How to Use Pinterest for Your Small Business

Pinterest, which markets itself as an “online pinboard,” is the latest tool to consume social-media users. The website’s membership skyrocketed from about 50,000 to more than 7 million unique users in the U.S. between December 2010 and December 2011, site analytics data from Compete.com show. Nearly 6 out of 10 users are women aged 25 to 44, Mashable reports. But what is it… and how can it help promote your small business?

In short, Pinterest is a virtual collage of whatever “speaks” to a Pinterest user — whether that includes product images, quotes, recipes, or a useful website link — all revolving around social sharing. Much like a bulletin board, Pinterest “boards” are the blank canvas that users “pin” meaningful images onto. Once created, a board can be viewed by anyone browsing Pinterest. The end result may mean increased traffic to your website, greater brand awareness, and ultimately, sales.

Here’s how to get started using Pinterest to promote your small business.

Get started. Anyone can browse Pinterest, but to participate on the site, you’ll need an invitation — and a little patience: This writer’s request-to-invitation turnaround time in December 2011 was 10 days. If you know someone who already uses Pinterest, you may be able to expedite your wait time by asking for a personal invite. Once you’ve received an invitation, you establish an account with your name, email, and website, and have the option to connect through your Facebook or Twitter account, which will in turn, find your connections who are already using Pinterest.

pinterest at the officeSet up your own boards. Boards are a collection of pins that are categorized into a variety of themes spanning from “humor” to “my life” to “products.” Once the theme for a blank board is chosen, the user fills it with”pins,” (the Pinterest term for original images that a user  has collected from the web, videotaped, or shot with a camera). Boards can also be filled by “repinning” images from another user’s board. You can add to, or delete, a board at any time.

Create pins. “Pins” are the key to increasing visibility on Pinterest: The more people respond to your pins, either by “repinning” them to their own boards, or “liking” them, the greater your exposure. Because all “pins” have an embedded link back to the original source, they’re a valuable tool in building site traffic and ecommerce for small businesses.  Start by dragging the Pin It button into your Bookmarks toolbar (a step by step instruction can be found on Pinterest’s “Help”  section). Once installed, you may capture an image you’ve shot or scanned, that you come across online or from your small-business website, and save it as a “pin” to share on your boards. If you’re out and about, you can also upload images from an iPhone with the mobile app. (No app exists for the Android platform yet.)

Capture interest and followers.  If you’ve logged in using your social network profile, you are already connected with those users, but you can also opt to automatically post your Pinterest activity to those accounts. Anyone can view your boards, and Pinterest users that like your activity can “follow” you. You can mention another user you are following in a pin description by apply the @ symbol in front of his or her user name. Remember that Pinterest is not intended for blatant self-promotion, but rather, on sharing what people respond to emotionally. For example, posting your logo probably won’t earn much “pinterest” (unless it is terribly artistic or remarkable), but developing “pins” and boards that showcase the qualities, services and products your business and brand is built on can generate sharing that leads to increased awareness, and potentially, sales. 

Integrate your website and Pinterest. When you create your profile, use your business name and add your website. Cut and paste Pinterest-provided code to your business website to create a “follow me on Pinterest” button that links to your boards. Pinterest also offers a few simple lines of code that you may install on your small-business website to display a “Pin It” message on pages or, if you sell various products, next to multiple images. With that button, other users may easily capture and apply the “pin” to their own boards, which will increase sharing (and visibility for your small business) on Pinterest.

Use boards for social-media marketing. Because all “pins” allow users to “like” or comment, it can be a useful venue for revealing new products and engaging users. If your small business sells various services or products, you can make themed boards to showcase everything you do (including prices), and feature quotes , ideas and “how-to” images that explain the “why” behind your business, brand, or philosophy. If you teach specific skills, consider uploading “teaser” videos, so that users will visit your site to learn more. The Gifts section allows users to search for items by dollar amount; you’ll link the gift “pins” directly to your site to close the sale. The site also features “Pinterviews” of successful small-business owners who’ve mastered the tool, in case you need inspiration.

About Stephanie Taylor Christensen

Stephanie Taylor Christensen holds a master’s degree in marketing and has 13 years of marketing management experience for Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. She is a regular contributor to sites like ForbesWoman, Real Simple, Mint, Minyanville, and SheKnows, and writes for several private business clients. Her work is frequently syndicated and sourced by Yahoo! Finance, SFGate, TodayShow.com, and The New York Times. She is also a small business owner, having founded WellnessOnLess.com, and Om for Mom Prenatal Yoga in Columbus, Ohio. Connect with her on Twitter @WellnessOnLess.
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