April 24, 2012
Case Study

Social Email Marketing: 256% higher clickthrough rate on tweaked Pinterest promo for nonprofit

SUMMARY: Companies are starting to dip their toes into Pinterest, a fast-rising social network that focuses on sharing content. Some email marketers are already figuring out what works when promoting their company's Pinterest pages, and what doesn't.

This article describes how a marketing team evolved the promotion of its Pinterest presence in its email newsletter and increased response for three consecutive sends. You'll see each of the emails and how the team plans to push response further in the future.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

Pinterest may have just popped up on your radar, but the team at VolunteerSpot was on the content-sharing social network months ago.

VolunteerSpot provides an online coordination tool for volunteers, teachers and other groups, and it has primarily grown through social media. The team has more than 18,000 likes on Facebook and more than 6,000 followers on Twitter. Its users are typically moms ages 35 to 50 who are active in their communities.

"We have grown on a ridiculously small, shoestring marketing budget to 1.4 million volunteers, and the way we've done that is by being very active in social communities," says Karen Bantuveris, CEO, VolunteerSpot.

The team launched a Pinterest account about eight months ago and has more than 700 followers across a handful of its "boards" (more on those in a moment). The network is now the fourth-largest source of traffic to VolunteerSpot's site.

The team promoted its Pinterest boards to email newsletter subscribers for three consecutive months this year, gradually increasing response every time. Here's how they did it.

Step #1: Have a Pinterest profile

Bantuveris' team almost felt pulled into Pinterest by its audience, she says. The network focuses on sharing images, and people were "pinning" images with links to VolunteerSpot's content before the company set up a profile.

"For us, the same moms who are blogging, the same moms who are active in our Facebook community, they were active in Pinterest, so it just made sense that we find another way to authentically engage with them," Bantuveris says.

Share content and ideas

The team now has 12 boards, which act as categories of shared content such as "class party ideas" and "teacher gift ideas." One person at the company spends about one hour each week adding images to the boards (called "pinning").

The images are often linked to other VolunteerSpot content, such as blog posts. People can follow the company's boards and "repin" images to share them with followers. The team's goal is to broaden its reach by sharing information that interests its audience and encouraging people to pass it on.

"We thought, 'How could we broaden this for our community, but do it in an authentic way that's actually adding value to our community?'" Bantuveris says. "We don't want to be commercial. We want to just be having another way to share resources and capture great ideas and share great ideas."

Step #2. Test "follow us" call-to-action

The team first promoted its Pinterest presence in the February edition of its monthly email newsletter.

The center of the email focused on news and helpful content for the audience. The left sidebar featured a link to follow VolunteerSpot on Facebook, followed by a list of links to articles and e-books. At the bottom of the sidebar, the email featured:
  • Pinterest's branded name plate

  • Link to the network

  • Link to follow the team there

  • Pinterest's logo

The Pinterest-related links earned a .09% clickthrough rate in the email. Since the newsletter's average total clickthrough rate ranges from 1% to 3%, the team wasn't impressed with the results and wanted to improve.

Step #3. Test "How to get started" info

Four-fifths of Pinterest's users are female, and 81% of its audience is between the ages of 25 and 54, according to Ignite Social Media. This fit nicely with VolunteerSpot's user profile, but the team could not assume that its email subscribers were already familiar with the social network.

The second email newsletter, sent in March, included more information for subscribers who were not familiar with Pinterest. The email included the same promotion as the February email and was in the same location, but it also included a link to a blog post with more information.

Here's the text that highlighted the blog post:

Curious about how to get started?
Please check out:
Pinterest Tips for Teachers and Room Parents

The Pinterest-related links in this email earned a 0.25% clickthrough rate, which is a 178% increase over the first email. The link to the blog post captured nearly one-third of the clicks to Pinterest content.

The team realized that including more information likely helped response, but it wanted to push results higher.

Step #4. Test shorter copy with examples

The text in the team's previous promotions mentioned that VolunterSpot had created "boards" on Pinterest (a way to organize shared content). However, anyone unfamiliar with Pinterest would not know what a board was.

For the third email newsletter, delivered in April, the team kept the promotion in the same spot, but cut the initial copy from 27 words to five. The copy no longer referred to boards, but the team included the following in the ad:
  • Copy with links: "We're collecting on Pinterest. Please Follow Us!"

  • Links to VolunteerSpot's Pinterest boards on ideas for volunteer recognition and teacher appreciation

  • "How to get started" information and link (same as the previous email)

This promotion earned a 0.32% clickthrough rate to Pinterest-related content, a 256% increase over the team's first promotion. The two links to VolunteerSpot's boards captured 59.9% of those clicks.

Looking Ahead: Feature more content

The volume of traffic the emails drove to the team's Pinterest profile was not large (best measured in hundreds, not thousands), but the team plans to improve it further. Going forward, it will continue to feature the network, but will change how it highlights the resources VolunteerSpot provides there.

"We learned to evolve our message to say, 'Here's something that's actually useful and relevant for you,'" Bantuveris says. "They are going to click that [explanatory content] more than they're going to click just 'follow me.'"

For the next newsletter, the team plans to include pictures of its Pinterest boards, Bantuveris says, which the team hopes will provide a compelling sample of what subscribers can find on the network and encourage them to click.

Creative Samples

  1. Email 1

  2. Email 2

  3. Blog post in email 2

  4. Email 3

  5. Volunteer recognition board

  6. Teacher appreciation board



Pinterest: VolunteerSpot

Campaigner - powered the team's email newsletter

Ignite Social Media: Pinterest Demographic Data

Related Resources

Social Media Marketing: An early look at how marketers can use Pinterest

Email Newsletters: Social media integration yields 135% more traffic for New York Public Library

Social Email Marketing: KFC’s Double Down email launch

Social Media Marketing: Viral sweepstakes targeting moms grows Facebook audience 4,488%

Social Media Marketing: Should Facebook host your landing page?

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