How to Use Pinterest in Your Small Business

Is Pinterest just another social media fad, or should you actually invest your time and sign up?
DIYMarketing Expert, Marketing Strategist and Small Business Marketing Advisor, DIY Marketers
February 09, 2012

I signed up for Pinterest about six months ago. And just like Twitter, I didn’t quite get it at first.  I’m usually so focused on applications that are obvious benefits to small business that I immediately dismissed it. This was a mistake on my part.

Pinterest is a big mover in the social media space. In fact, Time magazine published Pinterest in its “50 Best Websites of 2011″ and Hitwise data shows Pinterest with 17 million total visits per week.  As if that weren’t enough, stats show that the average time per user is 72 minutes!  I’m not sure about the most recent Facebook stats, but the number I recall for Facebook is about 45 minutes. So Pinterest beats that by a mile.

After I saw these statistics, it became apparent that small business owners should consider Pinterest as part of their social media strategy.

What is Pinterest?

Think of Pinterest as a virtual corkboard that says something about who you are and what interests you. Inside of the context that your customers want to know what you’re about as a business, this can be a powerful branding opportunity. Pinterest won’t replace Facebook or Twitter. It’s really more of a sharing tool. The big benefit for small business is that it expands your visibility and can potentially become a lead generator because it can potentially increase the number of people who see your board and as they share what they find, the number of incoming links to your site will increase—and that builds credibility for your Web space as well.

What NOT to do on Pinterest

Pinterest clearly states that it isn't a place to actively promote your brand or your products. I’m not sure how long that will last. Twitter and Facebook weren’t designed to be promotional sites either and many businesses use these social media sites for exactly that purpose. It’s my opinion that the quality of the interactions on Twitter and Facebook has decreased as a result of some people blatantly promoting products and services to the point of occurring as spam. 

Is Pinterest right for you?

Pinterest is right for you if:

  • You are already active on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. 
  • If you spend a lot of time on your computer researching products and services that might benefit your customers.
  • You consistently write blogs and articles to support your business.  Simply touring Pinterest pictures can inspire ideas and articles for your publication.
  • You enjoy engaging others online and sharing.

Creative uses of Pinterest for your business

  • Inspiration. Use Pinterest as a vision or Inspiration Board to help you brainstorm or develop content.
  • Branding. “Pin” or post pictures emulate your brand and what it stands for.
  • Exposure. Every “Pin,” “Repin,” & “Like” is shared across the category that it falls under, as well as the network of the user who “Pinned” the image.
  • Get discovered. Because your brand will be exposed to a broader audience, there is a likelihood that your brand will be discovered by people who never knew they wanted it.
  • Host contests.  Why not let people pin images of themselves and your product? 
  • E-commerce. Post creative photos of your products that engage people and drive people to your e-commerce site.
  • Do market research. Pin pictures and get people talking about what they like and what they don’t.  Create a conversation around the pictures you post.

Examples of how to use Pinterest to build your brand

Check out Shashi Bellamkonda’s board. Shashi does it right. When you land on his board, you can see the books he’s reading, the kind of food he likes as well as the brands he likes.  Notice how he’s not overtly selling himself, rather he’s letting you inside his world and building his credibility by the items he chooses to feature. Another great tip that you can get from Shashi’s board is how he has named his boards; Food blog, News and Events, Books that feature Shashi, etc. The titles alone give you a quick visual picture of who he is and what he’s about.

Another terrific example is Etsy. When you look at Etsy’s pins, you’ll see that it’s almost a website all its own.  You can see the commenting feature at work here as people leave their comments about the different products. This can potentially be a market research example at play.

Is Pinterest just one more thing to follow?

It might be. Take a look at your marketing plan and see if building your brand visibility is something that you want to do. Are you launching a new product? Are you trying to get some feedback on a product before starting an expensive market research project? Pinterest may be a good option for you. 

Here's one final tip: If your business is active on several social media platforms, you’ll want to at least register and claim your URL as a brand.  This way you will have this tool available when you are ready to use it.