Pinterest in a Nutshell
My initial view of Pinterest caused a quick eye roll. So many dresses, food dishes, flowers, signs, and other things that just weren't me. What were all of these pictures? Why were they limited to these types of items? After re-grouping, I pressed on and have learned to appreciate this tool for what it is. Here's what I know...
|My Pinterest Page|
First, it's very important to understand that Pinterest is not yet open to the public. A prospective user can be added to a waiting list or be invited by an existing user. This means that it has yet to reach its full potential, even for this early stage of its existence. Second, Pinterest is made for individuals, not companies or brands. Those may be coming someday, but they aren't reality right now.
Pinterest allows you to add "pins" to virtual "boards," each of which has a theme. So, a board might represent dessert recipes, places you would like to travel, or craft ideas, as three examples. A pin, represented by a picture, might include a photo of a fantastic fruit tart. A pin can also include two other important characteristics, a short description and a link to some URL. It's these additions that, in my opinion, can make Pinterest valuable to you, but that comes later.
Pins can be added in two different ways. They can be uploaded from the user's computer or they can be pinned directly from a website. This is easily done using the Pinterest "Bookmarklet," which can be downloaded from Pinterest and shows up as a bookmark in your bookmark toolbar. Adding pins with the bookmarklet automatically adds the original photo URL to the image. That way, whenever anyone clicks on the pin, they will be directed to the original site. Uploading pins is also easy, but is done one at a time, so can be slow. Again, users can add the description and a URL to uploaded pins.
One of the social aspects occurs when users follow each other. User A can follow User B, which means that A will receive updates on all of B's boards, or User A can choose to follow one or more of User B's specific boards. Because all of Pinterest's boards are public, however, User A does not have to follow User B to view B's boards, though A won't receive updates about B's boards without following B.
Beyond simply following, Pinterest allows increased interaction through "repinning," "likes," and "comments." Comments are exactly what you're probably thinking, short text comments. If a user likes a pin, then this is reflected on the pin and on a special page of likes on the users page. If a user feels that the pin would represent them well, they can repin it, adding it as a pin to one of their own boards. Again, this is reflected on the original pin.
|Examples of Repins of my Pin showing the Theater of Epidaurus, Greece.|
Pinterest as a Promotional Tool
As a visually-oriented tool, Pinterest has great potential. Many items that food and agricultural marketers sell are already popular items on Pinterest. Food, flowers, and gifts/crafts are all over the site. The trick will be to have engaging photos that appeal to people. Without those, one won't succeed with a tool like this one. Assuming you have good content, here are a few thoughts...
|One of my self-loaded pins. Me looking out into the ocean.|
2. Pinterest frowns on over-selling. Use the site as a way to engage through photos and provide information through descriptions and URLs, but keep blatant self-promotion in check.
3. Watch who likes or repins your pins. Make sure to use this as another tool to socialize. Follow them if their boards are of interest to you.
4. ALL CONTENT IS PUBLIC! This is one downside for some marketers. A friend in the floral design business has used Pinterest to share wedding ideas with brides, but must be careful about having others steal designs. This is likely to happen anyway, but some may not want to simply hand over their secrets.
5. Think about a contest using Pinterest. Many ag and food marketers use recipes to promote their products. What about having a recipe contest on Pinterest and the winner is the one with the most repins and likes? Ask customers to provide their best apple dumpling recipe, for example, and an original photo of their dish, and then create a board just for that contest. The resulting pinning and repinning will drive traffic to your site and get your business's name out there. Provide a gift certificate for an award, and you've just received some inexpensive promotion.
6. Integrate Pinterest with other social media tools. When you pin something, you can notify Twitter followers or Facebook friends. You can also notify them later. This takes on more importance if you're running a contest, as discussed above.
Like all social media tools, don't just launch into using Pinterest. Think first about whether it will connect with your target audience and whether you have the resources to make it work for you. Maybe photo albums on Facebook are a better fit for you. Either way, make an informed decision about whether you should use the tool or not.
UPDATE - MARCH 27, 2012: My colleague Kathy Kelley (@kmk17psu on Twitter) just shared this infographic which has some great info for using Pinterest effectively.