Facebook may be the king of social platforms, but for Gardener’s Supply Company, it’s all about Pinterest, which brings the company far more traffic and revenue.
With 1.65 billion monthly active users – nearly a quarter of the Earth’s population, including infants – Facebook is a must for any marketer in 2016.
Gardener’s Supply Company (GSC) does use Facebook, where it has 105,000 fans, but it’s hardly the crown jewel of its paid social strategy. In fact, GSC sees five times as much revenue from Pinterest, in addition to 12 times as much traffic.
According to Max Harris, vice president of ecommerce at GSC:
The contrast for my business between Facebook and Pinterest is overwhelming. Honestly, Facebook has gotten harder, not easier, for us as it’s become increasingly pay-to-play. Compelling content that used to garner a lot of engagement isn’t getting as much because Facebook is trying to get us to boost those posts and pay for eyeballs.
Gardening is a hobby that really lends itself to Pinterest, which Harris thinks of as “digital scrapbooking.” It’s obviously highly visual and something that tends to instill a lot of passion in people, who are proud of what they’ve grown.
But mostly, there’s a community element to gardening. Just like there are a million different ways to tweak a recipe, there are a innumerable factors that can affect a plant’s growth. If you really think about it, of course gardeners are going to seek each other out on social media.
A lot of gardeners do the same things, but they might do might it at very different times and they might have to employ different techniques to be successful. In Vermont, I’m trying to make sure I get enough sun on my tomatoes to get a harvest, and then in Texas and Arizona, they have to worry about shade. It’s sharing happiness in what I call ‘over the fence,’ where the neighbor is peeking over to say, ‘How did you do that?’ Digital enables people to do that on a massive scale.
Harris saw the potential in Pinterest right away. GSC has always been impressively ahead of the curve when it comes to digital; the Vermont-based had a Yahoo store more than a decade ago and got into paid search well before “Google” was a verb.
A few years back, the company noticed a lot of traffic coming from Pinterest, which was still in beta at the time and a total unknown.
“It was really resonating with my customers so I needed to personally invest in trying to understand it,” says Harris.
It’s still resonating with his customers; today, the company has 50,000 followers. The platform has become big enough for GSC that it’s now a given that any marketing will have a Pinterest component.
We don’t just launch new campaigns on the website, and put them in the catalogs and in the window of the store. We make sure we build a board around it and we promote that board. We’re doing branding on Pinterest and tweaking our pins on a daily basis.
The company also does six overhauls a year to refresh its content. New boards reflect different merchandise and times of year. For instance, the tomato board isn’t a permanent fixture, as Southern California and the Florida Keys are among the only places in the U.S. where tomatoes are always in-season.
Another of GSC’s Pinterest success strategies is its “in sitchu” photographic style, which is short for “in situation.” Products are always shot in a real world setting, rather than against a white background, which results in clean silhouettes.
But nothing has done more for GSC than Buyable Pins. The company got in early, having been Demandware’s first U.S. client when the ecommerce software platform first enabled Buyable Pins last summer.
Buyable Pins are free, so without any cost burden beyond development, GSC saw ROI from their increased visibility straightaway. Harris expects to see significantly more as the company adds more functions to its Buyable Pins and as people get more comfortable thinking of Pinterest as a commerce platform.
We make decisions based on meeting the customer where she is. Twitter, for us, is not terribly compelling and aggressively paying to play on Facebook just has not been a top priority. Buyable Pins has been our most transformative revenue factor in social.