If your small business isn’t connected to weddings, home décor or fashion, you probably haven’t really considered even looking at Pinterest to help increase your marketing. After all, there are so many social media sites and you only have so much time, especially if you’re a solopreneur like many of us.
I certainly never gave it a second thought, other than building my virtual bookshelf in my limited spare time.
But here’s the thing – we were wrong. In fact, in many cases, ignoring Pinterest in favor of Instagram, Twitter or even Facebook could be costing you thousands of customers and sales. Don’t believe me? Let’s break it down.
The Big Boom
Since Pinterest transitioned from invitation only to open to the public in 2012, its user base has multiplied more than 20 times, to over 200-million monthly users, making it not only one of the top social networking sites, but the fastest growing standalone site. And no, it’s not just for the ladies!
Yes, 80% of all Pinterest users are women, with 68% of women aged 25 to 54 dropping in at least monthly. But the fastest growing demographic on the platform is men, accounting for 40% of new users. In fact, the number of men on the platform has nearly doubled every year for the past 3 years (as of May 2018).
Here’s another startling statistic – in the fast paced world of social media, where a single Tweet can disappear in seconds in the news feed flood, content on Pinterest lasts hundreds of times longer than content on any other platform. In fact, it’s not unusual for a pin to go viral as many as 10 weeks after it’s pinned, due to its unique algorithm.
A recent study concluded that Pinterest pins are 100 times more spreadable than a tweet, and the half-life of a pin is 1,6000x longer than a Facebook post. Yes, you read that right.
And, Pinterest users are twice as likely to feel that their time on the platform is not wasted, but a good investment.
A Customized Catalog
Because people go to Pinterest specifically for inspiration – and not just for their wedding or remodel – Pinterest influences U.S. social media users’ purchasing decisions more than any other platform other than Facebook. In fact, people specifically look for new products to try on the site.
On average, each pin on Pinterest is worth around 78-cents in sales, drives 2 site visits and 6 page views and is repinned around 10 times. That may not seem like much, but considering every one of millions of pins, for a business, those numbers can add up quickly.
Another plus? Promotional material is far more readily accepted and expected on Pinterest than anywhere else. Nearly 95% of users plan purchases on Pinterest, both significant and mundane. At least half of Pinterest users report buying something first seen in a promotional pin. More than two-thirds of Pinners claim to have discovered a new brand or product on Pinterest. And more than half of Pinterest’s users check their saved Pins while out shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Because of this, it’s one of the top mobile apps in the United States.
Getting Down to Pins and Boards
Before I dive into the strategy, there are probably a few of you who’ve never really spent much time on Pinterest. So let me take a moment to do a quick primer on how the platform works.
For lack of a better explanation, Pinterest is the virtual equivalent of a cork board or Creative Memories® photo page, which is probably one of the reasons it connected so well with its early audience. But rather than just one cork board, like the one you had in college, or the one in your kitchen next to the fridge, Pinterest is unlimited space on multiple boards.
Users pick a topic or theme for each Board. Boards keep your various ideas organized and easy to find. And while Pinterest does have a news feed feature, the Boards are where most users live. And, again, you can have as many boards as you want, with as many pins as you want on each.
By default, most Boards are public, but you can have up to 3 Secret Boards that only you can see, which will come in handy later.
The Pin is the basic unit of Pinterest. It’s more or less the same thing as a tweet on Twitter or a post on Facebook. BUT, like Instagram, Pins are entirely visual – they will always have an image or video component.
All pins are vertical, with the same width and an unlimited length. When creating your own Pins, the largest you should shoot for is 736×1102 pixels. This allows most users to see the majority of each image on their computer. However, since 80% of Pinterest users access their boards on the mobile app, you should shoot for something a little smaller – 600 x 900 pixels is ideal. And if your image is taller than 1560 pixels, it will get cut off.
So like Facebook, everyone has their own ‘page’ of Boards. But typically, pins are encountered individually during searches, that then lead back to their home board. And just like retweeting another user, you can grab a pin from someone else’s board and plop it on one of yours. That’s called Saving a Pin or Repinning. You can also just like it, but that is far less common – if a user is interested in a pin they see, they almost always just repin it to one of their boards.
The pin now exists on both (or more) boards, all linked back to the original board, which is how they proliferate across the platform and one of the reasons they can last forever and even go viral a couple of months later.
