This screen image shows L.L. Bean's "Woodland Creatures" board on Pinterest.
By Eric Russell
L.L. Bean owns the most followed board on the social media website Pinterest, according to a recent study.
But the followers of the L.L. Bean board known as Woodland Creatures aren't following for the company's merchandise, which includes clothing and outdoor gear. That's because the Woodland Creatures board doesn't feature merchandise. It contains photos of cuddly bears, loons, deer and other wildlife common in Maine.
Laurie Brooks, senior public relations representative for L.L. Bean, is in charge of managing the 24 Pinterest boards that bear the Freeport-based company's name. Most boards, she said, are specific to L.L. Bean products, but Woodland Creatures is different.
"The way it started was, we had a fox den outside our corporate offices, next to the parking area. And employees would see these baby foxes playing," Brooks said. "That got us thinking about what other kinds of animals you can see in your backyard in Maine."
So Brooks created a Pinterest board to highlight those animals. Some of the wildlife photos are submitted by staff members, and others come from customers. The rest are re-pinned from other boards by Brooks.
In the 15 months or so since the board was created, it has attracted about 4.7 million followers, according to Mashable, another social media site. The other top five Pinterest boards, according to the study, are managed by Jetsetter, an online vacation planning site; Nordstrom, a clothing department store chain; Everyday Health, a health website; and Lowe's, a major home improvement chain.
Here's how Pinterest works: Photos are posted by a board's owner, such as L.L. Bean. Other users follow that board and "pin" certain photos to their own board. Once a photo is pinned, everyone who follows that user will see it and where it came from. Discussion often follows.
Many users rely on Pinterest to share or search for craft ideas or recipes, but the boards aren't always used for such practical purposes.
Brooks has a simple answer for why Woodland Creatures has taken off in the year or so that it has been active: "Everyone loves adorable animals," Brooks said. "I try to find the cubs or babies."
Although the board does not feature or advertise specific L.L. Bean merchandise, Brooks said the pictures do contribute to the company's overall brand.
She said Pinterest is one of a growing number of social media websites that help drive traffic to the company's own website. L.L. Bean is among the best-known Maine businesses around the world, thanks in large part to its widely distributed catalogs.
This is not the company's first encounter with viral fame. In December, a Cape Elizabeth woman created a Tumblr page titled "Your L.L. Bean Boyfriend," featuring photos from catalogs of men modeling L.L. Bean clothing, with captions of things they might say.
In one post, one male model wearing an L.L. Bean flannel shirt is shown with the words, "I just saw a Groupon for scuba diving lessons. What do you think? We could do them together and then go for a week of scuba diving in La Ceiba."
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