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How does Pinterest work? Can it help me market my business?

Ok, so Pinterest is blowing up. In this post, three contributing authors explore what the site is all about and what it can (and cannot) do for your business from a marketing perspective.

First, we’ll dig into the facts behind the company.

Pinterest’s growth big for social bloggers

With social bookmarking a past invention, one could say that Pinterest’s first few months were destined for failure.  Digg, Stumbleupon and Del.icio.us were past projects that involved sharing websites and pictures for the world to see, so, what was going to make Pinterest so much better than previous lackluster efforts?

Simple: engagement.  The previously listed social bookmarking websites may be ones of interest for sharing articles, websites full of pictures and even keywords yet they lacked real engagement from their participants.  Pinterest has changed this by heading back to the basics in marketing: simplicity creates publicity.  There is nothing exceptional about the design of Pinterest; in fact, it would appear like the website platform – script aside – took about an hour to create.  However, two years from the launch of the beta site, Pinterest now shares company with social media giants you’d think would have dominated them.

Pinterest growth facts

If the amount of time Pinterest retains its viewership weren’t enough, we’ve compiled more data that will make you wonder why it took so long for a concept such as Pinterest to become developed.  First, we’ll throw out some facts on how Pinterest has grown in membership and unique visits over the last two years.  Hold your applause until the end, please.

• Pinterest became the fastest website to hit 10 million unique visits.  That means faster than Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and Facebook.  In January, the total current unique hits count was roughly 11.59 million.

• The company currently employs 16 workers at this time, an amazing number considering the visitor volume.

• In order to offset expenses and turn a profit, Pinterest will alter affiliate links to capture payments that would have normally gone to an affiliate marketer.

• The company currently has a net worth of $200 million, although they’re reporting no significant revenue.

• 20% of users who have connected Facebook profiles to their Pinterest account comprise the daily visitor tally of Pinterest.

• Pinterest has three times the ability to retain readership and engagement as Twitter, by some measures.

• The Midwest comprises the largest concentrated area of Pinterest users with many coming from Mississippi and Kentucky.

• Whereas most United States visitors are sharing their crafts, hobbies, paintings and houses, United Kingdom visitors are more geared towards sharing pictures for website optimization purposes.

• In just 6 months, daily visitors went from spending 14 minutes on site all the way up to 98 minutes, an increase of 700%.

• Was named the top startup company for 2011 by website technology site TechCrunch.

For a website that simply shares photographic items, the numbers are tremendous and continue to push the website rankings to new levels.  Current U.S ranking puts them 16th in Alexa, still trailing the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook yet remaining firmly ahead of Tumblr.

Pinterest’s financial growth

Pinterest currently does have an estimated worth of $200 Million dollars yet doesn’t seem to have much oomph as of yet to turn a profit.  Though you’ll not find paid advertising slots on their website at the time of writing, their general means of keeping above water was the aforementioned affiliate link ‘snatching’ strategy.  Although many challenge the legality of this maneuver, they’ve yet to get taxed for doing it.  Social bloggers can enjoy the future of Pinterest as it appears to be in strong hands.

What is Pinterest all about?

For those who somehow missed the appearance of Pinterest, it’ll be useful to understand what the service actually is. Pinterest has been initially designed as a collection of pictures of people, places or things, either self-uploaded or found on the Web.

Web photos can be added to your collection in a click, if you have added the “Pin” button to your browser. You can also enter a URL, and Pinterest will define all available photos on a certain page.

The service has now become much more than just a user’s digital photo-album with separate groups of pics (called pinboards). The service is also a simple and convenient way to increase the popularity of your brand and earn more by attracting your target audience to your business.

How should I promote my business on Pinterest?

The simplicity of Pinterest is, actually, one of its most essential benefits, as it won’t take much time or effort to start pinning the most inspiring pictures related to your company or the product you’re offering.

The experts recommend taking several important aspects into account. These are:

  • quality of the pinned images;
  • topic of each photo.

Major Do’s…

Generally speaking, there are several groups of photos which should be pinned when you own (or promote) a brand or a company.

Here, it would be useful to pin:

  • corporate photos (e.g. funny photos of the team members, snapshots from office life or corporate events);
  • photos of products associated with the brand (logos, corporate mugs, etc. not just the company logo);
  • infographics illustrating your work, or those associated with the sphere you are engaged in;
  • inspirational photos, aimed to evoke users’ positive emotions (enchanting scenery, smiling people and so on).

