THE BLOG
12/10/2012 03:48 pm ET | Updated Feb 09, 2013

Pin It to Win It: 5 Tips for Doing Pinterest Right

It seems like Pinterest, the social media darling with about 23 million unique users, came out of nowhere to become one of the most influential social media platforms of the day.

Recent reports rank it the third most popular social media site, behind only Facebook and Twitter. I've also heard from friends with blogs and retail sites, particularly within the home decor/design space, that it's now the biggest driver of traffic to their sites.

As we all try to figure out how Pinterest best fits into the larger communications outreach puzzle, here are five tips for doing Pinterest right:

1. It's not about you, it's about your customer: Your boards can't be exclusively product-focused or even exclusively brand-focused. On social media, especially Pinterest, it's not about you, it's about your customer. For example, for home brands and retailers, you're expected to be a design influencer and resource -- with links to fashion, furniture, colors, retailers, etc.

2. Stop shilling, start filling (your boards): My favorite brand on Pinterest is West Elm, the furniture and accessories store that's part of Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma dynasty. They tread very lightly in promoting their own products and instead offer design inspiration in a variety of ways, including themed boards chocked full of ideas around colors, textures, design styles, etc.

Here's an example of how West Elm has created a board all around the color coral. Sure, there are some West Elm products mixed in, but most of the pins are of rooms they see on blogs, retailer sites, interior design firm sites, etc. It's about helping guide and influence someone who's looking to design with the color coral, in a completely non-salesy way. It's not about them taking any sort of control of their brand or trying to sell anything directly. It's about influence and trust, not marketing.

In my opinion, West Elm is a case study in how to do Pinterest right... and the experts claim it's paying off. In recent months, reports show Pinterest driving more traffic to websites than Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined.

3. Keep It Simple: Avoid image descriptions are too long and too salesy. You do not need to include your URL in the description. The beauty of Pinterest is that it's already connected to your site in the pin, as well as listed at the bottom.

4. Think Keywords: Think like the person you want to find you and use the words that they would use, not the words that you would put in a marketing report to your company president. Basically, it's on-site SEO. If someone on Pinterest is searching for a red blanket, that's the phrase they're going to use -- not "XYZ brand coverlet in scarlet, available exclusively at yourbrand.com."

5. Be Human: The best thing that can happen is that someone repins your post with your original description intact. To maximize the likelihood of that happening, it needs to sound like something a layperson would say, not the director of marketing. Pretend you're your next-door neighbor or your kid's fifth grade teacher. What words would she use?