If you’re like me, a magpie drawn to anything with a little bling, then Pinterest is the social media platform for you. Not one to ignore a sexy pair of designer shoes or the Fifty Shades of Grey inspired fashion (yes, someone’s probably on top of that already) I was instantly sucked in. Literally; four hours flew by before I worked myself out of its web of visual awesome the first time I visited! It’s like porn for fashionistas, foodies, and DIY interior decorators all wrapped up in a pretty bow and waiting to be plucked (I said plucked). Needless to say, I’ve since had to put some serious boundaries around my Pinterest activity during work hours.

The beauty of blending social sharing and visual eye candy-nothing more!

The beauty of Pinterest lies in its ability to combine the most addictive aspects of social media-social sharing and serious visual stimulation. This new social bookmarking tool cuts out all the distracting excess, like status updates and ads and so forth, and lets users get down to business “pinning” their favorite eye candy from across the World Wide Web and organizing their favorite images into personal categorized collections (or pin boards) in what’s akin to a shareable scrapbook that you’re not embarrassed to show your friends.

Like Facebook with its friends lists and Twitter with its followers, Pinterest lets users follow other users, share their content, make comments, tag users as favorites, and receive real-time pin updates for the folks you follow. You can also easily share your pins across your Facebook and Twitter networks.

So before you say, “Come on! Do we honestly need another social network to suck up our valuable time?” Consider that Pinterest is currently the hottest new social media site:

  • Not only did it set the record for fastest site to hit 10 million monthly visitors, but traffic increased a whopping 36 percent (or by 103 million visitors) from January 2012 to February 2012
  • The invitation-only network currently has an average of 1.36 million users – a number that’s growing daily
  • Pinterest stats from comScore show that 68.2 percent of Pinterest users are women, 80 percent are 25+ years old, 50 percent have children, and 28.1 percent of users have a household income of $100K+
  • Pinterest drives more traffic than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined (study from mashable.com)
  • And women trust Pinterest More Than Facebook, Twitter
  • Buyers referred from Pinterest are not only 10 percent more likely to buy than those sent from other social channels-they also tend to spend twice as much (about $80 per order)

How bloggers, SEOs, and SEMs are using Pinterest

OK, that should have got the attention of Bloggers and social media experts who are probably paying particular note to the strong female demographics on Pinterest and wondering “How can we use Pinterest to market brands and businesses?”

Chris Brogan, President of Human Business Works, a publishing and education company dedicated to improving the human and digital experiences of companies with a focus on strategic advisory and educational projects, and co-author of Trust Agents, the New York Times bestseller, is way ahead of you! Chris tells us:

Brogan“The Internet is becoming a very visual environment. Though search engines aren’t yet very interested in pictures, humans are. The rapid rise of places like Pinterest, plus the over $1B acquisition of Instagram, plus the ubiquity of photo applications in the Top 10 of the iPhone store are just 3 small indicators of how business should be considering their next moves in marketing, promotion, and communication in general.”

Since Pinterest is a site for curating products as a means to bookmark and buy later, Brogan recommends it as a great way to promote brands saying, “Because of its scrapbooking format, [Pinterest] really is a reminder for commerce-or in essence a gift idea generator or event planner-to pin all year long so you can buy gifts or plan events throughout the year.”

Julien Smith, owner of In Over Your Head, co-author of Trust Agents, and sole author of his most recent bestseller, The Flinch, seconds the Pinterest enthusiasm telling us,

Julien Smith“It’s a location where businesses can see what kind of content will work anywhere else. The idea is to get on it before it becomes popular as a marketing technique.”

Businesses can use this to their advantage by pinning products from other companies as well as some of their own products on a visually-interesting board that will attract others and who will pin it on their own boards. And just because Pinterest is largely dominated by female users who are looking for décor inspiration, DIY ideas for events and parties, color and inspiration for weddings, seeking crafts, or looking for new recipes-that doesn’t mean there’s not room for more.

According to business intelligence firm RJ Metrics, 17.2% of all pinboards are categorized under Home, followed by Arts and Crafts (12.4%), Style/Fashion (11.7%), Food (10.5%) and Inspiration/Education (9.0%). Food and Drink is the fastest-growing category, as well as the category that gets the most repins (50% on average) while Style and Fashion is a close second.

