How to use Pinterest for business

Have you been scratching your head lately, trying to decide whether Pinterest could be good for your business? You're not alone. The buzz around this virtual pinboard/ social networking site is enough to make anyone sit up and take notice.

Pinterest has become incredibly popular in recent months because our appetite for curated content, visual bookmarking and sharing continues to skyrocket. It seems we just can't get enough of spreading our likes, loves and interests in this new, visual world of content.

What's more, Pinterest is perfect for the creative industries as it's so visual. Think architecture, interior design, fashion, photography, product design, graphic design... you name it, Pinterest is an excellent resource for creative people.

So how do you jump on the back of this phenomenon and make best use of Pinterest for yourself? The following tips will help you create a presence...

Show people you're on there

A great way to get started is to add a badge on your own website or blog to show people you're on Pinterest and link to your own account. You could also add 'Pin It' buttons on blog posts or product pages to show people that you encourage them to 'pin' and share your own content. To find everything you need, the social network has its own Goodies page where you can access and download badges, 'follow' buttons and social icons.

Be prepared to 'Pin'

Before you do anything else, install the 'Pin It' bookmarklet to your web browser. This app allows you to instantly grab an image from any website, blog or online magazine and add it to one of your pinboards. It's as simple as that. You can download the bookmarklet from the Goodies page on Pinterest's website.

Remember Pin-etiquette

Like with all social networks, there are certain rules of etiquette to follow with Pinterest. Be nice, be friendly and always remember to credit your sources, i.e. make sure each pin links back to the exact web page where you found it.

It's also worth noting that there's no room for self-promotion on social media, and that includes Pinterest. You can post your own products and content, just don't go overboard. In the meantime, spread the love and keep your pinboards 'community' based. This means you have to be prepared to 'pin' other people's content and promote good karma too.

Create relevant boards

Now that you're all set up, start creating your own pinboards relevant to your business. If you're a graphic designer, you could perhaps create a 'typography' board and share things that inspire you. If you're a photographer, you could 'pin' other people's work whom you admire. Or if you're a fashion designer, why not share your inspirations? There are endless possibilities on how you can use Pinterest – just make sure you avoid being too self-promotional.

Don't forget keywords and hashtags

Every new 'Pin' requires a description, which means you have the perfect opportunity to add keywords or hashtags, so people looking for specific things can easily find your content. For example, if you're an illustrator you should perhaps tag your pins with #IllustrationDaily #LoveDrawing #InspiringIllustrators. But beware, adding too many hashtags can make you look like spam, while being too vague will make your content get lost in the chaos.

Add link backs

According to recent research by Shareaholic, Pinterest drove more referral traffic than LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+ combined in January 2012. That's an amazing stat and one you should consider when adding pins or creating your Pinterest profile. Whenever you can, don't forget to add links to your own website, blog or social media accounts.

Keep it visual

Let's face it! Some things just won't suit Pinterest as it's a very visual entity. Only 'pin' things that are visually pleasing and relevant for the medium in question. This means that heavy copy or graphs won't work. Just use images and ensure they're high quality and link back to the relevant web pages.

Create Pinterest-friendly content

Want others to 'pin' things from your own website or blog? Make it Pinterest-friendly by creating more visual content for people to share. This means including photos on all blog posts and creating visual alternatives to company news or updates. Get creative and always have Pinterest in mind.

Keep things regular to grow

Once you have a presence on Pinterest, it's important to keep that presence going. This means regular 'pinning' and actioning 're-pins', comments and sharing. If you don't update your Pinterest boards on a daily basis, you'll only miss out. Maintain your boards, get commenting and re-pin things you love. Become a strong 'pinner' to gain a bigger following on Pinterest and grow the awareness of your business or brand.

Get commenting and talking

Pinterest is a social network and that means it's a great way to network with others. Like with Facebook and Twitter, spread good karma by re-pinning other users' content and commenting on their 'pins'. Don't forget that you can mention other Pinterest users in a comment by typing '@username'. It's as simple as that.

And if you want to ensure your pins are popular? Encourage people to comment and welcome likes and re-pins. Use your pin descriptions to ask your followers questions, such as 'Can you tell us what this illustration is supposed to be?' Whatever you do, always try and engage with others and build a community via Pinterest.

Create Boards for clients

Want to impress a client the next time you go to a meeting to discuss a new project? Take your iPad or laptop along and show them a Pinterest board you've put together for them. For example, you could plan a theme for a new interior design – showcasing some inspiring colours, styles and designs. Or if you're designing a new logo, perhaps you could source lots of inspiration to pitch to the client? There are endless possibilities on how you can use Pinterest to add value.

Get crowdsourcing

A great way to create a buzz around your business or client is to encourage customers or followers to pin pictures of themselves with their favourite products and tag you. You can then re-pin those photos onto a special board. This is a great way to show others how much your customers like you and also gives your fans that special recognition to win their loyalty.

Use Pinterest as a Focus Group

Pinterest gives you the chance to 'test' things out and see what is and isn't popular with your own brand, business or creative field. It's a great marketing tool that allows you to follow the interests and likes of millions of people across the globe. Even better? It's free. For the first time in history, you have quick and easy access to a global 'focus group', so make best use of the information you discover and find ways to best target your customers.

Be useful

We can't get enough of information these days and brands that are considered to be helpful will always be popular on social media, including Pinterest. Spread your expertise by recommending books, linking to educational blog posts or even training videos. Why not create a specific board to share your expertise and tips?

Get collaborative

Did you know you can allow other people to contribute to your own boards? As long as they're a follower, you can add anyone under the 'Me+Contributors' function. This is a great way to collaborate and ensure lots of regular content. For example, you might be a design studio with a network of five or six other freelancers – why not allow them all to pin on one board? It'll certainly keep things fresh and interesting.

See what others are pinning

Want to know what people have been pinning about you? There's a really simple trick I'd love to share. Use the following URL to see what has been pinned, just swap your own website address with Creative Boom's... http://pinterest.com/source/creativeboom.com/.

Track the traffic

With all the effort you put in to Pinterest, you must track any resulting web traffic to your site or blog. Ensure Google Analytics is set up and keep an eye on numbers. Look out for patterns, discover your most popular 'pins' and do everything you can to tailor your Pinterest presence to ensure the biggest hits.

Image Credit: Bloomua / Shutterstock.com