What Are We Waiting For?
It’s very easy to get started on Pinterest. You simply need an email address and a profile photo, and you can start creating boards. For best results, use the same profile photo you use on all of your social media platforms. The optimal profile image size for Pinterest is 165 x 165 pixels.
When naming your Board, keep in mind you have only 20 characters. Keep it simple, and use clear, compelling language to convey what will be pinned to the board. Then click the little pencil icon, and you can enter a more detailed description, including your company name and link.
HubSpot recommends that small business owners start with at least 12 boards. Right now, just start with one, play around with it, get the feel for how the platform works. Then you can create the other boards, with some of the strategic suggestions I’ll offer a little further down in this article.
Add “SAVE” Buttons to Your Website
The first step in your Pinterest marketing strategy is to add “Save” buttons to the products on your website. Don’t forget, people use Pinterest for inspiration – and shopping. Similar to creating a Lead Magnet and trading it for an email, allowing someone to Pin something from your website onto their own Pinterest Boards creates a bond. Remember, only 2% of people who visit your website “won’t buy the first time they hit it. They’re just doing research or window shopping.”
Can you see why being able to pin something to their favorite future decision-making hub would be of interest to you? Sure, they still might not buy, but if it’s down to a choice between a couple of option, and your competitor allows them to literally save a link to their website to their virtual notepad, which one of you do you think they’ll remember?
Just this step alone, even if you did nothing else on Pinterest, could easily double or triple your prospect retention rate and increase your closed sales.
Don’t lose their business, begin a relationship. Increase the odds that the 70% who might typically forget about your site will come back. In fact, according to Pinterest’s business experts, having the Pinterest click to save button on your site will quintuple the amount of content Pinterest users save from your site.
And don’t forget, by pinning it, a link to your business is now on their public Pinterest board. Do you remember the little IZOD alligators? That’s essentially what you’ve become. Your prospective client is now helping you advertise your business even before they buy!
It’s (Almost) All About the Visuals
Just like Instagram, Pinterest is an image-oriented site, so make sure your visuals are the best you can find or create. Vertical images are your best bet, since they obviously give you more real estate to work with. You can use some text in the image, but not too much. Lighter images are repinned 20 times more often than darker ones. And images without faces get repinned 23% more often than those with faces. Most importantly, your photos should be well-lit, in-focus and well-composed.
But don’t take my word for it. Pinterest did a study of 50,000 promoted pins on their site and found that lifestyle images outperformed product images by a HUGE margin. For example, fashion and style pins that showed products being utilized in real life saw 30 percent more clickthroughs and an incredible 170% higher checkout rates than those that solely showed the product.
But MY Business Isn’t About Fashion or Style!
One of the first questions we ask our new clients at Grow the Dream is, ‘what does your business really sell?’ Sure, Starbucks sells coffee, but what do they really market that causes folks like me to leave my home office to buy their cafe latte, when I have a perfectly good coffee machine just a few feet away?
The same question applies to your business. What do you market to your customers, really? What kind of peace of mind are you bringing them – or what improvement in their lives can they expect if they use your product or service?
At Grow the Dream, we offer training and support in marketing strategy and business automation. But what we market is the freedom of a business lifestyle that allows you to get more done at work, making the world a better place through your business, spending more time with your family, changing the world through loving them and giving back to the community.
It’s Not All About the Visuals
Great visuals alone do not guarantee the serious engagement that you want to generate for your business. In addition to the visual element, Pinterest pins also offer a description field. Make the most of it by telling pinners exactly when they will get if they click through to the linked content your website.
Make sure each pin has a link back to your site. Every single one. If you’re still doing old fashioned SEO, make sure you use your keywords, but please try and slip them into the description organically. Even better, if you’ve done the strategic work we recommend, you will know who your customers are and what they are asking about. Use the description to let them know they’ll find the answers when they click through, even if it isn’t linking to an article that tells them 5 ways to do whatever. More on those specific types of posts in a moment.
Always Be Pinning
Okay, maybe not always, but like most social media marketing, you need to be consistent. Pinterest itself recommends pinning at least one original pin per day during its peak hours. Other social media experts recommend between 5 and 30 per day, but that includes repinning from other boards. Unfortunately, these need to be stretched out, which obviously will take some planning and finding a balance.
