What A Four Seasons Promotion Tells Us About Businesses And Pinterest

Planning a trip to a major world city? You could hire a travel planner to give you some suggestions. Or you could simply log on to Pinterest.

In an unusual gratis service for social media, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts wants to be your concierge via Pinterest. In a promotion called Pin.Pack.Go., a human concierge will give you personalized travel tips. “We’ve been doing this for 50 years, face to face and over the phone,” said Sorya Gaulin, director of global public relations and social media for Four Seasons. “We’ve just extended it to Pinterest now.”

It's just one more interesting way businesses are exploring Pinterest as they figure out how best to capitalize on its big and still fast growing user base.

Pinterest As A Business Platform

Many brands have already embraced Pinterest as a new way to make money. Neiman Marcus experimented with offering a handbag you can only buy on Pinterest. J Crew released an entire catalog the same way. Numerous brands have used Pin It To Win It contests as a way to drum up business through a giveaway.

Pinterest began offering business accounts in November of last year, and many of the account tools are still in their infancy. Pinterest’s own suggestions for businesses focus on the basics of curation. As a result, there’s really no precedent for the experimental ways businesses like Four Seasons are harnessing Pinterest. 

According to Pinterest power user Sonja Foust of Pintester, Four Seasons isn’t just trying something we haven’t seen, but targeting a different group than a contest would. “There's a lot of potential for reaching an audience they wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach, since they're pinning to a shared board that the traveler's network will see,” she said. 

Here’s how it works: you leave a comment on this Four Seasons pin with the city you’re interested in visiting. Provided it’s one of the cities where one of Four Seasons’ 91 hotels is located, the hotel in that city will begin following you on Pinterest. Invite your new follower to a board titled “Pin.Pack.Go.” and watch the personalized suggestions roll in. You don’t have to buy anything, or even prove you’ll be staying at a Four Seasons. 

This is my board. Within 24 hours of following the instructions, the Four Seasons San Francisco social media manager began offering me sightseeing, dining, and other travel suggestions based on the information I gave about my itinerary and interests. 

A Promotion Exception, Or A New Era?

Danny Denhard, a marketing consultant who specializes in Pinterest, predicts that we’re seeing the beginning of a shift from product giveaways to service offerings.

“Because of the visual nature of Pinterest, it’s difficult again to follow up and really interact with the winners of a Pin It To Win It contest,” he said. “The main draw for Four Seasons is the ability to converse with potential clients right there on their own boards.”

Denhard hasn't seen any other company doing service promotions on Pinterest, making Four Seasons an interesting outlier. However, he said this isn't the company’s first service-oriented promotion on Pinterest. Last year, the company hired wedding planners to discuss Four Seasons hotel weddings to potential brides in Four Seasons Bridal

But like most pioneers, Four Seasons is facing unique issues with its promotion. For one thing, Pin.Pack.Go.’s directions are a bit of a mouthful if you’re not a regular Pinterest user accustomed to commenting, following, and board building. For another, only 70 pinners have signed up for the promotion (out of Four Seasons’ 4,000 plus followers). Perhaps users are still skeptical of a promotion that doesn’t require a purchase.

This is probably why Four Seasons isn’t at all concerned about scaling the service, which requires manual assistance from each of its 91 hotels. “If I’m a guest, my time is extremely valuable as well. I don’t think I’d put together a board and engage with a hotel unless I was actually staying with them,” said Gaulin.

But even if it does blow up, Foust suggested that even personalized pins don’t require as much labor as we might think, given that each hotel is in charge of just one location. “As far as labor, if they've already got a list of pins loaded and ready to go for each location, maybe the labor isn't too bad,” she said. “I really hope it works for them. I haven't ever seen anything like this before, but I love it.”

Photo by Kevin Dooley on Flickr