Celebrating 500 BlackFin Posts

This post is number 500 for the BlackFin360.com/blog. Starting this blog was one of the best decisions I have made professionally. It provided me with a platform to share original thoughts, cover industry trends and serve as a repository for speaking and media coverage.

It has evolved significantly from the early beginnings in 2007. The blog was originally under the domain TheBlackFin.com. Now that domain is simply a redirect to BlackFin360.com. “BlackFin” was a nickname given to me by a co-worker at the time and the blog name came directly from my Xbox Gamertag “TheBlackFin“.

Here is a screenshot of the original look for the blog from 2007-2009. Why green for a blog named the “black” fin is something I still wonder about to this day.

Over the years the look and feel of the blog has changed but the core content focus on marketing, emerging technology, and gaming has remained to this day.

I officially moved the blog from theblackfin.com to blackfin360.com in 2009. By 2011 at least there were black/techie elements in the look and feel.

Now in 2018, the blog continues to serve as the primary entry point for speaking engagements, advisor opportunities, university lecturing, media coverage and over the past year it has shifted to more of a Vlog.

The look of the site will continue to evolve in 2018 and beyond.

Whether this is your first time here or you have been a subscriber since the beginning, I sincerely want to thank anyone who has stopped by and spent time with my content. I am incredibly grateful for this platform and I would highly recommend to anyone to find their industry voice and build their personal brand in addition to their professional.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Evolution of Social Media Marketing

Here is a preview of my latest take on the evolution of social media marketing.


The presentation starts with a trip down memory lane by reviewing the rise of social media platforms across the globe.

Evolution of Social Marketing Timelines - Tom Edwards

Next is a look at the impact social media trends have had on consumer behavior. Everything from viral videos, #selfies and the rise of YouTube celebrities.

Evolution of Social Media Trends - Tom Edwards

Then focus shifts to the evolution of social marketing globally and the role that content plays in today’s social marketing programs.

Evolution of Social Marketing Content - Tom Edwards

The journey wraps with a look at the future state of social marketing.

Evolution of Social Marketing Future - Tom Edwards

Follow Tom @BlackFin360


Followers Only a Small Piece of Pinterest Content Discovery

Acquisition of fans, followers and likes was a staple of the early days of social marketing. The issue is that many organizations still map success to their follower count vs. focusing on the real value created by social marketing.

I have written many posts recently on the importance of organic reach, influencer impact, earned media value and the move towards discovery vs. retrieval and I am constantly working with my brand partners to keep them ahead of the curve while being focused on creating value.


Part of this process is to work closely with publisher & platform partners to stay informed not only on the latest features, but more importantly to understand strategic positioning of their platform and how they create value for brands.

I have worked closely with Kevin Knight of the Pinterest Marketing team for a few years now. He was at Facebook when we initially met and then made the transition to Pinterest. His background provides the ideal experience to outline the role of a follower on Pinterest and he did so with a great post on the Pinterest business blog “Why you don’t need as many followers as you think“.

Pinterest is less about followers and more about discovery with followers being a “gateway”.


Here are some excerpts from Kevin’s post.

Instead of thinking of followers as your audience on Pinterest, think of them as the gateway to your audience on Pinterest.

Here’s what we mean: People use Pinterest to discover, save and do things that inspire them. Repinning is the action they take when they save things they want to do or buy later. While people’s main motivation to Pin is to save things for themselves, anything they repin spreads to their own followers who are looking at their home feeds to discover things from people with similar tastes and interests.

That means the number of people who actually see your Pins is often far greater than your number of followers. In fact, the average Pin gets repinned 11 times. Don’t forget that if you have a website with the Pin It button installed, there are probably already people Pinning from your website. That means your Pins are getting discovered by people who follow those Pinners and people who find your Pins in search results and category feeds — a group that may or may not include people who follow your Pinterest profile.

So, while it’s nice to have lots of followers, they’re just one part of spreading your Pins to many, many more people on Pinterest.”

In addition to what Kevin’s post outlines is the importance of the Pinterest Interest Graph. To recap, an interest graph is an online representation of the specific things in which an individual is interested. And because the focus of Pinterest is based on what people are indexing on the web and then categorizing by interests, the Pinterest Interest Graph is the foundation for their business


The key to the interest graph for Pinterest is the ability to create personalized experiences that change based on an individuals life stage and interests. The association is less with people and more with things. This may include life events such as marriage, children, etc… and Pinterest hopes that by focusing on interests they are building a sustainable platform that can grow with users over time and continue to provide both utility and relevance based on discovery.