Another thing to consider is when your target audience is actively on Pinterest. Start with what you’ve learned from your strategic work, then take advantage of Pinterest’s Analytics tool, which I’ll go over towards the end. I will also go over another option that can create activity on your boards without your having to go “hands-on” constantly.
According to Pinterest, the peak times to post are evenings and weekends. SocialFresh narrows it down to 2-4 PM EST, and 8PM – 1AM EST, while HubSpot’s research targets Saturday morning as the perfect posting time.
Because of the longevity of pins on Pinterest, the platform recommends you start a campaign that coincides with an upcoming holiday, season or event about 45 days prior to the actual event.
Before you get too stressed about finding time to locate and repin 5-30 pins per day, Pinterest itself has developed a couple of useful tools that businesses can take advantage of.
Pinterest Secret Weapon #1 – Secret Boards
As I mentioned earlier, each Pinterest user can have up to 3 Secret Boards that are only visible and accessible to the account owner. These are a godsend for the small business owner with limited time.
Set aside a little time every morning or evening to search and stack up your 5-30 posts for the day – including an original one, if at all possible. But instead of posting them on the appropriately themed board, you pin them all to a secret board. Then just set a couple of timers to remind you to pull them off the secret board and repin them to whichever “live” board you desire.
Pinterest Secret Weapon #2 – Rich Pins
Rich Pins are enhanced Pins that use metadata from your site to provide extra information about what Pinners will find when they click on a Pin. That may sound confusing, but it’s extremely helpful and can boost traffic to your site rapidly.
There are 5 different ‘styles’ of Rich Pins. You can use all or only a few, depending on what kinds of things you post on your site:
- Article pins include the headline, author, date published, story description and link. They also specifically indicate that the link points to an article, and include a call-to-action button that says “Read it.” Perfect for your content blog posts that answer those pressing questions your target client is asking.
- Product pins include real-time pricing, availability and where to buy
- Recipe pins include ingredients, cooking times and serving info
- Movie pins include ratings, cast members and reviews
- Place pins include an address, phone number and map
Rich Pins are full of valuable, real-time, traffic-generating information. Fortune 500 companies like Apple and GM are using them, and major names such as Target & Walmart that take advantage of Rich Pins report an 82% jump in their repinning ROI.
Without question, Rich Pins are the best direct strategy for growing your sales in the Pinterest sphere.
And most small businesses aren’t even using them yet!
Treading the Boards
“Diversity of Pin” is the 8th most important factor that users considered when they were debating whether or not to follow an account. So you can’t just post one or two boards and hope for the best. While you don’t need a lot of followers to get a return on Pinterest, just like other social media sites, the more followers you have, the wider your reach is going to grow.
If you just have a few boards, or if they’re all about your products and services, you’re just hurting yourself. Throw in a few other boards to give added value, just like you would do on your site. Making the boards thematic helps to build interest as well.
Remember the 12 boards I mentioned earlier as a recommendation? Here’s how to break them down:
- 5 things your audience loves (that best represent your business)
- 5 things your audience has a hard time finding (be a resource)
- 2 things your audience can’t live without
These aren’t the only boards you can have, and you can diversify within these designations a bit too, with, say, an inspirational quotes board, or an adventurous lifestyle board, if that fits your brand. And don’t forget to create a board to highlight your positive feedback from customers.
The three main factors that Pinterest users take into consideration when they consider whether to follow or not are:
- How many accounts you are following and/or are following you
- How many pins you have
- How many boards you have
You’ll also want to capitalize on your Rich Pins. For example, make a board for all of your content blog posts, one for product pricing, one for recipes, one for special events and seasonal sales. If your product or service has a DIY component, make a separate board for those posts.
Rotate your most popular boards (you’ll be able to see which ones in analytics) and your content blog post board at the top. This keeps a positive image in visitors’ minds. A quick heads up – Pinterest penalizes Pins with broken links, so make sure all of your Pinned links are correct and up to date.
Another out of the box idea – do a board specifically to highlight your clients, colleagues and friends. You’ll be paying it forward, building a community and possibly connecting your clients with people they can help and be helped by. It’s a win-win-win!
Pinterest Secret Weapon #3 – Open Boards
In the spirit of true Web 2.0, Pinterest has the option to create what they call an Open Board. This is a board you control and moderate, but is ‘open’ to let users – like your customers and associates – contribute pins to the board. Reach out to your brand evangelists and your employees as well to contribute to these group boards. All it takes is an email.
