Pinteresting Stats?!

A couple of months ago I went to an introduction to Pinterest session run by Creation Social Media which inspired me to create a Pinterest account. I blogged about it and promised to report back on the success of my trial. Obviously this trial has only been running for 2 months and is not that scientific in that my working patterns have made consistent posting rather difficult (!) and I have also been increasingly using Hootsuite to post to multiple social media locations which could affect the success of Linked In and Twitter. However I have seen some very interesting trends during this time and I wanted to share my thoughts.

Impression 1: A picture of success!

After setting up the Pinterest account I had a flourish of interest with my pins being repinned, a new visitor source on my site stats, and most interesting of all the duration of time spent on my site by Pinterest visitors was markedly more than my traditional sources of traffic (Google, Direct and Twitter). In fact my conversion measurements (duration and contacts) were very high from these original PInterest visitors. This was very much as had been predicted during the  introduction session that I’d been to and I was pleasantly surprised as I didn’t think my largely ungraphical business model would lend itself well to marketing via a picture based site.

Impression 2: PInterest responded better when traffic pushed by Twittter?

After this initial flurry of activity over the first couple of weeks traffic started to return to the usual patterns and it seemed, from the timing of visits and my tweets, that I would only see activity from PInterest if I pushed traffic to Pinterest via Twitter and they subsequently visited the site. I suspect that this is because much of the content I was adding to the PInterest was linked to my regular blogs and that this resulted in regular PInterest activity on my part being on a less frequent basis than the number of my tweets. However the other interesting stat I saw was that the engagement or visit duration of these visitors was dwindling and as they were mostly repeat visitors I suspect that this is because the ‘new’ factor had gone, they’d seen the main site content before and were just viewing the blog or had seen the blog elsewhere.

Finishing Figures: Fizz fizzled out.

By the end of the two month period I have virtually no visitors from PInterest anymore compared to my other regular sources, and those that I am seeing are not sticking around or converting.
In all honesty as those who do follow me on PInterest will know I haven’t actively pushed PInterest for the past fortnight but the trend was very clearly moving this way and I don’t suspect it would have made much significant difference. In reality the initial interest generated by PInterest just wasn’t there anymore.

What does it all mean?

I don’t think you can judge PInterest on these stats. Apart from the inconsistent approach I’ve used, I have always been uncertain that my business was well suited to advertising through this model and I know other businesses have had more success with it. In reality my business is a service that I provide so people are more likely to look for me through Linked In or find me by recommendation or searching for my skillset. However there are some learnings I think I can make from what I’ve seen:

  • PInterest was more successful when I backed it up with other Social Media tools such as Twitter and when it linked to blogs.
  • Fun pictures were great at generating click through traffic but Infographics had a far better engagement level when the visitors reached the site (I believe they were better targetted to my audience)
  • Repinning other pictures and sharing on PInterest increased my follower base but not necessarily in the right target market and didn’t seem to have a material impact on my overall website stats. However the figures I have are not really large enough to make a call on this for certain. I suspect it is like Twitter or Facebook, conversation and engaging with other users is important to build a community but only a percentage of that community may actually want to use your services regularly. The rest may be just browsing.
  • PInterest like all Social Media tools is only good when you use it regularly, keep updates new, fresh and relevant, and have eye catching graphics.

Have you used PInterest for your business yet? What are your findings? I’d love to hear what you think.

Grabbing your Pinterest at Social Media Week Stirling

This week has been Social Media Week, events were running from San Francisco to Glasgow bringing people together in the physical world to share their knowledge of being Social in the online world; and here is Stirlingshire events were being run too, thanks to a collaberation between Stirling University and STEP.

I made it to a few of the events starting with a look at Social Media Monitoring with Figure 11 Comms and my week’s events culminated on Friday with a really interesting talk on linking CRM (a set of processes and tools to manage your contacts & customers) to Social Media from Wildcat Solutions, and as an added bonus Catriona Cripps who was giving the talk tied it into MacMillan Cancer Coffee morning by bringing along tasty cakes. I took away several ideas and pieces of software I am keen to research further from this and I may write another blog on my findings further down the line.

However the highlight of the week for me was the talk which Creation Social Media ran on PInterest on Friday morning. They really opened up my eyes to the power of PInterest as a marketing tool for all types of company and not just those who are more graphically inclined. The statistics around the reach of PInterest were staggering for a site which has been around for a relatively short time even in Social Media terms; and the talk opened up some really interesting discussion on the type of use the site could have in the future. It will be a very interesting topic to follow over the next year I’m sure.