In order to map value, it is important to not only understand the bits & bytes of a platform, but to dig deeper and focus on the role that the consumer plays in the distribution, amplification and discovery of content as this is a key element of driving value from social marketing.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360


Pinterest Guided Search Is Just The Beginning

Pinterest has carved its niche as a social discovery platform. Guided search is the next evolution of the platform that will create more opportunities for users to discover content that is relevant to them, especially via mobile while building a foundation to refine Pinterest’s promoted pin ad product.

Pinterest Guided Search

75% of Pinterest traffic is mobile and the primary user experience shift will be focused on gesture based elements integrated within the user experience.

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One of the bigger shifts is now users can track custom categories of interests vs. just pre-selected categories. From a user perspective this is key as it allows more control to the user to further personalize the experience.

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Here is the new user experience. Notice the ability to select a top level category and customize based on different keyword combinations at the top of the ux.

From a brand perspective, the focus on personalization for the user will allow Pinterest to gather additional data that will greatly enhance their targeting capabilities. The new guided search offering is also building towards a more refined discovery engine positioning offering for promoted pins via keywords and new categories where brands can further create new points of discovery with users.

Within the year we should see a more refined Pinterest promoted pin product that is refined based on the new guided search elements that will unlock greater targeting capabilities.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360



Pinterest Launches Promoted Pins

I received word from the Pinterest team announcing the limited roll-out of promoted pins. At this time this feature is available to a small group of brands for testing, but the groundwork is being laid to support paid amplification of Pinterest content.

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Here is an excerpt From the Pinterest Blog

We’re going to start experimenting with promoting certain pins from a select group of businesses. I know some of you may be thinking, “Oh great…here come the banner ads.” But we’re determined to not let that happen. While we haven’t figured out all the details, I can say that promoted pins will be:

    •    Tasteful—No flashy banners or pop-up ads.
    •    Transparent—We’ll always let you know if someone paid for what you see, or where you see it.
    •    Relevant—These pins should be about stuff you’re actually interested in, like a delicious recipe, or a jacket that’s your style.
    •    Improved based on your feedback—Keep letting us know what you think, and we’ll keep working to make things better.

For our first test, we’ll promote a few pins in search results and category feeds. For example, a pin for a Darth Vader outfit from a costume shop might be promoted in a search for “halloween.” Nobody’s paying for anything yet—we want to see how things go and, more than anything, hear what you think.

Pinterest Promoted Pin Mock

This is an important announcement for brands that leverage Pinterest. Having the ability to amplify content and associate with topics such as “seasons” is a key step to going beyond organic reach and driving additional discoverability within the channel.

Back in May, I attended the first Pinterest Partner Marketing event. During that session one of the items that was revealed was the Pinterest Interest Graph. To recap, an interest graph is an online representation of the specific things in which an individual is interested. And because the focus of Pinterest is based on what people are indexing on the web and then categorizing by interests, the Pinterest Interest Graph is the foundation for their business moving forward especially with today’s promoted pins announcement.


The key to the interest graph for Pinterest is the ability to create personalized experiences that change based on an individuals life stage and interests. The association is less with people and more with things. This may include life events such as marriage, children, etc… and Pinterest hopes that by focusing on interests they are building a sustainable platform that can grow with users over time and continue to provide both utility and relevance based on discovery. Now, with the overlay of promoted pins, Pinterest will have the ability to leverage the data from their Interest graph and map that to a promoted product suite to add value to potential advertisers as well as a model to drive actual revenue.

It will be interesting to track how this will ultimately be rolled out, but the groundwork was announced in May, this is the next step in the evolution of the platform.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Pinterest Pin To Save

Back in May of this year I attended the first Pinterest Partner Event in NYC. At that time they spoke about a number of topics from the newly launched Pinterest Interest Graph to the launch of new product innovation tied to Rich Pins. Here is the recap of that event.

I recently received word from Pinterest that a new feature would be announced today. The announcement will feature additional functionality tied to Product Rich Pins ahead of the holiday season.

