Pinterest: The Social Platform Your Restaurant Should Be On

By Kaitlin Ohlinger, Foodable Contributor

In our current social-media drenched society, coming up with a strategy that works best for your product or brand is all about getting the most possible visibility out of each channel. Facebook seems to get most of the attention, but its algorithm often results in less actual views- unless you want to fork over some cash to promote a post. Pinterest offers a sneaky little alternative that might be easy to dismiss as just a fad to those oblivious to its charms. Just remember: Pinterest went from non-existence to an estimated $11 billion dollar valuation in just six years. There just might be something to it.

A psychological marketing tool at its finest

What exactly is it that makes Pinterest so powerful? Marketing 101 would tell us that the driving force behind most marketing strategies is inclusion. A person’s need to feel included, and desires to include others. Pinterest’s attractive layout is simply a way for people to share ideas; to include others in their thoughts, likes and dislikes. To your average user (and there’s an 85 percent chance she’s female), Pinterest is less about “look at how great my life is” and more about “here are things I love, want to do, or find inspirational.” It is a place to organize and to streamline, two of women’s favorite things. This is all fine and good, but how exactly can a restaurant brand spin this to their advantage?

The Best of the Best

Screenshot of Panera's Pinterest Board | Panera

Screenshot of Panera's Pinterest Board | Panera

One company that has done just that is Panera Bread, who’s Pinterest account boasts close to 50,000 followers. Facebook and Twitter are simple ways to engage customers, whether it be promotions, specials, or just talking about a new offering. Meanwhile, Pinterest is a good way to showcase what you’re about as a company. For example, Panera has boards titled “Live Consciously,” “Know your Food,” “Power your Day” and “Panera in the Community.”

Rather than blatantly acting in self-promotion with boards devoted to what they actually sell, Panera is instead taking company philosophies and turning them into something to look at. Since Pinterest is really a place to display things you want to be, this is perfect. Their “Savor Good Food” board seems to get the highest number of re-pins. Pinterest is a popular place to organize recipes for most users. While they’re not offering up recipes for items they serve in their restaurants, they’re instead promoting the philosophy of enjoyment. They’re creating brand awareness, broadening their audience, and best of all, it costs zero dollars.

Chipotle takes a similar approach with their Pinterest strategy. With board titles like “Eat,” “Build,” “Cultivate” and “Learn,” the simplicity seems to be token. Their “Grow” board is a popular one; it contains pins on how to grow cilantro, jalapeño peppers, composting, and gardening with children. They’ve tied in their brand in a clean and thought-provoking fashion.

Jimmy John’s Pinterest board, on the other hand, leans in a humorous direction, with boards like “Funny Schtuff” that includes everything from memes about Jimmy John’s itself to quips about National Sandwich Day.

Does it work?

Now you’ve had more fun creating boards and pinning than you ever remember having on Facebook. But does all this excitement translate to dollars? Chances are you’ll have to stick with it if you intend to get actual results. While a recent HelloSociety study showed that 88 percent of people purchase a product they’ve pinned, that doesn’t quite add up when all you’ve done is create a warm fuzzy picture of what your company is about.

The most successful restaurants on Pinterest are ones that are consistent and that are actively engaging with their followers. It may seem like it should be at the bottom of your priority list, but “liking” or repinning something goes a long way towards nurturing the little “community” you’re creating with your Pinterest account. Making people feel included, after all, will inevitably result in more brand loyalty. Isn’t that what you were going for all along?

Social media is a fickle beast, and just when it seems like you’ve mastered one, along comes another. Some fizzle (remember Four Square?) and some stay the course. Pinterest helps you tell your story, increase web traffic and helps you gain insight into what your customers actually care about. It's here to stay.