Major don’t’s…

The key recommendations for how not to lose your audience in Pinterest include the following:

  • Avoid posting overly promotional pics.

These might be taken as spam and can cause negative reaction from the side of users, rather than eliciting positive feedback.

  • Don’t copy your competitors.

Although it often seems like others know better, you should make your Pinterest account really unique to impress your users and attract more customers.

Exceptions and other Pinterest marketing avenues

If a particular company offers a service to its users, rather than a product, e.g. a file storage service, like 4shared, there’re also ways to market such a business via Pinterest.

You can promote your virtual business by pinning photos from the site of your service. This will drive more traffic to it via backlinks.

How to increase sales with Pinterest

Similarly to its younger rival Fancy, Pinterest has introduced the special “Gifts” pinboard, where users can buy certain products directly, usually at a discount.

Use the “Gifts” pinboard to encourage your customers to get a discount and purchase.

Does Your Business Need a Pinterest Page?

Many businesses will not benefit from a Pinterest page.

Social media is vital for an effective online marketing strategy, and Pinterest has been generating a lot of good press lately. I’ve seen a ton of how-to posts explaining how to set up a Pinterest page for your business, what Pinterest can do for your marketing efforts, and how to maximize the effectiveness of your Pinterest page.

Pinterest is huge. It’s true. But I don’t think every business needs to create a Pinterest page just because it’s popular right now. Before you sign up for a Pinterest account, the first thing you need to ask yourself is “How will my business make more money from using Pinterest?” If you’re unsure, or don’t have a clear idea of what direct financial benefit your business will see from using Pinterest, why are you considering signing up in the first place?

When it comes to social media, you should only use sites that are right for your business. If you run an e-commerce site, Pinterest is ideal for you. Pinterest provides a great platform for advertising new products and howing off features of your items. It’s also great for promoting sales, discounts, and other special events.

If your business is a SaaS application, or another form of business that doesn’t translate well to easily shared images and videos, Pinterest may be a waste of your time. The time you spend trying to think of ways to make Pinterest fit your business model could be better spent using Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or another social media outlet.

Signing up for social media accounts isn’t enough. In fact, signing up for a Pinterest account and letting it gather dust while you spend more time on Twitter or Facebook is worse than not signing up in the first place! Social media provides a perfect means of engaging with users, and a lack of social media engagement tells potential users you don’t care about that platform. Linking to your site from Pinterest is valuable, and the traffic you could see from popular pins are even more valuable. But it’s more important to provide value than to have a social media presence. You should only create a Pinterest page if you plan to post information users will find relevant.

Take Wayfair, for example. Wayfair is a home decoration e-commerce store, and has made tremendous use of Pinterest for marketing purposes. Wayfair has been able to leverage Pinterest to increase traffic and drive sales.

However, like any other marketing effort, traffic from Pinterest isn’t worth much on its own. It’s going to be up to businesses to make the most of this potential source of new, interested traffic. The short answer is: if you’ve already established yourself with Facebook, Twitter and Google+, are you really going to have time to put into developing a presence on Pinterest?

Proper use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can produce a tremendous increase in traffic, as well as better visibility in SERP placement. But your site doesn’t need to belong to each and every social media site that pops up, no matter how popular that site becomes.

The value of social media for marketing and SEO purposes is nothing compared to the value of engaging with your users in a way that makes sense. Twitter is perfect for quick customer service, and broadcasting news to a wide range of people. Facebook is great for holding contests, finding new customers, and measuring user engagement with your brand. Pinterest is still the new kid on the block, but so far it’s proved to be a fantastic source of traffic for many businesses.

Still, if Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, or the next big social media site that pops up aren’t going to make you more money, why waste your time?


This is a guest post written by contributing authors Tyler M., Greg H. and Andy S.

Andy S. is a blogger interested in the best new apps and startups in the marketplace.

Greg H. is an internet marketing professional from sunny California. His company helps people find email addresses and look up cell phone numbers.

Tyler Moore works at Expected Behavior, a web development firm from Indianapolis who runs a product called DocRaptor, a web application used to write PDF files from HTML.