Getting Started with Pinterest

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Social bookmarking is coming back in a big way, thanks to the popularity of Pinterest (pronounced to rhyme with “interest”). Dubbed as a “virtual pinboard,” it lets you organize and share photos of the many products, places, and things you find interesting online. You can also browse other users’ pinboards and re-pin to your own board anything that piques your interest.

Pinterest has attracted a lot of buzz, and our own Windmill Networking contributor Debbie Miller‘s recent post on Pinterest for the Hospitality Industry actually has more Pins than Stumbles or Pluses! That being said, there are just as many Pinterest skeptics out there, so before we jump in with both feet, let’s take a step back and put Pinterest into some perspective.

A Short History of Pinterest

In December 2009, San Francisco-based Cold Brew Labs began initial development on the app. A year later, Pinterest launched and soon after proceeded to operate in an invitation-only open beta mode (which continues to this date). By 2011, the company had already raised a $27 million round of venture capital funding, increasing the company’s value to $200 million dollars and gaining 3.2 million monthly unique visitors in the process (note: that number, as of February, 2012, is now 10 million). As a testament to its success, the estimated unique visitors to the site increased by 429 percent from September to December of 2011. To top it off, Pinterest unveiled its own iPhone app in that same year.

Who Enjoys Pinning?

From the onset, Pinterest attracted mostly users engaged in hobbies–like say cooking or arts and crafts–and who want to share their interests and to seek out others who share the same pursuits and tastes. For example if you’re into baking cookies, you can search for fellow bakers and “re-pin” photos in other users’ boards or bookmark the boards that you fancy for reference. It’s also quite popular with women, who make up 58 percent of the traffic into the site. In fact, one Pinterest infographic puts the Facebook Fans for Pinterest at 97% female.

From Hobbyists to Businesses

2011 saw the emergence of businesses creating their own Pinterest pages. Today, some of the top online and offline retailers are already using Pinterest, like Nordstrom (7,501 followers) and ModCloth (7,658 followers). Shauna Causey, social media manager of Nordstroms, shares that, “it [Pinterest] allows us to see what trends and styles the community likes based on engagement – likes and repins.” This gives them a pulse on consumer behaviors which they can then use in determining what merchandise to carry or feature in their outlets or on their web store.

Online vintage clothing retailer Modcloth’s Alicia Barnes, in the other hand, sees Pinterest as their best source of free referrals in terms of traffic and revenue. Ninety-nine percent of the approximately 7,000 pins tagged on their Pinterest board comes from advocates of the ModCloth brand and products, she says.

Other big brands that have adopted Pinterest to their advantage include Whole Foods (they not only focus on foods but related themes including holidays, cooking, recycling, art projects and the Whole Planet Foundation) and Travel Channel (the U.S. cable TV network taps into interests such as animals, street food, behind-the-scenes personal photos, beaches, landmarks and souvenirs).

Getting Started with Pinterest

Does your business need to be on Pinterest? Not necessarily. But I’ll be honest in telling you that I am including Pinterest in the social media strategy for a client for the first time this month. Why? For one, Pinterest is attracting eyeballs. Lots of them. At the time of writing this post, Pinterest is now the 16th most visited website in the United States, attracting more American visitors than even AOL or Paypal.

Obviously Pinterest is a visual site, so the question you need to ask yourself is: Do the products and services that my company sells have visual aspects to them? If they are visually appealing, Pinterest is a no-brainer for your company to at least establish a presence and experiment with. Similar to how even a B2B social media website like LinkedIn has compelling uses for B2C companies, B2B businesses can also leverage whatever visual aspects they might have to use Pinterest as well. Looking for ideas? Check out the my Pinterest page. Guess what?  Over the last 10 days, outside of search engines, that page (which is very much a work-in-progress) is now sending me the 5th most traffic – more than LinkedIn!

Since I’ve hopefully perked your interest, here’s 5 easy pointers to help you get started with Pinterest:

  • Optimize. Just like with any other social media platform, make sure that you optimize your bio, location, and potentially even your URL and name, for SEO.
  • Brand. There are a few options for your profile photo, but if you have an optimized Facebook image, use that as it gives you the most real estate for your branding on your page.
  • Strategize. Users can have multiple Pinboards, each having a different theme.  Pinterest creates some sample boards for you which you should edit. I recommend that, wherever possible, align your social media content strategy with your Pinterest board themes.
  • Engage. If you can find them, engage with your target customer. You can search by category or simply by keyword. Check out their boards, and if you come across a pin that you like and find appropriate, you can either Like or Repin it on one of your Pinboards using the icons that show up when you hover over the item. At the least you can simply comment on the pin.
  • Follow. Similar to the engagement advice, following relevant boards of your target customer, or as part of your Pinterest content curation, is a simple way to engage and potentially be found by others.

Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, here are a few advanced tips that will help you in promoting your brands and products through Pinterest:

  • Use it like a focus group to find out how what your followers like (or dislike) through their boards.
  • Run contests, like having people Pin photos of them using your products, to generate buzz. It’s a great way of drumming up interest to a large audience at virtually zero cost and with active engagement all throughout to boot.
  • Promote a lifestyle. Pin photos that capture the culture of your company or its brand essence instead of straight up posting product shots.
  • If you have videos on YouTube, why not pin them as well?

What has your experience with Pinterest been? Any other tips that you’d like to add to the above? And if you need a Pinterest invite, contact me!

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

@nealschaffer

Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker | 日米ソーシャルメディア専門家|G+: https://t.co/BqaJvubiP8
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