Is Pinterest Right For Your Small Business Marketing?

The Washington Post called it “digital crack for women”.   It’s hard to stop, and many addicts don’t want to. ‘Pinning’ has become a habit for tons of internet users and Pinterest is now the fastest growing web site ever, with nearly 20 million members and over 100 million visits a month.

While marketing experts are buzzing about this latest social media trend as a great way to promote your business, is it really the right marketing tool for your small business? Before I proceed,  in case you aren’t one of the 20 million users of the site, let me explain what Pinterest is — it’s a virtual pinboard. The site lets your organize visual images around specific topics of interest which are known as boards and share them with your friend.   The images can either be uploaded from your own files or they can be items you find on the web.  Each item posted is called a “pin.”

So for example, if you’re planning a wedding (which is a big interest area on the site) you can pin images of ideas for your wedding or you can create a visual wish list for gifts.

“The appeal is the ease of use.  The ability to organize things in a way you can share with other people,” says Steve King of Emergent Research and Small Biz Labs.

Much like Twitter, people follow you on the site.  Members can comment on each other’s picks and follow their friends’ pinboards.  According to information on the site, Repinning the picks of other users is one of the best ways to build a network of followers.

I recently became a member  and quickly had a significant number of people following me even though I’ve only “pinned” two items.  My radio show producer hasn’t “pinned” anything, and yet she too reports numerous followers.  Honestly, I’m struggling to understand the attraction to the site. However, because I’m always interested in innovative and affordable ways to help small businesses grow, I decided to keep an open mind and ask King, “Is Pinterest a smart small business marketing tool?”

“Absolutely.  If you have anything you can easily put up in a visual form,” King says.  “A lot of big companies are already on it; Nordstrom, Whole Foods, sports teams, even the U.S. Army has a recruiting site.”

If you want to be successful promoting your business via the site, you must be willing to put in the time and effort.  The images you pin must be appealing and professional.   Of course, if you don’t have a business that lends itself to visual images, then you probably won’t enjoy as much success.

Once you’ve establish your brand on Pinterest, you need to promote.  “Send emails to your existing customers and use the viral nature of the site to spread the information around,” King advises.  “You want to attract customers and people who might be interested in buying your stuff.  And one of the nice things for a business person, it’s got a quick and easy path to purchase.  People see things, they like things, they click and buy things.”

Okay, so I get it and see the potential for small businesses to leverage Pinterest, but it’s not a magic money machine. Just as with any marketing effort, you need a plan and a consistent strategy to succeed.

One last word of caution, be careful about infringing on someone else’s copyright.  If you’re pinning images to promote your products or services, make sure you have the right to use those images.  Because of the site’s ease of use, it makes capturing images and pinning them seem harmless.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry.  If you don’t know whether you can use the image or not, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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