If you’ve never heard of Pinterest, you might be the last person in the western world. If you don’t know how it works or how to use it as a marketing tool, well, you’re among friends; being such an abstract method of social connection it might seem hard to use it for practical, marketing purposes. It is possible, however, and, depending on which business you find yourself in, very effective.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is an image based social media website that allows users to collect images and ‘pin’ them onto different ‘boards’ attached to your profile. Think of it as Facebook without the self-pity, Twitter without the twittering and Myspace without anyone actually getting in your space. Unerringly cheerful and positive, Pinterest stands alone among social media sites; one user even said that “part of Pinterests appeal is that it is beautiful.” And it truly is. Underneath this beauty, however, lies a newer but already well worn marketing strategy; as Pinterest is essentially an image based economy there’s little need or use for wordy articles or advertisements. Instead you can catch the eye of potential customers with bright, beautiful images that display your products or represent what you, and your business, are all about.

Getting started

Like Facebook, Pinterest has a separate ‘entrance’ for businesses; unlike Facebook, however, you don’t have to hold a personal Pinterest account to make one for your business. On the sign up page you’ll see, in small writing underneath the initial sign up sheet, a link to open a business Pinterest account. Simple! As with other websites you’ll need to give some basic information; your businesses name, where you’re based and, of course, what kind of business you are in!  It’s easy to assume that, because you’re not in the business of fashion or art, for example, that Pinterest isn’t going to be an effective tool for you but, have faith, it most definitely is!

At it’s core, Pinterest is about creativity and, as such, if you can be creative with your use of it, you’ll get more out of it. The premise is very simple; once you have a Pinterest account you can start creating ‘boards’ which are, essentially, colourful folders in which you’ll keep your different bits and bobs. Upon these boards you can ‘pin’ anything you wish and, furthermore, it’s a certainty that the result will be beautiful. First, though, there is the simple matter of your profile; you’ll need to upload a representative picture, perhaps your company logo, add some information and drop a link for your main website in the ‘Your website’ box. Additionally, Pinterest allows you to personalise your URL to some degree so, for example, you could have uk.pinterest.com/Janesdresses or, alternatively, ‘/thehappypie. You see? Once you’ve dealt with these basics you can start pinning!

There are three main ways by which you can add ‘pins’ to your boards; firstly you can search for pins that match your interests, for example under the heading ‘business humour’, and look through what is already available on the site. If you find a little gem that you think will make your followers laugh then you simply press the red ‘Pin it’ button and instruct Pinterest as to which board you’d like it stuck to. Ideally you should keep your product information separate from industry news and humorous pins. Three boards should be enough to get you started. Secondly you can link in content from another website, for example a video or article of relevance,  or you can upload your own images and content. Both of these latter examples can be found by clicking the plus sign next to your profile picture.

Gaining momentum

The most essential part of your Pinterest campaign is, as always, the output of quality, relevant material that will inform and interest your followers. The method of doing this on Pinterest is very different than the one you would employ on  more word based social media platforms, though; with the main focus being on bright, eye-catching images. Gaining and keeping followers is an almost formulaic process these days, albeit one that many cannot decipher. As such it is necessary to forge new strategies and formulas for each situation; the general advice, however, that can apply to all is this;

  1. Verify your account and use “rich” pins; the first is a pretty obvious statement but, to be fair, Pinterest puts more stock in your validity than many sites; when your account is verified Pinterest will pop a little tick next to your profile picture. This essentially tells other users that your are definitely not hosting a fake account and, thereby, makes you more attractive to potential followers. The second, however, is harder to decipher when you’re not a real ‘Pinner’ yourself. Essentially there are three types of “Rich” pins: product, recipe and article. They are free to use and stand out in the general stream of pins but you have to apply in order to use them so be prepared for a slight delay. They also require some knowledge of oEmbed and meta-tagging so if this is out of your technical grasp, you’ll need a helper. The result, however, is arguably worth the trouble; they show that you have put time and care into maintaining your site, they are detailed and specialised to your business and they allow you to protect the information your put in the comments section. This is, of course, very useful as it prevents anyone from removing your product information!
  2. Be irresistible; play always to your strengths and show the best side of your products, certainly, but you must also be bold. Often, and wisely, in this hyper-connected world we censor ourselves. It might even be honest to say that we censor ourselves too broadly; we are afraid to step out from the crowd and be seen. This, if you really want to be noticed, must change. Be honest about your business ethos; be open and sincere and you will catch the consumers eye, largely because you will stand apart from the sea of passive, sugar coated fluff that clogs the market today. That said it is key that you play to your strengths; when the Huffington post opened their Pinterest account they made a habit of pinning eye-catching, bold quotes from their articles as, understandably, they traffic more in words than images. Your pins must all pull their own weight as they will be constantly on display so disregard anything you learned from Twitter marketing; repetition will not only be unnecessary, it could be deadly. Pick and craft each pin with care and make your Pinterest account as high quality as your products.
  3. Share valuable content; in keeping with the theme of quality you should think of each pin as a product in and of itself. It should share the information you want it to but must be valuable to your followers; share inside tips from your business. Share information about your products; how they are made, how they were conceived. These really are the things people want to know: how ethical you are, how efficient, how much care you put into it all. Valuable content can be anything from a “behind the scenes” look at how you make your merchandise or a presentation designed to attract. Online gems like SlideShare allow you to put your presentations on Pinterest; sleek and clever, this little app will even  play your presentation from the board you pin it to! You can even update the URL after you upload it so that it’s connected with your website rather than SlideShare; all you have to do is view your pin after you upload it and press the edit button then all you have to do is replace the SlideShare URL with your own.
  4. Buddy up; if possible, partner with people in the same business who share interests with you and, even better, who has a following of their own. By supporting each other you can widen your reach and build bridges; it does not do to isolate yourself in any situation, certainly not when there’s revenue on the line. Many companies have contacted so called “super pinners”, that is Pinterest users with a large following who are prolific in their addition of new and diverse content, in order to market through them. This can be done in many ways, depending on your budget; for example you might offer them a product to test or keep if they would be happy to post their opinion of it on Pinterest with some details as to where others might find it. A good example of this, though an extravagant one, is the Honda #Pintermission campaign wherein they offered influential users a paid opportunity to test their CR-V for a period of time and, afterwards, they did what they are undoubtedly good at; they made pins of their experiences and hashtagged them to Honda. Genius, right?
  5. Make your website ‘Pinterest friendly’; much like Twitter landing pages are designed to accommodate and cater to your Twitter followers, the ‘pin it’ and ‘follow us’ buttons that you can add to your website through Pinterest make your site more accessible to any wandering followers or new viewers. The idea here is that if a customer, for example, loves a certain product displayed on Facebook and makes it to your website they might want to keep up to date with developments in your catalogue. The one-click buttons that Pinterest makes available tell then that not only are you on Pinterest but it is also easy for them to follow you. Unlike Twitter, however, the idea here is not to get followers away from your social media site and onto your official web page but, rather, to pull people from your official page onto your Pinterest page. From here they can browse a kind of online, easy access catalogue that is updated as things progress. In fact, think of Pinterest in just this way; an interactive catalogue, not just of your products but of your business as a whole. Interacting with the customer is key now more than ever, after all.

As always the name of the game is connectivity; be connected to your customers and followers and, perhaps just as importantly, be connected with yourself. Connect your sites with each other and create, if you will, a kind of ‘social media passport’ on your main page; include links to your Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest  pages in it and, if you wish, even a link to a semi-personal blog or website. Keep in mind, however, that these people are your potential customers and partners so professionalism is key. Happy Pinning!