By now you may have heard about Pinterest's latest feature, a new tool to alert pinners when prices fall on items they're watching.
"Cutting out the middle-man, the social platform will now align its users interests to the buy-channel, and is on the road to becoming a virtual gold mine for marketers and brands alike," wrote Deanna Gillen of Business Insider.
The value proposition for large consumer brands is significant. With tens of millions of active users, the community is a hub for people to discover new hobbies, curate their favorite items and share what they love. For small businesses, however, the connection may appear less than clear-cut. The key is to pinpoint specific uses that align with your brand.
Tell a Human Interest Story
"Pinterest is a great way for small-business owners to tell their story, engage with their community, raise awareness, boost traffic and learn what their audience and customers want and like," says Pinterest's communications manager Annie Ta.
Dive deep into your story and focus on topics that generate human interest. What do your employees enjoy in their spare time? What causes does your company support?
"Pinterest is a great way for small businesses to highlight aspects of their brand that may not immediately come to mind—for example, if a florist donates 10 percent of their profits to charity, they could create a board devoted to their philanthropic efforts," Ta explains.
Human-to-human connections are the heart of communities—create a visual collage of your company's human side.
Share Your Portfolio
Pinterest is a visually driven medium, so you may think your company needs great photography to be active on the service. But you can come to the table to share perspectives of customers and prospects as well.
"Small-business owners use Pinterest in a number of interesting and inspiring ways, from photographers and graphic designers displaying their portfolios to interior designers showing off their concepts to wedding planners showcasing event ideas," Ta explains.
Beyond sharing your company's portfolio, you can also curate customer testimonials and resources that your client or shopper community will love.
The key is to start with your users and work backward to where their needs align with your brand. Your ultimate goal: to add value to your community's ecosystem.
Understand That Pinterest is User-Driven
On average, Pinterest shoppers spend more at checkout ($170 per order), compared to Facebook ($90) and Twitter ($70), according to a 2012 study by Rich Relevance, an e-commerce personalization company. The platform is a significant traffic driver, generating exposure for and connecting audiences to new concepts and companies.
A parallel trend is that Pinterest is a community-generated platform. Digitas reports that in fashion and retail, 18 percent of content engagement is driven by brands and 82 percent is driven by community. Similarly, more than 70 percent of engagement is generated by users, not brands. Basically, word of mouth is responsible for success on Pinterest.
It drills down to the concept of discovery. People use the network to curate and discover new things. To that end, they'd rather learn from peers and trusted advisers than companies.
What small businesses can do is be that friend and facilitate meaningful dialogue.
"Best practices for using Pinterest for professional purposes," Ta says, "are similar to pinning as a regular individual: creating boards that represent a unique set of interests or topics, pinning from various sources, pinning from within Pinterest to engage with others and writing thoughtful pin descriptions."
Ritika specializes in business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and quantitative analysis. She's written for American Express OPEN Forum, Forbes, Investopedia, CrazyEgg, Unbounce, the Contently Blog, the SAP Innovation Blog, and others.
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