The graphs above from TheNextWeb clearly show the opportunities for brands and businesses in certain verticals to guide the buying decisions of potential customers. The picking or “pinning” is prime-especially when you consider that if I find something I like on Pinterest, there is a good chance I’ll click the source link, which leads me to the host website where I can save it to buy later or make an instant purchase.

Pinterest holds lots of opportunity for both small and large brands

See, many large brands have taken note and already hopped on the Pinterest bandwagon. The likes of HGTV (100,658 repins), Etsy (with 108,172), Kate Spade New York (69,201), and Better Homes and Gardens (120,927) appear in the top 10. While smaller wedding blog, The Perfect Palette, shows there’s still room for little businesses too-it ranks tops on Pinterest with more than 240,000 followers.

Why do these sites do so well on Pinterest? My theory: they all hone into the nesting instinct of their largely family-oriented, female usership. It’s as easy as pie as Martha Stewart would say.

So what does this tell us?

That even though Pinterest isn’t a great showcase for companies like Dyson, Coke, or those who aren’t very visually stimulating, businesses that fall under the “nesting” category, such as fashion, food, DIY crafts and home decorating, and weddings and events have opportunity to make a lot of money and web traffic. Just check out how a brand like Kotex is making waves on Pinterest as the very first campaign of its kind in the world called “Woman’s Inspiration Day”.

The Pinterest community lent itself naturally to the theme of the campaign-women expressing themselves naturally and freely.

Even luxury clothing designers are taking advantage of the fact that women trust blogs and trust Pinterest more than they do Facebook and Twitter when they sought out “power pinner” Christine Martinez to help promote their 20th Anniversary Calypso St. Barth summer photo-shoot in March of this year. Martinez decided to tag along on the photo shoot, and as she document images the great fashion and accessories, she posted pins in real time to create instant customer engagement and quite a following. Martinez said the experience let her…

“…play with products and style them… take pictures of and pin them. One of my photos from the shoot had over 9,000 re-pins…Pinterest really allowed me to showcase my curation abilities.”

Popular retailers around the world are using Pinterest as a way to position their brands as thought leaders in their particular niche. From dental care tips for kids from dental practices to advice on how to buy a gift that will get you laid on Valentine’s Day from lingerie manufacturers – Pinterest is the prime arena where retailers are solving the problems of their customers and making a pretty profit.

Take Chobani, the popular U.S. yogurt marketer for example, who is using Pinterest to create a “wholesome” theme around its brand-jam-packed with healthy recipes, nutritional tips, and free fitness tutorials as a way to engage their health- and wellness-minded customers and shows off recipes that include their product posted by their fans on Pinterest:

chobani recipe

While popular media, like The Today Show, tugs at audience heartstrings by pinning inspirational stories that contain its brand name-like this one about a 91-year-old yoga teacher whose long, passion-filled life is proof of the power of balanced living:

91 year old yoga instructor

And don’t forget Oreck, a supplier of home cleaning equipment, who never estimates the power of fuzzy cuteness to draw in the followers with boards that celebrate the pets that mess up our homes in funny “Oreck helps clean up after this…” pins:

cat mess

The Humane Society of New York also takes advantage of Pinterest users and their compassion for the cute and furry with their irresistible pin board of adoptable animals in New York as noted in this article from Marketing Land:

adoptable pets

And while visiting Pinterest, I couldn’t resist saying Hello to my favorite brand, Hello Kitty, which uses Pinterest to promote its proudly pink brand across seven boards:

hello kitty style

However, luxury fashion brand BCBG and wedding blog, Ruffled, had it right when they partnered to create the “I Do” Contest, which challenged brides to creatively plan a wedding for less than $5K.

I do contest

The contest, which ran last April, asked brides to create a board with images of their under $5K wedding. It had to include 3 items from BCBG and 3 items from Ruffled and link to individual user board’s to qualify for the $5,000 prize – including a BCBG bridal dress!

