Image centric social networks are rapidly gaining market share due to their high engagement levels.
Everyone apparently loves an enticing photo.
Pinterest has become the social media network to watch after growing more than 4,000 percent in the last six months. At an average of 88.3 minutes per visitor, it ranks third on engagement behind Facebook and Tumblr and well ahead of LinkedIn (16 minutes) and Google Plus (5.1 minutes).
Pinterest is a social network with a simple premise: Users share photos that they find online by "pinning" them, the equivalent of "liking" a status on Facebook or giving a +1 on Google.
Users have to download a toolbar that can be used to pin items from any website. The photo and information then appear on your Pinterest board, and users who follow you can see your collection of photos and even re-pin them if they like them.
The simplicity of this system does not lend itself to obvious marketing strategies, but there are a number of ways that you can use this growing social network to promote your business:
1. Share your products
The most obvious way to use Pinterest for your business is to pin your own products to share with other users. Since you can create several boards, it is best to group your pins into product categories for specific customers, such as items for moms, kids, artists, and others. Doing so creates a virtual product catalog of interest to these consumers or for gift ideas for these groups. You can also create a "best of" board, showing off your most popular products.
2. Add to gifts
When you create an entry for your pins, you can add a price tag. When you select this option, you can then add a link, pointing back to your website. Items added in this way are automatically included in the "gifts" section on Pinterest, which is a virtual catalog of gift ideas. Be sure to select your best photos for pinning, and include an evocative description.
3. Highlight services
Not every business sells products. Pinterest is still a useful marketing tool for these businesses.
If you provide a service, you can create a kind of visual resume with Pinterest. For example, if you design websites, you can pin a screenshot of a home page. If you are a graphic designer, you can pin samples of your work. If you offer other services, such as consulting or writing work, you can use Pinterest to share photos that inspire or share a message about your work.
For example, financial consultants could pin photos that represent client goals, such as financial independence or financing education. Nonprofit groups can share photos of the clients they are helping.
4. Maximize SEO efforts
When you pin your products, you have an opportunity to maximize your SEO strategy and drive traffic back to your site. You create quality backlinks whenever you or other users link to your products. Using keywords when you write descriptions will attract your target customers and encourage them to visit your site. You can share your pins on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter, encouraging more links to your products. All of these efforts will help to drive more traffic to your site and to increase your search engine ranking.
5. Offer added value
Savvy social-networking users can easily identify a profile that is designed primarily to market products and services, and they are likely to avoid these profiles. Offer other users more reasons to visit your profile by offering them added value.
Pin to other products and services that will benefit them, but that also complement your own products and services. For example, if you create custom wedding gowns, you can link to other bridal accessories or to beautiful wholesale fabrics. If you are a Web designer, you can link to useful tech gadgets.
6. Offer exclusive content
Encourage users to interact with you on Pinterest and to visit your Web site by offering exclusive content. You can hold contests by asking users to re-pin your items for each "entry." The more items are re-pinned, the more buzz you will build around your products and your site. You can also offer exclusive discounts or other promotions by using a QR code or other tactics.
7. Engage with users
Pinterest is a social network, so take the time to form relationships with other users and to build a community around your brand. When you see that users have re-pinned your items, comment and thank them. Follow other users, and this will encourage them to follow you in return. Ask for customer feedback by encouraging them to re-pin their favorite products in your catalog. The more you can do to encourage customer interaction, the better relationship you will have with them.
Bridget Sandorford is a grant researcher and writer for CulinarySchools.org. A version of this article originally ran on JeffBullas.com