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Pinterest is essentially a site where users endorse and recommend images or products they have found, and also where they go to look for inspiration.
For this reason, it’s well suited to fashion, beauty, interior design and weddings, and some 90% of its 12m strong user base is female.
It also means that there is plenty of referral traffic to be had, and brands and businesses are now waking up to the potential of Pinterest for extending their online communities and driving conversions.
This has given us a good idea of some best practice guidelines that brands should be following...
1. Don’t just blow your own trumpet
Many brands still make the mistake of simply using Pinterest to promote their own content, which completely misses the point of social media.
It’s the equivalent of only posting marketing messages on Twitter and isn’t going to attract many followers. After all, if a user just wanted to browse John Lewis’s product range they could just visit its website.
Posting content from around the web and repinning images from other users helps to personalise a brand's image and allows consumers to identify with the business. This is turn leads to stronger engagement and brand loyalty.
Kate Spade is a great example of this. Its boards act as a reference point for different styles and trends, all based around doing things 'colorfully'.
This helps to define the brand as a place to turn to for inspiration and advice, as well as driving traffic back to its e-commerce site.
Repinning and liking other users’ content also helps grow awareness of your account and attract new followers. It’s no coincidence that Kate Spade has 68,491 followers, while John Lewis has just 349.
2. Let others contribute
To further enhance your social credentials, it is good practice to allow other users to pin content to some of your boards. To do this you need only follow a user, then you can give them permission to contribute to specific pinboards.
This can be a good tactic for promoting a specific trend or event, and will also encourage the contributors to share the board with others.
Obviously, not all users will make great contributors, so target prominent people and influencers within your industry.
Act with caution though, as asking people to contribute when you have not had any previous interactions with them may come across as a bit spammy.
3. Update your boards on a regular basis
As with all social media, to attract new followers and keep them engaged you have to give them new content on a regular basis.
A quick look at some of the top retailers on Facebook shows that they all post new images and comments every day, yet surprisingly few do the same on Pinterest.
Pinterest’s 'pin it' button makes pinning content an extremely simple process, so lack of resource can only be partly to blame. For most fashion brands all it would take is a quick glance at a handful of fashion blogs to find an image worth pinning.
Similarly, brands should be following other Pinterest users with similar interests, which will not only help them build a bigger community but also give ideas and inspiration for new content.
A great example of this is antiques and design gallery Fears and Kahn which has 613 followers. Not a huge number, but several times more than many global brands.
Interior design is one of the most popular topics on Pinterest, and F&K has made the most of the opportunity by pinning 2,619 images to its 20 boards, and liking 1,356 posts.
Regularly liking and pinning other users’ images gains extra exposure for your brand account and is invaluable for building a bigger following.
4. Use eye-catching images
Pinterest is all about captivating imagery, so avoid dull or uninteresting pins at all costs.
This may seem like an obvious point, but a number of retailers just repin functional images directly from their e-commerce sites, which is a great way to bore your audience.
A far more effective method is to showcase products in use, or find images that will give users ideas or inspiration that they can fulfil using your products.
Ideally they need to be large, hi-res and colourful. This makes it far more likely that other users will want to share your content with their friends.
5. Add links to your images
While it is important not to just use Pinterest as an extension of your brand catalogue, when you do pin your own product make sure to link back to your e-commerce site.
While Ikea is generally a good example of Pinterest best practice, one of its most eye-catching boards doesn’t link back to anything.
Similarly, if the image isn’t one of your products make sure that it links to the correct URL. If users click on a pin they want to be linked to the original piece of content, not to Google images.
This is also important for crediting the content owner.
6. Be wary of copyright infringement
While it’s unlikely that individual users will find themselves up in court for copyright infringement thanks to an errant pin, the risk to brands is much higher.
Commercial use is offered less protection and content owners are more likely to go after a big business as the payout will potentially be more lucrative.
Therefore, brands should treat pinboards just as they would their own website. If in doubt about an image, it shouldn't go on your pinboard.
However, while you should be careful, if you’re only posting your own content then there’s little point in using Pinterest.
Instead, make sure you always credit images and link back to the original source.
Pinterest is a great source of traffic for many websites, so if an image is driving hundreds of new visitors it’s highly unlikely that the owner is going to want to cut off that stream.
7. Don’t include prices or logos
Tactics that may get higher conversions on an e-commerce site don’t necessarily work on Pinterest.
Including pricing information instantly makes the image less attractive and means nobody is going to repin it. The same is true of any big brand logos or calls to action.
Instead, link the image back to your e-commerce site or brand landing page where you can upsell and target the conversion to your heart’s content.
8. Make pins and pinboards searchable
A great way to gain extra exposure for your pins is to use keywords in the descriptions so users can find them when searching the site.
It’s important to include some more flowery language to give it some personality as well, but make sure they are crammed with keywords including things such as the name, type and colour of the product or item.
9. Add a Pinterest share tab to your website
The number of sharing icons consumers are faced with will soon become overwhelming, but assuming that you already have Facebook and Twitter sharing icons on your site then you should add a Pinterest one as well.
Web users are lazy (I should know, I am one), so make it as easy as possible for them to share your content.
Exceptions to the rules...
Obviously there are some brands that don’t follow these rules and yet still have thousands of followers.
Beauty brand Sephora is one such example. It only follows 31 other users, has liked just two other posts, and only pins its own content.
Yet it has 35,790 followers...
For more Pinterest tips, see our Pinterest for Business: A Best Practice Guide.