Pretty much every week, a new social network comes along, hailed as ‘the next big thing’, and then just as quickly it’s gone again.
While I always like to keep an eye on new developments, it can become a bit overwhelming with so many new sites appearing, making it hard to pick out the real gems that actually have a chance of becoming popular.
Although Pinterest has been around for a while (it was launched back in March 2010), it has received a huge surge in popularity in recent months, and in December made Experian Hitwise’s list of the Top 10 Social Networks with more than 11 million visitors per week.
Since then, naturally, it has become the darling of social media professionals, and now people are keen to leverage it for business as well as personal use.
So what’s it all about?
In essence, Pinterest is an online pin board where people can express their interests – see what they did there?
Users create themed boards, such as ‘incredible looking chocolate cakes’ or ‘cars I’d like to own’, then pin images or videos they see online onto it. You can add comments to the things you pin, and create as many boards as you like, categorised by theme.
The social element of Pinterest comes through being able to comment on, like and repin other users’ content, follow other people to keep up with what they’re pinning and share your own content with your followers. You can also connect your Pinterest account with Facebook and Twitter, helping you to find other friends who are using it and allowing you to share your pins on either site.
Your homepage will feature all the latest content from people you are following, and you can also search by category for more inspiration. A ‘pin it’ button can be added to your bookmarks toolbar, making it easy to pin content from anywhere on the web.
How can it be used for business?
Well as Facebook was in its early days, Pinterest is designed to be used by individuals, not by businesses, and it isn’t supposed to be for self-promotion. But that doesn’t mean a business can’t create Pinterest boards, or put it to good use.
Use it as a focus group
You don’t even need to create your own pin boards to start using Pinterest. If your target customers are using Pinterest (think women aged 25-45) you could use it as a real-time research tool – find out what people are talking about and sharing right now, and use this to influence your promotions.
Show people how to use your product
One of the groups first to embrace Pinterest was the food blogging community. If you’re a food producer, you could capitalise on this by creating a board of recipes made by bloggers using your product as an ingredient. Say you make a certain type of cheese, and create a board of cheese recipes – this will show people how versatile an ingredient it is and maybe even inspire them to go out and buy it to make one of the recipes.
Share your expertise
Pinterest can also provide an opportunity to position yourself as an expert in your field. Nina Garcia, fashion director of the US Marie Claire magazine, has created boards for current and upcoming fashion trends, demonstrating her expertise – and more than 75,000 people are following her.
Something like this could work equally well for designers or architects, sharing both their own work and their inspirations, and it doesn’t just apply to creative industries either – a kitchen appliance retailer could pin the latest in cutting edge washing machines if they wanted!
Be more than just a company or brand
A company that does nothing but push sales of its own products is the biggest turn-off in social media. Think wider than just your product or service. If you own a bridal wear company, don’t just pin photos of dresses – people who might buy a dress from you are going to be interested in every other aspect of planning a wedding, so think about creating a board of stunning wedding venues or floral displays, which will show people that you really care about helping them plan the perfect wedding, and that you’re not just about making sales.
As Pinterest is all about beautiful imagery, it will obviously be better suited to some sectors than others. To get an idea of whether or not it’s right for you, take a look at the list of categories for the boards – if you can fit into one of those, chances are you will be able to think of a way to use it.
The one downside of Pinterest becoming more popular is that it has now become invite only. You can request an invite from the site itself, which might take up to a week to come through, but you can also ask an existing user for one – I’ll be happy to invite anyone who asks.
And if you want to see what I’ve been pinning, follow me at pinterest.com/natblachford – but be warned, it will destroy any healthy New Year diet you may be attempting…
Posted by @natblachford