Digital marketing circles have been buzzing about Pinterest since the visually-oriented networking site saw 400 percent growth in unique visitors from September to December 2011.
Pinterest has overtaken Google+ in Experian Hitwise's Social Networking and Forums category with nearly 11 million total visits for the week ending Dec. 17, 2011.
What is Pinterest? It's a social site launched in March 2010 where users create virtual pinboards of graphic bookmarks pointing to favorite recipes, clothing designs, home improvement projects, wedding and crafting ideas, and more.
These online collages can be shared with other Pinterest users, tweeted, and posted to Facebook. Your influence as a pinner grows when other users comment or click the "like" button on your pin or "repin" your pins onto their own boards.
Pinterest has become a great place to sell products direct to consumers, because each pinned image links back to its original website.
But is it right for marketing your B2B company's products and services? Yes, in many cases, because Pinterest is driving more referrals than Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined thanks to its extensive, active, and fast-growing user base.
Getting Started on Pinterest
1. Are your customers on Pinterest? Similar to Facebook and Twitter, your customers have to use the channel for it to be effective. If you are in doubt, look at GE's presence on Pinterest.
The company has created a series of custom boards that drive the corporate message and mission, with titles such as "Making Data Work," "That's Genius!" and "From the Factory Floor."
If your customer base is active, Pinterest is an excellent tool for using images to tell a story and build your company brand.
2. Identify opportunities to create or utilize highly visual content to tell your company story. Pinterest is visually driven. So, pinning your text-heavy "About Us" page isn't going to get much attention.
Start with high-quality photos in your email messages, blog posts, and website product pages. Make sure they are compelling and action driven so that they will draw traffic and help establish your company as an industry thought leader.
Great examples include the following:
3. Customize your boards to mesh with the rest of your digital strategy. Don't reinvent the wheel. Focus your boards on the core keywords you use in your search engine optimization. Pinterest gives you a default set of boards, which you should rename to fit your strategy.
Also, write a search-friendly "About" statement on your profile page. If you want to build traffic for your email address, add the URL to your email registration page to your profile, which will be visible to all Pinterest users.
4. Make it easy to pin your content. Pinterest provides a "Pin It" button you can embed on every page, like a share-on-Twitter or share-on-Facebook button.
Put a "Pin It" button wherever you want to encourage sharing: on your site, in your emails, and on blog posts.
5. Pin carefully. Pinterest frowns on blatant self-promotion. However, cool photos of your product in action can really drive conversions. Each pin is a micro traffic source that increases traffic with each repin.
A recent simple test showed that the initial pin drove less than a dozen visitors to the website. However, all the combined pins on Pinterest became a major source of traffic and conversions.
Continually cultivate boards with many quality pins. Every pin you promote over time generates more quality traffic to your site.
6. Share the love. You can also increase your influence and visibility on Pinterest by commenting on and repinning the work of others. Recognize and promote your top customers, partners, affiliates, or prospects on your own boards.
The Last Word
It's time for B2B to capitalize on Pinterest's exploding growth. However, a lack of good visual content or the time to maintain the channel can be challenges for many companies.
Explore the site as an individual user before you jump in. Learn how the site works, what the community expects of you, and how much time you'll need to create and maintain boards. This will help you determine how and where your company can take advantage of Pinterest's popularity.
You'll start thinking outside the box and find images that tell your company's story, fit nicely on Pinterest, and are fun to share. Soon it could become one of your company's best new traffic and lead generators.
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Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.
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