April 8, 2013, 4:30 PM

A holiday-focused Pinterest contest helps Blue Nile gain followers

The online jewelry retailer used an eight-day Valentine’s Day sweepstakes.

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A little more than a year ago, executives from online jewelry retailer Blue Nile Inc. began noticing that a wide swath of consumers were spending a lot of time on Pinterest, the social network where consumers can ‘pin’ and share favorite products and images from around the web.

Looking at what consumers were doing on the platform, the executives noticed that many shoppers were using the social network to mark or organize milestones by, for instance, pinning dresses, flowers and jewelry that they could then use for inspiration when planning their nuptials. On Pinterest, consumers add their pins to boards, which are organizational tools used to group pins together around a particular theme—for example “Wedding planning.”

To Blue Nile, No. 71 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, Pinterest represented a prime opportunity to showcase its products, particularly since consumers were already pinning its products on the social network. The retailer launched its presence in February 2012 and began highlighting its offerings via boards like “Wedding hair & earrings” and “Mother of the bride gifts.”

The only problem with Pinterest, says a Blue Nile spokesman, was that it didn’t offer retailers analytics tools that would enable it to dig into what shoppers were pinning and interacting with. So while the retailer could see that, say 1% of its site traffic stemmed from shoppers clicking on items pinned from its site, it couldn’t tell which items those were.

To get that type of information it began to work with social marketing analytics vendor Pinfluencer (the vendor has since renamed itself Piqora) last July. The vendor enables the retailer to track and measure which pins consumers respond to, which has helped the retailer better use the platform, the spokesman says. It also offers tools that make it easy to launch contests, he says.

The retailer used Piqora’s tools to launch a Valentine’s Day promotion aimed at gaining followers, which is important because the brand’s presence on the platform is still new, the spokesman says. To enter, consumers had to follow the retailer on Pinterest, then re-pin three diamond rings from Blue Nile’s “Be My Valentine” board to one of their own boards for a chance to win a ring that typically sells for $900. The eight-day contest netted the retailer about 5,000 new followers, which is 233% more than the roughly 1,500 new fans it gains during a typical eight-day window, the spokesman says. And the retailer’s pins were re-pinned more than 50,000 times, which exposed hoards of shoppers to the brand, he says. That’s because when a consumer logs on to the social network she sees the items that her friends on the platform have pinned or repined from another user’s board.

The retailer ran a similar, 12-day promotion for St. Patrick’s Day in which it gave away prizes that included an emerald and diamond pendant that sells for $1,100. Even though the holiday is more commonly associated with drinking than jewelry, the retailer added 3,000 new followers during the contest.

For a retailer that sells high-consideration products like jewelry, the more people who are exposed to a brand, the better, says the spokesman. “We want to show our products to as many people as possible,” he says. Piqora is helping it do just that.

Blue Nile pays Piqora less than $1,000 a month for the tools, he says.

Blue Nile is No. 160 in the Social Media 300, an Internet Retailer research guide that ranks online retailers by the percentage of traffic to e-commerce sites that comes from social networks.

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