It was an engaging talk which has gone so far as to inspire me to set up a PInterest page for Saja Ltd. I shall be interested to monitor the use of PInterest as new developments and digital marketing strategies start to consider and incorporate the power of the pin.

Let me know your thoughts – Do you think you’re making the most of PInterest yet or do you think this is a pin which will lose its sharpness once the novelty wears off? As anew convert I’d love to know your views.

Are your users always right?

I have a fairly fundamental belief that your users and your customers needs should be at the heart of any website. If the people that the website has been built for don’t like the website and don’t find it easy to use then they won’t come back and use it again. Websites should support their customers in achieving their goals. This is a principle which was at the heart of the project I ran for Age UK but which has been key in the websites I have worked on across my career.

I am a huge advocate of User Testing and have really enjoyed working with some great usability companies who have time and again upheld my belief in the importance of this step in web design projects. You would think then that I would also believe that when it comes to feedback on design changes that users are always right, but this is not necessarily the case. The challenge is that people don’t like change, even if the change is for the better. This may sound a little contradictory to my statements above but I have time and again seen it when you carry out user testing with regular users of a site versus new users of a site:

  • When new users to a site are shown an old version of the site and a new version which has been designed with the user journey in mind, if the site has been designed well then the new site will usually be preferred. They have no preconceptions or user journey to unlearn.
  • When existing users to a site are shown an old version of the site and a new version of the site their previous experience will impact their decision. They may be expecting content to be in a certain place having ‘learnt’ that it is there, and they have to ‘relearn’ the new version. This can initially make a site seem less friendly.

Users don’t always know what it is that they don’t like about the new site and are not always as clear about why they are finding it difficult. This in itself suggests that the problem is not with the new site but in that they were used to something else. The phrase that sticks out in their feedback is often “it’s different” or “why has it changed?”.

We hate the Timeline Facebook Share image
We hate the Timeline – an image currently being shared on Facebook in objection to the recent changes to the user interface

For long established sites this creates a real challenge in progressing change without frustrating the existing users, and I believe the key here is communication. The most visible case of this at the moment is on Facebook where there seems to be a large number of users sharing the “We hate the Timeline” image from Occupy Wall St’s profile. I have asked friends who have shared this image why they don’t like the Timeline and they find it very difficult to tell you why. I am actually fairly neutral in this debate, and can see real value for organisations in the Timeline interface, however I shouldn’t be surprised to see it’s created such a huge backlash in the general user base. It is a big change and I believe it wasn’t well communicated what was happening, when it was happening or why. This has left the majority of the Facebook users confused & upset.

So are these users right or are they wrong? Well without wanting to sound like I’m sitting on the fence I don’t think they are right or wrong, I believe the key is in understanding: understanding the challenges in learning a new site for both new and existing users, and helping all users to understand any changes being made.

As digital experts managing web projects, and as designers, we need to work with experts and work with users to try and balance this difference of opinion, introduce change in a controlled way, and ensure that resistance to change doesn’t stifle innovation and long term improvements.

What do you think? Have you encountered resistance to change within your organisation or your user base and how have you overcome it? 

Is the Olympics effect on Social Media usage a spike or the start of a trend?

It’s difficult not to know the Olympics is being hosted by London this year. It’s on the TV, it’s on the radio, it’s in the news, and it’s the talk of offices and coffee shops all over the country… and most interestingly it is also the first Olympics year in which Social Media has been playing a huge part in those conversations.

There were fears before the Olympics that the infrastructure may not be able to cope with the influx of twitter use, photo texts, mobile TV, & Facebook status updates etc which were expected during the opening ceremony and the events in general. Most of these concerns seem unfounded but the fact that Twitter has repeatedly hit the news since the start of the Olympics, including for impacting the ability of broadcasters to get accurate information on the cycling road race and for the abusive messages sent to Tom Daley, does demonstrate that the use of this particular type of Social Media is now an integral part of the Olympics 2012.

