Pinterest, the two-year-old image-sharing site, is hotter than a flaming bulletin board and much more fun. Fun, in this case, doesn’t just mean spending all day steeped in eye candy, although that’s one option. There’s significant online marketing potential in this gem of a social media tool.
Forget YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+ (for now). In fact, combine the traffic driven to company websites those three sites, and it still doesn’t match the amount of traffic coming from Pinterest alone.
For those of you wondering, “What the heck is Pinterest, anyway?”, think of your magnet-and-photo-strewn refrigerator in digital form. The interface is so simple a monkey could use it, scrolling through the array of images “pinned” by other users and clicking on them to enlarge. Click again, and the user/monkey is redirected to the website the image was pinned from. Pins can also be commented on, and some really stir up conversation.
Now, this could be just another internet trend (and isn’t the internet itself at trend?), but Pinterest’s ease of use and visual appeal could give it enough staying power to go ahead and jump on the bandwagon. Anyone with a product or service to sell or an audience to reach can benefit from placing their images on Pinterest. Retailers, architects, and artists, yes – but also researchers, landscapers, restaurants, and non-profits.
Why is Pinterest so popular? What makes it such a powerful driver of internet traffic? One reason is that placement of images on Pinterest is purely user-driven, which turns the traditional website model on its head. On the main page, tabs allow you to choose between everything pinned on the site, the most popular pins, and those pinned by people you “follow”. The arrangement of images is random. A cute scarf sold on Etsy could easily appear next to a space photo from NASA.
Of course, the ability to follow the pins of users whose taste align with your own is what makes Pinterest so much fun. In this way, the site caters to a variety of demographics, but so far Pinterest is most popular with women. Women – especially women who actively use social media for shopping purposes – happen to be a very powerful retail demographic. They are internet-savvy and once they discover something they love on Pinterest, they repost it on Facebook, Twitter, and the rest.
So how does one get started using Pinterest? First, set up an account by requesting an invite. You can link your account to Facebook or Twitter for even more exposure. Start following some other users to get an idea of what kind of content is popular.
Or, just start pinning! But do keep in mind the big rule of social media: it’s social. That means it’s not all about you; it’s about generating conversation. If all your pins are all similar images of your product, your followers will start to tune out. Instead, make it about your tastes – things you like that you think your customers and their friends would appreciate, too.
You can also let the Pinterest masses do the work for you. If you post images on your blog or website, simply add a “Pin It” button much as you would any “share” button for other social networking sites. The code for the button is on Pinterest’s website. When someone pins your image, thank them and try to reciprocate by checking out what they’ve pinned – just as you would respond to comments on your blog.
Remember, people turn to social media sites for diversion, a break in their workday, or to be inspired or entertained. When you succeed in getting your social media followers – on Pinterest or any other site – to smile, laugh, or think about something in a new way, the medium has served its purpose. As a bonus, those people will be a bit more willing to hear what you have to say as they navigate from the image to your website.
Then, follow through. Make sure the pinned image directs viewers to a page that describes what your product or service is, or why the image is relevant to what your organization does. Your blog is a great spot to place both the images and the relevant information and encourage a continuation of the conversation off of Pinterest. Don’t have a blog? Maybe Pinterest is your reason to get started.