Understanding Pinterest for Business

RochelleBailis by Rochelle Bailis on July 17, 2014
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In just a few short years, Pinterest has become the latest major social media player for consumers and businesses alike. As a visual tool, there is no doubt that Pinterest has changed the social media landscape and is now helping businesses by generating more referral traffic to websites than Twitter or Reddit.

But how do you use it? Let’s examine what Pinterest is best at, as well as best practices for incorporating the site into your business’ social media strategy.

1. What is it?

Pinterest is a social media site that relies heavily on images. Think of it as a visual representation of your browser’s bookmarks. Pinterest is made up of two major components: Boards and Pins. Users create boards and name them typically based on the type of content they contain (i.e. food, recipes, fashion, art, etc.). Then, on these boards, users “pin” images that are displayed with a hyperlink back to the original source; the boards also have room for a description or comment relating to the image.

2. Why is it considered social?

Pinners are encouraged to following other members’ boards as well as browse the site for anything in which they might be interested. When a member finds a pin they want to re-pin to their own board, this re-pin is displayed on their feed and therefore visible to all of their followers. Similar to sharing a status update or message on your Facebook feed, Pinterest encourages the dissemination of images and information through pins and re-pins.

3. How will that help me?

Initially, Pinterest was considered a great tool for businesses with products to sell. In fact, when Pinterest first started, many small-scale craft-makers, fashion designers and photographers treated Pinterest as their own interactive catalog and portfolio. Now, as the site has grown and people have become more comfortable with it, larger businesses have also started to see the value in maintaining boards, even if their product or service seems like a less-than-natural fit.

Example: Career sites are finding ways to leverage Pinterest. Aside from sharing visual images of resumes and curriculum vitae best practices, these sites use Pinterest as a way to link to blog posts with useful content for job seekers. Remember that when you submit a link, it will pull an image from the website, just like Facebook posts. So consider linking to pages that are compelling, and include an eye-catching picture. If you’re linking to your own content, remember the power of the images you use.

4. What about copyright issues?

It’s true that Pinterest’s lifeblood relies on users pinning other people’s content. In short, it’s rare for someone to pin something to which they actually own the copyright. For the average consumer, this isn’t as large of a concern, considering that most businesses, bloggers and photographers are just glad to get exposure for their product or service. As long as the image isn’t misrepresented or displayed in some way that is harmful to their brand, a company will not have a problem.

However, when your company posts images to Pinterest, you need to be very careful about the type of copyright ownership you have. Consider this: how do you get images to use on your company website? Maybe you have a license agreement in place with a third-party provider like Getty Images or iStockphoto. Possibly you have an in-house creative team that generates images and artwork specifically for you. In the case of the former, make sure to review the agreement you’ve signed with Getty or iStockphoto and that you fully understand the usage rights of the images you’ve purchased. In the case of the latter, you shouldn’t have any issues using these images for whatever you choose.

One of the only other general caveats for image use relates to trademarkedimages and celebrities. If, for example, one of your employees took a great shot of the famous McDonald’s Golden Arches, and you wanted to use it on your website to accompany a blog post or on your Pinterest board, McDonald’s would probably have a problem with that. The same goes for celebrities. Celebrities have very strict guidelines in place for how their images are used in public. To be really safe, it’s best to stay away from these hot-button trademark issues.

Digital copyright law is a complicated and involved process. It is best to use common sense when determining what you’ll pin. A good rule of thumb: If your legal department or counsel would not want you to post something on your website, you probably shouldn’t post it on Pinterest or any of your company’s other social media feeds.

5. So how do I start?

First, determine the purpose for your company’s Pinterest boards. Do you want to promote something specific, such as a new product line? Or your company’s blog posts? Are you focused on an upcoming holiday or event? It’s also important to keep your audience in mind. Pinterest has proven highly popular with adults over 35 and has a much higher number of female members than male. What about your product or service speaks to this demographic?

Pinterest has a special section dedicated to helping businesses get started on the site. Filled with very useful information, it can definitely help you to further hone your goals and strategy as it relates to Pinterest, as well as lay out some of the first steps to help you get started.

6. Does it cost money?

Not yet. Pinterest is experimenting with different ways to monetize pins and boards, including promoted pins. For now, the site doesn’t charge fees, but that could change.

7. Can I only pin images?

No, Pinterest allows for you to pin videos too. You can also use Pinterest to facilitate a contest or sweepstakes. Pinterest also has many differentdeveloper tools, including easy-to-embed Pin It buttons for your website,widgets to share content, as well as integration with other social media networks like Facebook.

In today’s highly connected and intensely visual world, using Pinterest to your advantage can increase your business’ visibility in the eyes of consumers. If you haven’t yet explored Pinterest, it’s definitely worth taking the time to peruse the site to see how it works. As a business tool, Pinterest is no longer just an “up-and-coming” social media site; it’s an established tool that have helped many small businesses grow.

RochelleBailis

Rochelle is an experienced business writer, marketer and researcher. She is currently the Senior Editor and Content Producer at Intuit.

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