How Sony Became a Pinterest Rock Star

social media case studiesCallan Green, senior social media specialist at Sony Electronics, never thought she would want a pair of leather pants.

“But I saw enough pins on Pinterest that I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to own them,’ and I went out and bought some.”

It was the fall of 2011 and she was discovering firsthand the power of Pinterest to drive sales.

The image-based, pinboard-sharing social media site launched in March 2010 is now the third-largest social network, behind Facebook and Twitter.

In March 2012, it tallied 2.3 billion page impressions to over 4 million unique visitors a day.

“We were all using [Pinterest] personally,” said Green of the social media team at Sony Electronics, “and realized the power of the platform to drive people’s interest in purchasing.”

Organization: Sony Electronics

Social Media Handles & Stats:

Highlights:

  • Over 2,500 followers in the first six months since launching the Sony brand page on Pinterest
  • 800% increase in traffic from Pinterest to Sony Store website since launching the page
  • Pin It button has received more than 10 times the clicks from Sony Store vs. Tweet This button
  • More than 4 million brand impressions (via Curalate dashboard)

Here are 6 things Sony did to make Pinterest work for them.

#1: Research What People are Already Pinning

When they began research to find out what people were already pinning about Sony, they found a nascent community that was pinning not only Sony products, but also ads, logos, pictures taken with their Sony cameras and all manner of creative expression related to the brand. Launching a brand page seemed like a natural extension.

playstation tattoo

Fans were already pinning a wide array of images related to the Sony brand.

The Sony team identified three things they wanted to focus on with the platform:

  • Drive sales to the website
  • Increase brand affinity
  • Grow the Sony community

But before starting to think about driving sales or building the community, they put in three months of preparation planning and populating about 10 boards with visually appealing content—at first mostly repins of what others were already sharing.

When they felt they had a solid base of content, they launched the Pinterest Sony brand page both internally and externally at the same time, taking advantage of their biggest base of Sony fans—their employees—with an internal contest.

#2: Involve Employees and Internal Team from the Start

“We have so many Sony fans that are already at our fingertips, we wanted to get them involved from the very start. A lot of companies do this backwards, thinking of their employees last,” said Green.

The contest encouraged employees to check out and follow the Sony boards and to create a board of their own about what Sony meant to them.

Participation was better than expected, with several hundred employees requesting Pinterest invites and generating a slew of content that Sony was able to repin on the brand board.

“That content was key in helping us to turn around and repin to create better, more authentically pleasing boards,” said Green. “There are people who have been at Sony for 30 years, and they had access to assets that I’d never seen or even heard of.”

The team also reached out to the Corporate Communications team.

“They’ve been really helpful in sending us content for pins and creating content for us,” said Green.

The key to generating internal support is to give feedback about their contributions, letting them know what is working and what isn’t.

“More often than not, their ideas have worked and they get very excited and want to contribute more,” she said.

#3: Make Your Website Pinterest-Friendly

Company buzz from the contest also helped generate support internally to get the Pin It button on the Sony Store website within a few weeks of launching the board. At the time, the site did not have any social plugins. A Tweet This button was subsequently added.

pin it button

Sony was an early adopter of the Pin It button.

“The excitement about Pinterest got the web team to get really creative and figure out a way to make it work,” said Green.

Adding the Pin It button increased the number of pins from the Sony site about tenfold over what it had been before.

#4: Plan a Strategic Mix of Boards

To craft the Sony Pinterest presence, the team created a mix of lifestyle and fun pages interspersed with commercial product pages.

Boards featuring retro Sony products and ads were designed to appeal to fans of the brand, as was the Sony Art board highlighting art created with Sony products or featuring the brand logo.

The team also built boards to stimulate conversation with the wider, non-techie community, such as Sony Artist Style, a fashion board of Sony recording artists, and Rooms We’d Love to Live In, where Sony products take over. The board features pictures of stunning places users would like to inhabit.

On the commercial side, boards such as Brand New Sony Products and Sony on Sale provide direct links to the Sony store.

