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Why online marketing just got Pinteresting

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Pinterest is growing at a phenomenal rate. Why not harness it to expand your business's outreach? Andrew Tobert explains how ...

The big idea – and why it’s going to boost your business

Pinterest is, at its core, an organizational tool. It’s a digital scrapbook that lets you collect all the things you like in one place. But it’s also a social network. If you see something you like on the web, you share it on Pinterest. People will then see it and if they like it, they’ll share it too. Or they can click it, and go through to the site you got it from.

And it’s big business. Just check out their growth in users.

Pinterest growth graph


Pinterest is the fastest-growing websi­te of all time. It’s gone from 700,000 users to over 20 million in 12 short months. That’s almost a 30-fold increase. And that’s just in traffic. If you look at the number of sales it generates, by many counts it's ahead of Facebook. Online retailer Boticca reports that basket values (the average value of each sale) were 90% higher when the user came from Pinterest than Facebook, and 10% higher than average. Meanwhile Shopify reports a similar phenomenon with basket values and indeed noticed that users are 10% more likely to convert if they come from Pinterest versus the other social sites. The number of Shopify orders generated from social media referrals has quadrupled in the last 12 months.

Pinterest can get you converting traffic and high-spending sales. And it’s free. Surely it's time you got involved?

Make your site Pinteresting

OK, baby steps first. Some of you will be new to this, and reluctant to invest the time to maintain a Pinterest account. So first we need to prove that what works for other businesses will work for you.

You may not be on Pinterest (yet) but your potential customers certainly are. And as we’ve seen, users that come from Pinterest spend money. Lots of it and often. But to get those ‘pin dollars’ arriving at your site, you first need to have content that’s ‘pinnable’. You need people to arrive at your site, see images they like then share them. Once people start sharing your content on Pinterest, all their followers will see it too. They'll click on it and arrive at your site. This is how you get big-spending and better-converting traffic.

But this doesn't just help people who use Pinterest. From the new Facebook layout, to Google+ and Tumblr, the web is becoming much more visual and image-centric, because that’s what people like. Of all the status updates on social media, it’s the pictures people enjoy the most. So creating awesome, eye-popping,‘pinnable’ content is one of the easiest ways of keeping your customers interested and engaged, as well as attracting all that tasty Pinterest traffic.

Retailers

If you sell stuff, creating visual content is simple. Hire a professional photographer to to take photos of your products and load them up. The photos will look good, and assuming you sell good products, people will share them. But why not take it up a notch? You could snap your products being used and places and lifestyles you associate with them. So if you sell clothes, don't just pin a photo, show them on models, models walking down the streets of Paris or stopping for coffee. Or why not a video or two? There are so many possibilities.

Service providers and professionals

Lawyers, accountants, electricians. Anyone who sells services will have to think a little harder about how to make their content visually appealing. But here a few suggestions:

  • People love data. If you've got some you can use, make a graph or two and people will share it.

  • Infographics are great if you can think of ways to present your data in a more digestible and accessible way. Infographics are shareable, pinnable, hugely popular and tend to attract lots of links, which is great for your SEO too.

  • Videos are great for users and SEO and are very shareable. If you're not sure what videos would be right for your business, we've made a video to help you. Think about what would work for your business and go create!

  • Great articles can also be pinned. Remember, a lot of people use Pinterest as a bookmarking tool, so if images aren’t your thing (yet), write awesome words and people will share it. I know this, because they do it with Wordtracker’s content (we’ll get on to how I know this in a second). And if you turn those articles into e-books, why not make sure the cover is brilliant.

  • Photos of your staff and premises are a great way of breaking down the anonymity of the internet. People appreciate knowing that they’re dealing with people.

Once you have content that’s worth sharing, you can encourage it with the 'Pin It' button.

Pin It

The ‘Pin It’ button is simple and easy to install and it encourages and reminds Pinterest users to share your images. Because you can see how often an image has been shared, it’s also a badge of honour to see the products or images that have been shared lots of times. It tells the world that your content rocks.

Pin it button picture


The best content, the most artful images, all these things will get shared more often, driving your traffic and boosting your sales. But the emphasis, as ever, is on quality.

Think about your content, and make it brilliant.

Which people are ‘pinning’?

