The “Interest Graph” is not the “Social Graph”. But what does that mean and why should you care?
Despite the rapid ascent of Interest-based platforms, such as Pinterest, Sulia, WeHeartIt and Wanelo, we rarely see dialogue about the Interest Graph except in a Social context. However, The Interest Graph and Social Graph are two fundamentally different infrastructures with different underlying assumptions for marketers.
Sure, they often overlap, but it’s time we come to appreciate their differences, so that we can be more effective marketers on a social web driven by people’s passions and interests.
So should you be social or interesting?
The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for Business
The social graph is about who you “know”
Friends, followers and connections represent some degree of familiarity, ranging from a spouse to someone you met once at that thing you went to. If you think in High School terms, the Social Graph is all about getting in with the cool kids, so you can multiply your reach and borrow from their swagger.
The basic assumption of “Social Marketing” is:
“If someone knows someone else, they will be interested in similar things”
The interest graph is about “passions”
In high school, the “Interest Graph” is like clubs or sports teams- a group of people coming together because they love to do the same thing. They may or may not be friends, may or may not know each other, but they share a common passion that brings them together. The more passionate they are the more likely they are to create, share and comment.
The basic assumption of Interest Marketing is thus:
“If someone is interested in something, people who are interested in similar things will be interested in that thing”
Social marketing is about reach
The more people who see your message, the further it will spread. This means you will need to continue to grow your social networks on Twitter to remain ahead of the competition. It’s about building an online distribution network.
Interest marketing is about relevance
If you hit the right audience with the right message, you can connect with valuable customers through a trusted authority.
Studies show that traffic from Pinterest is more valuable than traffic from Facebook and Twitter, likely because the audience is better qualified to begin with. That said, Facebook and Twitter still have substantially larger user bases, so if your strategy requires very broad reach, it may be easier to find it through the social web.
By digging deeper, other critical differences between Social and Interest-based marketing emerge. Let’s compare Facebook and Twitter, the preeminent Social networks with Pinterest, the preeminent Interest-based network to illustrate a few distinctions:
1. Content: Real-Time vs evergreen
Information about Interests becomes dated less rapidly than what’s trendy on the Social scene. If you’re interested in gardening, chances are an article about how to optimally plant daffodil seeds will be as relevant five years from now as it is today. Conversely, most news articles, events and other timely posts about the new blockbuster movie we’ll all forget in six months isn’t.
Cool comes from knowing what’s hot now; Interesting comes from knowing quality information. That’s why content on Pinterest lives longer than content on facebook.
As marketers, we need to differentiate our content strategy. All too often at Tailwind we hear “Pinterest doesn’t work for us. We’re sharing the same thing there as on facebook but not getting results.” It’s not that Pinterest “doesn’t work for you;” you’re just doing it wrong. Start with the audience on Pinterest and ask yourself- what content does this audience need? Chances are, it’s different from what your facebook audience needs. And if done properly, it can pay dividends over a much longer period of time- more similar to your SEO content strategy.
2. Discovery: Search vs stream
When Pinterest first gained notoriety, publications focused on their unique, scannable visual feed. While that feature has been very important in establishing Pinterest’s identity, interestingly Pinterest has recently focused on raising the profile of other methods of discovery – namely, Interests and Pinterest search. And this makes perfect sense: In Interest-based discovery, depth of content matters.
You may passingly decide to check out Breaking Bad, but once you get hooked, you may find yourself researching everything from the actors’ backgrounds to blue crystalline cake toppings for your next house party. With topical content, it’s rare that users go beyond the first article, and even more rare that enough information will be organized and accessible to dig deeper if you wanted to.
As a result, the stream is the thing- you want a wide variety of new content, but don’t need or expect to dig deeper on most social platforms.
3. Tools: Don’t ask your butcher to remove your appendix
Sure, surgeons and butchers both cut flesh daily, but when precision is necessary, call a surgeon. In the same vein, you shouldn’t look to tools built for Twitter or Facebook to develop your Pinterest strategy. As CEO of the leading Pinterest Analytics and Marketing tool, this suggestion probably seems self-serving. But if we didn’t see that the Interest Graph requires unique tools, we wouldn’t be building Tailwind in the first place. Let’s examine a few cases in point:
Tailwind initially took off as the go-to analytics tool for marketers on Pinterest. Today, over 12,000 brands rely on us for insights that inform their campaign strategies. At first our approach was similar to advanced Social analytics tools, but over time we realized that metrics need to be thought of differently for Pinterest. For example, Facebook and Twitter tools tend to focus on recent content, in a real-time feed, to help you understand which posts were more or less successful. For Pinterest, though, immediate analysis of content can lead to incorrect conclusions. Consider this case study of a pin that went viral six months after being posted.
Due to the evergreen nature of content, one must constantly refresh engagement data on past posts, as an individual pin may look like a dud after an hour or a day, but after connecting with the right interest group can become a star 14, 30 or even 180 days later. For this reason, we’ve built capabilities to be able to track the life of a pin over time, so when your late blooming content comes to life, you’ll (a) notice it and (b) be able to understand how and why it went viral.
Social CRM tools frequently emphasize who has the most followers, so you can amplify your message as quickly as possible. In a real-time, reach-based environment, this makes sense. Conversely, when you’re trying to amplify a message on Pinterest, what topics a user is influential about matters far more. Someone may have 2 million followers, but if their authority is in Men’s Clothing and Home Décor, paying them to pin your wedding pins isn’t likely a good use of marketing budget. At Tailwind, we solve for this, by showing our users what topics influencers are trusted about and helping identify impactful pinners for a topic, not just ones with high follower counts.
Discovering content to pin
Given the longevity of a pin, emphasis on visual content and focus on curation over creation, it might not surprise you that the top sources of content on Pinterest are quite different from the top sources on Twitter or Facebook. Topical, news-oriented content performs very well on platforms powered by the social graph, as timely content can spread rapidly through social circles.
On Pinterest the question is often- what are the best sources of content for a given topic. Thus, in order to help Pinners discover better content to pin, we had to dig deep into understanding the best sources of content on a given topic- often this means content is a bit less newsy in nature, as the news cycle doesn’t allow for deep coverage of many topics.
Which should I choose?
So, should you focus on the Interest Graph or Social graph?
Most likely, the answer is both. Most businesses need both broad reach and targeted marketing to fill their funnel. However, you may lean more heavily into…
Social if your business involves short blasts of intense promotion of unique products or content (e.g. concert promoters, news media), your audience knows each other well in real life (e.g. University Student Affairs Office) or the economics are driven more by volume alone (e.g. CPM-based publisher in non-niche category).
Interest-based Marketing if your business rotates products frequently but sells into the same audience (e.g. most retailers), serves customers with a specific hobby/passion (e.g. category-driven media publication), needs to be recognized as a subject matter expert (e.g. most service businesses) or targets an audience with common interests that’s geographically fragmented (e.g. camera manufacturers targeting photographers and wedding photography targeting brides).
Ready to start building your Interest Graph strategy? Check out 32 Do’s and Don’ts for Your Pinterest Marketing Strategy. It’s a great primer.
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