How you can make Pinterest work for your small business


This screen shot taken Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, shows a page of women's products from Pinterest.com. A virtual pinboard or scrapbook, the site allows users to collect and organize favorite images and ideas. (AP)
April 17, 2012

You’ve obviously heard about it by now — the social media site that’s taking the Internet by storm. Now the question is, what do you do about it? Is there a way to use the Pinterest craze to the advantage of your business?

First, for those who aren’t familiar with it, here are the basics:

Pinterest is a digital pinboard that allows you to collect and share pics of cool things you find on the Internet.

If we said everyone’s using it, we’d be lying. But Pinterest is growing. The site tends to appeal to pack rat Internet surfers with a fashion sense. A lot of people are using Pinterest to keep tabs on meal ideas, home deco ideas, wedding planning or just to save that killer recipe for dream puff gluten-free fruity pancakes. Although the site used to mostly appeal to women, the borders are coming down and men are using the site just as aggressively.

What does it look like? Pictures. Just pictures with little labels. Pinterest is a visual way to bookmark sites and browse friend’s bookmarks (or pins).

Any cost? Absolutely not. There’s no premium membership. No ads. Free.

Is it social? Yes. You can connect with friends and share pinboards.

Uh, what’s the point? Pinterest is a fun and attractive way to save all that stuff on the Internet that you would otherwise lose track of. It’s not as addictive as playing Angry Birds, but it’s probably more worthwhile.

Oh, and in case you didn’t get the pun in the name, it’s Pin + interest. Get it?

Pinterest isn’t making money itself these days. Still, you want to make it work for your small business, right? You won’t get Pinterest to cut you a check each month, but you can increase your brand recognition. Here’s how.

Launch a Pinterest account for your business. The first step is to simply get on Pinterest and start pinning. Obviously, you’ll want to create a Pinterest presence that is respectable and worth following. Then, you want to start pinning your own company’s products or services on your pinboards. To avoid a self-promoting marketing rap, go ahead and pin other stuff, too.

Add a “Pin It” button to your Web site. To further spread the news of your company’s stuff, make it easy for users to share your items on Pinterest. This is as easy as adding a “Pin It” button on pages or images. Get smart with your use of Pinterest. Create and name your pinboards in a way that would appeal to your target audience.

Crowdsource Pinterest. Pinterest has viral potential. Invite your fans to pin pictures of themselves using your products, and tagging your company in the pin. Their friends will see the pics and check out your brand. As an added incentive, you can create a Fan Love pinboard or a VIP board to recognize and honor your fans. Some companies hold caption contests or other virally tilted techniques on Pinterest.

Integrate everything. Make sure that you tie together your brand presence across all your social media platforms. Without traffic and support from other social media outlets, a single social site can wither and die. Add the Pinterest logo to your homepage, right alongside your YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Nobody has totally figured out how to make Pinterest work. Pinterest is like a lot of things on the Internet — rules, algorithms, audiences and laws are constantly changing. The best approach is to try it, test it and stick with it.

Pinterest may very well turn out to be a productive site, indeed.

Jason Hennessey is chief executive of Everspark Interactive, an interactive marketing agency based in Atlanta.

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