Pinterest, a site where images rule and words are usually an afterthought. But after playing around with the hottest thing in social media today, I proved myself wrong. The site is addictive.
As a marketer, I see major opportunities for businesses to build their brands, connect with their audiences and yes, create revenue. That’s no surprise. In a purely mathematical sense, Pinterest is an online marketer’s dream, driving more than sixteen times more referral traffic than Google+ in January with only one-ninth the number of users.
The problem is that too many brands are wasting these marketing opportunities.
There are scores of websites, blogs and e-books that describe the basic ways businesses and entrepreneurs can use Pinterest to send masses of traffic to their websites, to establish their identities, etc. There’s no need for another article like that. Let’s talk about the ideas almost no one is talking about and even fewer are acting on.
Keep Your Elbows Off the Table
Proper etiquette dictates that you refrain from promoting yourself, your business or website too much. It’s social networking, not selfish networking. And your boards aren’t supposed to be used as catalogs for your current product line.
No one is looking at your profile because they’re dying to buy something from you.
At the same time, your business didn’t set up a Pinterest account for the fun of it. It’s acceptable and understandable that you’d want to get some return on the time you invest.
The question is, how can you do that without being obnoxious or self-centered? Here are a few thoughts.
The Bob Vila Approach aka “The How-To Approach”
Most of the images I’ve seen on Pinterest serve one of two purposes:
1) Showing off something visually impressive, like the kitchen designs on HGTV’s board or those hot new boots.
2) Something funny or inspiring, like General Electric’s That’s Genius board.
What I have yet to see is a how-to board.
Think about it. Say you’re a chef or an art teacher. Wouldn’t it be interesting to pin a photo collage showing the multi-step process you use to make your signature dish or paint a gorgeous mural? Not only would that be different from what everyone else is doing, it would add personality, and it would actually be helpful for anyone who might like to try to imitate you.
You could also show your product being used in a creative way – not just a static photo, but the different stages of the process of innovation.
These sorts of photo collages or videos practically beg viewers to click through to your website to get the recipe or fill in the steps that you didn’t show.
Brands like Etsy have DIY boards, but they show end results, not the processes.
Education-based marketing on Pinterest? Who would’ve imagined?
Unleash the Evangelists
There is an obvious way around the “rule” against pinning nothing but your own content: get someone else to pin it for you.
You can be purposeful about this. Naturally, some of your followers will re-pin your pics; others will stumble across something they love and they’ll share it. But why leave it to chance?
Actively seek out true fanatics for your brand – satisfied customers, friends, family, even employees – and encourage them to pin and re-pin your material regularly. Offer incentives for them to do so.
Create contests to see who can come up with the best pictures, funniest captions or wacky uses for your product.
Some users may consider reciprocating pins: “you pin my stuff, I’ll pin yours.” If you want to be really sneaky, you can set up a pinning ring: Brand A pins Brand B’s content, Brand B pins Brand C’s and Brand C pins Brand A’s.
Become Your Tribe’s Go-To Guy (or Gal)
Starbucks doesn’t need Pinterest to help sell more coffee. In fact, I doubt that’s even possible. But Starbucks has an enthusiastic audience, a tribe of loyal followers.
As I’m writing this, your favorite coffee company hasn’t pinned anything on their profile yet. I see an amazing marketing opportunity for them here.
They might take their cue from Oprah.
Oprah Winfrey’s profile is a great example of what could be done here. As one of the most popular personalities on Earth, her tribe is huge (she currently has just over 12,000 Pinterest followers). Although it breaks the “no catalog” rule, her Great Buys Under $100 board has massive potential.
She’s positioning herself as the go-to gal for great buys at great prices, even though they’re not directly connected to her personal brand. If she’s smart, she will do the same thing with books, as every book she recommends seems to become a best-seller overnight.
In these cases, Oprah’s not promoting herself, but giving advice and helping her tribe make choices that she believes will improve their lives. Everyone wins.
Now, Starbucks could do the same thing. Of course, they will have some boards about coffee (a how-to board on properly calling the name of a drink would be of tremendous service) and the experience they seek to provide in-store, they could easily set up boards to promote musical artists and books they like.
There are three main benefits generated by this approach.
1) Go-to guys on a specific subject of interest have followers who visit their profiles again and again to get the valuable information they share. The more traffic going to the profiles, the more referral traffic ends up going to your website.
2) The people being promoted/pinned will be more than happy to re-pin any mentions they receive. This expands your reach and puts you in front of new audiences. Those who you promote now become your evangelists.
3) There is a tremendous opportunity for affiliate marketing. Take me for example. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a copywriter. Let’s say that most of my followers are business owners. I could transfer the trust I’ve gained into a non-competitive area that is valuable to my tribe. Let’s say I set up a board on “Software I Love.” I could pin images of screenshots, product images, etc. of software I enjoy using. Some or all of those links could be affiliate links. If I had a following as large and loyal as Oprah’s, that could produce a significant amount of revenue.
You’re already an expert at something. In what other areas can you become your tribe’s go-to guy or gal?
Pinterest looks like a lot of fun, and it is. But with all these marketing and business-building opportunities, there’s no reason you can’t mix business with pleasure!
Donnie Bryant is a direct response copywriter and marketing consultant. He specializes in radically improving businesses with Stealth Salesmanship and Strategic Marketing. Find out more at http://donnie-bryant.com/.