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Marketing Your Business with Pinterest

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Pinterest is the hot new social network — but should it become a component of your online marketing strategy? In this article My Pinterest author Michael Miller explains why Pinterest makes sense for many businesses, and how to get the most out of it.
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Pinterest is the latest, greatest social networking phenomenon. And, as with all social networking phenomena, businesses are ravenously licking their chops over how best to use Pinterest to market their products.

The question is, should you consider adding Pinterest to your online marketing mix – and if so, how? Read on to get smarter about the whole Pinterest thing, and figure out best to use Pinterest to market your own business and products.

What is Pinterest – and Why Should You Care?

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you need to do so. Pinterest (www.pinterest.com) is a visually-oriented social network that uses the metaphor of “pinning” visual items to virtual pinboards, and then sharing those items with your online friends. It’s kind of like a Facebook with pictures only, where people share and repin their favorite photos and other images.

Figure 1 Lots of pins on Pinterest, each pinned to a specific pinboard.

It’s this repinning that makes Pinterest so social. Yes, users can simply look at pins from their friends, but when people repin items they like, those items can then go viral – and be seen by hundreds if not thousands of other users.

All this is good and well, but why should your business be interested? Well, as with most things, it’s all about the numbers. Pinterest boasts more than 20 million users, up from fewer than a half million just a year prior. That’s a higher growth rate than even Facebook had at that point in their development, which is what’s turning a lot of business heads.

More important, people who use Pinterest are really engaged with the site. Users spend an average of 88 minutes per month on the Pinterest site; this compares to 5 minutes per month for Google+ users, 16 minutes/month for LinkedIn users, and 24 minutes/month for Twitter users. The only social media with more engagement are Facebook and Tumblr.

All this engagement is driving referral traffic to company websites and blogs. In fact, Pinterest drives more traffic than YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn – combined. Look at it this way: Pinterest is statistically equal with Twitter and Google in driving referrals, behind only Facebook and StumbleUpon. That should get your attention.

Even more interesting is who’s using Pinterest. Unlike other online media, Pinterest users are overwhelmingly female (80%). Most are between the ages of 24-44 (56%) and have incomes between $25,000 and $75,000 (69%). The typical Pinterest user is what you might call a soccer mom, more likely to live in a Midwestern state than one of the coasts.

So if you sell products or services targeted at educated, middle-class women, Pinterest is a good place to find them. We’re talking about things like women’s clothing, cooking and gourmet items, personal care products, home improvement and interior design products and services, and the like. Not surprisingly, these are all heavily pinned categories on the Pinterest site.

Is Pinterest for You?

Pinterest has some appealing demographics, but that’s not to say that Pinterest is a perfect marketing vehicle for all products or businesses. Pinterest is a highly visual medium, and if your products or services aren’t visual – that is, if there’s nothing interesting to look at – then Pinterest may not be for you. Also consider those demographics; if you’re selling snow tires for all terrain vehicles to a young male audience, Pinterest probably isn’t the right place for your business.

But if you do have a visually appealing product or service, and if you’re aiming primarily for a female demographic, then give Pinterest a spin. There’s a lot of potential there.

How to Market on Pinterest

Before you jump into the Pinterest pool, you need to need to determine just how you can or want to use the site. Different businesses may (and probably do) have different expectations for using Pinterest.

With that in mind, here’s a short list of ways you can use Pinterest for your business:

  • Drive traffic and sales. This is main priority for many businesses; you pin items to your company’s pinboards in the hope that potential customers will click on those pins, be taken to your own website, and purchase what they were looking at.
  • Provide product information. If you’re not driving sales directly, you can use your pinned items to link back to product information pages on your site.
  • Highlight events and activities. You’re not limited to pinning product photos; you can also pin photos and videos of past and upcoming company events. It’s a great way to keep your customers informed of what’s going on with your company.
  • Engage with customers. Given all the viral repinning going on, you can easily use Pinterest to build a community around your brand or products.
  • Improve your website’s search rankings. When someone clicks a pinned image to go to your website, that increases the number of links back to your site increases. Since backlinks are one of the key factors in effective SEO, the more Pinterest users that click back to your site, the higher your site will rank with Google and the other search engines.