The 12 most common Pinterest marketing bloopers

Obviously there’s tons of opportunity for visually-stimulating businesses on Pinterest. However, to do it right, you still need to use some strategy. Looking at the boards on Pinterest, my marketing senses start to tingle when I see these mistakes being made:

  1. Businesses and pinners uploading pics but not hot linking (or crediting the source)
  2. Pins with no descriptions-this is a great opportunity for keywords
  3. No unique boards
  4. No board descriptions-also a great opportunity for keywords as well as a an opportunity to add your website as a general follow us and a “pin it” button on products
  5. Posting all of your own products to your board-so everything is obviously a self promotion
  6. Not promoting your pins via other social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and etc.
  7. Writing a wall of text – balance is important as users are here primarily to view and share images
  8. Pinning irrelevant pins or pinning spammy items like coupons
  9. Flooding Pinterest with too many pins
  10. No user interaction-only pinning your own items but not repinning, liking, following people, or commenting on others’ pins
  11. Keyword stuffing
  12. Not allowing users to pin products they bought on your ‘thank you for purchasing’ page

7 Free Pinterest tools for the taking

The good news is that there are a ton of Pinterest tools available for free that take the guesswork out of promoting your brand on the site by sharing images and engaging with potential customers across the globe.

1. PinPuff
This tool measures your overall Pinterest influence (cleverly called “Pinfluence’) like analytics, as well the value of each individual pin. Simply sign up and away you go!

2. PinSearch
PinSearch, an extension for the Chrome browser, offers a ton of link building prospects by letting you easily find related photos and information about the source on Pinterest. Just click the ‘Search’ button and you’ll see the Google search results page related to the image.

3. PinAlerts
This tool let’s you create notifications that tell you when someone pins something from your website. You can choose to receive instant notifications or opt for once a day or once a week notifications. Either way, PinAlerts lets you find out who’s interested in your content so you can thank them and engage them to follow your other pin boards and your website.

4. Recent Activity Expander
The Recent Activity Expander tool is a free extension for Chrome that tracks your Pinterest activity in a left column view with info on recent follows, repins since your last visit, and more!

5. PinReach
Like Pinpuff, this freebie similarly serves up analytics on your Pinterest popularity with 4 handy tabs-including ‘Analytics’ that show your total pins, repins, likes, and followers; ‘Boards’ that displays the total number of pins, repins, followers and comments based on your pin boards; ‘Pins’ that displays your top pins; and my personal favorite, ‘Influential Followers’, a tab that narrows in on your most influential followers on Pinterest.

6. Pinterest Right-Click
This free extension for Firefox let’s you pin images with ease thanks to a handy right click button.

7. Pinterest Pro
This free Chrome extension offers 2 convenient features that optimize your activity on Pinterest starting with the ‘Pin to Pinterest’ option that lets you pin a photo with a quick right click. Plus, the ‘Popular Pin Down’ feature lets you check out the latest and most popular content on Pinterest without even having to load the site.

Love tools? About an hour before we set this to publish, Cypress North posted a list of Pinterest tools that includes some great additions to the ones above!

The question of spam…

When it comes to any popular social media platform, spam is a top concern. And spam is prevalent on Pinterest. One part of the problem lies in account hijacking (i.e., a malicious individual pretending to represent your brand). Starbucks is one popular brand that’s already fallen victim to brand hijackers who impersonated it maliciously-in this case the image pinned featured the brand logo with a message falsely offering free gift cards to all Pinterest users.

Next up, we have the age old problem of keyword based spam. Users will create useless accounts with default Pinterest avatars and pin tons of images from a single website with the keyword appearing multiple times as the description (think “keyword spam, keyword spam, keyword spam” and they show for up for searches for keyword spam). When they’re account gets nuked, they simply create another one.

The question of security…

Currently, Pinterest’s account security controls are very primitive compared to other social media platforms and it lacks the two-factor authentication and account recovery protocol that helps protect Facebook users from this sort of identity fraud. Currently, your Pinterest account’s only protection is the password, and if it’s hacked password, you’ll lose control of your account until you sort it out with Pinterest support. In order to protect your account, I recommend a super strong, unbreakable password. If you’re not good with iron-clad passwords, look to Microsoft password tips to help you pick a resilient one. If you do get hijacked, unfortunately the only way to stop this sort of misrepresentation in the future is to report boards that are offering up scams and spam to Pinterest administration.

But wait…news on Pinterest’s spam-blocking efforts just in…

An article from July 15, 2012 from Liz Gannes of AllThingsD.com, shows that Pinterest is more than just a bunch of pretty pictures. It’s actually taking steps to disable sharing links as a spam-fighting measure. And with 31.9 million unique visitors globally in May, the user-generated-photo-sharing platform has decided to stall the methods that search engine marketers and savvy businesses use to track traffic visitor referrals from their Pinterest accounts by blocking or stripping the analytics info from pinned user links, i.e., affiliate links from sites like Amazon.com and shortened links from sites like Bitly.com, and flagging them as spam. Obviously this puts a serious damper on businesses and marketers using Pinterest as a distribution tool to measure site traffic and performance. It will be interesting to see if Pinterest offers its own affiliate marketing tool in the future to cash in on this user behavior, but right now there is no word on its creation from Pinterest headquarters.

