We’re wrapping up our Content Roundup this week with a look at one of the fastest growing social media channels in history. Pinterest is an invaluable resource for businesses looking to drive more traffic to their websites and build strong relationships with customers.

So why are so many brands slow to adopt it? The visual nature of Pinterest stumps some marketers who aren’t sure how translate their brand to the medium. But with some creativity and outside-the-box thinking, nearly any brand can find a way to connect through this channel. As with our prior content channel posts, we’ll be talking today about why you should be on Pinterest, what to pin there, how to pin effectively, and when to pin to get the best response.

Let’s start with a brief summary of what Pinterest is. “Pinterest is a pinboard-style social photo sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, hobbies, and more. Users can browse other pinboards for inspiration, ‘re-pin’ images to their own collections or ‘like’ photos. Pinterest’s mission is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting” (Wikipedia)

Why. In September, 2012, Shareaholic released a study that showed Pinterest had surpassed Twitter, Yahoo!, and Bing to become the 4th largest source of referral traffic on the web today. HubSpot reports that they get more than twice the amount of traffic from Pinterest as they do from Google+. This is largely because while Pinterest is a collection of images, it’s also a collection of links. Anything you pin can contain a link back to your website or blog, and when that image is pinned and re-pinned, it keeps the link with it…making it available to an endless number of users.

Which brings us to the next important purpose of Pinterest: social discovery. As with Twitter and Facebook, whenever you post engaging content on Pinterest, that content shows up for people who follow you, and for anyone searching a specific topic. When someone finds your content valuable, they may re-pin it to their own account, making it visible to all of their followers who might not have been aware of your brand already. Then they re-pin to their followers, and so on.

And speaking of searching, Pinterest is an SEO goldmine. Google absolutely loves Pinterest. Before you begin posting, figure out your best keywords, and try to incorporate them into the titles of your boards, pins, and pin descriptions.

Finally, one of the best reasons to have a presence on Pinterest is brand engagement. Because Pinterest is very much dedicated to the lifestyle of its users – more than any other social media channel – it provides a great opportunity to endear your brand to users and really become part of their lives. And once that happens, they become evangelists for your company and will want to share and promote you and your content to their networks.

What. So what should you be pinning, anyway? More than any other social network, Pinterest is about learning your customer’s profiles and sharing things that apeal to their lifestyle. As we discussed in our posts on Facebook and Twitter, self-promotion has no place here. Sharing exciting news from your company and employees is great, but leave the direct marketing messages for your website and promo materials.

More specifically, you should be pinning images and other visual representations that relate to your brand. If you’re an online retailer of custom jewelry, the obvious application is to post images of your product that link back to your webstore. And while you can certainly do this, try to be a little more creative about it. Maybe instead you could pin an image of a model showing how to accessorize a fall outfit – showcasing your pieces and linking back to your store. Some brands whose visial options are less obvious will require a little more creativity. But if a marketing technology company like HubSpot can do it brilliantly, so can you. They have boards for featured blog images, great infographics, company retreats, and even things that are orange (really, that one’s pretty great).

Another great example of this is cleaning brand Oreck, which offers a board called furry friends – a brilliant idea that shows Oreck is really focused on their customers’ needs and interests.

How. Start by following some companies in your own wheelhouse. See how they are leveraging Pinterest successfully (and also how they are not). Then, create boards with topics that will interest, inspire, or educate your audience. Pin things that they will want to view, read about, and share. In your pins, make sure to include links to your blog, products, or website. Like Twitter, Pinterest also uses hashtags (#) to facilitate searches around certain terms, so feel free to use them in your descriptions.

When. Marketer Jason Miles reports that the best times to pin are between 11am and 10pm (EDT). View his infographic. The best day is widely thought to be Saturday – uncommon among other social media channels, which typically peak earlier in the week. A relatively new site called Pinerly provides powerful tools for analyzing your own pins and seeing how they perform, in order to optimize your strategy for your particular audience.

What brands have you seen using Pinterest in creative ways? If you already have a Pinterest, we’d love to see what you’re doing.

Missed a post in the Social Media Content Roundup? Not to fear, you can still learn all about how use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter in your content marketing strategy.

More from this series on content marketing:
Why Content Gets The Royal Treatment
Best Practices for Posting on Facebook
Leveraging LinkedIn in 4 Easy Steps
Tweeting Your Way to #Success


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