Why should you be interested in Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social media network with the stated goal of connecting “everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.” It is an online organizational tool, a bulletin board where people “pin” visual representations of their personal interests found browsing the Web or uploaded from their computers. Pinterest launched in March 2010, and partly fueled by the fact that social sharing on Pinterest can occur simultaneously on Facebook and Twitter, it has created a seemingly “perfect storm” of early adoption. According to comScore, Pinterest drew 11.7 million visitors in January, making it the fastest stand-alone site ever to exceed 10 million visitors per month.What might this fast-growing social site mean for your business?Pinterest users create themed image boards, populating them with digital images, tags and text. Pins can be grouped into “boards” devoted to selected topics, providing a new, visually appealing way to organize and share far-ranging interests, from wedding planning to architecture, from pets to fitness. So far, the user base is mostly female, with categories like fashion, home and garden and wedding planning dominating the boards.According to RJMetrics, an e-commerce analytics platform, food is the fasting-growing category.As the site attracts more males, the categories are sure to grow in number and diversity.How companies use itLike all social media, it can be a challenge for companies to determine if Pinterest may hold value for them.Too, there are some legal concerns about copyright protection for images pinned and re-pinned without the express permission of the owners of those images. However, this doesn’t seem to be slowing the rate of use by either consumers or businesses.Boston’s Gemvara is a good example of aggressive adoption. This design-your-own jewelry site has added pins to each product image and according to an article in BostInno, “The company’s commitment to Pinterest has paid off. The site has become one of Gemvara’s largest non-paid traffic sources, and has been growing by a multiple of 10 month over month.”This post on the Gossip Boutique Facebook page shows how some brands are encouraging their existing fan base to promote them: “PINS, PINS, PINS!Follow us on Pinterest and share your favorite fashion pieces with your friends by pinning your favorite items!”Anecdotes are flourishing, but hard numbers for companies using Pinterest to market are harder to come by.Benefits reported by many businesses include increased traffic to websites, more links to blogs and websites and increased social sharing.According to an article in AdAgeDigital, “Pinterest is a huge source from a referral standpoint, even beating out referrals from Facebook in the month of October,” said Shannon King, general manager of digital for Real Simple magazine. “It speaks to the power of engaged audience members.”However, not much data is available yet about increases in sales that are tied directly to Pinterest activity. The most sophisticated tracking systems can attribute lead acquisition and online revenue generation to Pinterest and, for others, a free tool like Google Analytics can provide important insights.

To learn more about Pinterest, sign up for an account and start experimenting.Look for your competitors; are they active and, if so, how?Look for complementary products and services to yours.What can you learn from their experiments?To make your site more “pin-able,” you can add/upgrade top-quality images and offer the Pin-It button on each appropriate page. But even if you don’t invite people to pin, if you don’t disallow it in your code, Pinterest users can add your images to their pinboards.Visit the Help section of Pinterest for easy-to-follow instructions.With any new marketing venue, rely on your Marketing 101 good sense.It can be a boon or a bust to try the new, but, while you do so, don’t take your resources away from the campaigns that have already proven their value.Susan O’Neil, CEO of @Website Publicity, Peterborough, can be reached at 800-450-2818 or websitepublicity.com.