Move over Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Another social media site is stepping up as a valuable marketing tool for businesses.
Pinterest, an online bulletin board for your favorite images, launched in 2010 and is already experiencing wild growth, Jason Falls writes in a story posted on Linkedin Friday (2/10). The site registered more than 7 million unique visitors in December, up from 1.6 million in September. And it’s driving more traffic to company websites and blogs than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined, according to a recent report from Cambridge, Mass.-based content-sharing site Shareaholic.
Why should small businesses care? To answer that, you first have to understand how consumers are using the site. Pinterest allows you to organize images — maybe pretty sunrises or wines you’ve tasted — into boards for specific categories. When you “pin” something new, your followers will see it. They can like, comment or re-pin it to their boards. Like Facebook content, your Pinterest pins can go viral.
Brides-to-be can pin pictures of different wedding dresses to review, and people shopping for a new car can pin images of their options. When I joined Pinterest I started a board to show the Major League Baseball stadiums I’ve visited. The possibilities are unlimited.
Here’s a look at why some business owners — particularly retailers — might want to seriously consider starting a business profile on Pinterest now.
How It’s Being Used
Perhaps the most powerful business application is the ability to post images of your company’s products on your Pinterest board and link them back to your website, writes Falls, who is CEO of Louisville, Ky.-based Social Media Explorer, a social media marketing, digital marketing and public relations consulting service. It works as a sort of virtual store catalog.
But remember that this is social media. If you simply display images of your products without contributing other content or sharing other users’ pins, you’ll likely find that people don’t pay much attention. After all, no one likes a self-absorbed blowhard.
But savvy social media users know not to get too promotional. For example, Whole Foods Market pins pictures of delicious-looking food, food art and images of recycled or reused products to inspire customers to be environmentally responsible. Daniel Gordon, who runs Samuel Gordon Jewelers in Oklahoma City, pins pictures of his rings and watches, but he also has a board for images that make him laugh and other types of products he loves.
Pinterest already is driving buyers to some websites. In the last six months, the retail deal site ideeli.com has seen a 446 percent increase in web traffic from Pinterest and sales resulting from those visits have increased five-fold.
“We continue the Pinterest conversation with [the] members by following their pins, and we love to give feedback outside of the shopping category — whether that means commenting on a great recipe or [giving] a heart next to our favorite pet pics,” says ideeli.com social media manager Sarah Conley. “We also see Pinterest as a growing resource to better understand our members and the larger retail landscape.”
Is Pinterest Right for Your Business?
The site does have some drawbacks for businesses. If your product or service isn’t particularly visual, your images may not tie directly back to your brand. Pinterest also doesn’t offer business-oriented features, and its search function prioritizes pin and board subjects ahead of “people,” the category that brands would fall into.
The best way to determine if Pinterest could attract buyers is simply to give it a shot. Set up an account and start pinning things that are relevant to your business but not too promotional.