Instagram and Pinterest: How They Differ, Are They Right For Your Business?

Amy Schmittauer

We live in a very photo-friendly digital world. On Facebook, the photos on your news feed make you hit the “like” button much quicker than a status update. On YouTube, the still image before you watch weighs heavily on whether you press “play” at all. Even Twitter, a copy-reliant website, is working with photo hosting websites to integrate more media into your stream.

With these mediums already making you think about being a more visually pleasing brand, does it make sense to expand your online presence to photo sharing platforms as well?

Pinterest and Instagram are, hands down, the top two photo sharing communities in digital media today. But aside from finding really beautiful pictures everywhere you look, these platforms are nothing alike.

Before you decide to jump in, here’s a quick explanation  of how they work and how to tell if they’re a good fit for your business.

Pinterest: A Dream Board of Potential Traffic

Pinterest is the wish list/dream board of the 21st century. Why cut things out of magazines and paste them on the wall if all you have to do is troll the internet and “pin” images to to your “boards”?

Pins span a variety of categories and formats, from fashion, bridal, and home décor images to infographics, videos, and recipes. With the right eye-catching image, your content could easily land in someone’s Pinterest collection. However, when it comes to converting those pins to traffic, it’s all about how the image and copy work together.

A pin with the potential to be shared on Pinterest has an image that makes users ask a questionFor instance:

  • • A celebrity style capture that makes you ask, “Who is in this photo?”
  • • A mouth watering entree with upscale presentation that makes you ask, “What is this dish?”
  • • A preview of a captivating video/TV series making you ask, “When can I watch?”
  • • A gorgeous sunset over a mountainous terrain that makes you ask, “Where is this?”
  • • A beautifully crocheted scarf making you ask, “How can I make one?”

Once a user sees an image they’re interested in, a question naturally occurs and they’re going to look at the caption provided for their answer. A well answered question helps the virality factor (or number of repins). Winning the click-through, however, is dependent on how interesting that answer (and the content behind that photo) is.

If you look at the Whole Foods Pinterest account, you’ll notice how much amazing content for foodies, such as recipes and health and wellness information, the company shares. Much of the content isn’t even from its own site. Staying in line with its branding, and having pictures that beg questions and make users want more, has made Whole Foods one of the top brands to be followed on Pinterest.

Is Pinterest right for your business? There is great potential to increase traffic to your website if you adhere to the aforementioned recipe for pinning success. Retailers, for instance, have a huge opportunity to increase sales because it’s not taboo to share your items for sale. But should you only share what you have on your shelves?

Definitely not. It can’t be all self-promotional if you want a great brand presence. As long as you remember to share content people want to see versus what you think they need to see, you’ll have great Pinterest success.

Instagram: A Personality-Only Love Fest

The reality of Instagram is that if you self-promote, you will not do well. When using this strictly mobile platform, your main objective needs to be to doing the best possible job of sharing a personality (key word within the word: personal) behind the logo, so that your brand stays top of mind.

Users only want to follow when you’re sharing interesting photos they wouldn’t see elsewhere. Instagram offers a great opportunity to show the people behind the brand, office life, or fun events.

Do brands post images toeing the line of promotion? Of course. If you subscribe to Burberry on Instagram, the company obviously has beautiful products you would expect them to snap photos of and share. But because they’re mixing in other photos not related to retail, like international scenery or celebrities, there’s a feeling of exclusivity that users love and support, and engagement will be consistent. As long as the caption is appropriate (and not “Please buy our product!”) then the product images work.

The most direct engagement you can get is follows and likes. There’s no re-sharing and links are not tolerated. The network is a big love fest where users can just appreciate photography and a glimpse into someone else’s life.

There’s absolutely room to grow engagement with photo contests, hashtag activity and geographical phone tracking, but the frame of mind is always the same. Be personal and have fun with it because that’s the only way to get brand advocates on Instagram.

Is Instagram right for your business? It’s hard to find a brand that really can’t do well on Instagram, as long as they embrace its purpose and aren’t trying to sell. If you can brainstorm a way to give your potential brand advocates a glimpse of what’s behind the brand in photos, you can absolutely create a fun and engaging experience on Instagram.

Is your business using either of these platforms? Share your tips in the comments!