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Should publishers care about Pinterest (even if it’s annoying)?

I saw that donut meme about social media for the first time last week and had a good laugh at the reductive accuracy of the whole thing and then another good laugh at the expense of Google+ (who I love dearly for their attention to detail, but can’t find a decent use for) and I was all ‘what the hell is Pinterest?’ and then I looked it up and realised it was like a mini Tumblr, and I was all ‘why would I care at all about this?’ and then I kept looking at it and I was all ‘hmm… wait a second…’. And then I requested an account.

Setting up your area on Pinterest is (dare I say it) moronproof – you divide your profile into boards (categories) and then add images to your boards from around the internet using the ‘Pin It’ browser plug in, or re-pinning other people’s content.

Looking for interesting people to follow is a lot harder. I found the search function wanting; the lack of any clearly-marked home or back buttons frustrating; the demarcation of users and links pretty poor. Maybe, like the smell of eggs on a bus, you get used to it. After about half an hour, I had only managed to find a couple of those naff life-affirming Instagrams and I was ready to give up.

Then I found this article about the level of engagement of Pinterest users vs Twitter users, and the Random House US Pinterest page and things started falling into place.

It’s not so surprising that Pinterest ‘engages users two to three times more efficiently than Twitter did at the same time in its history’. Interaction with content works on a pretty intuitive (as in standard) use of words and element placement – we’ve had time to get used to this ‘repin’, ‘like’ and ‘follow’ idea. But the fact that this start-up is also retaining users with a startlingly high level of time spent on the site indicates that both clichés ‘judge a book by its cover’ and ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ ring true for social media users.

From a publisher’s point of view, this is a sweet realisation. One of the problems with Twitter is all the cool design work you do on covers is wasted. You can take photos of the books or link to them, but it’s still at least one click from being seen – an action only the most engaged are likely to take, which sort of defeats the purpose.

But now these covers become the bulk of your identity. And by placing books in interesting categories (‘books that should be films’, ‘books that made us cry’ &c), you can draw attention to more engaging elements than a simple blurb or BIC code will allow.

Publishers can maintain a strong brand presence but also introduce that personal voice that we so often struggle with – something I think Random House have really nailed. The result: a shareable library of your books based on what you as a publisher loved about them in the first place.

Just go easy on the Instagrams, yeah?

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Felice Howden

Felice Howden had opinions before she knew what the word 'opinion' meant. She wrote for the publishing and ideas blog Socratic Ignorance Is Bliss, and has had short stories published around the place. She graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2008 with a degree in English and Philosophy, and now spends her time typing code and hatching brain eggs for the future of publishing in a major publishing house.

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