As a small business marketing consultant, it's my job to stay on top of the latest and greatest in the world of would-be life-altering Internet bells and whistles. Ironically, however, the last thing I wanted to do was learn yet another social media tool -- that promised to transform my online life.
But day after day, my husband, Jon, would flash his iPad in front of my face and tease me with all the new, cool photos he was pinning on Pinterest. Besides, I was scheduled to give a talk on social media for book promotion at an upcoming International Book Publishers Association conference in San Francisco. So I threw my hands up in surrender and let Pinterest have its way with me -- and I'm glad I did.
For those who are reading this and going, "Pina what?" here's the basic business brief:
• Launched March, 2010, Pinterest has grown 4000% in the last six months.
• It has 17 million users a month and is the 60th most visited site in the U.S.
• Pinterest drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn -- combined.
Beyond these star statistics, here are a few important things for your small business marketing mind to munch on:
Pinterest is a lifestyle brand that allows you to create a visual online pinboard, organized around topics of your choice, by category. For example: I'm a certified chocoholic, so I started a Pinterest board last week on dark chocolates I love -- featuring photos of said delicacy accompanied by a hopefully mouthwatering description.
Seventy percent of the site's visitors are women age 25-44, and they spend an average of 15 minutes looking around. If that does not make a small business mind sit up and take notice, nothing will.
So how can a small business owner, book author, entrepreneur or expert make the most of this new marketing tool? Here are ten ways you can use Pinterest to promote with pictures -- all in a non-hype, customer-friendly, low-key, value-added way:
#1. Turn your content into infographics and data charts. This is a user-friendly (and visual) way to showcase information useful to your audience, unique to your industry or business and on point with your expertise.
#2. Promote user-generated content with a guest pinner board. Allow visitors to add videos and photos that fit in with your niche. You may also want to consider running a contest for the most interesting, unique, useful, etc. pins on a topic. Offer a juicy prize and drive traffic with the competition.
#3. Don't just pin pictures, pin videos. Think segments from speaking engagements, news clips, interviews and YouTube videos that are highly relevant to your Pinterest boards.
#4. Use strong visual images with all your blog posts. The more captivating your images, the more likely they will be repinned. Adding an image to every blog post you put up gives you the opportunity to pin it and drive traffic back to your site.
#5. Pin your e-book / hard book covers. If you have a series of e-books, or traditional books you have authored, make a board featuring your work. Consider offering a free chapter or download of the entire e-book to add value.
#6. Put your presentation materials on Pinterest. Are you giving a speech, leading a webinar, conducting a class? If so, why not create a Pinterest board for that specific presentation that you can share with the attendees as supplemental material after the session is over -- or that they can direct others to who didn't have the opportunity to attend.
#7. Introduce the members of your team. Although Pinterest is primarily an online platform for showcasing your interests, hobbies and lifestyle finds, it can also serve as a way to let customers in on the inner workings of your company by featuring members of your staff. In addition, look for ways to pin photos of your company's behind-the-scenes scenarios such as conferences, speaking engagements, company events and actual production of your product as appropriate.
#8. Create customer boards. Much in the same way that introducing your customers to your staff creates a more intimate business relationship, highlighting your clients to the world has similar benefits. Use Pinterest to tell your clients' stories and highlight hot case studies. Just be sure to check first before making their mugs public.
#9. Create a coupon graphic. In order to give potential clients a promotional discount on Pinterest, create a coupon graphic that can be pinned to an appropriate board. Use the description section to further detail the goods and services being offered at a discounted rate.
#10. Create an FAQ for working with you. Think of this as the owner's manual for your business. How can clients work most effectively with you? What are the most frequently asked questions people have about your business, product or expertise? Perhaps a glossary of frequently used terms in your business would be useful. Once up, you can use this board as a place to send potential new clients for suggestions on how they might best take advantage of what you offer.
Don't forget to add a Pinterest icon to your website. This allows visitors to showcase and share things that they find on your website on their Pinterest boards, driving traffic to your Web page and promoting your products/services.
As for the technical aspects of signing up, creating boards, pinning images and repinning others, it's so intuitive, easy and fun that I often find myself wondering what I can pin next. In fact, I think I will go grab that new dark chocolate I bought the other day, try it out and -- if it passes muster -- pin it.
Please feel free to check out my favorite productivity tools, social media, books and chocolate on Pinterest. http://pinterest.com/karenleland/
Karen Leland is a best-selling author, marketing and branding consultant and president of Sterling Marketing Group where she helps businesses create killer content and negotiate the wired world of today's media landscape -- social and otherwise. For questions or comments, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org