You want to create content that people want to share on Pinterest, but how do you know what people are actually sharing? The counter on the ‘Pin It’ button is one thing.

Or you can just type http://pinterest.com/source/YourSite.com into your browser. Every time someone has shared your content on Pinterest, this will show up.

Here’s http://pinterest.com/source/wordtracker.com:

Pins on the Wordtracker Pinterest account


Do this for your site and see what’s there. You can see for Wordtracker, our infographic has been shared a lot, so we might think about doing something similar again. Do this for your site, do this for your competitors and very quickly you’ll get a picture (boom!) about what sort of content gets shared and what doesn’t.

So we’ve talked about your website. I think it’s time we got set up on Pinterest itself.

Getting started with Pinterest

Being a new, trendy social network, Pinterest has its own set of jargon that people use to describe what’s going on. By the end of this article, you’ll all be Pinterest experts (Pinterexperts?) so you need to know these words.

  • Pins - the things that people share on Pinterest.
  • To pin - to share something on Pinterest.
  • To re-pin - to see something that someone else has pinned and then pin it yourself.
  • Boards - the pages on Pinterest that people set up to order all their pins. Eg, a board call ‘Kitchens’ would have lots of images of kitchens.
  • Followers - the people who subscribe to a given user's pins. Followers can either subscribe to individual boards, in which case they’ll just see new pins on that board. Or they can subscribe to users – in which case they’ll see everything that user pins across all boards.

Setting yourself up with Pinterest is the work of moments. We’ll do that now.

1) Go to www.pinterest.com and click ‘Join Pinterest’

Join Pinterest screenshot


2) You can then input your details or sign up with Facebook or Twitter if you like. Personally, I’d sign in with your business Twitter account as this makes syncing easier. You can only, as yet, sign up with personal Facebook accounts, not business ones.

Facebook and Twitter

3) Step two of two is just to click an image you like so Pinterest can show you images you might like. (Warning: this will almost inevitably involve cats).

Things you might like on Pinterest


Confirm your email address, and you’re done. The proud owner of a Pinterest account. Now you have to populate it. But think a little bit first.

Pin with purpose

There’s no doubt that Pinterest has the potential to deliver serious revenue for your business, but don’t post any old crap. For your presence on Pinterest to mean anything, you need to pin images that mean something. Do they represent your brand or products? Is there something about them that people will enjoy? Think about what you’re going to pin before you start pinning. And remember this isn’t Facebook or Twitter. You don’t need to be pinning new things constantly. Only pin what’s worth pinning.

Boards

Pinterest is about organizing your web and boards help you do that. So for example, I’m doing up my house. I'm using Pinterest to collate the interiors I like, then sharing them with people whose opinions I value. Here are my mine:

Andrew Tobert's Pinterest boards


Think about what boards would make most sense for your business. Pinterest is as much about lifestyle as anything, so if you sell clothes, don’t just pin images of clothes. Pin images of the models in those clothes enjoying life. You’ll probably find you get a better reaction because your followers are more likely to enjoy your images. Remember, Pinterest is really a bookmarking tool, so give people something to bookmark.

Add a pin/create a board

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, adding a pin on Pinterest is easy. And you can add a board at the same time, so it’s a rather convenient segue.

Click ‘Add +’ in the top right-hand corner of the home page. You’ll then be given a choice of three options:

Add a Pin


You can ‘Add a Pin’, which just means copying and pasting the web address of the image you like.

You can ‘Upload a Pin’ and upload an image from your computer. You’ll have seen those screens before (unless you really have been living on a rock) so let’s move on.

You can create a board.

If you’re creating a board, you just need to decide what to call it, and what category it belongs to.

Create board


Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a board on which to post your images. So when you add an image, you’ll see a dropdown of all the available boards you can pin to.

Available boards to pin to


So we’ve covered the basics. We’ve talked about why you want to, and how you can set up an account and start pinning things. But if you’re really chasing the big bucks, you need to dig a little deeper.

Inspiration

If you’re totally stuck for inspiration and don’t have the first clue about what content you could curate or create, steal ideas from somewhere else.

You can search your competitors (or related sites) and see what images they have easily. These could well provide the initial inspiration you need. Just enter site: followed by their domain in a Google image search. You can then also add a keyword to filter images.

