How Pinterest could be used as a marketing tool for your business

Everybody’s talking about Pinterest, but is it a useful business tool? Tom Collinson gives us the lowdown on the newest social network on the block

As one of the fastest growing sites in history, Pinterest has become a buzz topic for those of us in the marketing world wondering how, or even if, it can be used as a marketing and promotional tool for businesses. The answer is a resounding yes – as long as your business appeals to the audience and you have a clear approach for engaging with the network and its users.

However, let’s start at the beginning and get a feel for the network first, and what to expect:

What is it?

Pinterest is a social sharing website that allows users to sign up and ‘pin’ content from around the web for later browsing and to share with friends and followers.

Between the time it launched as a closed beta in March 2010 and January 2012 it had amassed a reported 11.7 million unique users a month (according to ComScore) – making it the fastest site in history to grow beyond the 10 million a month mark.

Who uses it?

While exact demographic data isn’t freely available it is widely believed that the vast majority of users are female; certainly the fact that 97% of its Facebook likes are female backs up this hunch.

Pinterest remains in open beta, meaning you must request an invitation before you’re able to sign up for an account.

What kind of businesses would benefit from promoting themselves on Pinterest?

A quick glance at the website will show you virtually all content that is popular is image based, whether it’s an image itself that’s been pinned or a webpage that includes images.

If your business is able to present its products or services in this way there’s likely to be an audience for you. If however you’re a law firm, quantity surveyor, accountant or something similar there’s a good chance you’ll struggle.

Businesses that fall under the following categories could find Pinterest to be very useful as a marketing tool:

… Beauty … Chefs / restaurants / caterers … Clothing / fashion … Interior decorators … Lifestyle / fitness … Hobby crafts … Art / photography … Architects … Tattoo artists … Product designers

Is it worth the effort?

If you fall into any of the categories above you’ll find an audience on Pinterest – how big that audience is, or more importantly how big an audience of potential customers is, comes down to a few things:

… How regional are your services?

Pinterest is a website with a global audience – if you can only serve a small geographic area it’s unlikely you’ll find a great deal of business, even if you build a following.

… Can you invest in high quality photography or content?

Imagery is powerful and it’s the single most shared medium on Pinterest. The higher quality the better – no one wants to share a product when the photo looks like it was taken on a BlackBerry.

… Can you or somebody in your company dedicate a small amount of time each day to posting and interacting?

As with any social network, it requires your willingness to interact with the community and the right attitude for success. If you’re posting your own content, commenting on others’ and sharing your follows and friends’ ‘pins’ you’ll grow an audience of friends who are happy to do business.

Traffic from Pinterest

 

A recent study from Shareaholic suggests that, of the sites it’s able to collect data for, Pinterest provided more referral traffic than some of the biggest names in social networking including YouTube, LinkedIn and Google Plus – indeed it’s almost on par with Twitter already.

For retailers this represents an excellent opportunity for promotion if handled in the right way.

Adding your products

Pinterest has a section on the site called ‘gifts’ which displays products that have been added to the website along with product pricing. When creating a pin simply include a price in the description and tags and it will automatically be pulled into the gifts section.

So if I were John Lewis and wanted to add a product I would enter the following details:

 

The price £999 is automatically added to the image preview on the left and once you ‘pin it’ it will automatically appear in the gifts section…

It wouldn’t be advisable at this early stage of the site’s life to simply load your account with 400 products – the user base will soon begin to mature with its new found popularity and more opportunities will open up.

Instead be selective – pick only your best products or those which are likely to appeal to the Pinterest user base.

What to avoid

As with all social networks, companies must keep in mind that the offline “one-way communication” does not translate. It’s not good enough simply to promote your own business without engaging in the community to which you are marketing.

A business that pins 20 of its own products but does not follow, share and promote others’ content will find it extremely tough to grow an audience of potential customers. You as an individual are unlikely to be very enthused with a business taking this approach on the social networks you may be a part of so it’s important to keep this in mind.

Top tips for brands

… Promote your products using high quality imagery wherever possible.

… Pinterest users are not there to buy so don’t try the hard sell.

… Talk to people, share their content and leave comments praising others.

… The vast majority of users are female so promote products accordingly.

… Be persistent; making friends takes time in the real world and it will here.

Content suggestions that incorporate your products or services

  • Recipes
  • How-to videos
  • Good quality photography
  • Infographics … Coupons / vouchers
  • Holiday wish lists
In a nutshell

If I had to condense this entire article into an actionable list it would be the following. There are of course many nuances to ensuring success but if you follow the points below you’ll be well on your way.

  • Apply for an account (it’s currently invite only but should take less than 24 hours)
  • Follow the new account wizard and begin following other users who share content relevant to your business
  • Like, repin and comment on other users’ content on a daily basis
  • Create several boards, one or two to add your products and others to share content from others
  • Post no more than five of your products a day, not only to increase the chance of being found through people browsing but to avoid being seen as a business abusing the network.
  • Continue to share, comment and repin each day

Tom Collinson is SEO and Social Media Manager at Digital Clarity, which offers search, social and website services to all types of businesses from start-ups to multinational brands. Tom is responsible for the development of SEO services and social media strategies.

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