Pinterest – will it work for my business?

pinterest - will it work for my business?Pinterest is the latest site to take the social media world by storm. It’s been around for a while, but really saw a huge increase in takeup towards the end of last year, and has now become a significant player – to the extent that there have been reports recently of Pinterest driving more referral traffic (ie, being a better way of getting traffic to your website) than Twitter. And that’s despite having a fraction of the number of users.

What exactly is Pinterest?

Basically, Pinterest is a content curation tool – it provides a great way to bring together stuff you’ve seen around the web onto themed “boards”.

It’s the virtual version of the messy pinboard we all had above our desks as students! Only now, you can share your top picks with others. There’s a built-in social aspect in that you can follow the work of people whose collections interest you, and users are able to comment on one anothers’ collected items.

As you might expect, the site itself is highly visual. The user interface is definitely a strength – it’s simple to use and a really easy on the eye, clean, modern design.

The “pinning” app that goes with it is also a cinch to use; building on the bookmarking approach of sites like Digg and StumbleUpon, you install a small browser add-on which means you can add things to your boards with one click. So, no logging in and out every time you want to post something while you’re surfing the web.

How does this translate to business?

As we mentioned, the site is very visual, and users enjoy eyecatching and attractive images. If you’re a business which trades in “beautiful” – whether that be interior design, a dressmaker or an architects’ practice, Pinterest is a great environment to showcase that. It also seems as though Pinterest has hit upon a great formula for encouraging sharing. A recent data analysis showed that 80% of items curated into users’ own boards are “re-Pins” – that is, a user picking up content from elsewhere in the Pinterest community and sharing it with their followers. This significantly eclipses share rates on any other social site.

That’s not to say that Pinterest can’t work for other types of organisation;  for example, the US Army has been using Pinterest almost as a way of telling stories about what they do. But, the sites experiencing those high levels of referral traffic currently, tend to belong to businesses such as clothing retailers (such as Asos.com), food, and home decor magazines.

Will it work for me?

If you have unlimited time and / or resources, then yes, why not! But in reality, very few of us do these days and it’s going to be a question of analysing where Pinterest sits in the lineup of return on (time) investment for you.

if you are a visual business, the high “shareability” factor means that it might be worth prioritising Pinterest over one of your other social networks and seeing if it starts to show results. However, it is still relatively small, so if you have an established Twitter or Facebook presence, your focus may be better put into that.

If your line of work  isn’t visual, then Pinterest is going to be challenging for you, as the format only allows each Pin (item) to be represented primarily by an image. So, unless you can come up with a particularly clever angle, you might be better with something like Scoopit which deals much better with text-based items.

There are a couple of other things to consider, beyond the visual issue.  There’s a strong gender bias on Pinterest, with many more female users than male, which might be relevant if you’re in a very male oriented line of business. Interestingly, that’s exactly why the Army wanted to make use of it, in order to reach more women.

There’s also a definite aspirational quality to many of the popular boards – which makes sense when you think about it. Nobody sits down and creates a mood board to help them decide on a new oil filter for the car, do they! So again, if your product or service doesn’t fit well into that category, you may struggle to get traction on the site.

Want to try it?

Pinterest is still invitation only at the time of writing, so you either need to apply for an invite or get one from a current member. We have an account, so if anyone wants an invite, just leave a note in the comments.

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