What do Ben & Jerry’s, Katie Couric, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and President Barack Obama have in common? You can find all of them on Pinterest http://pinterest.com. It’s a content sharing social media site that allows members to “pin” images, videos and other objects of their favorite events, hobbies, interests—you name it—to their pinboard. You can follow and like other people on Pinterest, as well as browse their pinboards to share your interests. Powerful visuals are a great way to attract clients. You can also receive inspiration from others pinboards and discover new things. As a small business owner, you can use the popular site to brand and market yourself in innovative and creative ways.
“I call Pinterest a virtual vision board,” said Jennifer Abernethy, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Social Media Marketing (2012, Penguin) and CEO of The Sales Lounge (www.thesaleslounge.com), a Washington, DC-based firm that helps businesses develop their social marketing, sales and branding efforts. “We are tired of e-mail and the written word, so Pinterest allows us to utilize another part of our brain. We can see other vision boards and it triggers an emotional and visual creative response. We get ‘infotained’ in a way that we wouldn’t otherwise. Pinterest allows small business owners to visually tell their story to their customers. They can use it to create their own personal brand and that of their business.”
According to Abernethy, who brands herself as “America’s Leading Social Business Stylist,” Pinterest started “underground” on the West Coast. It has been around for several years, but didn’t reach critical mass until 2011. The latest statistics indicate there are 17.8 million people on Pinterest, with 2 million “daily” Facebook users pinning. Some 97% of users are women, and the average viewer spends 1 hour and 18 minutes on a Pinterest board. As Pinterest evolves the numbers are projected to climb in the second half of 2012, she added.
“It really has a ‘wow’ factor,” said Abernethy. “People are getting very creative with it. I’ve seen people do fun videos talking about their business. They share anything from their favorite books to their favorite foods. I’ve also seen people post job descriptions and QR Codes that connect to product demos and customer testimonials. Real estate agents are now pinning homes for purchase and retailers are putting products on their sites. Now we see major brands, Fortune 100 companies, boutique firms and serial entrepreneurs on the site, so it’s great for small business owners to see the “big guys’ ” vision boards and to connect with them on these sites.
Personal organizer and lifestyle expert Staci Krell, owner of New York-based Simply Staci, features products on her Pinterest page (http://pinterest.com/stacikrell) to help people simplify, streamline and organize their spaces. Krell says Pinterest allows her to show clients products in a range of styles and prices all in one place, which is less daunting and saves them time.
“I just started using Pinterest and I love it because I work with a lot of moms and families, and their number one issue is organizing their kids’ toys and other stuff,” said Krell. “Parents don’t know where to put everything and they often don’t have time to search websites online. So instead of writing a blog, Pinterest has been so helpful for me. I compile all of the products I like and clients can click on them and pin them to their pages. It’s like ripping pages out of a magazine. If they see something they want, they can go to the website where the product is sold and order it. I don’t suggest anything I wouldn’t buy myself.”
If you’re considering Pinterest for your business, first, you must get invited to get an account, which is free. Once you get on “Surf for awhile. Look at pages—explore, search individuals, companies and brands,” advised Abernethy. “See how pages from the West Coast differ from East Coast boards. ‘Connect with’ or ‘follow’ those that have large followings. Also, find people with aligned interests, values and connections and follow them. People make impressions based on the company you keep, so look for a savvy mix of companies, brands and individuals to follow. Stretch yourself and follow folks outside of your industry. Find and follow leaders you admire and who influence you.”
Once you’ve experienced other sites, begin to envision your site. “See what trends and new ideas emerge for you,” said Abernethy. “Spend some quality time looking for quality content to follow and re-pin. Think through your ‘why,’ then start naming some boards that relate to your expertise and passions. Then post some photos and videos if you can. The passions you share will make you more human and thus, relatable. Then begin paying attention to the comments you get on your page and pins.”
More helpful hints from Abernethy on launching your Pinterest site:
- Make sure your page overall teaches something whether it’s about you, your industry, or your products or services. You also want to be seen as a resource so people will keep coming back to your page to learn.
- Acknowledge and write back to those who keep coming back to your boards. This will help develop brand champions who will spread the word about your Pinterest page.
- Put articles and blogs on your boards and share great copy. This is a powerful way to create a loyal following on Pinterest. It’s not just about images and video.
- Choose carefully the words you use to describe your boards and pins. This communicates volumes about your brand. The text should complement your pins and align with the branding of your business. Snappy, sassy, clever and creative copy always wins.
- Put your Pinterest link (icon) on your website and blog—many forget to do that. Most people see at least a 50 percent increase to their website if they do this, said Abernethy. Put it on your e-mail and business card, too.
- Under your bio or “About You” section, put links and updated information that keeps it dynamic and searchable. Also put your business phone number there so people can call you.
Pinterest is about to go international, so potentially, there’s even greater opportunity to expand your company’s reach. “As the world get’s smaller, start thinking of ways your business can connect, align and do business with entrepreneurs in other countries,” Abernethy advised. “We don’t know where Pinterest is going, but it’s one of the most popular sites and is growing at a phenomenal rate. The opportunities are really endless.“
How are you using Pinterest in your small business?
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource bloghttp://www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also bestseller author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.