Getting Started on Pinterest

How does a business get started with Pinterest? Since Pinterest doesn’t have any business pages or profiles, like the ones offered by Facebook, you have to create a normal Pinterest account for your brand or product. Once that’s done, you need to write a short profile description for your business, and add a profile picture. (Most companies use their logo or a product photo for the profile picture.)

Figure 2 The account profile and picture for retailer Williams-Sonoma.

When you complete your account profile, you’re encouraged to include a link back to your website. Obviously, you should do this. The website button is displayed beneath your profile picture and description; anyone who clicks this button goes directly to your main site.

For that matter, you should also link your Pinterest account to your company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. This cross-posts your Pinterest pins to your other social media, and also displays Facebook and Twitter buttons next to your website button in your profile.

In addition, you want to encourage cross-traffic between your Pinterest and website, which means making it easy for Pinterest users to both follow your company on Pinterest and pin items from your site to their Pinterest boards. You do the former by embedding a Pinterest “Follow” button on your site’s home page; you do the latter by embedding “Pin This” buttons on each page of your site.

Figure 3 A “Pin This” button for your website.

Creating Marketing Pinboards

Next, you need to customize your Pinterest presence by creating pinboards to pin interesting items from your website. You want your boards to reflect the different products you offer, and the many ways those products can be used.

Now, you could use Pinterest’s default pinboards – Products I Love, Favorite Spaces and Places, Books Worth Reading, My Style, and For the Home. But chances are these default boards won’t serve your marketing purposes. What you want to do is create a series of boards that make sense to your customers and fit your brand and products.

For example, if you’re a shoe retailer, you might create boards for Women’s Shoes, Men’s Shoes, Athletic Shoes, and the like. Or maybe you create separate boards for each brand you sell. Or, if you sell women’s shoes only, you might create boards for High Heels, Pumps, Flats, Boots, Sneakers, and the like. Think of how your customers view or use your products, and create and name your boards accordingly.

Take Home Depot as an example. This home improvement retailer has created boards for indoor and outdoor decorating, lighting, gardening, storage and organization, and the like. They’ve also created boards for specific rooms and occasions, such as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. They do an exemplary job of thinking how their customers view and use their products, and have created and named their boards accordingly. You should do the same.

Figure 4 Some of Home Depot’s customer-focused pinboards.

By the way, when you create a pinboard you also want to define which picture serves as the cover image. By default, Pinterest will use your most recent pin as the current cover image; you can (and probably should), however, choose a different image – one that is the most appealing or appropriate for that board. To do this, mouse over the board and click the Edit Board Cover button. You can then select any of the pins in this board to serve as the cover image.

Deciding What and When to Pin

After you’ve created your pinboards, it’s time to start filling them up with pins. When you first start out, you want to make an extra effort to populate all your boards with a half-dozen or so pins each (so they look relatively full in thumbnail view), then begin dropping in more pins over time.

What sorts of things should you pin? Product photos are always good, as are product videos. (Pinterest lets you pin both images and videos.) In addition, you can pin photos of your product’s endorsers or even customers using your products. It’s also good to pin photos of your product in use, not just beauty shots. Pin about things your customers are interested in and you’ll do fine.

Figure 5 A selection of useful (and colorful!) pins from Sherwin-Williams’ Tips and Tricks pinboard.

Every image you pin should be accompanied by a short text description; use this space to include the necessary promotional copy and website URL. You should pin once or twice a day, no more than a few pins at a time. You don’t want to overwhelm your followers with too many pins at once, nor do you want to pin so infrequently that your followers forget about you.

So pin frequently – but not too frequently – and pin items that will be of interest to current and future customers. Make each pin a unique selling opportunity, with great accompanying copy and a link back to that product’s page on your website. If you do your job right, you’ll soon find your pins getting repinned – and your customer base increasing.

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