2012 was definitely the year of Pinterest - one of the hottest topics in the tech press throughout the year as the new player in social media went from strength to strength, attracting more than 10 million users in record time. That was back in the spring of last year and Pinterest has continued to wow the online pundits over and over since then. In the space of the last twelve months, Pinterest has joined the major players in the social media field and ranks alongside Facebook and Twitter as one of the most important online venues for social media pros to strut their stuff and I'm looking at ways of harnessing this power to benefit businesses.

Pinterest Is The New Powerhouse

I wrote a "5 Step Guide to Pinterest for SEO" that was published here back in July 2012 and it generated quite a few comments. Since then, Pinterest's star seems to have soared into the stratosphere, but it's not always easy to work out how best to use this social media platform for business purposes as the content is all image based. The first step is to register for a Pinterest account and create some 'pinboards' that you can add images to.

clip_image002However, with Pinterest rapidly becoming one of the most popular "social sharing" websites, webmasters and digital marketers need to optimize their own websites for Pinterest with a creative image strategy. Not only is this a great way to increase traffic and conversions, it can also help to boost referral traffic - 9 million of Pinterest's 11 million users are actively connected regular Facebook users.

Power To The Pictures

Images are becoming increasingly important in search and Pinterest's popularity is serving to remind us that "pictures matter". The most viral items online are usually videos or images - they get shared much more than comments do - after all, it's so much easier to press a "share" button than it is to think of something witty to say and then type it into the text box.

Search Engine Optimization for written content has become pretty mainstream amongst marketers and social media professionals - but how do you optimize a website for Interest which is all about images? There's a new kid on the block in the SEO game - PIO (Pinterest Image Optmization) - it's like SEO but it's all about the pictures.

Pin It Up With Pinterest

If your website is optimized for search engines, you probably have some share buttons on it already - a Facebook Like button, a Tweet button, a Google+ button, etc. Well, you can get yourself a "Pin It" button here - it's easy to install and has been designed to look and feel just like the Facebook and Twitter buttons that your website visitors are already used to.

That's just the beginning of your PIO campaign - you also need to register an account for your business (if you already have a Pinterest account you can easily convert it to a business account). The best place to start is with Pinterest itself - there is plenty of advice on how to get the most out of Pinterest here. You can then start pinning images of your products and photos of your employees and workplace - remember, image quality is important and the more interesting (or quirky) your images, the more they will be shared. Don't forget that images shouldn't be too advertorial - Pinterest is primarily a social media platform, not an advertising catalogue. This means that you need to be pretty creative with how you use Pinterest in order to get followers and make them want to share your stuff.

You will already be keeping an eye on your particular niche market so that you're bang up to date with what's happening in your field. Make sure you set up some Google News Alerts so that you're ready and waiting to respond any time your niche market hits the headlines in any way (don't just use the products/services as key words - make sure you know who are the "players" in your field and set up news alerts for them). As soon as you get a News Alert - think about how you can use this information on Pinterest and head on over to tell the story. During last year's Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke controversy, liberal blog ThinkProgress obtained a list of national companies that specifically asked that their advertisements not be shown during the Limbaugh Show and "pinned" the list of companies to a dedicated board, telling the story in comic strip style.

It's possible to tell your organization's story on Pinterest in a similar manner. You can pin images in a time-lapse photography manner to show the development and launch of new products and services, from planning stages to first sales. Think how powerful it would be to show images of the first customers/clients using your goods - these customers will be eager to share their five minutes of fame with family and friends across social media platforms such as Facebook and Google+. This is a great way of adding to your army of brand advocates.

Use Pinterest to motivate your community of customers and followers to generate more content. You could run a promotional campaign offering small prizes for specific images that relate to your brand - get other people joining in and "pinning" content for you.

Digital photography really is big business nowadays and social media networks such as Flickr and Tumbler are thriving. Why not run a photography competition once a month asking for the most unusual/most funny/most poignant images? At this point, images only need to be loosely related to your brand - it really is the sharing that counts.

clip_image004If you have a retail business (either online, bricks and mortar or both) and you're having a seasonal sale, then publicise it on Pinterest. Show some photos of the shop/products ready for the sale to begin and then publish regular updates showing your products selling like hot cakes and shelves emptying as the sale progresses. As the supply becomes more and more limited, you can encourage customers to join in and "get a great deal before it's all gone" - a great way of driving sales.

Try to make your Pinboards as amusing and interesting as possible - people love a good laugh and are more likely to share images that make them smile. If you're featuring your company's products on Pinboards, try to include at least one image on each board that will raise a titter. It's okay not to be serious and professional all the time - however sombre or dreary your products are, you're sure to find some way of putting a witty spin on them now and again and people will love seeing you poke fun at yourself now and again.

If you have a company blog (and you really should), why not embed one of your Pinterest board images to your next post. Not only will this drive traffic from your blog to your Pinboards, you may also attract new readers from Pinterest to your blog - this is double bubble.

Points to Remember

  • Images uploaded to Pinterest need to be edited to add a link to your website and the file name of the image should contain your targeted key words.
  • Make sure that you add some descriptive text to your uploaded images, but keep it as short and sweet as possible - Pinterest is about the pictures, not the words.
  • Create several Pinboards and make sure that the names of the boards are rich in key words that will bring you to the attention of your target audience.
  • Comment on other peoples' boards and pins - this will extend your peripheral audience and could gain you a much wider audience than if you concentrate on your niche market.
  • In order to engage your audience, images need to be of excellent quality and you need to use as many of them as possible. Consider adding "galleries" of images to your website pages and make sure that your viewers are able to "pin" each individual image.

P-P-Pick Up A Pinterest

This advice should help you to get onboard and start using Pinterest to add value to your business model and extend your reach to a global audience. Pinterest is already huge and is set to get bigger - according to Shareaholic's recent referral traffic report, "Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined." That's a pretty powerful performance - can your website afford to be without the magic that Pinterest can bring?