Using Pinterest Effectively

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So you’re finished with Pinterest account setup. Now all that’s left is to actually begin marketing. Let’s start with the basics. Look at what makes any type of marketing strategy and any type of business successful. The single answer here is value. If you want to engage your audience, if you want to build customers and fans and if you want to engender loyalty, then you need to be offering high quality value to achieve all those things. That means in other words, that you need to give people a concrete reason to want to spend time engaging with your brand.

The mistake that a lot of companies and marketers make, including most of us, on social media is simply to try and use it as a platform for promoting a product. They want to get direct sales, immediately and they’re trying to reach a broader audience by doing this through social media.

What to Pin

You’ll see this when you follow a company on Twitter that does nothing but talk about its products or services: “Try out our latest products today!”, “Want to save time in the office? Our productivity tools are just for you!”, “Hurry while stocks last!” The equivalent on Pinterest is simply to post images of products with no rhyme or reason, or to just post images of the same product over and over hoping someone will notice it. This is unfortunately an entirely incorrect approach and social media just doesn’t lend itself to that kind of promotion. Why? Because you need people to want to follow you on social media. And if all you’re doing is posting products then you’re really not going to give anyone a chance to do that. Would you follow a social media profile that only ever tried to sell its products to you? Or would you quickly get bored and unsubscribe? Instead, you need to think like the top brands on Pinterest and offer the kind of service that people are looking for on the platform: inspiration, ideas and lifehacks. Fair Trade organizations are ideal for Pinterest — after all you have a great story.  A Fair Trade company that sells handmade artisan products can create a Pinterest board that will share images of  artisans– both involving your own products and using other products. Make sure that the products and ideas are unique and interesting, that they provide a cultural experience that your followers might not have experienced themselves. This way, you give them an actual reason to follow you – because they’re learning!

Sell Fair Trade food items?  Then share pins of great meals and desserts and discuss the ingredients and the procedure in the comments underneath. In any of these cases, you’re giving people a reason to follow you on Pinterest because you’re offering value in the form of ideas, inspiration or just aesthetic beauty. If you’re selling a physical product and especially something that looks beautiful or that has a ‘chic’ appeal, then you’ll find that Pinterest is the perfect fit for your business.

Lifestyle and Value Proposition

Think about ‘lifestyle’ and about ‘value proposition’. In terms of lifestyle, it’s pertinent to consider that every product that you sell, will ultimately support some kind of lifestyle and will appeal to a certain type of person.

Yoga accessories for instance appeal to people who like working out and who want to be in better shape. The ‘fitness lifestyle’ is an inspiring and visual concept that you can portray with pictures of people jogging on the beach listening to an MP3 player, or with pictures of people working out outdoors. Likewise, if you sell ethnic pieces, then the lifestyle is the ‘travelling’ lifestyle. You can post images of beautiful foreign destinations, or you can have boards outlining things to do in particular places.

‘Value proposition’ meanwhile refers to the value that your product or service really offers beyond the sum of its parts. The old saying goes that you ‘don’t sell hats, you sell warm heads’. What this means, is that the true value of the hat is in its ability to keep your head warm. So if you can’t post pictures of your ‘hat’ then you can always post pictures of your ‘warm head’. What is the value proposition of Fair Trade? Of course there are many, such as providing opportunities for artisans to lift themselves out of poverty, or simply feeling good about purchases that fit with your ethics.

The key is to come up with themes for your boards that deliver real value and purpose for Pinterest users while remaining ‘on topic’. Don’t just randomly repin pictures that vaguely relate, don’t just promote your products and don’t just post your articles randomly. If you do that you won’t be providing value and you won’t grow your viewership.

Think of your Pinterest profile almost like a service or a product in itself. The ideal scenario is that people will end up looking forward to checking out your pins or that they may even become reliant on your boards. They should be disappointed if ever your board gets taken down and the board should almost be able to exist on its own, as a separate entity from your business.

Selling Through Your Images

This still leaves us with one problem though. If your board is about great interior design ideas and your company sells fair trade decorative items, then it’s going to be very easy for you to include images of your products that people can click through to buy. But Pinterest is more than that, the aim will be to raise awareness for your brand and to build trust and authority. The hope is that your audience will come to think of you as an expert on your subject and as such, they will follow your links when they do want to purchase gifts will gravitate to your site.

