If you’re like most entrepreneurs out there, you use social media to leverage your business—Facebook, Twitter, and even some YouTube here and there. But have you thought about how an online pin board could shake up your business for the better? Kitschy as it may seem at the surface, Pinterest is nothing to sneeze at—this artsy little site packs a major punch when it comes to customer connectivity and driving new business right where you want it—straight to you.

Pinterest is only two years old, but has accomplished quite a bit in its short lifetime. The fastest website of all time to reach 10 million users, Pinterest achieved 4000% growth in just a year and, in January 2012, pushed more referral traffic to business owners than YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined. Over 12 million people visit the site each month, and one can only assume this number will continue to skyrocket as content and contributions grow. With top companies like Nordstrom, Starbucks, and Whole Foods and best-selling publications like Lucky and Vanity Fair on board, this is one social media sensation we think is in for the long haul.

The Basics

With any new platform, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but Pinterest is quite simple to set up and start using right away. After much demand, the site recently launched new accounts specifically for business, featuring website verification and special widgets. If you jumped on the Pinterest train early in the game, you can easily convert your existing pseudo-business account to an actual one. After entering a few lines of basic information, you’re all set to start pinning.

So, what to pin? Your Pinterest account is divided into separate boards that can hold literally hundreds of pins. Although the site sets you up with a few popular default board titles, these are not set in stone. We suggest starting from scratch and creating boards to suit your business. Then, set forth and explore—the beauty of Pinterest (and the Web in general) is the millions of photos and ideas being bounced around. Although it may be tempting, it is crucial to limit content directly focused on your business itself. Followers will see through strictly self-promoting entrepreneurs and lose interest. Instead, create a balanced blend of interesting, cool, or thought-provoking content from outside sources and meld with your own photos and ideas. For example, if you own a restaurant; create separate boards of recipes you love, quotes from famous chefs and critics, and photos of your location and fare.

Moving Forward

With each pin, the site requires you to add some comment, whether it be a word or a full musing. We recommend using hashtags in moderation—users who are searching for specific content will easily find your boards and most likely follow you and your business.

Once you become comfortable with the basics of Pinterest navigation, there are lots of ways to get creative and build a buzz around your boards. If you have an e-commerce site or retail location, use your boards as an interactive catalog. All pins link back to their original site through a couple of clicks, which is an easy and effective way to drive traffic back to your website or blog. It’s also important to keep in mind Pinterest is not expressly for photos- you can pin videos, too. If you have a YouTube page, create fun and inventive content to share on your boards.

Get Optimized

As with any web content, implementing SEO tactics is vital to making your boards stand out from the crowd. While the art of SEO takes careful planning and spans well beyond a brief summation, here are a few essentials to get you started:

  • Make sure your profile is public
  • Add the “Pin It” button to all relevant pages on your business’ website
  • Utilize links as much as possible
  • Use keywords in pin descriptions and board titles
  • Cross-promote on other social networks

Be a Law-Abiding “Pin-izen”

As with any social sharing site, there are, of course, legal and ethical considerations to think about. After lawyer and photographer Kristen Kowalski penned an explosive blog post on her take on Pinterest’s terms and the legality of the site altogether, pinners everywhere were driven to a frenzy. Yes, Pinterest is 100% protected from any legal ramifications—among other guidelines, their terms state, “you agree to indemnify and hold harmless Pinterest and its officers, directors, employees, and agents, from and against any claims, suits, proceedings, disputes, demands, liabilities, damages, losses, costs, and expenses, including, without limitation, reasonable legal and accounting fees (including costs of defense of claims, suits or proceedings brought by third parties), in any way related to (a) your access to or use of our Products, (b) your User Content, or (c) your breach of any of these Terms.” However, many experts argue that using Pinterest, under normal circumstances, falls under the safety net of “fair use.” The guidelines for fair use are summed in four sectors:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2. The nature of the copyrighted work;

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Materials used “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching… is not an infringement of copyright.” Given that Pinterest requires users to add a comment along with each new pin, many pros say this falls well within the fair use realm. Huge national, even international, businesses have accounts using pictures, quotes, and other content from other Pinterest users. Using discretion is key, but we advise using the following guidelines to keep your pins useful for your business, connective with your fans, and, most importantly, ethical:

  • Your own content will always be your best bet. This will boost your content on the site and is completely, undeniably legitimate. As we mentioned before, it is important to create a balance of pins directly focusing on your business—as such, need a pin of something specific that you don’t want to repin? Take a picture. It’s yours.
  • If it’s plausible, gain permission from content owners to post and pin their material.
  • Pin from the source as much as possible. Followers will be able to access the original link and content with just a click, rather than have it be lost in thousands of repins. If a site has a “Pin It” button installed along with their other social media buttons, one can infer they embrace having their content pinned. These buttons are becoming more and more ubiquitous on sites in every industry imaginable, creating no shortage of permitted pinning options.
  • Give credit where credit is due and acknowledge your sources. When pinning from an outside site, add in a “via JoePin” to your comment section. This does not apply to crediting another pinner unless the content is their own as they are not the original source. Starbucks, for example, does this with the majority of their pins.
  • Do not monetize your pins or boards in any way. While your pins can be an example of what your business has to offer and can link to a way to buy, the pins themselves should have nothing to do with money. This is a definite, hard and fast no-no.
  • Never use photos of celebrity, public figures, etc. without their consent; especially in a way that makes it appear they endorse your business.

If you feel more comfortable pinning using exclusively your own pins, by all means, do so—just make sure you stay creative so as not to isolate followers. If e-commerce is the number one name of your game, we recommend checking out The Fancy. This Pinterest-esque site is there exclusively to share and discover all things new and awesome to enjoy and buy.

We love Pinterest because it presents nearly endless ways for you to get creative and have fun with your business while fostering the same spirit in existing and potential customers. Combine that with undeniable numbers and craze-level popularity, and you’ve got growth and connectivity nailed down.


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