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10 ways to use Pinterest for your business
Unless you've been meditating with some monks in Tibet for the last few months, you've probably at least heard of Pinterest.
The virtual "pinboard" social network exploded this winter and went from fewer than 1 million users to 150 million in just six months. The simple functionality of easily sharing and organizing photo and video content fulfilled the original promise of media-based social networks such as Flickr, making Pinterest a huge hit with users.
Many people are even calling Pinterest addictive.
Though it's definitely fun to use on a personal level-click here to see my pinboard of "Frightening Foods"-what should you be thinking about from a business perspective? Is Pinterest the new Facebook? How can your brand(s) use Pinterest to meet your goals?
When used properly, Pinterest can be an amazing tool in your social media strategy. Many photo- or image-focused brands have already seen major surges of traffic based on their Pinterest efforts. But you don't have to be a fashion brand or magazine to effectively use a photo-based social network such as Pinterest. The U.S. Army and Mashable, for example, have both executed brilliant efforts on Pinterest.
Below I've outlined what I think are practical and important ways any business can effectively use Pinterest:
1. Do your homework.
Do you have a lot of photo and video content on your site?
(If the answer is "no," then you should stop playing Zork on your Commodore 64, borrow a digital camera, and go add some photos immediately.)
Before you even attempt to sign up for Pinterest and start sharing those photos on Pinterest, look at what other Pinterest users are pinning from your site. You still need an invitation for Pinterest, so to access all site content, use this custom URL and replace MethodShop.com (my personal blog) with your website: http://pinterest.com/source/methodshop.com/.
Once you see what is being shared, you should create more content that is similar. Also, open your analytics dashboard, and see what type of traffic Pinterest is driving to your site. Between what people are pinning and what Pinterest users are clicking on, these two things should really help you define your future content strategy and what your "voice" should be on Pinterest.
2. Add a "Pin" button to your site.
As you start to create more sharable content aimed at Pinterest users, you also want to make it easy for them to share. Sure, Pinterest users can manually add your photos and videos to Pinterest, but why not make it easier for them? Add the Pinterest "Pin" button to any page on your site with great photo or video content.
3. Sign up your brand on Pinterest.
Now that your content is all over Pinterest, you should probably consider getting your brand set up with an account. Ask for an invitation on their home page, but make sure you don't muddy up your business and your personal social accounts. Use a company email, and make sure you sign in to Pinterest only with your brand's Twitter account. Pinterest lets users sign in using Facebook, but the account will link to your personal Facebook account, not any of the Facebook pages.
4. Your boards should support your strategy.
Pinterest users will pin and organize your content as they see fit, but you should use your boards to help define your brand and company culture. If you need some inspiration, then checkout Coca-Cola's Pinterest presence. (Disclosure: Coca-Cola is a Definition 6 client.)
Coca-Cola's boards integrate key messaging that helps define their brand-such as "Be together," "Be Active," and "Be Giving"-and pins photos that reinforce that messaging. Yes, they have some product photos on Pinterest, but they are using this platform to show a broader brand image.
5. Create moments of engagement.
If you want your brand fans to engage, give them opportunities to do so. Anything from running a photo contest on Pinterest to simply posting a tweet encouraging people to post relevant photos of themselves with your brand's products will help encourage engagement.
6. Create infographics.
They get pinned-a lot.
7. Participate in the conversation.
Comment on every photo on your website and blog. Read all comments on the photos, and comment back if there are questions.
8. Optimize your account settings.
Make sure your settings are set to adhere to your brand guidelines and make sure you create a mission/description. Going back to the Coca-Cola page, you can see its mission as "Discovering moments of happiness, one picture at a time." The company even uses its page to encourage participation; it has a call to action and a URL, "Share your moment: http://CokeURL.com/8mux," as part of the description.
Also, in the account settings, and this is very important, make sure your "Visibility" setting is turned off. This will allow your pinned content to appear in search, and while this won't improve your site's SEO, it will drive traffic back to your site.
9. Have a Pinterest content distribution strategy.
Do you have a ton of great photos that you want to share on Pinterest? Awesome. Don't post them all at once! Trickle a few out every day over time to help maintain users' interest longer.
Remember, Pinterest is not the new "Facebook Photo Gallery." Photos on Pinterest are more aesthetic than other social networking sites, and are intended to evoke emotions like humor, disgust, intrigue, nostalgia, love, etc. Make sure you adhere to the pin etiquette guidelines when posting, and ensure that your content is Pinterest friendly, providing the most share-worthy content. This is not the place to post your company's party photos but a place for your brand to tell its story through imagery. In other words, keep your keg stand photos on Facebook. If you have any questions on what to post, take a look at Pinterest's "Popular" section.
10. Use Hashtags in your photos' descriptions.
Similar to Instragram, Pinterest has enabled a search function to categorize relevant topics. For example, if you manage a Star Wars fan site, all your Pinterest images should include the #StarWars hashtag in the description. This will help other users easily find your content in their searches.
As Pinterest is a fairly new platform, you will see many more changes emerge (especially for brands) as new features are rolled out and its user base continues to grow. Pinterest many not be right for every brand, but I suggest that every marketer at least try it out and set up a personal account. It will at least allow you to speak intelligently about the platform when your staff starts pressing you to create a company account.