Get pinned: 5 ways to attract business on Pinterest

Apr 13, 2012
Get pinned: 5 ways to attract business on Pinterest

Consider the office cubicle. Most people personalize theirs by thumbtacking mementos to the fabric-covered partitions: a postcard from Rome, a Bruce Springsteen concert ticket, a snapshot of the family pug. By decorating our workstations, we express ourselves and invite conversation with colleagues.

Now there’s an online version of the cubicle collage. Pinterest is a social networking site where users post, or “pin,” images that reflect their interests, personalities and lifestyles.

What does that have to do with your small business? Plenty, say marketers and entrepreneurs. By decorating your Pinterest space, you invite conversation with potential customers.

And there are tons. With 10.4 million users and growing since it launched in 2010, Pinterest drives more referrals than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined, say Shareaholic’s content experts. Put simply, people are more likely to land on your company’s website via Pinterest.

Here’s how it works: Users create “pinboards” to categorize their photos, videos and other images. Pinners connect by appreciating each other’s images. Much like retweeting on Twitter, they can repin their favorite stuff. Businesses are realizing the marketing power of Pinterest – from corporate pinners like Whole Foods and Tuesday Morning to local mom-and-pops.

So how can you start pinning? Try these tips:

Think in pictures. Pinterest is all about images, so make your boards visually appealing. Post vivid, high-quality photos. Keep descriptions short and sweet. A recent pin by Connie’s Kids, a children’s-clothing store in Chesapeake, featured a newborn baby snoozing atop a soft pink blanket. The caption: “A great new way to use our monogrammed blankets!”

“I try to find the most unique and eye-catching items on our site – usually handmade items, one-of-a-kind styles or traditional outfits that make them say ‘Awww’ when they look at it,” said owner Connie Todd, who opened Connie’s Kids in 1987 and launched its Pinterest page in mid-March.

Have a tattoo salon? Pin your best tats and piercings. A restaurateur might share a yummy plate of crab cakes. Wedding photographers can pin their portraits faster than brides say “I do.”

Don’t hawk. Help. Pinterest frowns on outright self-promotion. The site has an informal, folksy vibe where pinners share things they love and ideas that rock. Be subtle. Incorporate your products into useful, fun pinboards that offer gift recommendations, shopping tips, travel advice and other ideas.

“If you look at my boards, you will see that it is not all store-related,” said Todd of Connie’s Kids. “I have nursery and kids rooms’ decorating ideas, fun activities and crafts for your kids, ‘Just for Giggles’ funny photos and sayings, as well as recipes you can do with your little ones. By adding the other categories, I am hoping my followers will find it interesting enough to follow all my boards, and they will see the clothing posts mixed in.”

Michelle Odom, co-owner of Kitsch, a Norfolk boutique that sells handmade jewelry, accessories and other items from Virginia artists, calls Pinterest a “visual inspiration board.” A staunch supporter of locally crafted goods, Odom launched an account to showcase not only the work of her consigners but non-Kitsch talent as well.

Don’t assume you’re “unpinnable.” At first glance, Pinterest seems a better fit for retailers, restaurants and other enterprises with photogenic products. That’s what Missy Schmidt, marketing director at Norfolk software company xTupule, originally thought. Then she noticed competitors on Pinterest. She remained skeptical, unwilling to blindly follow the herd, until a webinar convinced her otherwise. Turns out, service-oriented businesses are pinnable, too.

“Within 10 minutes of setting up our Pinterest page, we had nearly 200 followers,” Schmidt said. xTuple’s pins include a magazine cover of CEO Ned Lilly and a clever “Power of X” pinboard with photos of X shapes in architecture and other venues.

Compared with text-heavy Facebook, Pinterest’s one-two punch of graphics suits the attention spans of today’s consumers.

“Our three-second world is getting faster and faster,” Schmidt said. “So you better be able to convey what you mean – or at least grab someone’s attention – in an instant.”

Involve your clients and colleagues. Encourage loyal customers to pin you on their boards. Hold a contest for the best pinboard about one of your products or services, said Nancy Pekala, the American Marketing Association’s senior director of online content.

Her recent article, “B2Bs Get Pinned on Pinterest,” also recommends creating a customer board with photos and testimonials. And don’t forget your employees. Pin their bios and photos of them in action, with their permission, of course. Post behind-the-scenes shots around the workplace and at special events.

Respect privacy and copyright laws. Be mindful of uploading images that belong to others. Link from original sources, include URLs when appropriate and give credit where it’s due. As mentioned earlier, don’t violate someone’s privacy when posting photos of groups and public events.

Above all, keep it in perspective. Like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, Pinterest is just one tool in your arsenal of social networking strategies. Enjoy creating compelling boards, but don’t pin all your hopes on it for success. And remember, the next social media craze is right around the corner.

“It’s like, when you finally figure out Facebook, they throw something else at you,” Todd joked.

Schmidt, too, remains pragmatic about Pinterest. “I’m still not convinced it’s the right space for us,” she said. “But it’s another outlet to test. And it’s addictive.”