What that means for internet marketers like us…

Since its launch, internet marketers have been trying to decode the lack of algorithmic structure on Pinterest in an effort to figure out how to manipulate Pinterest traffic in order to market their brands. Anyone can see that the site has tons of viral marketing potential. However, the algorithm is constantly changing. Can we take this as a sign of growing pains? Perhaps-it’s either that or efforts to thwart the incessant amount of spam.

All the monitoring and testing done to date by both internet marketers and savvy Pinterest users report that the newest Pinterest update has resulted in a flood of outdated content on category pages. Even though this might be Pinterest’s way of protecting its popularity algorithm against spam and marketer-savvy domination-it’s actually hurting the chance for regular users to get deserved attention.

17 quick tips for using Pinterest for business promotion

  1. First and foremost, get your company on board by showing them the convincing Pinterest stats and infographics like these 5:

    marketers guide to pinterest

    pinterest is addictive

    power of pinterest

    should your business use pinterest?

    pinterest image optimization

  2. Next, add Pinterest “Follow” and/or “Pin It” buttons to your website.
  3. Make your boards look nice and professional by pinning high-quality photos (just so you know… Pinterest resizes pins).
  4. Then, encourage your customers and followers to contribute to your pinboards with comments, likes, and repins, but don’t just leave it to them, create engagement with probing questions (i.e., “Do you know where this photo taken?” or “Share your favorite shirt to pair with your ‘our brand’ jeans!”). You can do this on Pinterest as well as on your site or blog.
  5. Be sure to include a link back to your company website and Twitter page on your Pinterest profile as well as individual product URLs on your website for the product pins.
  6. You can also easily install the “Pin It” Bookmarklet so you can easily nab images from your browser searches and pin them directly to one of your boards—all in one click!
  7. Pinterest lends itself naturally to crowdsourcing (the act of outsourcing a task to a large group, like your Pinterest followers). Do this by asking fans to pin pictures of themselves with their favorite product (and tag your brand) and be sure to give them a personal shout out as a thank you.
  8. Combine your Pinterest efforts by integrating to your brand’s other social media channels—like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. This is a great way to build trust and credibility as it shows users that your brand engages with their customers in various social communities, cares what they think, and is readily available.
  9. Piggybacking a bit on that last tip, you can use Pinterest to keep existing customers happy. When you use analytics to see which pins are sending you traffic, you have a simple way track what customers are saying about your brand and products, as well as the things they love—which basically translates to some pretty awesome and free market research!
  10. Likewise, you can look to Pinterest to see what’s being pinned about your brand whether those pins send you traffic or not by checking your domain as a source. For example, to check out what pins have been pinned from Sugarrae.com we would go to http://pinterest.com/source/sugarrae.com/.
  11. Use keywords in hash tags on your pinboards. You can also use them in the individual pin descriptions that you provide in text to describe your individual product images – but stay classy!
  12. Show your community (industry niche and customers) that you’re engaged by pinning regularly to Pinterest. This shows you’re current and interested. Also be sure to comment on any pictures your brand is tagged in, re-pin other popular pins and build out complimentary boards that aren’t just about your product.
  13. You can easily drive traffic back to your website or blog by sharing a little industry knowledge—for example, if you’re a DIY deck builder, create relevant tips in slideshow format for safely building your own deck—useful information that your followers will probably share. You can also showcase your brand’s usefulness by pinning pictures of innovative ways to use your products, and video blog posts with tips to make your customer’s life easier.
  14. Watch and learn from other companies on Pinterest are doing to enhance brand image and follow suit. For example, I personally love the Yogurt brand Chobani who created this stunning “We Would Like to Eat With You,” pin board, which showcases delectable place settings, cutlery, and dishes. I mean, if you feel like you have to eat your yogurt, you might as well eat it in style, right?
  15. Use individual Pinterest boards as a collaboration tool to centralize team efforts, i.e., use a pinboard to brainstorm and plan for your next customer brand appreciation event—and ask customers to pin what they’d like to see there.
  16. Pin nice by following the same basic blog etiquette – always credit your sources, avoid self-promotion, share images from other related users, report spam, and give compliments to other boards. Pinterest is about creating community so don’t be shy about mentioning other users in a comment (just type @username).

