Pinterest – a guide for small businesses
Even if you’ve been fully absorbed in the starting and building of your business, it will have been hard to ignore that Pinterest is creating the biggest online buzz of all the social media sites right now.
The site, named start-up of the year in 2011 by TechCrunch, claims "to connect everyone in the world through the things they find interesting".
And, like the established social media platforms, Pinterest is ideal as a marketing tool for start-ups given that it’s low cost and relatively hassle-free.
The platform certainly fills a niche left empty by other social media platforms, with images being the main tool of communication, as opposed to messages.
Social media strategist Paul Cotton predicts big things for Pinterest.
“The chances of Pinterest growing rapidly in Australia are high given that we’re relatively early adopters when it comes to social media fads, and are among some of the most digitally social people on the planet,” Cotton, of Salmat Digital, says.
Given that those annoying banner ads are nowhere to be seen, consumers love it.
But the absence of banner ads doesn’t mean that brands can’t get involved.
In fact, this new social media tool is perhaps the most powerful one to date given it enables businesses to connect with consumers on a personal level about everything from furniture they’re lusting over, hobbies, favourite holiday destinations or most loved food.
Early research backs this up. Content sharing firm Shareaholic says user numbers prove that Pinterest is experiencing a phenomenal take-up, already driving more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.
Pinterest attracts almost 12 million US and UK-based users a month (up to 80% are women aged under 45) and Australian consumers, too, are now flocking to the site.
And, interestingly, Pinterest has little traction among teens.
But, like everything, there is a downside.
Pip Stocks, a partner at branding firm Brand Hook, recently started using Pinterest. She says she’s yet to feel connected to others users. “There does feel to be little or no connection with people after they ‘liked’ what they saw,” Stocks says.
How does it work?
Pinterest is best described as a visual bookmarking site that allows users to pin pictures of anything they find on the web that interests them.
All your likes, comments, pins and re-pins are recorded on your profile, known as a pinboard, thereby connecting people based on their interests rather than friendships or professional networks.
This means the system allows users to show others what they like and, importantly, how they can get them. In turn, it shows the user everything pinned by their friends.
These boards are arranged by topics, such as Favourite Places and Spaces or Favourite Foods. Importantly, this enables businesses to humanise their brands by injecting some personality into their offering.
Most often, brands use the site to share visually stunning images of their offering. These are being shared via social media and if they’re capturing hearts, they’re being re-pinned by countless others.
Organic retailer Whole Foods is often touted as a stand-out brand on the site, launching an account in July 2011.
Since then, the grocery brand has racked up more than 14,000 followers on its Pinterest page, with around 700 pins across its 22 boards.
The brand recently told Mashable.com that Pinterest is “absolutely” driving traffic to its website, but that the team is still working to determine the best metrics for Pinterest – although this isn’t a challenge limited to Pinterest.
And while the creators of the platform haven’t yet come clean on how they plan to make money from the site, they do have a few rules, including "try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion".
But marketing-savvy brands can get around this without any issues.
The kikki.K experience
Upmarket Australian stationery brand kikki.K says Pinterest is very much aligned with its brand values.
kikki.K founder and creative director Kristina Karlsson says she has delved into this new tool with gusto, integrating the Pinterest "Follow" and "Pin It" badges to its website to encourage people to stationery share the brand.
“We saw that users were already pinning kikki.K products to their boards, so we knew it was the perfect time to join the Pinterest community through our own profile.
“Pinterest has given us the chance to inspire our customers in a unique way through sharing creative and inspiring content, whether it be collating gift ideas into boards for each family member or grouping gorgeous products into colours to inspire stylish organisation,” Karlsson says.
The Evolvex story
New South Wales-based, customised furniture brand Evolvex has also been active on Pinterest for six months.
Founder Priyanka Rao says Pinterest is a godsend for online retailers, saying Twitter’s big drawback is that you can’t post images.
“Like Twitter and Facebook, you can track "hearts" (the ‘like’ equivalent) on the site, with people commenting and re-pinning, which shows on their board,” she says.
“I like it because it’s very trackable. The idea is to put up as much content as possible, as most people are interested in curating and re-pinning. They don’t want to put the effort in to look for cool content, so there is a real opportunity for brands willing to make it easy for them,” Rao says.
“If Pinterest ever went into videos, then I think YouTube would have something to worry about.”
Cotton says, as with most social media platforms, much of what you get out of Pinterest will depend on how much you put in.
He recommends businesses invest in professional, eye-catching photos for your business and take the time to link each one through Pinterest with a Tweet-sized piece of copy.
“Not every click on an image is going to result in a purchase,” he says.
“The best way for small businesses to take advantage of this is by designing images and wording that appeal to the female audience.”
Cotton says Pinterest’s sudden success is due to a shift in focus that’s been taking place across the web for the last couple of years.
Peer recommendation and contextually relevant stories are now king when it comes to providing trust ratings, he says.
“With the advent of single-purpose mobile apps, consumers have become more comfortable with sites and services that offer a particular niche while also remaining linked to their greater communication nexus,” Cotton says.
“It’s less about consumers finding products and services they want to buy, and more about consumers curating streams of information so that products they’re interested in find them,” he says.
A few tips
Top tips for using Pinterest for business:
- Use quality photos – Consider hiring a professional photographer to capture top quality images of your product or service.
- Add a Pinterest "Follow" and/or "Pin It" button – Pinterest has several choices, so find one on the site that works for your business.
- Grow your boards – Pin and maintain your boards regularly to keep your presence alive.
- Network with others – This is a social site after all. Connect, comment, like and re-pin others.
- Etiquette – Be mindful of the Pinterest rules – be nice, credit your sources, avoid self-promotion and report objectionable content.