We’re at the very cool Beyond Retro café in Dalston for Social Media Week London’s “Fashion and Pinterest” event. Karinna Nobbs (London College of Fashion) is introducing the panel. This is a live blog so please keep refreshing the page for updates.

10:15: Karinna: Pinterest is dominated by women, has been very much in the press since around February. Pinterest great because you can really micro-segment your audience (into style tribes for example) and really engage with niche customers.

What works best

You can look at who’s pinning you and what they’re pinning for trend predictions – is everyone pinning a colour you don’t have in your collection? Pinterest has a much higher referral rate than Facebook, Twitter etc. The average time people spend on Pinterest has been quoted as 45 – 90mins – far more than other networks.

Style, fashion, design are the things that people are pinning most so really important for fashion brands. Pinterest users spend more than Facebook customers.

Wall Street Journal got fashionistas etc to post on a board about London Fashion Week – very successful. Oscar De La Renta got people to pin ideas for next collection – great way to show engagement. But a British retailer asked people to post mood boards for a window display and that failed.

Jonathan Pryce (consultant): Uniglo had a team of 20 people sitting in front of computers and all pinning at the same time: so the pictures posted at the same time and told a story, acted as a kind of stop-frame animation. But didn’t really cause a spike in sales so some people say ‘so what’.

Fashion and Pinterest panel (l to r): Karinna, Jonathan, Sophia, Hanna, Kat and Charlotte

Karinna: one retailer ran a campaign where once a product has a certain amount of repins it converts into a discount code for users.

Some people say Pinterest bubble has burst – usage rates have gone down. It’s also been criticised for not having a revenue model attached (cf Fancy). Also problems with spammers – people just attached their account to Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest not available in China – number of imitators there.

Top brands on Pinterest

Biggest brands are American: Nordstrom, US dept store has 2.9m followers. Journalists and bloggers have great following. Kate Spade and Anthropologie do well. Top Shop with 8K followers leads UK pack. Very surprised John Lewis and M&S not on Pinterest.

Sophia Zydenbos (Boticca): We’re an online boutique with about 8000 products on site, purely accessories. We have about 60 boards featuring models and bloggers we work with. We do mood boards based on trends, colours, where we use our products and other images: travel, lifestyle, food. Try to cut through the cupcakes and kittens! We follow other bloggers and brands we like, PR people and celebrities. People that pin us who many not be celebrities.

Charlotte Sutcliffe-Smith (Beyond Retro): We have a vintage spotlight board where we put up really special items. A lot of trend boards – new season, things that are inspiring us. Street style. Competitions, for our tenth birthday we asked people to pin favourite items from the store, worked really well. We do in store themes that follow what we’re doing in the shop – at the moment Japanese culture. If we get featured in the press we have a board for pinning that.

Kat Duffy (blogger): It’s not about the pushy sales thing – tying in with ecommerce – I know brands who’ve tied in with Earth Day, etc. It’s more about lifestyle.

Jonathan: Jamie Oliver does really well because he really understands his brand and his audience perfectly.

Sophia: If you can make a puppy or cupcake relevant, then brilliant. But don’t just jump on anything that’s trending. It has to be relevant to your brand. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon. People are going to loose faith in your authenticity.

Jonathan: I’ve found behaviour of Pinterest users has changed. Back in February everyone and their puppy was joining it. Now people are using it in a more serious way.

Metrics and influencers

Question: what’s more important – the number of followers or the number of times something is repinned.

Jonathan: both are important – depends what you’re trying to achieve.

Charlotte: for us it’s not about sales, because as a retro brand we only have one of each item, often. So then it’s about following trends and seeing what’s popular, what gets repinned a lot, so we can source more.

Karinna: does anyone use any measurement tools, like Pinpuff or Pinerly?

Comment: I do but not really so useful.

Karinna: How about examples of campaigns that have really driven sales?

