Pinterest: Social Network Evolution

Kelly “Rags” Ragland is owner and operator of Rags to Stitches Productions, a holistic advertising-specialty company providing a range of services from web design and development to customized apparel.

The social networking buzzword for 2012 is quickly becoming Pinterest, an online bulletin board where Internet users post and share their favorite images, products, crafts and virtually all other interests. Traffic to increased more than 40 times from June to December 2011, and the site registered more than seven million unique visitors in December alone.

Reports indicate that Pinterest is driving more traffic to company websites and blogs than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn, combined. Time magazine called Pinterest one of the top five social networking sites last year before these massive growth spurts. With that kind of traffic and viral attention, Pinterest is worth a closer look for online marketing opportunities.

How it works

The site is designed for its members to organize images, much like scrapbooks or photo albums, by posting personal photography and images found online of favorite items, creative inspirations and wish-lists, for example. The images are posted into idea boards created by users for specific categories.

When a user "pins" an image, their followers see it in a similar way to Facebook streams. Followers and browsers of the Pinterest website may then "like" and "comment" or ‚"re-pin"‚ it to their own boards. In very much the same manner as other social media content is broadcast, Pinterest pins can go viral, with additional exposure feeds going to Facebook and Twitter.
Like both of those sites, the strength in Pinterest's potential lies in the numbers how many new and existing clients can be reached. An optimal tactic to garner attention is to "follow" fellow members.

How it can work for you

When logging on for the first time to create an account (a tab on the site to request an invite‚ is located directly on the home page), Pinterest offers several suggested subjects for getting started. Be sure to follow as many interest categories that your products may apply to, and follow the users of them. And, as social networking etiquette suggests: when users follow you, return the favor.

To find potential customers, perform a search for keywords that describe your products and follow users that have pinned items in those categories. Taking some time to experiment with keyword research within Pinterest will help to decide what categories may give your products more exposure.
The creative possibilities are virtually unlimited as users can create as many categories as they like, and pin as many items of interest within those categories desired. Thinking in terms of keyword strategy, a shop could tap into niches by creating categories for golf, team spirit, business attire, uniforms and more.

Once those categories are created, they can be filled with products offered, creating a virtual online catalog for users to discover and share with their followers. By including item cost in the description, the site will automatically attach an eye-catching price tag to an image.

To further the marketing benefits of Pinterest, each image of a pinned product is linked to your website. This not only provides one-click access for visitors to discover (and hopefully purchase) your offerings, it also generates links to your site that search engines will find, improving visibility and ranking. Companies already taking advantage of Pinterest include Lowe’s Home Improvement, Whole Foods Market and The Gap, with all reporting steady rises in traffic as a result, as well as increased sales.

Start pinning

Don't be shy‚ incite and applaud feedback when you pin items to your boards. The provided comment area is a great place for hearing opinions, starting viral conversations and keeping your business in the stream of the network, where it belongs.

But don't shy away from taking it personally. Remember that Pinterest is a social networking site that hosts members with countless number of interests. In addition to posting available products, it is encouraged to have a little fun and include some shenanigans or personal interests. Funny pictures, for example, are a staple in online networks and will always get attention from users surfing any site. Consider including non-business related interests such as hobbies, favorite television shows or even places visited. This will help keep the account and Pinterest profile stay active, as one can easily pin something of interest with a click of the mouse when away from the shop.

Pinterest is a perfect networking tool for our industry, as it is clean, simple and VISUAL. What we do as apparel decorators sells itself in a visual manner, so this website is a great opportunity for us to showcase our work and let the products sell themselves. Happy pinning!