Over the last year Pinterest has been gaining a fair bit of buzz for itself, with more than 11m members and 100m unique visitors per month, with those figures expected to sky-rocket now that it is open to everyone. As such Pinterest can be considered a good source of referral traffic for small businesses that use it effectively and in the right fashion.

Those businesses that are using Pinterest and in the right way could get a huge head start on everyone else. Pinterest may not be right for every small business out there, but most can certainly carve out a good Pinterest profile by basing their Pinterest strategy over the following steps.

  1. Setting up your Pinterest profile
    When setting up your profile page use the ‘about’ section in the same way you would on other social networks or your website, tell your audience about your brand and services, whilst also including keywords. Set your location accurately, so that people in your area may find your Pinterest profile more easily. Also remember to put in a link to your website in the relevant section in the settings and to connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts, as it provides a nice link to these on your profile page. Plan your strategy out carefully, in terms of the sorts of images you want to be pinning to the boards you create, and the actual boards you create too. As a starting point you can create boards around your keywords and tag the images you pin with your keywords too.

  2. Pinterest is a social network – be social!
    Follow people and boards that you consider to be relevant to your company and your target market, comment on their pins that you like, ‘like’ pins (as you would ‘like’ content on Facebook), and repin content from the people you follow that you consider to be unique, informative, or just visually stunning.

    When creating your boards, think of your boards as storyboards; everyone loves a good storyteller. Create boards around a specific (the more specific, the better!) theme. If you are finding it difficult to think of themes because you feel your brand isn’t visual, be creative – if for example your small business is a restaurant, you could have a board focused on your restaurants inspirations, pinning iconic images that you feel represents your company’s ethos. You can also create a board for images of your products too, if you decide to do this, remember that if you type in the price of your product in the description (in the format of £4.99 for example) Pinterest will add a ribbon to the top left corner of your image with that price. You can even, for added effect, use the ever-popular Instagram to add filters to your images and then use those Instagram images to pin on your boards.

    Avoid self-promoting too much and instead try and engage with your followers, create a board for your followers to pin their own images to (boards can have multiple contributors, you can invite any follower to share on your board), or create a board where you can repin your favourite images from the people you follow on Pinterest.

    Another way to show some personality in your small business is to create a board for each of your employees, allowing them to be creative and share their content will help interaction and relationships with your followers by putting a ‘human face’ on your company.

  3. Pinning etiquette
    You’ll find the most popular pins you’ll come across are ones that look visually good, unique or simply useful, with popular categories being fashion, photography and architecture. So keep that in mind when thinking about the sorts of images you should be pinning to your boards. Whilst pinning images of your brand and products is a good start, don’t make this your only strategy – find, and repin, unique and interesting images beyond your own products (whilst keeping in the same theme as your brand/industry), people want you to solve their problems, not be spammed with constant self-promotion, as mentioned before. A useful method of acceptable self-promoting, and staying interesting, is to pin quotes of reviews or testimonials from customers on your website to a board of yours, but in images that make the text stand out and look great visually.

  4. Promoting your Pinterest profile
    So you’ve created a Pinterest account, you’ve created various boards and pinned and repinned numerous amounts of interesting images, but you have very few people following your account, what do you do? Well for a start, you can use hashtags in your descriptions of your pins in the same way you can Twitter or Instagram, so it allows users to easily find you in searches, as mentioned earlier, do make sure your descriptions contain relevant keywords too. You can also use your other social networks that you’ve already established a good following on to direct those followers to your Pinterest profile. So you could tweet a link, or post a link on your Facebook page with some effective call to action copy to raise awareness of your new Pinterest account.

    You could even run a competition on your website where, for example, ask people to pin a certain amount of images on your website or perhaps images that best represent your brand qualities to a board of theirs, and have them email your website a link to their board, with the best board winning the competition. Following on from that, various promotions that could be useful include giving your customers the option to pin images of themselves wearing or using your products to a board of yours, or launch daily/weekly themes for pin that will have people checking in for more.

    Once you feel that your Pinterest profile is looking abundant in quality pins and boards, you can add sharing and follow buttons to your website (make sure your website isn’t cluttered with social links though), and perhaps actively encourage users of your website to pin images on your website to their own boards by adding a ‘Pinit’ button on each of your product pages.

  5. Use Pinterest as a research marketing tool
    Google, and even Twitter, are used to find answers; Pinterest is used to find inspiration. Pinterest can potentially eliminate the need to visit Google or Amazon to search for particular products or services, as a user may come across an image of a product they like the look of and be directed straight to the retailer’s website. Pinterest can be an excellent source for researching what consumers are interested in right now, so search what your followers are currently pinning and the sorts of people they follow too. See what’s relevant visually on Pinterest as it happens and what content Pinterest users are sharing with each other, as you will see what it is that people are currently holding value. Also experiment with the boards you create, target different niches and segments and you can draw in a wide-range of people who find value in what you’re pinning, all of which can lead to referrals.
The main reasons for small businesses to establish themselves on social networks are to essentially drive traffic to their website, and in turn, generate sales. If your social network, be it Pinterest, Facebook, or Google+, isn’t bringing traffic to your website, then you need to reconsider your strategy.

About the Author:
Inderpaul Rai works for Touchpoint Digital - an internet marketing agency that provides services in Social Media, Paid Search and Search Engine Optimisation.

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