So if you were a tech blog, you could type site:mashable.com into www.images.google.com and you’ll see all Mashable’s images. Type in site:mashable.com netbooks and you’ll see all their netbooks.

If your business isn’t very image-centric or pinnable, doing this with one of your competitors can give you some great ideas.

Scheduling

If you’ve got images you want to pin, but don’t want to think about when you’re pinning them, use a scheduling service like Pingraphy. Upload the pin, choose a time and a date and off you go.

Users will appreciate that you’re seen to be active. Plus - pinning too much at the same time could get your account suspended.

Promotion

As with all marketing, what you do on Pinterest can be beautiful, pitch-perfect, everything it should be, but if no one knows you’ve done it, it’s a waste of time.

So you need to network. People need to know you’re around because you need to tell them.

Other social networks are the obvious place to start. A status or a tweet to say that you’re on Pinterest is easily done. And on Pinterest itself you have the option to sync up your Twitter accounts or your (personal) Facebook. (Each time you add a pin, you can check a box to share with whatever social networks Pinterest knows you have).

Integrate Facebook with Pinterest


I wouldn’t recommend syncing up every pin to every social network all the time, but done thoughtfully, it’s a great way of spreading the word about your Pinterest page’s existence. Once an image is up, you can also share or embed as appropriate.

Picture to share on Pinterest

Networking

Pinterest is an awesome tool for getting sales (as we’ve seen) but it’s also great for connecting to others in your industry and positioning yourself as a ‘thought leader’. Someone who knows stuff, basically.

You do this by setting up (or being invited to) a community board.

Community boards


Community boards are Pinterest boards where a pinner has invited someone, or a number of people, to collaborate with them in finding pins that fit the theme of the board.

All of my boards are technically community boards because I’m collaborating with a friend. But even if you’re looking for more than the ideal kitchen worktop, community boards are a great way of building up new relationships and making existing ones stronger.

Once you’ve created a community board, you can control who contributes. So if you choose people in your industry who matter to you and if they’re reasonably ‘pin savvy’, they’ll be flattered and a new, productive working relationship will be forged.

If you’re struggling to think of ways you can use community boards in a professional capacity then don’t worry. Just think laterally. Pinterest is a tool to connect with people who share common interests. And users can comment on pins, so why not pin discussion points in your industry. These could be articles about new developments in your industry, or products, or perhaps a new competitor that's entered your space. Whatever it is, if you're talking about it, so are other people, so why not own the conversation on Pinterest?

Creating a community board is simple. Just create a board as you’ve seen, then invite people.

Edit a community board


Just like in Facebook or Twitter, you can also speak to people directly by using an @ before their name. So as I type in my friend Danny’s name, up he comes.

Danny's picture


Get your board found

Whilst inviting individuals to your board is suitable for some circumstances, there will be others when you want people to come and find you. When you create a board there are things you can do to make that as easy as possible.

After you’ve created a board, open it up (top right-hand corner).

Boards on Pinterest


Then edit it:

Edit a board on Pinterest


Now, write a description that’s as keyword rich as possible. The Pinterest search feature isn’t very sophisticated, so the more synonyms you can use the better, as people will search for the same thing using a wide variety of words. And you want to make sure as many people as possible can find you.

Keywords for Boards


Pinterest also supports hashtags (#), so if you’ve got a campaign running, throw a few in so that you’re easier to find. And if you want to start a new campaign on Twitter or Google+, you can use the same hashtag throughout. (And by the way, the exact same principle applies with individual pins as well as boards.)

But sometimes you might not want to start your own community board. Pinterest is about taking your networking to the next level and sometimes that means introducing yourself to an established group; walking into a room and saying hi.

Find those boards/users

To follow other people or boards, and initiate a new relationship, use the search bar in the top left-hand corner and input a keyword, say social media. The search feature is not great so you may have to try different combinations of words. And if you’re looking for a person, I’d just use Google and search their name and pinterest. Eg, Andrew Tobert pinterest. It seems like a hassle but unless you already follow the person in question, it’s probably easier than using Pinterest's search bar.

Make sure that you’re only following active users (otherwise, what’s the point?) You can check this easily by looking at their activity on the left-hand side of their profile page. The more recent interactions they have, the more often they pin.

