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How to use Pinterest to grow your business

Pinterest, the popular social bookmarking site that takes a visual approach to sharing information, recently announced it had over 100 million active users. That’s over 100 million potential customers for your products or services. And while Pinterest initially was not so welcoming to business users, it now encourages brands and small businesses to use the site as a marketing platform. There’s even a Pinterest for Business section with helpful tips for companies looking to leverage Pinterest. And members can now buy items they see on the site with Buyable Pins.

But to be successful on Pinterest, you need more than a company page and a few boards showcasing your products. You have to determine who your target audience is and then actively engage them. The following 14 tips can help you do just that.

1. Make your products shareable on Pinterest. Be sure to include a “Pin it” option on your website and blog posts, so visitors can share your product photos to Pinterest with a simple click.

[ Related: 5 tips to create high-traffic Pinterest boards  ]

2. Create boards with themes that will appeal to your target audience. “Brands should take advantage of Pinterest’s curation environment by creating lifestyle boards,” says Elana Anderson, senior vice president, Worldwide Marketing, Demandware. “Retailers in particular [should] create specific lifestyle, themed boards, such as ‘Holiday Gift Ideas’ or ‘Travel Necessities,’ [which they can use to] promote product lines and collections.”

3. But don’t make your account & boards all about you. “A professional Pinterest account [should not] be comprised solely of your brand's products,” says Brock Murray, director of Web Marketing, seoplus+. “You need to curate a space that your ideal customer would want to browse and follow. This way when you do pin your own merchandise, it is seen [and liked and re-pinned] by your target audience.”

4. Include a link to your website and your location (if relevant).  Adding this information to your Pinterest homepage makes it easy for prospective customers to find you online and off.

5. Use high-quality photographs/photography – and vertical images. Pinterest is visual, as are its users. If your photographs aren’t professional – they are too dark or too light, too blurry or not interesting – people won’t like or share your pins. Indeed, according to research conducted by Curalate, brighter, more colorful images tended to get liked and re-pinned more often. Curalate data scientists [also] found [that] vertical images with an aspect ratio of 2:3 and 4:5 generate 60 percent more re-pins than long, skinny images,” says Matt Langie, CMO, Curalate.

6. Don’t forget about the copy. “Pinterest is a visual platform, so use simple, descriptive copy that adds value to the image,” says Danny Kourianos, senior vice president, Product, Rakuten Marketing. “Copy can be casual and creative and used to reinforce your brands’ style and personality.”

[ Related: Why your business needs a Pinterest presence ]

“Pinterest allows up to 500 characters per pin, allowing a pinner to go into some detail about that specific pin and what makes it special,” explains David “Lando” Landis, the founder of Rocker Rags. “For example, when we're pinning a t-shirt from a classic concert tour or album cover, the 500-character description allowance gives us the opportunity to not only describe what is on that pin but to also give some back story as to what makes that item unique.”

That said, sometimes, less is more when it comes to copy. “Your content is less likely to be re-pinned if you have too much copy – [especially if] it looks spammy,” says Mallory Greene, who has helped over 200 companies promote their brand on Pinterest and is community manager at Wealthsimple. So unless your image has an interesting back story or needs explaining, “keep [the copy] short, [just] one to two sentences,” she advises.

7. Keep in mind that SEO matters on Pinterest, too. “Just like any smart business has an SEO (search engine optimization) plan for its website, a business should have an SEO plan for their Pinterest account,” says Gretchen Lindow, who runs Pinterest Assistant. “Proper Pinterest SEO includes keyword targets for each and every board; incorporating that keyword into that board's title once [and] into the board's description two to three times; and incorporating keywords into the description of every single pin on that board at least once.”

8. Use rich pins. “Rich pins include pertinent information about the product or service on the pin itself, so it eliminates additional research on the consumer’s behalf,” explains Langie. “If you are selling a shirt, for example, your rich pin would include real-time pricing, availability and where to buy. This tool, which is available to businesses, ultimately makes it easier for consumers to shop.”