#5: Create Original Content and Exclusive Programs

Sony created its first content specifically for Pinterest on the Sony Art board, bringing in a photographer and art director to create the image of Sony cameras arranged in a heart shape to give the Pinterest community something they couldn’t find anywhere else. Reaction was positive, generating repins, likes and comments.

sony heart

Collage of Sony cameras created exclusively for Pinterest.

The Sony on Sale board also offers Pin Deals, where an exclusive Pinterest offer is unlocked once the deal gets repinned 20 times.

The research and preparation is paying off for Sony.

“Month over month, we continue to see an increase in traffic from Pinterest back to our site,” said Green.

In mid-May 2012, there had been an 800% increase in traffic from Pinterest to the Sony Store since before launching the brand page.

In addition, the store’s Pin It button has received more than 10 times the number of clicks than the Tweet This button.

Although a hard ROI is difficult to measure at this point, Sony management sees investing time in the platform as a good use of resources and is willing to see where it goes.

#6: Promote Through Other Channels

The main challenge, according to Green, is that there is currently not an easy way on Pinterest to find followers. “It’s very hard to get eyeballs on Pinterest,” she said.

Currently the team is taking advantage of tools like Pinreach and Curalate to help monitor their brand, but the most effective tactic so far to drive users to the Pinterest page has been to get the message out on other media.

Sony has posted on their other social platforms, used email blasts and media releases, written about it on their own blog and reached out to other bloggers in an effort to find followers.

sony blog

Sony officially launched the Pinterest page with a blog post in February 2012.

The Bottom Line

The Sony team was careful to balance the promotional pages with fun content, but Green’s biggest surprise has been seeing where the most engagement has come from.

“The Brand New Product board, where we’re driving the most sales from … is consistently our most popular engagement board. Which proves to me that people definitely want the fun and the fluff and the brand stuff, but at the end of the day, people on Pinterest do want products, they want to pin products and they want to buy products. There’s room for both kinds of strategy,” she explains.

What do you think? Is your brand on Pinterest? What can you do to develop and engage a Pinterest following? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Louise Julig

Louise is Social Media Examiner’s case study writer. A freelance writer and former engineer, she has a passion for telling compelling true stories. Follow Louise on Twitter @LouiseJulig. Other posts by »




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  • Matt

    Good article with some practical tips for using Pinterest. I noticed only one quick sentence about ROI though. It seems incomplete to talk about a brand’s success on Pinterest, or any social platform, without being able to determine the ROI that validates the effort put into creating an engaged community. Seems like a section on how to accurately measure success would be beneficial

  • http://twitter.com/CallanPaola Callan Green

    Hi Matt! Thanks for the comment. Totally see your point about ROI, and as a team, that is something we are extremely focused on for all of our social efforts. That being said, we are also fortunate enough to work with management who understand the need to experiment and test platforms to determine what portion of the purchase cycle they might supplement the best. For Pinterest, we are seeing that it has a strong ability to drive awareness for our products and to get people into the learn and decide portion of the funnel. Therefore we have set our KPIs to match those functions, rather than trying to measure direct sales. I will say, we have seen some sales as a direct result of pins, but at this point, those are still below what we are seeing on Twitter and Facebook. – Callan

  • http://www.internetdreams.com/ Samuel

    The article is very informative based on the strategies of Sony. It is really neat how you investigated how they were able to be the leaders on Pinterest.

    Make your site as Pinterest friendly as possible as you have mentioned in the article, and be interactive on it.

  • Michael

    Sony invested a lot of time into research in the initial stages, and I believe that to be one of the keys to their success in this venture.

  • Colleen Koch

    Hi Louise – thanks for the very helpful article!  I have two questions for you, if you would be so kind as to respond.  =)

    1.  You mention that Sony built their boards and THEN launched them, which indicates to me that there is the option of privately building boards (that no one can see) until you are ready to show them.  I would like to use Pinterest as a collaborative visual Pinboard with my team, but we’re often working on proprietary material, so it can’t be visible to others.  Is this an option?

