4 Ways to Use Pinterest for Business

Tonight, I’ll be representing Pinterest in Social Media Club Knoxville’s Social Media Smackdown, a debate to determine which (of Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Google+) is the very best social network. Now you might be asking yourself, “How can something like Pinterest compete with tools like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter? Is there even marketing potential in Pinterest?” — and to that I answer, of course!

In case you’re not already aware, Pinterest is basically an online bulletin board of your favorite images and videos. It’s social bookmarking with a more visual element, allowing you to organize images — whether that be home decor, design, food, travel, wedding inspiration, the possibilities are really endless — into “pinboards” that you create and categorize. When you “pin” something new, your followers see it. They can then like, comment or re-pin it to their own boards…which means anything you pin has the potential to go viral.

Those of you that have used Pinterest know it’s easy to see how the tool can be awesome for personal use, but I’m here to tell you it as real business value too.

While it launched in 2010 in private beta, the unique new player in the social media space has seen the most extreme growth in recent months. In fact, in November, the site had reportedly seen a 2,000% increase in pageviews, according to comScore, and it attracted nearly 11 million unique visitors in mid-December. Now one of the top 10 social networking sites on the web, TechCrunch even named it the Best New Startup of 2011!

According to a recent study by Shareaholic, Pinterest is driving massive amounts of referral traffic to other sites as well. According to the study’s findings, which are based on data from more than 200,000 publishers, Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube COMBINED. Twitter, which has now been mainstream for years, only referred .01% more than Pinterest in January. Do I see a take-over coming soon? Even Google organic was only .02% higher!

So how can you harness this unique new social tool for your business? Here are 4 ways…

1. Create a corporate account, or a few.

If you’re pinning on behalf of your business, you need to first understand who your customer is. If you’re using Pinterest for business, it’s about building a lifestyle, not just pinning things your company puts out there, but rather things that lend themselves to the lifestyle your target consumers lead.

HGTV, which is headquartered in our lovely city of Knoxville, is a great example of a company using Pinterest well. In addition to its official HGTV design, decor and garden Pinterest boards, the company also recently introduced several brand new HGTV staff-curated Pinterest accounts, where fans can get a sense of the personal design aesthetic of some of the creatives behind the HGTV brand. HGTV is a lifestyle brand, and Pinterest is a perfect addition to its marketing plan!

2. Encourage pinning of things on your own site.

At this point in time, almost all websites and blogs have social media sharing buttons (and if not, they should!). If your site offers something with a very visual element, whether that be a design portfolio like we have on our site, products for sale, visual inspiration like I have on my wedding blog, etc., encourage the pinning of those items and posts by incorporating the “Pin It” button into your design.

You’ll be amazed at how much people will pin things from your site when it’s easy to do. Did you know that Pinterest has been one of the top three referring sites to my blog since November solely based on other people’s pins?! And for the record, those tens of thousands of monthly visits equal real advertising revenue for me. To provide another example, in the last six months, the retail deal site ideeli.com has seen a 446% increase in web traffic from Pinterest, and sales resulting from those visits have increased five-fold, according to Entrepreneur.

3. Run a contest.

If you Google “Pinterest contest,” you’ll quickly see that lots of businesses are jumping on this bandwagon, and a great case study for this use is Land’s End Canvas‘ “Pin It To Win It” campaign. Back in December, Land’s End asked users to create a “Pin It To Win It” pinboard in the women’s or men’s apparel categories, pin 10 to 20 images from the Land’s End site or repin them from the Land’s End Pinterest page, and then email the URL of the pinboard to Land’s End for a chance to win one of 10 $250 gift cards.

A search on Pinterest shows that there were around 200 boards created for the contest, with each containing at least 10 to 20 images, which means a ton of Land’s End merchandise was injected into the Pinterest feed and pushed out to a lot of Pinterest users at almost no cost to Land’s End. Taking a cue from Land’s End and running contests like this is a great way to expose your brand and products to a large audience for a very minimal cost.

4. Use it for market research.

At its core, Pinterest is a place where people post about the things they love — whether that be recipes to make, places to travel to, home projects to take on or other things that generally inspire them. For that reason, it’s a great way to get to know your target customer better. Use it as an online focus group if you will.

Look at the pinners who follow your brand. What are they pinning? Who else are they following? There is a wealth of information available via their pinboards, and it would be a shame not to use it to learn more about who your target customer is and what they like. It’s also a great thing to do before you begin to use Pinterest to promote the lifestyle we talked about in #1.

Those are just a few ways to use Pinterest for business and some great case studies that show how well it can work as a marketing tool for certain companies. Of course, Pinterest is still new, so I’m sure we’ll continue to see some unique uses in the coming months. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to get out there and experiment with this hot new network, for personal or business use. At Pyxl, we’re just getting started on there ourselves, so feel free to follow our boards if you like what we’re pinning so far.

Happy pinning!

  • Great article Nicole! I love the contest angle. We ran a “Pin it to win it” contest a few weeks ago encouraging people to pin our pictures from our blog with the hashtag #jophoto. Unfortunately, the hashtag search function didn't work very well at the time (against Mashable's article that ran a few weeks prior, stating that the hashtag featured was great for contests). I'm curious to see how Pinterest improves their search functions to enable more successful searches, and more contests to successfully take place! Again, love the article!

  • Great to hear of another local company using it! Hopefully they'll get the kinks worked out soon…gotta love that about a new social network ;) Thanks so much for sharing! Glad you like the article! Will you be at tonight's Smackdown?

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  • Linda Hurst

    Hi Nicole Thank you for the Pinterest blurb!  :) Linda from Cities Cupcake Btq

  • No problem, Linda! Hope it helps :)

  • As with any social media platform, the most obvious purpose is promotion — whether that be promotion of your own personal brand, a specific product or the brand identity of an organization — but the platform also offers opportunities for much more.