9. Encourage immediate, spontaneous purchases with buyable pins. “Go a step further by implementing buyable pins,” says Jen Scott, an applications engineer at LYONSCG, an ecommerce digital agency. “Buyable pins, distinguished with a blue price and blue buy button, enable users to purchase products directly from pins. Currently, buyable pins are only available in the U.S. via the iPhone and iPad Pinterest apps, but plans to roll them out across all of North America are in the works.”

10. Post regularly – and try to time your pins to coincide with your audience’s peak viewing time(s). “Post a few pins every day or so,” says Daniel Orseno, ecommerce manager, PartyCheap.com. This keeps followers engaged “and keeps [your] boards and pins close to the top of any feed.”

[ Related: Can Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest help marketers reach millennials? ]

To get better traction, time your pins to coincide with your target audience’s peak Pinterest viewing times.

“We use to post our Pinterest pins at all times of the day and night as we added new products to our inventory,” says Candice Galek, CEO, Bikini Luxe. “This was a huge mistake as pins need to be timed with people’s daily schedules and peak Pinterest user times. To combat this problem we started using a scheduling app called tailwind that pins our pins during peak user times,” she says. “We have seen a phenomenal increase in re-pins and likes since we incorporated this into our social media strategy.”

11. Include photos of products being used – but avoid showing people’s faces (unless you’re selling makeup). “Include both pictures of products only (as seen on the website) and pictures of the products in use,” says Orseno. “We like to show different and creative ways you can use our products, things our followers may not have thought of before.”

“By providing usage examples, retailers can spark ideas for how individuals interact with their brand, leading to better engagement and potentially leading to purchase,” adds David Stover, head of B2C Omni-Channel Commerce, Solution Management, at hybris, an SAP company. “For example, individuals shopping for a new couch may be unsure of the color they'd like to purchase. But if incorporated into the broader context of a room, it may make the decision-making process easier and accelerate the intent to buy.”

Just be careful about showing faces. Why? “Customers [like] to envision themselves with your products,” says Murray. Also, “pins without faces in them are re-pinned 23 percent more frequently than those with faces.”

12. Engage with followers. Re-pin, like and comment on followers’ pins – and engage with customers when they have a question about one of your pins. This shows that your brand cares about its followers and can often lead to more sales.

13. Connect with influencers. “What if your brand doesn't have a lot of followers [or is new]? No worries! Find yourself an influencer,” says Gabrielle Orcutt of Gabrielle Orcutt Photography. Influencers “have a meticulously curated set of Pinterest boards with followers that love the content they share. You can find your top influencers by Googling ‘Top 100 most influential pinners on Pinterest.’ Take note of their categories (e.g., Fashion, Food, Health) and [target those influencers who would be a good fit].” Then see if you can “work out a deal.”

“There are [also agencies] that connect businesses with influencers (such as Brand the Globe and Loop88) who will post your brand/company to their social media accounts,” says Greene.

You can also “work with partners and influencers to create group boards,” says Will Nathan, chairman & cofounder of Homepolish, an interior design company. “The added exposure will amplify your pins to a new audience. [Just] make sure to house the board on the partner's account, or your pins won't get through to their followers (even if they're pinning to a group board on your account).”

14. Pay attention to your Pinterest analytics. “Using Pinterest analytics can make all the difference between success and failure on Pinterest,” says Lindow. “Pinterest for Business's built-in analytics tool will tell you which of your pins and boards are the most popular.” Then you can use that knowledge to “pin on more popular boards a little more than the others to give your account a boost.”

You can also use information from Pinterest analytics to “add top pinned product carousels to your category landing and home pages [and] create a Most Pinned badge on product tiles,” says Scott. “These tactics will help fuel a product’s popularity on both your site and also your Pinterest page.

“Your pinners are a free focus group,” she explains. “Use the data they give you to better understand and speak to your audience and convert pins to sales.”

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