No one but you can change the board name or description, and you have the power to override any pins you don’t want there. But it’s another great way to keep your boards active and updated on a regular, consistent basis. And, again, it builds community.
It’s a SOCIAL Network
Speaking of community… Pinterest is not meant just be a billboard for your products and services. If you want to have other users engage with your pins and boards, guess what? You need to engage with theirs as well.
Not only will leaving comments on other people’s pins build engagement, it also puts your brand name on their board, giving you more visibility.
Seek out and actively engage with pins that are related to your business or your ideal customers wants and needs. By the same token, find and follow boards and comment on pins from relevant but non-competitive brands in your industry. They’ll likely follow you back and you might build a relationship where you can refer customers that they can serve better and vice-versa.
Don’t limit it to your industry. Especially when you are first getting started, follow some of the more popular, successful brands on Pinterest, like Urban Outfitters. See what they pin, how they engage their followers, what boards they have. It’s like a virtual Pinterest apprenticeship! (Oh, and once again, commenting on their pins exposes you to their followers as well – you never know what could come of it!)
What Are Your Influences?
Speaking of exposure, Pinterest is another place where connecting with social media influencers can be a great boon to your business. Behave appropriately – start by following their boards, repinning their pins, and leaving engaging comments on their pins.
When it feels right, you can initiate a bigger collaboration, by casually asking if they will post on a board of yours, or offer to contribute to one of their boards. The more familiar you are with their audience and content when asking, the better chance you’ll have of exploding your reach even further.
Meanwhile, Back on Your Boards…
Just like you respond to tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram comments, engage with your followers directly by answering their questions and responding to their comments. And don’t just use an auto-responder, canned message. Actually engage with users and increase your customer service perception by addressing them by name. And answer them promptly. Show you care.
Another way to quickly and significantly increase the engagement on your pins is to add a ‘Call to Pin.’ Like any call to action, it encourages people to do something – like “Repin to your own inspiration board.” By adding a call to pin to your description, you can see up to 80% more engagement.
Connect Your Other Social Media
You don’t have to build a new audience for each social networking platform. Pinterest makes it easy to connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and by doing so, it will add Twitter and Facebook buttons to your Pinterest account.
You can also share your Pinterest pins to the other social media accounts, encouraging your existing followers to connect with you there as well. One unfortunate caveat at present – you can’t connect your Facebook business page to Pinterest, just your personal profile.
Don’t forget to add Pinterest to your newsletters too. Even if it’s just updating the settings and adding the proper link for a Pinterest button on your MailChimp, Constant Contact or AWeber mailings, don’t neglect any opportunity to raise the profile of your business.
Pinterest Analytics operates very similarly to Google Analytics. You’ll see what types of content perform best on the network, which pins are the most popular, which boards they get repinned to, and which ones drive the most traffic to your site. You’ll also see what devices people are on when they repin your material, and how effective the Save/Pin It buttons on your website are.
Just like with any strategy, it’s going to be ineffective if you don’t know what your key performance indicators are, so use Pinterest Analytics to track that.
You’ll also get information about the demographics and interests of people who interact with your Pins, which you can start to incorporate into your target customer profile. If you see Pins that diverge radically from your ideal client, you’ll know to limit the time you spend working on pins like that. Of course, you’ll still leave those boards and pins up, you just spend more time on pins more relevant to your target customer.
Pinterest Secret Weapon #4 – Promoted Pins
I mentioned earlier that promoted pins, aka, Pinterest Ads, are more readily accepted than similar posts on other platforms. Promoted Pins are marked with the word “Promoted” beneath the pin. If you click on the ellipses/more icon, you’ll get a pop up identifying who paid for the ad.
In spite of that, Promoted Pins perform just as well, and often better than organic Pins. Internal Pinterest data actually shows that advertisers get about a 30% bump in earned media (free promotion) during the campaign, and an astonishing average of 20 percent more organic clicks in the month following the launch of a Pinterest ad campaign.
Clearly, Pinterest is a vital tool for any small business with even a casual visual element, especially since lifestyle is the biggest seller on Pinterest. Take a little time to set it up, adjust to the learning curve – Pinterest has a whole training platform just for business users – be consistent, make sure all your links work, and watch your traffic start to exponentially grow.