A Pinterest-ing Idea

Just over a year ago, Pinterest appeared to be little more than an online scrapbook for storing visual bookmarks of websites and projects to revisit at a future date. It was started by a small group of friends who simply thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if there were a catalog full of stuff that our friends had picked out…”? With a short development period (December 2009 to March 2010), Pinterest took off quickly, gaining such massive momentum in 2011 that nearly every marketing and social media trend prediction for 2012 includes a reference to the surprise social media darling of the moment: Pinterest.

Early adopters tended to be female, and current estimates show the trend holding with women making up approximately 70% of Pinterest’s estimated 3.3 million users. That doesn’t mean Pinterest is just for women, but it’s a great indicator that if you actively market to women, Pinterest is the place to be.

How Does It Work?
Every Pinterest account is broken up into “boards” and each board has “pins.” So, for example, Pinterest giant Whole Foods, which boasts well over 17,000 followers on the site, has 25 boards, each representing a different category such as the general, “Who wants dinner?!” and “Sweet Tooth,” and then the more specific such as, “Thankful for Thanksgiving Dinner,” and, “Creative Christmas Projects.”

What’s important to note here is that Pinterest is not about self-promotion, and it’s actually frowned upon in the “pinning etiquette” rules. So Whole Foods isn’t simply pinning photos of their products. Instead, they’re categorizing and cataloging ideas, recipes, tips, and how-tos that represent the healthy, active lifestyle they associate with food-loving Whole Foods consumers. Then, when followers “re-pin” Whole Foods’ pins to their own boards, new followers are linked to the Whole Foods pin boards, and their social media following grows. And of course it’s all linked to Facebook and Twitter too, so it’s a great way to increase your following throughout the social media space.

What Does This Mean For Small Businesses?
What’s great about Pinterest is that it gives small businesses a great outlet for showing some personality, relating to their consumers, and providing an item of perceived value to users without much effort or investment. For example, if you own a candy shop, you know all about candy. You will naturally read and be drawn to images online about your own industry. By using a Pinterest “bookmarklet,” you can easily pin images and their related content to your pin boards, letting your users know what you’re into at the moment.

Run a home improvement company? Pin images of tools you prefer and pin links to new “how to” and “DIY” articles for your followers. You’ll be creating informed consumers and providing a free resource while keeping your company’s name present in an unobtrusive manner with a positive association all at once.

Just as with Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media, you need to let your customer base know you’re on Pinterest. Blog about your new pin boards, post links on Facebook, and add “follow us” links to your website, social media pages, and blog. Spend time watching how others use Pinterest, and you’ll catch on quickly to 2012’s hottest social media trend.