Pinterest has been the largest growing social network of the past year. According to data out this week from Nielsen, it's in fourth place in terms of unique PC visitors in the U.S., just behind LinkedIn (with the top two being Facebook and Twitter, obviously). Based on that data, Pinterest has grown by 1,047% year-over-year. LinkedIn has grown by 0%. Twitter has grown by 13%, and Facebook has fallen by 4%.
Do you find Pinterest to be a valuable business tool? Share your thoughts here.
In a recent article, we looked at some ways for businesses to increase sales with Pinterest. Since then, Pinterest has only catered to businesses even more, having launched some new tools and resources. Suffice it to say, the opportunities are blooming on this red hot social site, which also recently launched apps for iOS and Android.
We had a chance to conduct a Q&A with Karen Lacey and Jason Miles, co-authors of the recently published Pinterest Power: Market Your Business, Sell Your Product, And Build Your Brand On the World's Hottest Social Network. They shared their thoughts on Pinterest's new tools, third party tools, the mobile apps, what Pintest is still lacking, and more.
Pinterest For Business
"First off, from a macro perspective these developments prove Pinterest is very interested in helping businesses grow and benefit from their website," Lacey tells WebProNews. "It's not just a place for swapping craft ideas. Ecommerce and social media are coming together here and we get to watch it unfold."
"Specifically, the new widgets are awesome," she adds. "Anytime you can get people to become more involved with what you're doing, the better. Use these! The verification badge proves the website you have in your profile is yours. This helps prevent some spamming issues we saw in the past, when folks were a little less than upfront about what they were linking to. The Case Studies and Best Practices sections share great ideas, and we can't get too much of that. So overall, the new business tools actually do help. I expect to see many more of these as the months progress."
"These changes do several important things to assist businesses," says Miles. "First, the updated Terms Of Service now clearly offers instructions for business use. The prior TOS did not offer clear direction to businesses. In fact, a close reading left businesses unsure whether it was appropriate to use Pinterest for business, even though the company was clearly encouraging it. So the most cautious corporate managers have been uneasy using the site, until now."
"But lots of people, even business managers, don't read the TOS too closely, and just use the sites functionality to determine what is okay," he adds. "So the second change, to the sign-up process is very helpful too. The new functionality gives businesses a way to sign-up as a company. So you can clearly sign-up as an individual, or as a company, whichever is most appropriate. In the previous sign-up process companies would have to use the 'First Name' and 'Last Name' boxes creatively to explain who they were."
"The third significant change is the addition of a business focused help section, with business cases and related tools," he says. "That content allows the Pinterest team to directly communicate with business managers, rather than having them hunt for tips and tools on third-party sites, like www.marketingonpinterest.com [Miles' site]."
He also mentioned the verified website tool. "This allows you to authentic your Pinterest Profile and you're rewarded for doing it by having a more prominent presentation of your website URL on your profile," he says. "This step serves end-users, and businesses alike."
Pinterest's New Secret Boards And Business
Pinterest recently started letting users create secret boards. These authors find this a useful addition for businesses as well.
"Absolutely these are helpful," says Lacey. "They let you collaborate on projects without the board being visible to the general public. Advertising campaigns, contests, giveaways, and etc. can be set up, then the board can be turned on so the public can take part. Remember that current boards can't be switched to secret status, only new boards."
"This is nice functionality, and yes, there is a clear business use," says Miles. "It allows you to use Pinterest as a collaboration tool, privately. That's great for internal business collaboration. You can also create a board privately, prepare a large collection of pins, and then make it public. At the moment it becomes public all your followers (that are following all-boards)will immediately be assigned to follow this newly public board, but they won't have to suffer through your manic pinning to build the board. So a new curation strategy is possible. Make a board privately, develop it into a robust collection, then make it public and add content less intensely. That strategy will allow you to make something that people will enjoy, but not force them to watch you build it."
In terms of third-party tools, Lacey says, "What we found in writing the book was that the major use of third party tools was in tracking visits, repins, and referral traffic. All sorts of tools exist for making interesting pins, but for the most part the most successful people want to know their Pinterest and other social media stats. If they don't, they should. Check out your Pinterest traffic with Google Analytics, Pinreach, and Curalate for a start."
