5 Questions: Joe Vargo on Pinterest

See Monterey on Pinterest

I heard about Pinterest from my mom, the perfect match for the DIY demographic.

Troy, check out this site…Pin-interest…she called it.  Ah moms, love that.

Then, I kept hearing the name from friends, peers and complete strangers. At the same time, DMOs such as Experience Columbus, See Monterey and Visit Savannah were building pinboards for their  tourism destinations.  I began to wonder, could Pinterest be a valuable tool for DMOs and CVBs?

And a more poignant thought, is Pinterest the ideal way, even better than your own website, to inspire visitors about your destination?

Finally, during my research for our recent article, 2012 Forecast: The Other Social Networks, I spoke with Joe Vargo from Experience Columbus who provided a brilliant moment of clarity.

More than a simple bookmarking tool and beyond the strong visual appeal of the site, Pinterest is an inspirational window into what people want their lives to look like.

For destinations it means that potential visitors are now openly sharing their travel bucket-list.

What does a DMO or CVB do with this information, this new community, this new social site?

I am not sure, but Joe has got me thinking about it.


5 Questions on Pinterest with Joe Vargo

How did Experience Columbus learn about Pinterest?

Experience Columbus found Pinterest in perhaps the most medium-appropriate way:  Serendipity.

My wife (a non-techy person who is pretty typical of our target market) started using it for home design projects, and the more I looked over her shoulder, the more sense it made from a destination marketing perspective.  I started my own account to play around with it, and my wife and I planned a vacation together (separately, from our own laptops, as things tend to go these days) via a pinboard – it’s an incredibly good collaborative travel planning tool.

How do you see Pinterest working for tourism destinations?

In a destination like Columbus, we realize we have a pretty flat image – photography and video are a great way to start to solve this problem as we have a great product to offer and overdeliver on visitor experience.  Pinterest also allows destinations to show their complex personalities – something that’s nearly impossible to write into web copy.

Where we have great photography assets, we’re pinning them (particularly from our blog).  We’re also strategically pinning images linking back all the earned media coverage we’ve generated – no sense in letting that go to waste, a third-party recommendation is worth way more to me than a link back to my sites.

And of course, there are those beauty shots that don’t link anywhere valuable, but if the images are stellar enough, they’re worth a pin.

Isn’t Pinterest just about crafts?

Pinterest isn’t really about crafts – it’s about aspirations.

Sure, a lot of people use it to help them catalog and access craft ideas/wedding ideas/food ideas for the future.  But we all know people’s Pinterest boards aren’t reflections of their lives – they’re reflections of what they want their lives to be like.

Travel aspirations fit neatly into that, and luckily for Columbus, getting here isn’t a huge reach – we’re accessible and affordable.  We’re using Pinterest to give people reasons to come now rather than later.

We’re also trying hard to make our pins useable for planning a trip.  As the community develops, I think there will be a lot of traction; not just with collaborative, visual trip planning, but also with the “Gifts” (Price tag) feature.

Who is active within your Pinterest group?

I get a good sense that our target markets (moms with young kids in the household, foodies, young professionals) are strongly represented on Pinterest, as compared to other new social networks, like Google+.

It’s really the best form of social marketing when someone takes an image of your destination and adds it to their aspirational life (endorsing the destination to their followers.)

Talk about Pinterest versus the other social sites.

While Facebook is vital and nearly universal, marketers keep seeing their value of their efforts decline with every change there.  Twitter has long been and foreseeably will be a great network for conversations and updates.

Foodspotting and Foursquare are great for offering detailed recommendations.  Flickr and YouTube are great for showing off a destination rather than talking about it, but they’re not terribly social.

Pinterest is a good blend of the visual emphasis of YouTube and Flickr combined with the social aspects of Facebook and Twitter.

Our thanks to Joe for being so kind with his time…we know he has a lot of pinning to do.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.