    2.  How does Sony run it’s “Pin Deals”?  Is there any option or a plugin or something that automatically tracks when an image has been pinned a specific number of times, and how is the deal “released”?  Does the price simply change on the item, or do they post a code in the description or comments of that item’s pin?  

    Thanks for your help!

    ~Colleen

  • http://twitter.com/CallanPaola Callan Green

    Hi Colleen. 1. No, our boards were public, we just didn’t do much to promote them. In those first few months I think we only had something like 100 followers. The organic growth on the platform is much more challenging than on other platforms we are starting right now (eg Instagram). and 2. No, we didn’t use a plugin, just manually watched for it to reach 20 re-pins and then changed the hyperlink on the pin to a blog post which hosted a special code. 

    Hope this helps! Callan

  • Louise Julig

    Thanks for your feedback on the article, Samuel! I’m glad you liked it. 

  • Louise Julig

    Thanks for your comment, Matt. Callan from Sony just posted a response to your question below in the comments section. 

  • Louise Julig

    Colleen – thanks so much for your comments, and I’m glad you liked the article. Callan from Sony just posted a reply to your questions in the comments section below. 

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for joining the discussion Callan

  • Colleen Koch

    This is absolutely helpful, Callan.  Thanks for writing back so promptly and clarifying your methods.  I’m curious what social media monitoring/measuring tools you/Sony have found to be the most useful – particularly when it comes to Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.  Any favorites?  

    Thanks for your time and assistance! Colleen

  • http://www.beachcandynow.com/ Earl

    I was curious as to how Pinterest works, and this answered a few of my questions. Not only that, it featured Sony. While one part of me is screaming “Sony can do this with its eyes closed,” another part of me says Pinterest is really worth it.

  • Louise Julig

    Thanks for the comment, Earl. Sometimes it’s good to see how the big guys do it and take what applies to a smaller business to make it fit your situation. I’m glad the article answered some of your questions. 

  • http://www.paradisegetaways.net/ Lou

    Thank you for sharing this article,  I love the case studies you publish for your followers, because I can learn so much from the success of others.  I have found that people love a mix of good of fun and inspirational pics, but whenever I have tried to slip in a promotional pin of a deal or a sale, I lose followers!  Is there a better way to put promotional pins out, that won’t lose followers? 

    thanks again for the great content

  • http://www.netsolitsolution.com/ Satish Nair

    I don’t think Sony had much to do to get followers on Pinterest as its already a well known and well followed brand… 

  • caseyhibbard

    Great story Louise! Sony really took some proactive, creative steps to increase pins and it paid off.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/ruth.j.morrison01 Ruth J. Morrison

    Great article, Louise, and thanks to you and Callan for responding to questions so promptly!

  • Louise Julig

    Sony made a separate board called “Sony on Sale” where the PinDeals appear, so it is very obvious that’s what the board is for. Of course some people will not be interested in anything commercial at all, but I would think that if the quality of your content is good across the board (no pun intended) then the people who are potential customers will stay even when you post commercial pins. The people that drop were probably not good candidates for you to begin with. Good luck with your strategy, and thanks so much for the comment!

  • Louise Julig

    It’s true that Sony is a big-name brand, but they had only about 100 followers before they started their Pinterest campaign in earnest by building out their boards and promoting it on other platforms. 

  • Louise Julig

    Thanks so much, Casey! Coming from you that means a lot :-)

  • Louise Julig

    You are welcome! Thanks so much for the compliment – I appreciate it.

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  • EricaDLane

    I almost skipped over this post but I am glad I didn’t!  Reading how Sony prepped, planned and built out their boards over a 3-month period of time actually took the pressure off of me.  Now I see that I don’t have to do a huge cannonball to get started.  Louise, thanks for taking the time to prepare this case study.

  • http://www.paradisegetaways.net/ Lou

    Thank you so much for your reply,  I need to think about buiding a board for promotions only,  and you helped me feel better about the people who stopped following.