I have friends who are lucky enough to have obtained tickets for Olympic events who are posting photos and results to Facebook, I am following numerous Twitter feeds of athletes, reporters and broadcasting organisations & am enjoying participating in sharing results and supporting and discussing the various events. For someone such as myself who has not managed to get tickets, and who really wanted them, it has helped to make me feel involved and helped to bring to the event to life. Interestingly I am also seeing increasing involvement from less sporty friends and colleagues who would not normally be interested in the Olympics but who are finding themselves drawn in to the excitement and able to follow the sports better due to the increased information available at our fingertips.

I am sure there will be numerous stats available around usage of various media during the Olympics, and I very much hope that the many companies using social media as a marketing tool linked to the Olympics are measuring it’s success. It will be really interesting to look into these and see how the usage is split across the various media, and whether conversations and engagement were up as well as broadcasting of messages. However I think even at this early stage we can say it’s been a big impact.

For me though, the big question we can’t answer yet is: Is any increase in the use of Social Media resulting from the Olympics likely to be the start of a more general increase in usage – or is this just a large spike and the normal trends will resume in a few weeks time. What do you think?

How do you use your Intranet?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Intranets this year. The question is coming up more frequently with clients as to how to use Intranets to lower costs, and improve employee engagement; and the one word which keeps coming up in one form or another is Collaboration. How do you get turn your Intranet into a tool which employees both want and need to use on a daily basis, and one which they use for working with other employees?

Collation of Intranet tool images
Collaboration seems to have been the buzz word of 2011. Much in the same way that Social Media has really taken off and become a key tool for businesses to talk to their customers, it seems that Social Media type tools are being increasingly used to engage and communicate with staff. Bulletin board and twitter style update tools that spring to mind which are focussing on this niche are yammer and but it still seems to me that these one-line Facebook style updates provide just one channel and you can’t rely on all employees wanting to to engage in this way. Often they will be trying to find or communicate information regarding policies or procedures which are better housed in a document library or sent only to certain individuals.

Back in 2001 I worked with Phones4u when John Caudwell hit the news for banning email. I have no idea if he was the first big business man to hit upon this concept, and he certainly hasn’t been the last – in fact Atos recently declared a ban on all internal emails. In principle there is a sound argument that emails are distracting, prevent people from doing their day to day job, and that people overly rely on it for all communications, when often picking up the phone and talking is a far better way to get a resolution. However in truth, like with bulletin or discussion boards this is only one channel and it is about using it in the correct way. Email is a very efficient tool for confirming actions & minutes, sending contracts & agreements or providing notifications of events. Where email fails it is frequently because it is being used instead of conversation. The Inbox fills up and the important notifications get missed. However, in today’s world of overcrowded diaries,  flexible hours and working in different locations and different time zones, an alternative mechanism for conversation than face to face meetings is still required.

For the past decade or so I think it’s fair to say that Intranets have most commonly been used as a broadcasting tool and document repository; with sales messages, staff policies, organisation charts, structure changes and staff bulletins being the key purpose of the site. Unfortunately over time many Intranets have become clogged with information, with fewer people keeping them up to date and relevant information becoming increasingly more difficult to find. More recently Intranets have been plugged into more interactive tools such as HR systems, time management systems or Management Information Systems. However there was still largely a disparity between the types of interaction: interaction between users and Intranet tools, and interaction between multiple users.

Increasingly though organisations are spotting this gap. The fact that employees are having to move between email, Intranets and various interactive tools is being seen as a barrier to efficiency; and so there is a desire to bring the systems together and the line between which mechanism to use when is becoming increasingly blurred. When you look at systems such as IBMs Connections software which links email to a social media type interactive bulletin/discussion board, and can also host content managed web copy and documents or when you look at the various ways you can use Sharepoint tas a web publishing tool for both pages and documents, and where you can not only publish documents but feedback on them and introduce version control – then you start to realise how joined up Intranets could really become.

It is great to see more organisations looking to technology to improve efficiencies in this way. Too often I think Intranet projects are given lower priority as they are not seen to bring in the value to organisations that more commercial e-commerce based web projects could bring. However I do think that before any business embarks on this road it’s important that they go back to basics and identify the key requirements:

  • Who do staff need to communicate/interact with to do their day to day job?
  • What tools do staff need to do their day to day job?
  • What information does staff need to do their day to day job?
  • How are you going to train staff as to which elements to use for which types of communication and then ensure a culture of correct use is followed?

If you start to get too carried away with the technology, or don’t invest the time and therefore forget to ask these key areas, then I fear that no matter what solution is put in place it will ultimately grow into another example of an Intranet which ultimately is undervalued.