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Pinterest is a social network that allows you save, sort and manage images and other content such as videos and articles
This social network lets you create pinboards, then 'pin' items to them. People can follow your account or boards to see what you've pinned most recently.
Why should your business use Pinterest?
With more than 70 million users, Pinterest has become a significant social network. Based on the simple idea of allowing you to create virtual pinboards of things you like, businesses now use it to share everything from pictures of staff at work to ideas for creative uses of their products.
As a highly visual medium, it's become popular in sectors such as fashion, food, photography and design. However, many different kinds of businesses can use it to share content and reach potential customers. For instance, you could use it to:
- increase awareness of your products;
- collect feedback from customers and prospects;
- connect with influential people in your industry;
- show off the creative side of your business;
- build stronger relationships with key customers;
- increase general visibility of your business.
As with many social networks, the amount of time and effort you commit to Pinterest will determine what results you see.
You can try using it in short, sharp bursts - a few minutes each, perhaps three or four times a day. Pinterest works well on mobile devices, allowing you to log in when you have a spare moment.
How to set up your business on Pinterest
Pinterest offers separate types of accounts for personal and business use. Before you sign up your business, it's a good idea to have a read of the information for businesses that's available from Pinterest.
1. Decide if Pinterest is for you
Although Pinterest is a large social network, it's not used as widely as services like Twitter and Facebook. So before you commit to it, think about what you want to achieve and investigate whether Pinterest is likely to be used by your target audience. For instance:
- Do your key competitors use it? If all your competitors are active on Pinterest, there's a good chance you should be, too. If they're not, you could get ahead of them - but not without thinking it through.
- Do you sell to consumers? Pinterest is most useful if you sell directly to consumers. It's less helpful for finding business-to-business leads or creating business partnerships.
- Do your customers use it? Most businesses focus their social media efforts on places where they can find potential customers. Can you run a survey to establish whether you customers are using Pinterest?
- Do key industry figures use it? Even if you don't think your customers are big on Pinterest, you might want to establish a presence if it can help you reach influential people in your industry.
- Do you have things to show off? Any sort of business can use Pinterest. But it's well-suited to those that have physical products to showcase through this visual medium.
If you're looking for some inspiration, the Pinterest website has some good business case studies.
2. Sign up to Pinterest
Go to the Pinterest website and join as a business. (Don't worry if you sign up as an individual instead - you can use the Convert now option to switch to a business account.)
You'll need to enter your email address, password, business name and choose a business type. Also enter in the address of your main company website.
You'll then be asked to select some of your interests from a list. Choose anything that seems to fit your business well. If you're a clothes shop, you might choose fashion and wedding ideas.
This step allows Pinterest to find accounts it thinks you might want to follow. You can always change your selections later.
You may be asked if you want to install the Pinterest browser button. When you add this to your web browser, you'll be able to pin items to Pinterest with one click. It's handy, but you can always add it later if you prefer.
3. Complete your business Pinterest profile
Once you've signed up, you'll see your profile page, which probably looks a little bare. Choose Edit Profile to add some key details:
- Upload a picture. You might use the logo of your company or a photo of yourself (if you're a one-person company or freelance). Profile pictures help people recognise your business easily on Pinterest.
- Pinterest should have generated a username for you. You can change this, maybe to your company name. If you already have other social network profiles, you could use the same username for all of them.
- Add some information to the about you section. This is a chance to tell people about your business. Be concise, clear and direct - showing some personality will encourage people to connect with you.
- Add your location. This allows other Pinterest users to identify whether you're in their area - particularly useful if you operate a shop or other location that customers can visit.
Pinterest should offer tips to get your new account set up. In particular, it's a good idea to verify your company website. This shows other Pinterest users that you're a trustworthy source and allows you to view analytics that'll help you learn more about your audience on Pinterest.
4. Start pinning some items
Think about what sort of things people might like to see on your Pinterest account. Your own web analytics might give you some idea. You can also ask customers directly (perhaps in a survey) - or take inspiration from your other social network accounts.
The first thing to do is to create a board:
- Give it a name and a description, so people can see what your board is about.
- Boards usually follow a theme. For instance, a dress shop might create a board called 'retro inspiration'.
- You must select a Pinterest category for your board.
- If you want to be able to record locations of things you pin, select the map option.
- You can also invite colleagues to be collaborators, so they can add things to your board.
Once you have at least one board, you can start pinning things to it.
- On the Pinterest website, select your relevant board, then click the big '+' sign to pin something to it.
- You can upload a pin (for instance, a photo) or pin from a website. When you pin from a website, you must paste in the URL of the web page or image you want to show on your board.
- To pin from other websites without pasting URLs, use the Pinterest browser button.
- Add an interesting description to your pins. This helps people who are searching for something specific, and gives you a chance to say something about what you've pinned.
- You can always edit or delete pins, so don't worry about making a mistake.
As you pin more items, your footprint on Pinterest will increase, making it easier for other people to find you.
5. Follow some other Pinterest users
When you visit the Pinterest home page, you'll see the latest pins from users you follow on Pinterest. You can choose to either follow all of a user's pins, or only those on particular boards.
- Even if you haven't chosen to follow anyone yet, Pinterest will automatically follow some accounts based on the interests you chose when you signed up. You can unfollow these if they're not to your taste.
- To find other boards and accounts to follow, you can use the search box at the top of the page.
- There's a find friends option that lets you import contact details from Facebook or your email address book. This is a good way to follow people you know who already use Pinterest.
Following relevant boards and users helps to build your own profile on the social networks.
How to use Pinterest in your business
Once you've set up Pinterest and started following some other accounts, try to use it regularly. It's good if you can sign in every day to browse and comment on pins, follow new people and pin your own items.
As with most social networks, you need to use it regularly to figure out exactly where it fits in your business. To keep you moving in the right direction, you can follow these tips:
- Make sure you engage with other users. You can 'like' pins and leave comments when you have something interesting to say. Make sure you respond when people leave comments on your pins, too. You can also 'repin' items to your own boards (this is a bit like a retweet on Twitter).
- Pin your own stuff - and encourage others to do the same. Don't be shy about pinning things from your own website. You can always create a board for 'our products' or similar. You can also add 'Pin it' buttons to your website. These make it easy for others to pin your content.
- Make use of secret boards. If you don't want a board to be public, set it to be secret. You can use secret boards to collect useful items (for instance, inspiration for your new website). Or you can make a secret board public as part of a product launch or PR campaign.
- Try out rich pins. Rich pins work like normal pins, but allow you to include extra information on the pin itself. For example, you could include a map, address and phone number to help people find your restaurant, or information on pricing and stock levels at your shop.
There are a range of apps and tools available that can enable you to use Pinterest more effectively, too.
As long as you signed up for a business Pinterest account, you can also view analytics about your profile, audience and more.
If you only do one thing on Pinterest…
Make sure your profile is easy to find, and that you have at least two or three boards that contain interesting items.