    Lou

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  • Laura

    When I search for Sony on Pinterest, their profile comes up way way at the bottom. Is there any way to help your profile move up to the top when someone is searching for your company?

  • http://twitter.com/CallanPaola Callan Green

    Hi Laura, I have noticed that as well and it drives me nuts! Unfortunately, Pinterest search is a bit buggy. Fingers crossed it is something they are working on. Thanks for finding us on Pinterest!
    -Callan

  • http://twitter.com/CallanPaola Callan Green

    Hi Erica, glad you liked it! I am a big proponent of the slow start. It let’s you test to determine if a platform is worth even continuing on. We are currently doing the same thing with Instagram now… Good luck to you!

  • http://twitter.com/CallanPaola Callan Green

    Certainly! Thanks for reading :)

  • http://twitter.com/CallanPaola Callan Green

    Why thank you, Casey! I am glad you helped make this happen :) I will always remember fondly when you interviewed me about the Del Mar Racetrack. 

  • http://twitter.com/CallanPaola Callan Green

    Hi Satish, It is true, we have an advantage with being a brand people love. However, we’ve seen pretty consistently that just because people love your brand, doesn’t mean they automatically want to follow you on every social site. It has certainly been a process to build up our following. 

  • http://twitter.com/CallanPaola Callan Green

    Hi Lou, it may also depend on what your promoting. For Sony, it is easy for us to be promotional on Pinterest, because people are already pinning our products left and right. It may not be the right strategy for all. Good luck!

  • http://twitter.com/CallanPaola Callan Green

    You are most welcome. Thanks for featuring Sony on your site! Our team are all big fans of SME. 

  • Louise Julig

    Thanks so much for your kind words, Erica. I’m glad the story was helpful to you. 

  • Peter Clapperton

    Hi Callan & Matt.  I think I’m with Matt on ROI.  It strikes me that this is one more blow to the once great leveller of the Internet where SME’s could face Corporates on their own terms.  To be able to afford to have a team spend three months planning, then hire a photographer and an art director to do a specific project with no tangible return is a luxury no SME has.  Reading your response Callan, it seems to me you have set your KPI’s by the performance of the project rather than sticking to stated aims mentioned at the top of the post where the first one mentioned is to drive sales.  If you amend KPI’s to the actual performance generated, the the experiment will always be a “success”.  

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  • http://about.me/yasirbokhari/ Yasir Bokhari

    Hi Louise -

    The case study will help my company serve one of our clients through Pinterest in a far better way. Thanks for sharing.

    -Yasir

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  • barbara onianwah

    Waoh, these are the kinds of campaigns I am trying to get my office to propose to Clients. There is nothing like first user advantage and this is a huge opportunity that like Sony they can take advantage of and own. I was really surprised (like the team was of course) to read that  the new products board was the most active. Thank you so much for this post.

  • barbara onianwah

    Waoh, these are the kinds of campaigns I am trying to get my office to propose to Clients. There is nothing like first user advantage and this is a huge opportunity that like Sony they can take advantage of and own. I was really surprised (like the team was of course) to read that  the new products board was the most active. Thank you so much for this post.

  • Louise Julig

    Thanks for the feedback, Barbara – I’m glad the post was useful to you! 

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  • http://www.poneill.co.uk Paddy

    Why are online marketers so obsessed with ROI?? There are other drivers which are equally as important, such as consumer engagement, brand awareness and positive sentiment which will all lead to sustainable growth in ROI. The difficulty in attributing an exact ROI to particular social campaigns is extremely well documented and, as such,  Sony should stick with what they’re doing. 

    Focussing on awareness, where there are quantifiable metrics, is clearly working. Nice one Sony. 

  • Amy

    Great article with helpful insight. 

    I have a question for Callan: How do you obtain approvals and work through legalities to repin third-party content? I’m continually working with our legal department to find a way to repin content outside of our company. Theoretically, we’d have to receive consent from each owner (brand/user/blog/website) to feature their content on our boards.  

    Thanks,
    Amy

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