Small Business Pinterest Starter Guide

Are you wondering how you can leverage Pinterest for your small business?

Pinterest is currently one of the hotest websites. For some businesses, Pinterest is delivering more user trafic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Pinterest, here’s a brief summary: Pinterest is a free social sharing site launched in 2009. Pinterest invites people to “pin” images and videos from all over the web, to pinboards directly on Pinterest. You can, for example, pin images of your favorite wedding dresses if you’re preparing for a wedding, or your favorite cars if you’re a car enthusiast. Other people browse or search for images that interest them and when they find such images, they’ll share them with their own followers and friends by “repinning”, “liking” or commenting on the images and videos.

Pinterest offers a new channel for businesses to connect with existing and new customers. But is Pinterest right for your small business? Should you invest your time to learn yet another social network? How can you best leverage Pinterest to increase sales?

We answer these questions in the following 10 tips for how your small business can use Pinterest to increase traffic and sales.

1. Learn what’s popular on Pinterest. Pinterest’s value to your business is in its network effect. When you add an image to your Pinterest board, you want that image to be “repinned” or “liked”. The more times users engage with your image by repinning it, liking it or leaving a comment, the more exposure you’ll have.

Pinterest makes it easy for you to see what’s popular. Visit the Popular section of the site and you’ll see what other people are sharing, and their comments. Now ask yourself: what does your business do and how can you leverage similar images on your own Pinterest boards.

Don’t force the connection – if you are a financial consultant, would it help your business to post images of phone booths or cakes? Probably not. Try to find synergy between popular images and your company’s products or services.

To succeed on Pinterest, your images must be interesting – nobody will repin boring images. For example, if your small business is a bakery and you create fancy cakes, you should be posting original images of your cakes every time you create one. People love cakes.

2. Share other people’s content. It’s never enough to simply “pin” your own content. As you should do on all social networks, take the time to find and pin other people’s content.

You can find this content on Pinterest and repin it, or you can pin original content from sites you already visit.

Pinterest makes it easy to pin from the web – there are numerous extensions available for most browsers.

3. Set up topical pinboards. Avoid the urge to create one pinboard and pin everything there. Think about the types of things you’d like to pin and create topical pinboards to help you (and your potential customers) classify the images you’re pinning.

For example, our imaginary bakery might have the following pinboards: Beautiful wedding cakes, Weddings, Funny Cakes, Family Parties, Cake Recipes, etc.

Look at how your competitors or other companies are using Pinterest and the types of pinboards they’ve created. For example, the yogurt company Chobani has created a rich group of pinboards on many topics that interest its customers and potential customers.

If you are a painter, share images of painted rooms – ones you painted and others, as inspiration for your potential customers. If you create gift baskets, share images of your baskets and other unique gifts.

4. Add prices and promote you products. Don’t be shy about creating special pinboards to promote your products. You can easily add prices to your images – and use a pinboard to promote special sales. Threadless does this very effectively.

Even if you don’t add prices, you can promote your products on dedicated pinboards. For example, Nordstrom promotes different collections on separate pinboards.

5. Set up a Pinterest competition for your fans and customers. One great way to use Pinterst is to invite your customers to pin images of your products to their pinboards. Offer a small prize for the best pin.

Here’s how one company, Nails Inc., leveraged Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to promote its products in a competition that invited its customers to share images of their painted nails.

6. Include your fans and customers. Pinterest makes it easy for you to invite your fans and customers to pin directly to your pinboards.

If you’re worried about inviting everyone to help, select your favorite or most active fans or customers and invite them to help.

Ask your fans to pin their favorite photos of your products. Or ask fans to pin photos showing how they use your products in unusual and creative ways.

7. Add a Pinterest “Follow” or “Pin It” button to your site. When you add one of these buttons, you encourage your customers and potential customers to pin your products or content to their own pinboards.

Pinterest makes it easy to add these buttons.

8. Be smart about keywords. When you add a new pin, you have an opportunity to add keywords that will help other users find your content. You can add multiple keywords, so think about ways that customers might be looking for products you’re pinning.

For example, if you’re posting images of cakes, you can add the following keywords: #cakes #bakedgoods #weddings #cupcakes #bakery #food.

9. Engage with other users. Always keep in mind that Pinterest is a social network. Don’t silo yourself and expect everyone to come to your pinboards. Take the time to browse, repin and comment on other users’ images. That’s how people notice you and ultimately, your products and services.

10. Hold Pinterest only promotions. One good way to build a following and expose your customers to Pinterest is to create unique offers only on Pinterest. People like to share deals – this is a good way to spread the word about your company’s products and services.

How do you feel about Pinterest? Do you have other tips you can share with small business owners or a question? Please leave a comment below.