2014 is the year that Pinterest becomes a seriously useful tool for brands and marketers. At least, that seems to be the buzz around the social media commentator campfire at the moment. When the platform launched in 2010, it was simply an online pinboard that allowed users to organise and share images that they found interesting on the web. In just two years it became the third largest social network behind Facebook and Twitter, and to date its user numbers stand at around the 70 million mark.

Many retailers saw the opportunity to leverage Pinterest and the stats are there to support that decision. Research from Bizrate Insights (2012) says that 70% of Pinterest users use the platform as inspiration for their purchases. However, there are also opportunities for brands in both the B2C and B2B space. Daniel Maloney, CEO and co-founder of Tailwind, a Pinterest analytics, listening and management tool, shared some interests at a recent talk at Social Media Week in New York:

“It’s not just the case that Pinterest is for retailers anymore; brands are investing in Pinterest, but many are still at the early adopter phase.

“What leads to success on Pinterest? Users must understand the differences of this platform. Pinterest is aspirational – it’s about the ‘future’, and what you want.

“Twitter is about what is happening in this moment. Facebook is about who you are and what you do. Pinterest is about ‘who do I want to be?’”

The opportunity is there for brands and companies to tap into this aspirational element of Pinterest if they tailor their content carefully. People are already engaging with brands on the platform. According to a 2013 study by Digitas and Curalate, 70% of brand engagement on Pinterest is user generated, which means there is a golden opportunity for brands to drive the conversation themselves.

A number of new features on Pinterest will help brands do this. There is the newly launched Interests – which as of 3 March is still in the preview stage. Interests analyses what you’re interests are based on your pins and other websites that you visit – constantly evolving list that aims to provide more choice than the current crop of categories. So if people are already visiting branded websites, there’s a chance similar content will show up in their Interests.

In November 2013, Pinterest launched Place Pins, which are pins that contain geo-location information that allow users to map out places of interest to them. At present Pinterest has not monetised Place Pins; however, as writer Kurt Wagner pointed out in his recent Mashable blog:

“It would seem plausible to imagine the company doing so in the future. In theory, restaurants or retailers could send out coupons or alerts to users who are nearby, encouraging them to come into the store.”

Pinterest also launched Related Pins at the end of last year – a selected of recommendations sent to your home feed related to other pins you’ve saved or liked, not from people that you are following. Pinterest’s users initially reacted with some cynicism to this move and worried that they’d be subject to spam. It’s up to content marketers to create quality content that is going to be welcome.

“The dynamics of Pinterest are different for B2B users,” says Daniel Maloney. “It’s not about vanity metrics. It’s about building a community of relevant people for whom the content is relevant.”

The lesson here is – don’t focus on trying to get as many followers as possible, plan your content carefully, always with the thought in mind: ‘Is this going to add value?’ and be of real use or interest to your target audience.

Here are five more key points to remember when thinking about using Pinterest as part of your content marketing strategy:

1. Targeting is built-in thanks to the board function on Pinterest – people can follow just one board relating to a company rather than the whole lot on offer. So think about how you can segment your content into different boards targeted at different areas of your demographics.

2. Per user, Pinterest gets 12-14 times the referrals that Twitter or Facebook generate. The average order value from social referrals (US stats): $179 Pinterest; $80 FB; $69 from Twitter.

3. People treat Pinterest like a search – they are looking for information, which means you can try to build an audience around a topic.

4. Remember that content lives longer on Pinterest – compared to the newsfeed on Facebook, where because of the newsfeed algorithm the life of a post is around 80 minutes, the half-life of a Pinterest pin can be multiple weeks. This is because the design of the site is similar to that of YouTube; it offers up suggestions for boards you might like. Also, people search for topics they are interested in, which means that content you’ve pinned can still be found. It’s more evergreen – but this does mean that as a brand you’ve got to think ahead. Is the content going to be representative or relevant to your brand in six months’ time? Your strategy on Pinterest has to be longer term. Think quality more than quantity.

5. Pins are more than images. Rich Pins allow companies to show current pricing details for products and have a direct link to the product page. This function requires specific mark-up code in your site’s backend, but Pinterest has a developers’ page that covers the process.

The aspirational quality and longevity of pinning something to the board makes Pinterest a wholly different social media outlet to the frequent fleetingness of Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and using those features wisely creates a new dimension to your content marketing strategy.