Here is the note I received from the Pinterest Business Team:

Pinterest Announcement

To recap, Product Rich Pins create direct connections for retailers with consumers by showcasing active inventory as well as price & source reference directly into the pin. This additional data can take a consumer from simply considering a product to potentially enticing them to purchase based on availability of the product. This in turn can add value for the retailer and create a more direct connection between an item & a retailer.

Example of a Product Rich Pin prior to today’s announcement:

Pinterest Product Rich Pin

Today’s announcement shows that users will soon be able to receive notifications when the price of one of their product pins drops. This can help those that may look for savings tied to some their favorite pins to trigger a move from consideration to action on the product.

Here is what the experience will look like:

Pinterest rich pin

According to Pinterest In just two short months there are already tens of millions of product rich pins now on Pinterest. They state the benefits beyond traditional pins as follows:

  • Higher Click-Through rates compared to regular pins
  • Better brand visibility since the brand logo is featured on the pin
  • More likelihood of appearing in category feeds (like gifts, gardening, men’s fashion, etc.)
  • Details – like price changes – update automatically.

Retail & commerce based brands that are considering ways to drive action beyond consideration on the path to purchase should take note and implement Product Rich Pins ahead of the holiday season. Here is how to get started.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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The Move Towards Flat Design

Everywhere I look whether it is working on my desktop or browsing via mobile I am beginning to see recurring digital design patterns. This includes the use a lot of white space, simple and sometimes transparent backgrounds, symmetrical boxes and minimalist styling for user interfaces. This trend actually has a name… Flat design. You may not have heard of the flat design philosophy, but you will definitely recognize it when you see it especially if you have used a Microsoft or Google product recently.

Example from Xbox Live

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Example from Windows 8

Start screen

Example of an HTC Microsoft Phone


Look familiar? It should. For a long time now graphical user interface (GUI) design has tried to make objects seem more familiar to us by using a design philosophy called Skeuomorphism. This is simply incorporating design ques from the physical world into the digital one. The visual cues and details such as shadows, beveled edges and texture create experiences that are relatable or designed to be visually interesting.

Multiple examples of Skeuomorphism from my iPad

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The icons themselves such as the Tech Crunch app icon almost appear to be 3-dimensional

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The move towards flat design is one that is less about style and more about optimizing functionality and focusing a users attention on the type of content they are about to interact with. The focus is on creating digital experiences that emphasize visual clarity to get the primary point across.

Google has always used a minimalist approach to GUI

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Google Now incorporates flat design principles into Google’s card style interface

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Especially with the move towards mobile first and responsive design, the limited real estate calls for very clear and simple interfaces that allow the reduced size to be maximized across devices. This is evident when you begin reviewing how Google Glass will present information.

Example of Google Glass Flat Design

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Social networks have even begun implementing certain elements of flat design. Take a look at the newly launched MySpace and their use of flat elements to bring their users streams to life.

MySpace has a new UX that features a clean design with the focus on simple visual content boxes

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Example of MySpace Feed


Pinterest also incorporates flat design principles in their user experience with the recent redesign.

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Finally, with Apple’s recent announcements that iOS 7.0 will incorporate Flat Design elements into the user experience marks a significant shift as Apple since the 80’s has focused on creating graphical user interfaces that lean towards replicating physical objects vs. focusing on telling the user what type of content they are about to engage with.


Dating back to the dot com days, I have been a student of all things digital. Flat Design is yet another entry into the ever evolving digital landscape. What was once old is new again. What are your thoughts and preferences? Do you prefer an interface that is familiar or do you have an affinity towards minimal elements with a clear visual cue to what you are about to do?

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Pinterest Partner Event Recap

I recently attended the first ever Pinterest Partner Marketing Summit in NYC. This invite only event unveiled their emphasis on developing a strong partner program and also served as an opportunity to introduce new staff to the Pinterest partner team, new resources for brands and agencies and best practices to maximize the platform.

Pinterest Event

There were five primary areas of focus for the event.

1) Why Pinterest
2) Pinterest Interest Graph
3) New product enhancements (Rich Pin & Mobile Pin It)
4) Analytics & Partner Tools
5) Partner case studies & Best Practices


Ben Silbermann, Pinterest Co-Founder & CEO started the day by telling the story of Pinterest. He discussed his love of collections when he was young… stamps, butterflies, baseball cards, etc… he saw an opportunity as there was not an elegant solution to organize collections online.