"The leading tool is curalate.com, which allows you to manage your social engagement effectively," says Miles. "The Modcloth team raves about it, and they have 1.4 million followers. I think most larger brands do need to use a tool like this if they're going to try to actively engage with their most influential Pinterest followers."
"Marketers managing smaller operations are probably well served just using the primary functions of the site," he adds. "Of course, the most important tool any business owner can use is the Pinmarklet tool, available for download on Pinterest.com. That browser add-on allows you to pin things directly from any website you are visiting, and it also allows you to audit your own site to see how Pinterest users are experiencing your content. A top priority for any Webmaster these days is to ensure that pinning content from your site is quick and easy."
The Mobile Apps
It was a big deal when Pinterest launched its mobile apps. The site was always reasonably good for mobile, but as with most sites gone app, the app takes the experience up a notch, and that tends to keep users coming back.
"These apps are hugely popular and will be more so with the updates they recently made," Lacey says. "For example, now boards can be edited directly from the device, finally! Secret boards can be created from the device, and you can block or report users. What this all means is the divide between desk top and hand held is shrinking."
"I think it extends the user engagement options available, which of course translates into more people on the site for longer, and more potential exposure to a brand's content," says Miles. "Obviously the user experience for Pinterest is very different on a mobile device versus a desktop. Screen size matters for this site, and while the App versions work, I'm not sure that is going to be a primary method of engagement for most hard-core users. With that said, I frequently ask my daughter what she is doing on her phone and she replies – Pinterest. Of course, for a marketer wanting to drive referral traffic to your website, to transact a sale, that's probably not the ideal user engagement method, unless you've got your site designed to support mobile commerce."
What Pinterest Is Still Lacking For Businesses
We asked the authors what Pinterest is currently lacking that it needs to be better for businesses.
"The ecommerce angle is the one that businesses will be most interested in," Lacey replied. "We're seeing changes already, but these are only the beginning. Over time it should become easier to sell directly from Pinterest, or at least have the divide lessen."
"Well, the biggest thing they could possibly do is roll out an advertising system," offers Miles. "Earlier this year they hired Tim Kendall, Facebook's monetization architect, presumably to build a Pinterest monetization strategy. So if they roll out an ad based monetization strategy in the near future, then I think it's fairly obvious that they need to execute on that in a way that fosters a solid ongoing partnership between advertisers and their team."
"And if they really want to blow people's minds, they need to do it in a way that adds value to the site's users," he adds. "That is a much taller order. I'd imagine that they can easily satisfy the advertisers with a straightforward advertising system, but making their user community happy, will require real ingenuity. However they do it, they need to ensure it won't damage the user experience."
Driving Traffic To Your Site
When asked what advice they would give to someone looking to use Pinterest simply to drive traffic to their site, Lacey says, "The number one advantage to Pinterest is the quantity of referral traffic it creates. Driving this traffic is a matter of pinning 'pinnable' images from your website or blog to Pinterest, and then having these images repinned. When the image is linked back to your website, the referral traffic begins to flow in."
"In a nutshell," she says, "the images need to be not only eye-grabbing, but also offer the viewer something. How-to advice and tips, DIY, and recipes work well, as do calls to action. Non-tangibles work just as well, just remember to leave the viewer better off than he or she was before she saw your pins."
"First, audit your website with the Pinmarklet tool to ensure your pages and posts all have an image that is pinnable," suggests Miles. "Second, begin creating unique images for each page or post on your site. These images provide a visual cue as to the page's content. These look almost like a display ad and they should be installed on the top right corner of every page, and every post. It is the new standard. I call this work PIO, Pinnable Image Optimization. Doing it will allow Pinterest users to immediately click their Pin It (Pinmarklet) tool and pin the image, with a referral link automatically included in the pin. And once in Pinterest, the image will serve as visual ad for the content."
"Third, I'd encourage them to integrate the Pinterest 'follow me' button on their websites, as well as integrating their Pinterest profile link into their other social media sites," he adds. "The best way to build your followership fast is to invite your existing customers, fans and followers to 'find you on Pinterest'. Finally, I'd encourage them to clarify their ideal customer's list of interests, and begin pinning things that resonate. The more in sync you are with your core audience, the better you're going to do at finding success."
And with that, I'll leave you with some of the data from that Nielsen study:
Now, let that sink in.
Is Pinterest worth your business' time and resources? Let us know what you think.