Pinterest is Hot, But Can It Benefit Your Business?

Pinterest is Hot, But Can It Benefit Your Business? image PINTEREST webimg

It’s official, Pinterest is currently ‘Having a Moment.’

I first heard about Pinterest back in May of 2011, when I was interviewing Anika Burke, owner of Anika Burke’s Eclectic Boutique, about her social media marketing strategy.

Seven months later the blogosphere exploded with post after post about this hot new social photo site. As is the case with many new tech tools, there was the implication that all businesses should be flocking to Pinterest.

While it makes sense to me for a fashion boutique to be on Pinterest, I’m always dubious when anything is heralded as a “one size fits all” solution. Therefore, I wanted to investigate Pinterest further to see whether it made sense for other business categories to be using it as well, and how it might benefit its users.

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In addition to my research, I spoke with Burke again to see how her Pinterest activity has progressed, and she offered some enlightening insights that all marketers should here. But first…

Quick Stats

In its own words, Pinterest is an “online pinboard to organize and share things you love.”

The online equivalent of a swipe file or inspiration board, this invitation-only social image bookmarking site allows users to create “boards” on which to “pin” items of interest. Users can Follow other users, Like, Share and Comment on content, as well as Repin other people’s content to their own boards.

Pinterest launched in March 2010, and by June 2011 had a respectable 275,000 visitors. Then, just past the site’s year-and-a-half mark, traffic skyrocketed by 4,000% with 11 million visits during the week ending December 17, 2011.

According to competitive intelligence website Hitwise, over 10% of these visitors were baby boomers and young adults who are heavy web users and who spend time on house and garden, sports and fitness, and family-oriented websites.

Pinterest is Hot, But Can It Benefit Your Business? image 262545853246668916 AJZaHski c

Strengths

When asked what she thought Pinterest’s greatest strength was, Anika Burke replied: “I feel Pinterest’s greatest strength is that it does not feel like a huge ad. It feels like a place to go and escape. You have all the fun of looking without the pressure to buy.”

Some of the other strong points of this platform include the following:

SEO Power All the posted images contain backlinks to their original site, which is great for search engine optimization if, that is, the links are leading back to YOUR site. Otherwise, you’re sending visitors off to explore other sites, which means you are…

Providing Value Pinning photos that link to helpful sites providing recipes, how-to instructions, or educational resources is a great way to provide value to your audience, which should be a primary objective for any business using social media.

Thought Leadership Sharing ideas, opinions, news and trends that relate to your industry can build your credibility and establish your brand as a go-to source of expertise.

Build Relationships Connecting with your audience on any platform is a good way to share common interests, which helps to forge stronger bonds and humanize your business.

Weaknesses

Search According to Karlie Justus at SocialMediaB2B.com, the Search capabilities are “lagging”, so it’s important to use proper keyword tagging, categorizing and organization in order to improve your chances of being found.

Level of Connection – Many of the comments on peoples ‘pins’ are of the “Yum,” “Cool,” or “I want that!” variety, which make a 140-character tweet seem downright epic by comparison. While eliciting engagement from followers is a good thing, I question the level of connection you are making with someone who posts “I’m hungry” on a picture of your Bacon Cheesy Bread.

Social Media Overload – Let’s face it, you’re probably still trying to get the hang of Google+, and now you’re supposed to bond with your customers over photographic inspiration boards? There are only so many hours in a day, and business owners must be selective when choosing their tools.

Takeaways

Suggesting that every business should be using Pinterest is like saying that every individual should take up scrapbooking as a hobby. Pinterest is dominated by images featuring home décor, crafts, fashion, and food, which are all categories that lend themselves well to strong visuals. If your business falls into these or similar categories, then it may be a good fit.

If your business is in a different, less visual category, you could still do something interesting providing you think outside the box. As with any marketing tool, social media or otherwise, the best reason to use something is because your audience can be found there. Be sure to ask around and see if your customers have expressed an interest in Pinterest.

However, I recommend heeding the words of Burke, who says, “People do not come to Pinterest to be marketed to, they just want to find cool stuff and have fun. I don’t follow brands on Pinterest, I am more interested in finding the amazing random finds. I think of my Pinterest as my ‘Dream Book,’ a place that I put my ideas, inspirations and wants.”

Yes, this is the opinion of one person, but it’s guaranteed there are many more users who feel the same way. Just like with any social platform, there is a best practice etiquette to adhere if you don’t want to come off as a pushy, self-promotional salesperson who’s crashing the party.

Action Steps

1. Visit the Pinterest website and take a look at what’s happening there. You can browse people’s boards and pins, but you need an invitation to create an account and get in on the action (see #3).

2. Check out this list from The Next Web of 10 Cool Pinterest Accounts You Should Be Following.

3. “Request An Invite” with the big red button on the Home page if you want to dig deeper. Please Note: as of this writing, there is allegedly a one-month waiting list for invitations.

4. Create a strategy. As with any social media endeavor, if you decide to get involved, you need to make a plan as to how you will use it to build your brand. This is an area where Burke admits she has fallen short: “I know with Pinterest exploding that we need to have a laid-out game plan, but for now we are still just having fun with it.”

5. Have Fun! After all, if it ain’t fun, why bother?

Are you using Pinterest for your business? Please chime in with your thoughts in the Comments section.

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