He had roots with Google and was enamored by how the search giant was able to so seamlessly focus on enabling search & retrieval across the web. If you know what you are looking for Google provides an ideal platform for search & retrieval.

He actually related Pinterest more to Google & search than to other social channels such as Facebook. With Pinterest people vs. bots are indexing the webs content and organizing them by interests, something that is a bit more subjective but aligns with human behavior.

One of his key points was in defining Pinterests role in discovery of content.

Discovery on the web is an unsolved problem & massive opportunity” – Ben Silbermann


With Pinterest, people are making discovery possible by organizing the web’s content around interests. This is their key point of differentiation as the platform is about discovery and action.

It was interesting to hear Ben’s story about the roots of Pinterest and it also provided insight into where the platform is going which leads to the Interest Graph.


The Pinterest team spent a good bit of time discussing what they coined the Pinterest Interest Graph. An interest graph is an online representation of the specific things in which an individual is interested. And because the focus of Pinterest is based on what people are indexing on the web and then categorizing by interests, the Pinterest Interest Graph is the foundation for their business moving forward.

A key point of differentiation between Facebook’s Social Graph & Pinterest & even Twitters interest graphs are the fact that Interest Graphs are used to create people’s interest networks whereas Facebook and other social networks are organized around an individual’s friends and connections that follow them across the web.

The key to the interest graph for Pinterest is the ability to create personalized experiences that change based on an individuals life stage and interests. The association is less with people and more with things. This may include life events such as marriage, children, etc… and Pinterest hopes that by focusing on interests they are building a sustainable platform that can grow with users over time and continue to provide both utility and relevance based on discovery.

The key to the interest graph from a brand perspective is that a single product can be repined into other areas. As the single object passes across the interest graph across categories you are able to leverage the network of interests and passions vs. pushing a message and see how your product resonates in real time. This leads to driving discoverability by interest as well as distribution and lengthens the shelf life of content as it continually gets repined.

Interest Graph in action for me… I like Robots



Pin it Button – the theme that was repeated the most over the course of the event was the focus on the Pin It button. Pinterest reiterated that a strong Pinterest strategy starts with enabling your domain. By enabling and focusing on driving & optimizing pins down to the individual product level are the key to driving more engagement and driving higher referral traffic.


Mobile Pinning – Earlier this week Pinterest launched the ability to integrate the Pin It button into a brands mobile application to further drive discoverability via mobile for both iOS & Android via SDKs. The SDK allows a brands users to create Pinterest content inside the branded app. Currently, this only supports pinning from the web, but the ability to pin local images is on the roadmap as well.

Here is an example of Mobile Pinning in action from the Brit + Co (launch partner) mobile app

mobile pinning

Rich Pins – Also tied to this weeks launch was the release of Rich Pins. Pinterest hopes that Rich Pins lead to action and by adding more brand data to a pin tied to products, recipes & movies that more direct attribution and value for brands and users will be apparent. Product pins from a brand can showcase active inventory as well as price & references the source directly from the pin. Recipe Rich Pins allow more data to be added directly to the pin and movie pins offer insight into reviews as well as cast directly from the pin.

Product Pins

Product Pins

Recipe Pins

Recipe Pins

Movie Pins

Movie Pins

Implementation – In order to implement Rich Pins meta tags need to applied to your domain and decide on the type of rich pin you want to apply for. Then once the meta tags have been validated you can apply to get them from Pinterest.

From a brand perspective, this is the first step to further enabling brand content and attribution. Especially the product pins can be of value to further drive action when discovered.


On March 11th, Pinterest launched their data analytics tool. This was another key discussion point during the course of the event. The analytics tool supports Pinterest’s position to enable a brands .com as the suite focuses on content pinned directly from the .com and focus on how many people are pinning from the website, impressions & reach over time and which pins receive the most repins and who pins them as well as what other content people are pinning alongside them.


This data can be extremely useful when incorporating top pins into tailoring content for the website as well as other social channels. Nordstrom was a presenting brand and the key takeaway from their presentation was their focus on curating pins and using analytics as a driver for surfacing content on their website, e-mail as well as in store. By leveraging Pinterest in this way, Nordstrom claimed increased sell through in stores and online.