Pin activity


You will soon find yourself immersed in more relevant content than you have time to read, all procured for you by your team of pinners and all great for sharing not just on Pinterest but on your other networks too.

What to pin

As discussed elsewhere, the key here is quality. You can look at what your competitors are doing and you can look at what’s getting the best reaction on your site as inspiration for what to pin next.

Retailers can pin photos of their products. And everyone can use Pinterest to promote their brand. The Taylor and Taylor law firm in Arkansas for example, use their Pinterest to raise the profile of their lawyers, but also their outside interests. There are book recommendations and ‘fun stuff’. This might not directly drive sales, but if I was looking for an Arkansas-based lawyer, it might make me think that these guys offered a more personal, human touch. No bad thing if I’m about to go to court.

Taylor and Taylor on Pinterest


And speaking of lawyers, there’s one more thing I have to mention, duty of care and all that.

Legal

I’m not a lawyer, so this isn’t legal advice, but you should be aware that there is some controversy over Pinterest’s terms of service. Many companies and individuals think that they’ll get sued for copyright infringement if they pin other people’s images. And the terms of service make clear that you're the one who'll get sued, not Pinterest. So before you pin, just be aware of the legal issues. Personally, I feel that with 20 million users, your chances of being caught are minimal. And even if you were caught, you're much more likely to be sent a strongly-worded email than actually taken to court. But this is your decision, not mine. Read about the issues and make up your own mind.

You may decide that Pinterest isn't for you, and that actually you don't want anyone pinning your content. In which case, you need to put the following code into the section of the relevant pages on your website.

stop your content being pinned

Whilst there are ways around it, this code will stop most people from pinning your content.

Etiquette

Pinterest takes etiquette seriously, at least seriously enough to mention it on its website. It doesn’t like you being blazingly self-promotional and it wants you to credit your sources (which is just as well). So try to pin in a way that adds value, rather than just promotes your company and you’ll be fine.

How does Pinterest make money?

Speaking of etiquette, it seems wise to mention how Pinterest makes money, because it's got into hot water in the past. It currently gets money from venture capitalists, like a lot of social networks in their early phases. It used to run a widely-criticized affiliate program, but that was recently stopped. So if you’re worried about Pinterest turning round and presenting you with an invoice, don’t be.

Reporting

So you’re happily pinning away, but you're a business so at some stage you're going to have to start looking at how successful you're being. How many sales are you driving? What pins are getting shared and what aren't? Pinterest is no different from other marketing channels. You need to understand what's working and what isn't. Then you can do more of the good stuff.

Because Pinterest is so new, most of the reporting suites I’ve seen are in their infancy. There will doubtless be lots of rapid movements in this regard, so keep your eyes and mind open to get the one that's right for your business.

The best that I could find was PinReach It's free and seems to cover the basics quite well. Here's the home page:

PinReach


They give you a 'Pin Reach score' which they track for you. It's a measure of how many interactions you're getting on Pinterest. Mine 17, isn't great but hey, I'm a newbie.

I've put a box on a section on the right-hand corner. These are really your top level statistics. How many time you've been pinned, re-pinned, that sort of thing. But you can drill down to see just how well each individual board and pin is doing. There's quite a handy navigation bar:

Navigation bar


If I was running a Pinterest campaign, I'd periodically look at the pins and boards that were being shared a lot and see if I could spot patterns. Likewise with the ones that aren't. I'd keep trying new things, new ideas, and see what people were enjoying. Like all forms of marketing, especially new ones, there will be people who pretend to be experts, but they're not. No one is. Success in Pinterest will surely be just be a matter of trial and error – seeing what works and what doesn't.

And as I said earlier, the reporting on Pinterest is very new. Expect over time to see more sophisticated tools and more detailed metrics of things to judge success by. But we're not there yet, so just keep your ears to the ground.

So that, in a nutshell, is Pinterest. You should by now have an idea of what you need to do to get started. So get started, get pinning, and let us know how you get on.

With thanks for Hilary Pullen at UK craft blog for providing the back bone of this article.

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About Andrew Tobert

Andrew was Wordtracker's Content Manager in 2012. Now he works freelance, helping companies make the most of their websites and social media channels. He's at andrew.tobert@gmail.com if you want to get in touch.