This of course is not as direct a way to sell but in the long term it can actually be a lot more effective as you’re building a long-term relationship and as you’re establishing yourself as a thought leader in your field. At the same time, you need to think about the comments that you’re adding to your pictures. This is your opportunity to directly link the image back to your site and to promote your product. For instance, if you’re uploading images of people making products or traveling in a certain country to provide inspiration and ideas to your followers, then you can sell through those images by adding a note at the bottom explaining that they can find products from that artisan or country at THIS link.

The great thing about Pinterest is that it really does leverage the viral power of social networks. If your board is really delivering great value then this fact alone will be enough to ensure that it grows naturally. People will repin your pins, they will comment and they will discover what you’re posting through the search button. If you’re offering new content, if you’re staying on topic and if you’re providing real value by offering a genuine service of some kind, then people will gradually gravitate towards your brand and you’ll build your following. But that is not to say that there aren’t also other things you can do to further accelerate your progress. Here are some of the ways you can grow your following more quickly:

Post Regularly: The more regularly you post, the more often your images will be found in searches. At the same time, they’ll also come up in homefeeds more often, which means other users will be more likely to repin them and thereby share them with their audiences giving you more exposure.

Choose Your Tags Carefully: As on Twitter, choosing the right hashtags is one of the most important ingredients when it comes to gaining maximum exposure for your images. The tags will dictate which searches bring up your images and this means that they’ll be directly responsible for the number of people finding your brand.

When choosing your tags, make sure that you think about the types of things that commonly get searched for on the platform. Remember the kinds of things people use Pinterest for and remember that the audience is 85% female.

Remember too that people are looking for images. ‘How to’ isn’t as applicable here.

Write Comments: If you upload an image without any comment then you give it no context. This means you won’t be getting the very most from it, simply because people won’t know what you’re trying to say with the image. If it’s a Yoga accessory being used in a pose then explain how to do the pose! If it’s a decoration for the home, then explain how people can use it, what it’s made from and where it can be purchased. Make sure to link your brand to the image, otherwise people might just appreciate the image but never engage with your profile as the person who uploaded it!

Interact With Others: On social media, reciprocity is a very underrated tool. This is still a social network and therefore, it should be used as a communication tool. The more you talk to people, the more likely they will be to check out your profile and to look at your boards. So make sure that you’re interacting, following, repining and more. If nothing else, this helps to build good will as you’ll be helping those users to promote themselves too!

Integrate Your Website: One of the most important ways for you to spread your brand across Pinterest and to get found by more people is to properly link your website and your Pinterest account. There are a few ways that you should do this. One is by adding a link on your homepage to your Pinterest account. This way, someone who lands on your website for the first time and decides that they like your content, can decide that they want to follow you on social media as well and can then decide to check out your Pinterest and follow your account or your boards. Another tip is to use ‘Shareabolic’ or a similar social sharing tool on your website. If you have a WordPress site, then these can be installed very easily and they will then allow people to quickly and easily ‘Pin’ an article that they found interesting along with an image. This then means there will be more people sharing your images and you’ll gain more exposure as a result.

Cross Pollinate: You should also make sure that you occasionally try to cross pollinate between your social media channels. If you have a very successful Twitter account for instance, then occasionally tweet about the ‘inspiring boards’ you’re creating at Pinterest. Likewise, you can share your pins to Facebook for people to see. Do this occasionally to help grow all of your accounts at once.

Think About Pinterest When You Create Content: If you’ve heard of ‘clickbait’ then you’ll know how a lot of website owners are now creating content specifically to encourage shares on Facebook. This is content that uses an obtuse title in order to make people curious and to encourage more clicks as a result. It’s frustrating but it works and sites like Buzzfeed have built their business off the back of it. So the point is, that thinking about how you’re going to share you content before you create it is a good move. The same goes for marketing on Pinterest.

If you’re going to make an article successful on Pinterest then what does it need? Simple: it needs a great image that will make the article more compelling (this will also help when other people share your images and your pages). Make sure that you are creating unique images for your site and that they’re designed in such a way as to really sell the content of your article or blog post and to encourage people to follow the URL. Some things that can work well are tips that can be portrayed through a single image, memes or inspirational quotes. Note as well that certain images automatically attract more attention than others – we are psychologically hardwired for instance to notice pictures of faces!

Kevin is a co founder of Global Crafts. Prior to starting Global Crafts in 2002 Kevin was a VSO volunteer in Kenya from 1999 to 2002 teaching Computer Science at Kisumu Polytechnic. In a past life he was a chef for 8 years before returning to education to get a degree in Sociology, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education and a Msc in Computer Systems.

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