Pinterest is the latest hot new social media site. If you’re not familiar with it, picture the scrapbooking phenomenon of the late nineties brought online and made social. Were Martha Stewart a 30-something mom with time for social media, this is where she would hang out. Especially popular among the sought-after female 24-44 demographic, Pinterest lets users “pin” images from across the internet to virtual bulletin boards and easily share them with other Pinterest users. Best of all, it’s easy to learn and use.
Where a target market gathers, businesses aren’t far behind trying to figure out if Pinterest can generate leads and sales. Pinterest seems tailor-made for businesses with highly visual products and services – think graphic designers, wedding dress designers, jewelry makers and food bloggers. But like any social media tool, the line between valuable business tool and useless time waster is thin.
Social media followers are debating whether Pinterest is actually useful for business. It’s relatively easy to get “repins” and “followers”, but when it comes to business do those followers ever become leads or customers?
I went in search of a business owner using Pinterest to see if and how it’s been useful to them.
Amy Colburn of Amy E. Colburn Illustration is an illustrator specializing in hand-painted murals, home furnishings and custom-illustrated alphabets. Her Pinterest boards feature an eclectic mix of pictures including fashion, crafts, interior design and illustration. Followers will find pictures of her own work interspersed within collages of art and objects that have caught her fancy.
Amy offers the following tips for aspiring Pinterest users.
1. Use Pinterest to Stay Up to Date in Your Field
“As an artist, I use Pinterest as a way to collect ideas, know what’s on trend, and gather reference material,” Amy says. “I used to spend a lot of time searching Google Images for reference. But Pinterest is the best of the best as far as imagery goes. They’ve made it easier to find what I’m looking for and collect it to refer to later.”
2. Promote Your Own Products – Within Reason
Amy puts images of her own work on Pinterest, but she cautions against overdoing self-promotion.
“When I first heard about Pinterest, other professionals warned me against spamming your own boards with too many of your own products. One woman actually spoke to the president of Pinterest and he said he would block people whose only goal on Pinterest was selling, though I haven’t seen anything specific in the regulations about this,” Amy says. “I’ve made sure to create several boards – some just for fun, some for reference, and some for promoting my own work. I try to mix it up so I don’t appear too ‘saleswoman-like’.”
3. Use Links and Hashtags
When possible, Amy links images of her work back to Etsy or her website.
“I’m also learning about the use of hashtags, which are used for searches on Pinterest. I’ve started including a few hashtagged keywords in the description where it feels appropriate,” Amy says. “This is the most direct way I use the site for business purposes.”
4. Remember the “Social” in Social Media – Network and Converse with Clients and Potential Clients
Amy makes a point of using Pinterest to build a dialog with potential clients and gain followers on her other social media outlets.
“I refer to the Pinterest boards in my blog posts whenever possible,” she says. “I have some potential wholesalers following some of my boards, and I’m cultivating my image to win over potential customers by getting them to know ME, not just my products.”
Pinterest also enables you to talk directly to anyone who has re-pinned your pictures. Amy makes sure to use this feature to connect with people who have taken an interest in her work.
“You can set your preferences to have Pinterest send you an email notifying you when one of your pins has been re-pinned. There is also a place to make comments beneath every pin! So, if someone re-pins an image of my original work, I always try to enter a personal, heartfelt note of thanks in the comment section,” she says.
5. Be Patient
Like any networking tool, relationships take time to develop. Amy says she hasn’t gotten any direct sales from Pinterest yet, but she has developed leads and conversations.
“The best part is seeing one of my products go viral and get pinned over and over,” she says. “If I post at just the right time of the week, one of my pins has the potential of getting repinned several dozen times. Pretty cool!”
Tell Us What You Think
Do you use Pinterest, for fun or for business purposes? Would you consider buying a product you saw on Pinterest? Let us know in the comments.