift in subject. I found the parts of the book where the authors themselves were digesting, organizing, and presenting the information the clearest, as in the “interview” portions it was frequently (in a casual read) a bit unclear who was saying what about what, and why specifically one should give particular weight to their reported opinions/experiences.

Also, I suppose in a book targeted to businesses contemplating developing a “Pinterest strategy”, it's not surprising, but I was somewhat taken aback by the heavy lean towards “professional services” suggested in the parts discussing photography and video. This is 180° from, say, Gary Vaynerchuk's approach of firing up a camera and going for “authentic”, or Carl White's iPhone “redneck teleprompter” set up, and, frankly, it seemed at considerable variance from the general Social Media DIY ethic.

While I suppose that it really had to be in there, one section came close to invalidated much of the main part of the book ... the discussion of legal issues. The potential “Achilles heel” of the Pinterest platform is the question of intellectual property, and it is arguable that, unless you are pinning only content that you yourself have created, every Pinterest user, personal or corporate, is in danger of being sued. Chicago's own “social media lawyer” Daliah Saper weighs in with the following:
”Pinterest specifically encourages users to surf the Web and 'pin' third-party content that does not belong to them and that they may not have the right to distribute.” … “Additionally, Pinterest's Terms of Use requires every user to agree that any content he or she pins or uploads does not and will not violate any law or infringe the rights of any third-party ...” … “If Pinterest gets sued because of the content a user posted on its site, the user, per the terms of use, also agrees to indemnify Pinterest (pay all Pinterest's legal fees and associated costs). ... Accordingly, when building a pinboard, businesses and professionals should be careful to only upload content that belongs to them or pin to content that they have been authorized or licensed to use.”
(emphasis mine) … Obviously, this is the “800lb gorilla” in the Pinterest room, because the dollars involved are not trivial - another lawyer interviewed notes: “A person who commits willful copyright infringement can be charged up to $150,000 per instance of infringement.”!   Every time I read this stuff I want to rush off to delete my Pinterest account because who knows what the legal status is of those cute/fun/interesting things that get repinned from Facebook, Google+, or various other places on the web are – and each pin (that isn't one's own creation) is a potential legal land-mine. All the “customer involving” boards and techniques discussed earlier in the book certainly have the potential of running afoul of this.

To avoid ending the book on this downer, there is a final chapter which features interviews with a few other companies, themed to the “future”, however, it's hard to get past the chief flaw of the platform. Obviously, companies developing Pinterest programs can (and, I suppose, should) focus on their own materials, and figure out ways to encourage the re-pinning of those by customers and other interested parties. In this case, the question of Intellectual Property rights are in the control of the business developing the boards … but it's hard to imagine the social media managers having to clear each and every “found” image that they might want to include on a board (which represents the vast majority of all pins out there) with their legal department!

Admittedly, this is a caveat dealing with the I.P. reality of Pinterest itself, rather than any fault of Pinterest for Business as a book. Over-all, this is a very useful survey of how to set up a Pinterest engagement program for a business, with most of the material coming from interviewees at companies who have been working with the platform (for the short while that it's been around – most of the case studies involved are only a year or so old). Needless to say, this isn't a book for the Social Media enthusiast, but for that MBA marketing person who wants to find out what this Pinterest thing they've heard of is about, and how it might help their business. The book's only been out a couple of months, so should be at your local brick-and-mortar book vendor that deals in business titles, and the on-line guys have it at a discount (and, unusually, the e-book versions are quite reasonably priced).

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Tags: book review
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