Adding video to Pinterest is another story…

To add say a YouTube video, you post the video’s URL rather than the embed code like this:

pinning video

It’s finding the right URL that’s the pain, but good news, the rest is fairly easy…

  • Click on the ‘Share’ button (red arrow above)
  • Copy the code on the left-NOT the ‘Embed’ button for the html code
  • Copy and paste the video’s URL
  • Click the ‘Add+’ button on Pinterest
  • Click on the ‘Find Images’ button and add the link to your pin board
  • Now the video will show up as a URL from youtu.be, and it will actually appear in Pinterest as a pin and play when it’s clicked on

So now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to start using Pinterest for your business, I figure I’d hit that point home by asking Kristy Bolsinger, a well-known and respected Social Media Strategist and Senior Consultant, Social Business Strategy and Colony Culturist at Ant’s Eye View, for her advice on how to run social media campaigns for businesses. I asked Kristy for the first 5 steps she would recommend a business take when launching their Pinterest account…

Five steps to getting started on Pinterest from Kristy Bolsinger

kristy bolsinger“The fact that you’re thinking about Pinterest already is great.

There are some pretty interesting opportunities there for most businesses if they’re willing to devote a little time and effort into the platform.

1. The first thing I would recommend is to get in there and start using the site as an individual. Play around with it. Build out some boards. Find interesting people to follow. And most importantly-observe. Pinterest, like most social networks, has begun to develop a culture unto itself. There are social norms and rules of etiquette to follow that a brand needs to understand. Violation of these things, on any platform, can spell disaster for brands. They can be seen as “not getting it”, inauthentic, and unworthy of engagement. None of those are ideal.

2. The second thing is hopefully something you’ve already done in your social engagements elsewhere so it should translate, but really galvanizing on what your goals and objectives for your efforts. Are you trying to drive traffic? Are you engaging for the sake of a strengthened brand? Or are affiliate sales more in line with your business goals? These are the types of things you’ll want to solidify on. Without doing this first your efforts could be fractured. Targeting your user behaviors on activities that help you meet your business goals will help move you forward-otherwise you’re spinning your wheels.

3. Third, observe other brands. I hate seeing copy cats and you’re far too original for that anyway, but you can learn a lot from other brands and what they’re doing. Seek inspiration and creativity in your content and boards. Observing others is a great way to get your wheels turning. Also – using your personal account, spend some time following the most popular users or influencers in your niche and see what they’re doing. What is it that’s driving engagement and shares of their “pins”? Pay attention to things they like, how they’re responding and so forth. You can learn a lot there.

4. Fourth, have fun. Play! It a fun social network by design. Unless it’s working insanely well for you, I’d shy away from material that would come across as being overly “salesy” and stick to things that are entertaining and engaging. Sometimes this may mean thinking horizontally across your product and service offerings, rather than just vertically. That’s okay. You sell yogurt? Great – what are things yogurt lovers are also into? Perhaps yoga, fitness, cooking, travel, and what not…Looking only vertically you’d essentially be limited to pins and boards about…yogurt. Thinking both horizontally and vertically will help broaden the scope of the content you can include and increase the odds you’ll be found entertaining and worthy of following by your target audience.

5. And finally, fifth, measure and learn. You’ve identified your goals and objectives. You’ve brainstormed and ideated on creative ways to engage your audience and work towards those goals. Now, how are you going to measure your progress? This is perhaps the #1 most common mistake I see people make in social is that they don’t measure their efforts. How do you know it worked? How do you know if it drove sales, or awareness, or positive sentiment? You just don’t. Get your measurement framework decided upon, and in place before you start so you know exactly how awesome you are once you’ve begun.

What’s next?

pin all the things!

Final Thoughts

Kristy is right on; we’re already so entrenched in social media that using Pinterest to market your business should be a breeze. It all comes down to taking cues from your personal social media activities.

You might not know it, but you’re already versed in engaging with an online audience, so use what you’ve already learned to market your brand: be yourself, have fun, and engage with your audience by genuinely liking their contributions and by sharing your knowledge and passion.

Is Pinterest part of your marketing plan?

Check out my recent case study that shows how I generated 234,000+ pins (and counting) to a site with only 45 posts. I give you all the details (with specifics) here.