Ten and a half million (and growing exponentially) -- that's about how many Pinterest accounts there are currently. If you've signed up, you know what I am talking about; if you haven't, you should. Pinterest is one of the hottest new social media forums on the Web and drives more referrals than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn, according to January 2012 statistics.
Users can search from a menu of standard topics including architecture, fashion, fitness, and technology. Those topics are organized on boards that resemble the push-pin bulletin boards you might have in your office or craft room. Users pin or upload images of their own or browse images on other users' boards for ideas and inspiration. Images include links to the original site. The person pinning or uploading images can enter descriptions, using keywords to make his or her image easily searchable on Pinterest, and then see comments and feedback from followers.
Trust me, it's cooler than it sounds -- and crazy addictive. You may have heard rumors or read articles that suggest that Pinterest's users are primarily women who craft, bake, or seek inspiration for their wedding plans. That's partly true, but I ask you this: Why do the US Army, General Electric, and many other organizations and brands that aren't oozing with estrogen have accounts? Pinterest is beginning to attract a larger and larger base of global users to its unique platform.
The fast-growing Palo Alto startup is still evolving, so it's not perfect yet. In an email response addressing some questions I had, Aaron Franklin, Pinterest's Community Specialist, told me that the search function is currently being rebuilt and will definitely improve. Currently, you can Google "[business name] Pinterest" to see what brands are represented or have been pinned by users on the site.
So how does a retailer enter this new community successfully? A good place to begin would be the Pinterest blog, which has stories about retailers and users who leverage Pinterest to grow and gain a wider audience. Because Pinterest is mostly used for inspiration, planning, and sharing ideas, the message or products you wish to convey to your followers and to the Pinterest community must be easily represented by engaging images. A careful strategy should be planned for launching a page and creating boards:
- Don't spam; be selective about what you pin. The beauty of Pinterest is the lack of clutter; you don't want to overwhelm your followers.
- Focus on inspiring followers, not just selling products -- that's what your Website is for. Pinterest is for creating goodwill and buzz. The goal is to get users excited on Pinterest so they buy through your traditional channels.
- Follow other users and "like" pins of users who might be customers or share the same interests. As with any other social networking site, you want to find the influencers of the group. The right influencers will do your marketing work for you if they like your product.
As with other social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube, copyright violations remain a concern, but Pinterest is finding ways to address the issue. Companies can prevent their sites from being pinned with a Pin It button by embedding a small piece of code. Privacy concerns aside, Pinterest offers plenty of benefits for companies, especially retailers wanting to build referrals, increase their following, and boost their image. It's time to start pinning!