Nordstrom Top Pins via .com

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Nordstrom in store


Pinterest also rolled out new partner tools starting with a revamped business.pinterest.com as well as a new business blog that will focused on enabling partners and will serve as the location for new product feature announcements. The team also announced that they will soon be providing webinars on best practices to further enable partners.

Unlike Facebook & Twitter, Pinterest is less about working directly with their partner teams and more about enabling the platform to allow brands to maximize their presence.


During the course of the event four brands were represented including Target, Sephora, Nordstroms & Sony Electronics. I have already referenced how Nordstroms is leveraging Pinterest data to drive their content & in-store strategy. Below are a few key points from the Sephora & Sony Electronics presentations.


The most compelling elements from the Sephora case study was their laser focus on identifying trends via pins. Their goals were tied to making it easier to pin from Sephora.com, use e-mail to encourage Pinterest engagement and encourage clients to pin their beauty shopping lists.


  • Focus on top pins to inform content strategy across channels
  • Content goes beyond simple product to incorporate DIY type content
  • Testing various types of Pin to Win initiatives that are cross promoted

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  • Embedded Pinterest across social channels such as Facebook
  • Created pinnable e-mails drove significant results including a 60% increase in referral traffic from Pinterest that has not subsided
  • Focus on creating a shoppable experience on Pinterest
  • Claimed that shoppers are closer to purchase in the path to purchase and stated a statistic of 15x the sales impact vs. Facebook

Sony Electronics

I was most impressed by the work of Sony electronics of the four brands that presented. What I liked about their story is they are not the first brand you think of when you think about the Pinterest platform. They are a manufacturer vs. retailer and their audience is a younger, high tech male group who is not the primary audience of the platform. They had very clearly defined strategy objectives of driving sales, acquisition and brand affinity on the platform and they have leveraged the social power of their internal organization as well as consumers to power their experience.

Sony Electronics

  • Audience (Sony electronics appeal to more than women)
  • They curated content that existed, retro products, artist style, influencers who shoot with their cameras etc…
  • Launched presence with an employee contest to educate and curate relevant content across the organization
  • Drove awareness via the Sony Electronics blog & e-mail
  • E-mail is a critical component to their Pinterest strategy, pin, collect, share –> Pinterest focused messages get double the open rate
  • Inform their content strategy based on Pins
  • Leverage 3rd parties such as Curalate to identify influencers
  • Executed innovative programs such as Pin Deals – unlock via 20 pins – flash sale & Pin it to give it – repins = $1 to charity and received 13,000 pins


  • Partnered with relevant brands to enter new categories such as Pinterest partnership with American Airlines to enter travel

Travel and Tech


The following is a list of best practices that were discussed during the course of the event. This is not a comprehensive best practices list, but does highlight the key points that the Pinterest team & brands represented did speak to repeatedly.


  • The Pinterest team reiterated that the best Pinterest strategy starts with your domain.
  • Remember boards are not destinations, most of the interaction will happen at the Pin level
  • Pinnable E-mail is a critical component to a successful Pinterest strategy, enable content to be pinned on the individual content level


  • Add Pin-It Button to domain
  • Verify the business with Pinterest
  • Enable Domain Analytics
  • Activate & Incorporate Rich Pins to create a cleaner connection to inventory and enabling action
  • Leverage the Mobile SDK’s to further enable sharing directly from a brands app


  • Learn from top pins, timely relevant pins that map to domain are key
  • Optimize pins, Sony’s audience preferred product shots while Target’s audience resonates with Lifestyle images
  • Short Captions are key, the goal is to tease to promote click through
  • Focus on content that will drive repins
  • Pin your product along with other inspirational content to boards
  • Focus on creating ripples with content vs. “feed stuffing”


  • When it comes to Pin It to Win it type of initiatives, it is important to ensure that there is a variety of content to pin
  • A pin from a Pin it to Win it is good, but the focus should be on repins. Repins are the key to successful promotion on the platform


The first Pinterest partner event was definitely insightful and the event closed with the following points:

1) Discovery on the web is an unsolved problem & massive opportunity
2) People are making discovery possible by organizing the web’s content around interests
3) You can make your business more discoverable by inspiring people to pin

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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