Harnessing the Power of Pinterest

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When it comes to using the quickly growing virtual pinboard and social media site Pinterest, a key question many companies ask is, "How can I build my brand and increase sales on it?" Jason Miles, vice president of advancement in marketing, fundraising, and human resources at Northwest University, and freelance writer Karen Lacey answer that question and many others in their book, Pinterest Power: Market Your Business, Sell Your Product, and Build Your Brand on the World's Hottest Social Network. Associate Editor Judith Aquino caught up with Miles and Lacey to learn more about leveraging the business potential of Pinterest.

CRM: How can a company decide if a Pinterest profile makes sense for them?

Jason Miles: For product-focused sellers, it's a very simple decision—Pinterest is an alternative source of referral traffic for them. When it comes to service providers or consultants who aren't in a physical products space, they have to decide what can be represented well on Pinterest. They have to think about the content they produce, like blogs and articles, and whether that can be effectively portrayed on Pinterest.

Every company should also look at the analytics for their Web site and see if they're already getting traffic from Pinterest. We [Jason and his wife, who are cofounders of Liberty Jane Clothing] were not familiar with Pinterest at all beyond Google Analytics, and over the course of a few months, it became very meaningful as a traffic generator. That prompted us to look into what it was, and [we] went from there.

Karen Lacey: Because Pinterest is so visual, if the Web site or blog has a lot of great images, people are going to be attracted to those images, and if they're on Pinterest, they'll start repinning those images.

CRM: How does Pinterest compare to other social networks? Where does it fit?

Miles: According to statistical research, Pinterest surpassed the Yahoo! network in September to become the fourth best source of referral traffic. Number one is Google's organic search, number two is directly typing a domain name into a browser. Number three is Facebook, and then there's Pinterest. That is incredibly remarkable for a site that's only a few years old and small in terms of its user community.

Lacey: Some of the folks we've spoken to for our book had a single image pinned and repinned more than 20,000 times, and they had only pinned that image once. It's this type of snowballing, along with the ability to create referrals, that's really creating a perfect storm for a lot of people on Pinterest.

CRM: What are some best practice tips for marketers using Pinterest for the first time?

Miles: The most important thing content publishers can do is make sure that each one of the posts on their Web site has an image in it. I started referring to this issue as Pinterest Image Optimization. The second step is not to just have any random image. What a lot of smart marketers are doing is using something that looks like a small display ad for their article with a visual descriptive. It'll say something like "Five Steps to Using Facebook." They can install that as an image, and then it's pinnable content and also serves as a visual prompt for the content.

Lacey: Use interesting headlines [on Pinterest] with keywords and links in those labels. Make sure your pins link back to your blog or Web site. A common mistake is making your boards too general. Creating boards for "Things I Love" or "Beautiful Dresses" is too broad. From a businessperson's perspective, you need to narrow down your boards to create those niches and get a higher quality of followers who are really into specific things.

CRM: Do you think the demographic will ever change from being predominantly female to a more balanced mix?

Miles: A year and a half into Facebook's existence, people were saying that it was a college social network. I believe these demographic issues will be transcended and Pinterest will take on the usage stats that are similar to Facebook now.

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