Tumblr, Pinterest, and Visual Content’s Fast-Rising ROI

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but for retailers looking to engage consumers via social media, that may be an understatement. Two new reports emphasized the high rates of sharing on Pinterest and Tumblr, illustrating not only a challenge to the dominance of Facebook for social media marketing, but also the increasing importance of visual content as a medium for social exchange. Even though we’re moving forward, we might as well be cavemen, communicating with drawings on walls.

The ShareThis Consumer Sharing Trends Report for Q4 2013 found that Pinterest is the fastest-growing social media channel when it comes to consumers passing along content. It grew 58 percent last quarter and outpaced Facebook. Does this point to a post-literate world where consumers want to click and point instead of read? And, if so, how can brands capitalize on it?

“Pinterest is telling us that we want to organize the web visually, and it’s an engaging medium with which to do so,” says Jennifer Hyman, chief marketing officer for ShareThis, a provider of tools and analytics for social media content. “Pinterest has been smart enough to branch out from pure retail, understanding that the whole web should be organized that way. Whether I’m planning a trip to Italy or looking for a great pair of shoes for my wedding, it’s the next evolution of organizing the web.”

Data from Adobe supports this theory, showing that visually-oriented social media sites are growing fast and providing good value to retailers. According to Adobe’s Q4 2013 Social Media Intelligence Report, social media sent more traffic to retailers than ever before. Even more relevant is revenue per visit. Pinterest’s revenue per visit rose 244 percent year-over-year, while Twitter’s rose 131 percent and Facebook’s went up 72 percent. Facebook may still be referring the most traffic to retailers overall, but Pinterest referred more revenue to UK retailers than Facebook last quarter, and Adobe expects Pinterest to exceed the revenue per visit of Facebook in the United States this year.

In a broader scope, images seem to be most engaging to consumers right now. While engagement rates for links, text and video posts all decreased, Adobe found posts that included images produced a 650 percent higher engagement rate than regular text posts.

When Nashville ad agency redpepper analyzed its Pinterest campaign for online furnishings merchant Kirkland’s, they found pins containing images and no text were 75 percent more likely to be repinned. The four-week Kirkland’s campaign was designed not only to create a strong presence for Kirkland’s on Pinterest, but also to expand the company’s consumer database. For that reason, redpepper built their own microsite called Pinning Parlor separate from Pinterest. All of the “pin it” buttons in the Pinning Parlor were tied to custom URLs containing unique Google Analytics information letting the company track items back to the source no matter how many times they were repinned.

“We put extra effort into development in order to making the experience just like the experience on Pinterest. Don’t make the consumer jump through hoops,” said redpepper CEO Tim McMullen. During the campaign, Kirkland’s reached approximately 250,000 pins, rivaling its top competitor Pottery Barn while surpassing West Elm and World Market.

This case study should serve as a reminder for retailers that aren’t taking Tumblr seriously. The product-friendly site is growing explosively and delivers high-quality traffic to retailers. In fact, when you look at revenue per visit, Tumblr has almost caught up to Facebook: Its average revenue per visit was $1.10 last quarter, very close to Facebook’s $1.22.

Tamara Gaffney, senior marketing manager for Adobe Digital Index, said Tumblr execs told her the site’s main demographic had begun shifting toward a higher income. Moreover, Gaffney agrees the visual appeal of Tumblr is happy news for retailers. “Everyone in social media is looking for a more visually stimulating platform,” she says. “That’s what going to happen in 2014 and 2015: Everyone will bring more visuals in front of your face.”

While some old-schoolers may bemoan a post-literate society, this is a trend that’s been building since the rise of the internet. The success of visual networks like Pinterest and Tumblr shows the need for brands to engage in multimodal conversations with consumers. Text will not disappear entirely, either. ShareThis noted that people are not only pinning more, they’re also pinning plenty of articles and recipes. So in the future, we balance our writing and visual cavemen tendencies.

For proof, look no further than this article: I’ve spent hours writing about 800 words, but on Tumblr and Pinterest, that wouldn’t even be worth one picture.

What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? It’s something we created at Contently because we believe in a world where marketing is helpful, and businesses grow by telling stories that people love. Take advantage of our tools and talent and come build that world with us.

Image by Randy Merrill

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