Sophia: If it’s an influential blogger who’s styled something really successfully, it helps people relate to that piece, and gives that product a great reach. A piece that’s been worn by a real person works really well. We send stuff to people and they buy pieces themselves also.

Jonathan: For some reason, white is a really popular colour on Pinterest: white items on a snowy background – looks great.

Sophia: White board! I’m going to get onto that as soon as I get back.

Charlotte: Shopify analysed data: traffic coming from Pinterest did more on retail websites than people coming from Twitter and Facebook. I’d say use all sorts of pictures to mix it up and just drive traffic to your site.

Sophia: We’re addicted. We post every day. My boyfriend thinks I’m mad. I use it not as much as twitter but more than Facebook: Twitter and Pinterest are more instant, everything you post gets lost so quickly you want to post more.

Hanna: I think it’s almost a bit scary the way things get out of date so quickly. What you really need to do is drive traffic to your own website. It’s a bit risky to build your whole social media strategy on top of just that one platform.

Jonathan: Yes, integrate as much as possible with your own website. Brands spend so much money on usable websites but nothing on an aesthetically pleasing Facebook page.

Comment: Legal teams can be a barrier because the brand won’t own that content. Always a fight.

Sophia: Yes we’re lucky because we want to use all these innovative tools. Boticca’s a young company, a start-up company so we embrace all that stuff. This is all word of mouth and the next generation’s way of doing things. We create a lot of content of our own.

Question: How do you drive footfall? Do you aim to drive footfall?

Jonathan: It’s really not about that, it’s much broader, a lifestyle thing. I have to try and make my clients understand that.

Look to the future

Karinna: Finally,what’s next for Pinterest?

Charlotte: it’s going to become harder as more and more people use it. We’re going to continue trying to leverage Pinterst with our website but it will be harder to stand out. Going to be interesting to watch it over the next couple of months.

Kat: I’m interested in the move away from Twitter: using Pinterest as a way of representing a visual image of yourself – also as a kind of aspirational tool – almost like an Amazon wishlist. What are the opportunities for brands in that? Pins don’t always link direct back to a brand website. In amongst all the clunkiness there’s great opportunities for brands.

Hanna: Now we’re moving on, it’s becoming more of a mass tool. I think authenticity and brand awareness is important, rather than just pushing sales. It’s about telling an interesting story, inviting people to your brand world.

Sophia: I agree with you. If you have the right image, photograhy, strong appealing visuals people will come to you. Use that visual potential as much as you can. And keep experimenting: trial and error.

Karinna: would you ever delete any negative comments posted?

Sophia: the only thing we would remove are comments people would find offensive: in terms of racially offensive etc. But criticisms, no.

Jonathan: 85% of people expect to see sales messages or discounts on Facebook. Pinterest is not about all of that. We’re in the phase of seeing how real people behave so we need to look at how the communities are forming, look at what the groups are saying and start speaking that language.

Karinna: I don’t think it’s over, I don’t think the bubble’s burst.

Curation tips

Question: if you’ve a tight budget, what’s the one thing you should do?

Charlotte: be authentic

Karinna: that’s the word of the week!

Jonathan: don’t worry about having 60 boards – just focus on five and do them well.

Question: do you think there’s a time when ecommerce will be redundant?

Karinna: There’ll always be a market for people who want advice, the “How to look good naked” sort of people.

Charlotte: personal shopping will still be needed.

Jonathan: it’s like Kindles and ebooks – they’re never going to fully replace books – I’ll always have time for a beautifully-produced book.

Sophia: If you pin 50 products then yes people will stop following you but if you do beautiful, inspirational editorial with lots of different content, people will feel you are just like them.

Karinna: It’s also about knowing what your customer wants. Thank you everyone, and thank you Charlotte for hosting. We should definitely host more events next Social Media Week!

11:06: Wrap

Burberry, McQueen and Marques Almeida are standout stars at London Fashion Week

Main photo: Ewan Munro via Flickr