Is Pinterest Right For Your Business?

With the right target demographic and content, you too can become a social media star

Written by Jacquelyn Cyr

It’s the most talked about social network of 2012: Pinterest. Having grown to No. 3 in the world ranked by number of visits—behind only Facebook and Twitter—Pinterest is driving a lot of conversation among brands and agencies, particularly those catering to women, who are 80% of Pinterest’s users.

Although Pinterest was in its early days seen as a site more for the high school and post-secondary crowd, it has since shifted somewhat older and therefore up-market. A full 30% of U.S. users fall into the 25-34 age range, and the 35-44 segment is nearly as large as the 18-24 segment, at 16% versus 17%. And more than 50% of Pinterest users are mothers.

As a marketing vehicle, Pinterest offers a unique opportunity to connect with your customers. The first step, as with any marketing initiative, is to define the key target you’re trying to attack with your Pinterest efforts. If you’re looking at women in the 25-44 segment, this one is a no-brainer.

But this isn’t to say that other categories aren’t rather Pinteresting as well. You’re going to want to dig into the site and do some social listening via either searches or monitoring tools. As well, you’ll want to investigate whether your target is on Pinterest, what they’re looking at and whether there’s a good fit with your product or service offering. If there is, the time is right to get pinning.

You’re probably hearing a good deal about how to get engaged with Pinterest users, such as by creating boards, pinning content and running promotions—the usual social-media tactics. But Pinterest is different from other content-sharing sites such as Twitter and Facebook in one key respect: it’s not, in fact, a content-sharing vehicle, but rather a content-reproduction vehicle.

According to Pinterest, the site has historically granted licences to users for “personal, non-commercial use.” The site is cool with brands using the service. But the terms and conditions are pretty specific—and, as explained in the “New Tools for…” link below, Pinterest introduced new terms and conditions on November 14, 2012. The most important one you need to know is that as a business, you must own the copyright to any content you post.

Read: New Tools for Business in the Pinterest Community

Sharing cool shots of your products is just delightful. Posting your own infographics? Go nuts. When you pin something, you’re giving everyone in the world permission to repin your visuals as they see fit. And people repinning everything that you post is the best-case scenario when you own the rights to the images you’re pinning. As an enticing side note, according to the Social Shopping 2012 survey by SteelHouse, an online marketing and research agency, a whopping 59% of Pinterest users report that they’ve made purchases based on having seen products on the site, versus just 33% among Facebook users.

On the other hand, sharing an image from a site that you don’t have any ownership in? Well, that’s just plain against the rules. And your liability, according to Pinterest’s terms and conditions, is unlimited. True, the chances that you’ll actually be sued are probably slim. And certainly everyone and their dog is using Pinterest to repost non-owned content.

Still, would you post content that you didn’t own on your company’s own website? If not, you need to think through your approach to marketing through Pinterest accordingly.

Next steps?

Ensure that Pinterest is a good fit for your target demo: Don’t jump in just for the sake of jumping in. Use your resources wisely and focus your social-marketing time and money on vehicles that support your business needs. If you’re going to get into this, you should do it right. Ensure that you’re thinking about how much time and money you have to invest over the long term and whether there’s a  good match between what you do and what you can find on Pinterest.

Build a strategy for using content that you own: Dream up new and interesting ways to showcase your product or service offerings. For example, GE has a Badass Machines board and Whole Foods has a How Does Your Garden Grow board. This is basically a catalogue-extension strategy, one that gets your products or services out there across a multitude of search terms in easily shareable and visually appealing ways.

Build mass: Encourage your followers to create boards related to your business, featuring your product or that share your values—with any of these alongside your brand name. And be sure to reward these followers accordingly. You’ll see tons of ideas for such rewards right on Pinterest. But the mass you build won’t stick around or pay attention for long if you fail to follow up with ongoing engagement.

Happy pinning!

Jacquelyn Cyr has spent the past 15 years building businesses and brands, and is now the principal of KEEN Collective Inc., a Toronto-based brand consultancy. Cyr is a strategy columnist, speaker on business and brand building, and ranked on the 2010 and 2011 PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 as one of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs.

More columns by Jacquelyn Cyr

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