Pinterest is the fastest growing social network on the web right now. Usage has increased almost 4,000% over the past six months. Visitors are lingering for an average of 88.3 minutes, far longer than most other social networks – in fact, the only places they spend more continuous time are Facebook and Tumblr. And the site is particularly popular with middle class North American women, who sign up to share recipes, craft ideas, decorating tips, and cute pictures of babies.
In spite – or perhaps because – of its simplicity, Pinterest presents numerous opportunities for forward-thinking marketers. However, those who seek to monetize Pinterest would be wise to tread carefully. Angry users, particularly early adopters, are already worried that marketers have ruined Pinterest by sponsoring pins, flooding the site with spam, and decreasing the overall content quality.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things marketers can do to engage with Pinterest users in a meaningful way – without violating site etiquette. Here are just a few:
Partner with trusted bloggers. Pinterest users seek advice, tips, and product recommendations not from brands, but from their favorite bloggers. That’s why it’s so vital for businesses to get their products and services on the walls of influential bloggers and pinners. Create a brand ambassadorship program for bloggers who write about your field – but be scrupulous about working only with those whose values match your organization’s.
Don’t push your products. You already have a catalog – it’s called your actual catalog. Your Pinterest page should be something altogether different: a place where consumers can learn about your brand’s unique voice and mission. Create interest by sharing photos or quotes that inspire you, causes that reflect your brand’s values, interesting blog posts from other sources, or, if your business is old enough, vintage marketing materials and company photos. Encourage users to upload pictures of your product in action (see points #4 and #5).
Become an informational hub. Remember, Pinterest is the social network of the DIY crowd. Pinners want to learn everything they can about their favorite topics. Help them by linking to internet resources, news articles, and blog posts that are closely related to your product or service. Just remember that most of these materials should not directly advocate or endorse your company.
Get creative. Yes, Pinterest users want to engage with creative organizations. But even more importantly, they want to use products and services that make them feel like they themselves are creative, unique individuals. The brands that ultimately succeed on Pinterest will be those that show users how to use their products and services more creatively, more artistically, and more authentically.
Make users the star of the show. Pinterest users want to be influential – and many of them also want to drive traffic to their own blogs or websites. Invite them to share photos of themselves using your product, tips for getting the most out of your service, or testimonials about their experiences with your organization. Offer small prizes for the funniest or most creative submissions. Showcase not just the winners, but everyone who participated, prominently.
Use photographs that will be repinned. You can have the greatest product in the world, but if it’s not photographed beautifully, it will never generate interest. Hire the best photographer you can afford, and don’t be afraid to choose images that are unique or edgy. Avoid using watermarks. And don’t forget, it’s a breach of Pinterest etiquette to feature your own stuff too prominently. Never include more than one or two of your own pictures on your wall at any given time.
Pin, pin, pin. The best way to generate and maintain interest in your site is to pin new pictures every single day. Just remember that almost all your content should be from other sources, and that most of it should not directly feature a product or service your organization offers.
Some of these tips may seem counterintuitive – perhaps even a little bit crazy. But remember, Pinterest users want to engage with people and companies that have something to say above and beyond “Here’s why you should use our product.” They want to learn new things, share their own ideas, and feel more creative in the process. And, above all, they don’t want their community invaded by businesses seeking only to make a quick buck.