Pinterest – a great selling tool, or just another time-sapper?

If you haven’t heard of it already, chances are Pinterest will be crossing your radar very soon.

It’s the new big thing in social media. I know this, because everyone at the cutting edge is telling me so.

In January this year it drove more referral traffic to retailers than LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+.

In the same month the site registered 11.7 million unique users, making it the fastest site in history to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark.

So, is it a golden land of opportunity and adventure – (c) Blade Runner – or just something else to sap your time? And why are there so many pictures of shoes and cupcakes?

Here’s our take.

Put simply, Pinterest is like an image led virtual pinboard. Set up an account (it’s be invitation only, so either get a current user to throw you an application, or apply to the site administrators) and you can ‘pin’ pictures and videos of ‘things you like’ to your pinboard(s).

Anyone can click on and look at a collage of images. If you have an active account, you can ‘like’ those images, comment on them, or ‘re-pin’ them.

Obviously the more times your image is re-pinned, the more people will see it; many of the images showing at the top of Pinterest were pinned months ago – it is the enthusiasm of the users that keeps the image in front of other visitors.

If you’re looking for something specific, you can choose to look at category boards ranging from architecture to food and drink, clothes to technology.

Click on a picture and it will enlarge in a new frame. You’ll be able to see the name of the person who originally posted it and a link to their website, if they have one – and from what I can tell, a lot do.

The site’s etiquette demands that you don’t spam the site with sales messages, saying: “Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.”

But from what I can tell, most of the images of cupcakes, shoes and dresses lead back to small businesses, mostly in the US. Pinterest is quickly becoming a virtual boutique.

Here’s where I think Pinterest can be most valuable. For our clients selling visually attractive products (either physically, like shoes or art, or virtually, like knitting patterns or cake recipes) it’s a great way of putting your product in front of 11.7 million potential customers and driving customers to your website to see what else you have to offer.

For our clients something visually attractive that is location based – for instance, you are an art gallery or museum with a new exhibition – the site still has merits, as people will talk about your offering even if they can’t physically come to you.

For clients offering goods or services that are not visually attractive – like marketing, legal expertise, financial services – this probably isn’t the first place for you to be touting your wares.

That said, some B2B businesses are curating tips or statistics via visually-appealing infographics (like the one of this blog – courtesy of to drive customers to their business.

Like the majority of social media outlets, Pinterest is free to join and use. If you think Pinterest could be useful to your business, our best advice is to join up, start posting, encourage your customers to join and share, and have fun!

But, as with all social media, don’t feel you have to get bogged down with it. These are early days for Pinterest – they have 11.7 million active users; Facebook has 845 million.

One final interesting fact: Most of the site’s users are female, and 97 percent of the site’s Facebook likes are being made by women. That would account for all the shoes and cakes, then…

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