October 02, 2012
Case Study

Social Email Marketing: Contest adds 200% more Pinterest followers and engagement

SUMMARY: Pinterest is not your granddaddy’s social network. The site is dominated by images and has a mosaic-like layout. Now that marketers have stepped in, how can they design emails that appeal to this photo-hungry crowd and attract followers?

One retailer launched a contest on Pinterest and promoted it in a custom email dominated by images. Audience growth shot up 200% during the campaign, and the email’s clickthrough rate beat last year’s by 66%. Find out how the team designed the email to grab attention.
by Adam Sutton, Senior Reporter

UncommonGoods had been on the photo-sharing website Pinterest for about a year. The retailer of creatively designed goods thought Pinterest aligned well with its customer base.

"It’s a very visual, very art-and-design kind of world, which is a good parallel for the products we sell," says Gabrielle Germaine, Associate Creative Director, UncommonGoods.

As spring approached, the company’s Pinterest profile had gained momentum. A growing number of people followed the brand and shared its content. The marketing team saw this as an opportunity to spur growth, and launched a contest.

UncommonGoods tried contests on the network before. However, the campaigns increased activity but did little to grow the audience. In response, the team tried something new: a dedicated email.

The team mentioned previous contests in emails, but it had never focused an entire message on one. With the email set, the team launched the contest in late June with good results:
  • 355 Pinterest followers added during the contest. This represents a growth rate about three times greater than the team’s average on the site

  • About 200% more engagement with UncommonGoods on Pinterest over the same period

  • 17% higher open rate compared to an email sent on the same day a year earlier

  • 66% higher clickthrough rate than the email delivered a year earlier

Here are the steps the team took in the campaign, and how it designed the email to connect with the design-savvy crowd on Pinterest.

Step #1. Build a base of active followers

Launching a contest on a social network is often easier with an audience. You are able to send the contest to your followers, and they can pass it to their contacts. This can be a cost-effective way to promote the campaign.

Before this campaign, UncommonGoods had been on Pinterest for about one year, building an audience of several thousand followers.

Pinterest basics

On Pinterest, users can create categories of content called "boards," and "pin" images to them. The "pins" typically link to a webpage, and a user can "follow" other people to see their pins.

For example, the marketing team at UncommonGoods has a design-savvy audience that follows its pins. The team often posts images that link to a product page, blog post or another design-related website.

Signs of traction

UncommonGoods links to its Pinterest profile, and provides "Pin It" buttons throughout its website, including these four locations:
  • Homepage

  • Persistent footer

  • Product pages

  • Company blog

Pinterest is often used more than twice as much as other networks to share a link to a product page, and it’s often the only network to reach triple digits.

"We came to discover that our customers really respond to Pinterest," Germaine says.

Step #2. Create a contest

The team knew contests engaged its audience on Pinterest, even if previous campaigns did not attract more followers. With Independence Day around the corner, the team launched a contest on June 22, with a summer theme.

Here’s how the contest worked:
  • Entrants had to create a Pinterest board titled, "UncommonGoods Backyard Party."

  • They had to pin images to the board that matched 20 topics the team listed in the contest rules. One topic, for example, was "backyard game." Entrants could add more than 20 images if they wished.

  • They also had to pin the image of the contest rules to the board.

The pinner with the best board (as chosen by the team) received a gift certificate. The certificate’s dollar amount started at $50, and increased by $50 for every 50 entries. A limit was set at $250.

Viral tactics in the rules

The first board users see after they log in is a "following" board. It displays images from everyone they follow on the network.

People who entered the contest had to create a new board and pin images to it. This sent the images to their followers, which both added a viral element to the campaign and helped reach people who did not follow UncommonGoods on the network.

Step #3. Promote the contest via email

The team announced the contest in a blog post and in a pinned image on the network. To give the campaign a harder push, the team also created a dedicated email to announce the contest to its database.

This was the first time the team sent a dedicated email to promote a Pinterest contest. Here are the features of the message:

  • Unique design -- UncommonGoods values creative design, and this philosophy extends to the company’s email marketing. The team strives to give each email a fresh look.

    "We don’t have a template," Germaine says. "We want our customers to not know what they’re going to get when they open the email. Every one is a little different."

  • Pinterest header -- The email’s headline banner declared "Happy Pinning" in the colors and font used by Pinterest. This quickly communicated the topic of the message. The right portion of the banner mentioned the contest with this text: "Pin for the Prize, Details Below."

  • Visual layout -- Pinterest is centered on images, and has a strong visual appeal. The site’s pin boards are displayed as collages, for example.

    The team took a similar approach in its email. The body resembled a Pinterest board. It featured 17 large images but very little text. Each image linked to a pin on the network.

  • Popular pins -- The team selected the 17 pins by popularity. Each pin either had attracted a high-level of activity on the network, or was a newer pin with a strong start.

    "We did some research on what items people were really responding to. We wanted to share them with other people in our email community who might not be as active on Pinterest," Germaine says.

  • Contest banner -- Below the body of the email and before the footer was a display ad that promoted the contest. The ad looked similar to the image of the contest rules on Pinterest. Clicking this ad brought readers to the contest image on the network.

The team sent the email to all subscribers who receive its promotional emails.

Challenge of email design

The amount of information the team had to squeeze into this email was one of the larger challenges of the campaign, Germaine says.

"We’re calling out a lot of items. We’re doing those calls-to-action throughout the email to get you onto the site, and we have the contest we’re advertising," Germaine says. "It was a lot of information to tell in a concise and compelling way without having information overload."

While some marketers may balk at using such a high number of images in an email, the message was designed to appeal to people in the company’s database who enjoyed Pinterest. It did this by mimicking the look of a Pinterest board.

Overall, the team felt the campaign was a success, Germaine says.

"There was an increase in pinning, especially the items that were top pins. … And because of the contest, we received more followers."

Creative Samples

  1. Pinterest buttons on homepage

  2. Pinterest shares on product pages

  3. Contest image

  4. Contest blog post

  5. Contest pin

  6. Contest email

  7. Contest closing blog post



UncommonGoods on Pinterest

Related Resources

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

B2B Social Media: How one marketer is utilizing Pinterest

Develop a Winning Combination for Social Media Integration: 9 tips from a recent MarketingSherpa webinar

Marketing Research Chart: Top social media objectives for 2011

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