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Help, I'm on Pinterest and I can't Get off!
Pinterest is 2012’s fastest growing social media website.

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of Pinterest yet, you will.  The newest social media site has become one of the fastest growing places for social networking.  In the last 6 months it has leapt into the top ten most visited even though it is still an invite-only site.  With a visually stunning scrollable display, Pinterest provides a creative and interesting opportunity for small businesses to connect with customers and build relationships based on mutual interest.  For any business with visual products or services, Pinterest may be the place to be in the social networking scene in 2012.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is like a virtual version of the corkboard in your office or kitchen.  Users have their own pinboard where they can post images and snippets of things that they find interesting, inspiring, or memorable by pinning them to their pinboard.  Users follow and comment on each other’s pinboards and can repin items they love to their own boards.  It’s social, fun, and visually stimulating in a way that other social media sites aren’t, which may be why so many people find it addicting.

How Businesses Can Use Pinterest for Marketing

On the surface, it may seem like a site that isn’t really suited for small businesses looking to market their products and services.  Users create their own pinboards which would seem to imply the only pinboard you can impact is your own.  How can you spread your message if you can only talk to yourself?  But the fact that Pinterest doesn’t immediately lend itself to people selling products is exactly why it offers such a great opportunity for small businesses.

The fact is, marketing via Pinterest is all about building relationships built on mutual interest.  Businesses that fill their pinboards with product advertisements and self promotions won’t get much traction (and may get their invitation to participate revoked, see rules below).  People love Pinterest because it lets you share the corkboard in your kitchen with the world.  You can share the picture from the magazine of your dream home office, the scribbled name of the book your best friend is raving about, and your business’s mantra or motto.

Think about it this way, if the bulletin board in your office is covered with your company’s marketing materials and advertisements, it isn’t likely to provide any inspiration to you, let alone anyone else.  This is the key to using Pinterest to interact with and inspire and be inspired by customers, prospects, and others.   If you are inspired to request an invite, here are my thoughts about using Pinterest to market your small business.

1. Make sure it’s right for you. 

Seventy percent of Pinterest users are females under the ages of 45.  If this is not your demographic, then Pinterest isn’t likely going to be a good fit for you.  There are, however, some specific types of businesses that I think may benefit from exposure via Pinterest.

  • Clothing retailers that sell clothes for women, children, and babies
  • Cosmetologists, makeup artists, fashion designers
  • Personal shoppers
  • Grocery stores, food stores, anything food-related
  • Restaurants and Caterers
  • Chefs
  • Personal Trainers
  • Fitness gurus
  • Florists
  • Photographers
  • Chefs
  • Toy Companies
  • Stationary Stores
  • Interior Decorators
  • Home Improvement Stores
  • Unique Gift Shops
  • Handmade Items
  • Graphic Designers
  • Other businesses with a visual product or service

2. Follow the rules.

If you decide that Pinterest is a good fit for your business, make sure you follow the rules.

  • Avoid self-promotion.
  • Share things you love, not just the things you sell.
  • Take this opportunity to share a different side of yourself or your business with current and potential customers.
  • Use Pinterest to build relationships and rapport that can lead to sales in other arenas.

3. Share things that are visually appealing, new, and fun!

  • Keep your target demographic of women under age 45 in mind all the time.
  • Think outside the box when looking for great content to pin.
  • Since the whole point of Pinterest is for members to discover new things, look for ways to share new and interesting things that will attract and inspire your ideal clients.
  • Make “Share Something New” your Pinterest motto.

 4. Credit your sources. 

  • A crucial part of the Pinterest environment is giving credit where credit is due.
  • Crediting sources and linking back to the content creator helps preserve copyright while allowing people to share the things they love.
  • Take the time to locate the original source in order to ensure credit is given appropriately.

5. Host a Pinterest contest.

Challenge followers to create the best board featuring ways to use your products or offer a prize for the most repins of a specific subject matter or for a topic relating to your business.  Be creative and make sure your contest appeals to the people you want to participate.

The most important thing to remember when looking to Pinterest as a way to market your business and build your brand is to use the visual atmosphere of the pinboards to your advantage.  Inspire customers and prospects to interact with you and with each other in new and interesting ways and you may bring in new customers without a single sales pitch.

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