An introduction to Pinterest

Pinterest is an online noticeboard where users curate images of things that they find interesting or inspiring; it has been described as a ‘catalogue of everything’. In this article we’ll examine the potential of this growing social media tool for small businesses, and how it can be used effectively. 

What exactly is Pinterest, and what are the benefits to SMEs?

Pinterest is an aspirational, image-based social media platform. Each image (pin) that is added (pinned) to it links back to the website where it came from, so it’s much more directly associated with online shopping than other social media sites. There’s also a high level of sharing on Pinterest (where users repin other people’s images), which hugely increases the potential reach of each pin. Pinterest content ranks well on Google.

Some recent stats give some insight into Pinterest’s users:

  • 100 million users worldwide (with steady growth predicted)
  • 85% of users are female
  • 67% of users are under the age of 40
  • 27% of active users follow at least one brand (ie a business account)
  • 47% of users have bought something as a result of clicking on a pin
  • 80% of content consists of repins

Pinterest is obviously a good social media tool to choose if a) your target audience fits the above demographic, and b) your business uses strong images (eg products, food, fashion, interiors, art/craft, travel destinations). But with some imagination, there’s no reason why any business can’t use Pinterest to drive visitors to its website.

Getting started: some ideas about what content to pin

First of all, you must register as a business – it’s still free. Make sure you set up your Pinterest account in your business name and use your logo as your profile picture, in order to keep your branding consistent.

Each Pinterest user categorises/tags their pins in separate sections (boards), according to their interests. You’ll need to consider which boards to set up – it’s advisable to start with at least three (with several pins on each) before telling everyone you’re on Pinterest. If you have clearly defined audiences, services or product ranges, for example, you might want to create separate boards for each.

If you’re struggling for ideas then here are some suggestions:

  • a board that’s about you (ie promoting your products/services)
  • a board that’s helpful (eg tips in your area of expertise)
  • a board that’s fun (eg about something you find interesting)

Board names should be short and clear but also engaging to potential followers.

Try to find a niche, and aim to be an expert in your field. Make the most of any free resources you can offer, for example how-to videos or presentations. Be imaginative about how you can make the best use of Pinterest’s strong visual appeal, eg you could create eye-catching promotional vouchers.

How to use Pinterest effectively

Here are a few ideas on how to make the best use of Pinterest:

  • Pin regularly rather than in bursts.
  • Be sociable and make connections (eg tag other users in your descriptions, comment on and like other people’s pins).
  • If you’re pinning products, add the price and then it might be featured in the Gifts section.
  • Use high quality images (apparently lighter images get repinned 20 times more than darker images).
  • Always add short descriptions (including keywords), and if your image is from your own site then make sure you include your business name.
  • Consider adding other contributors to your boards (eg staff) and encourage them to get involved.
  • Use PinReach (a free analytics tool) to track how people engage with your content and inform your strategy.
  • Optimise your own web content for Pinterest – ie make sure each page/post has an image with a ‘pin it’ button alongside.
  • Use your existing networks to tell people you’re on Pinterest, and add ‘Follow me on Pinterest’ links to your site and other social media platforms.

Jenny Brindley is a freelance writer and editor who specialises in working with SMEs to enhance their web presence. Contact jenny.brindley@gmail.com for details.

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