To Pin or Not to Pin: An in-depth look at Pinterest

by Kathryn Rose on

Like many, I’m new to the social network Pinterest.  It intrigued me after reading many articles about it being the fastest growing social network, so I set out to uncover the business case for using it.  Because I’m a social media marketer, and business owner, it’s important that I squeeze every bit of visibility potential out of the various networks if I’m going to spend any time there.  To learn more, I enlisted a friend and pin-wild owner of the boutique Susan Goldberg Zimmerman to give me the guided tour.

Susan was a great teacher, showing me all of the beautiful images she collected of places she wished to visit and the products she has in her store.  I asked her what the business use was and she said that she looks at the images as an introduction to the person as to whether or not she wants to follow them or perhaps do business with them.  That was fair, but there had to be a more compelling reason for me (or my clients) to spend our time on Pinterest.

Once I was on my own, my first thought was about how addicting it could be; creating boards and pins of various topics can be a lot of fun but can also be a major distraction.  And from many of the blog posts I am reading, speaking to friends of mine that are full blown Pinterest addicts and my own experience trolling the web for over an hour looking for images to add to one of my own boards–it turns out I’m right.

As I mentioned, my mission was to find a business case to use the network so, I had to get back on task.  While I’m a visual person to some degree, I’m nowhere near as adept at fleshing out beautiful images that tell a story like my friend Susan.

Through my research, I found that using Pinterest is a great way to create interest in, and drive traffic to, your blog posts.  Of course your posts must have images on them–an important strategy you should be employing anyway—and it’s very easy to set up a board or several boards that highlight your blog posts.  Using the ‘pin it’ bookmarklet on the Firefox browser, you simply click on the image in your blog post and ‘pin it’ to a board. There are other ways to add images, you can upload them as well from your hard drive or embed code in order to aid you in pinning things more quickly.

Once you pin the image in the post, it displays on a board.  You can set up a board with any name you like.   If someone clicks on the pin and either clicks on the image or the link in the pin, they’re taken to my blog.  The same process also works for videos.  You can ‘pin’ videos from YouTube and once the pin is clicked the video plays on the site, no need to link off to the video.  This can be a very valuable tool.

Also, as an SEO person, I wondered if links from Pinterest could also provide any site ranking benefits  on Google and other search engines.  Turns out, so did Search Engine Land, and they did a great post called “How to Use Pinterest for Local SEO.”  Apparently, Pinterest, unlike other social networks, allows “do follow” on their links; that means the links provided on Pinterest are giving ranking benefit.

Some of the pointers they gave:

  1. Make sure your profile is not hidden from search engines and use keyword-rich “about” descriptive text.
  2. Begin your “about me” with your business URL.  This is not a live link but it can’t hurt to have it here.
  3. Be sure to list your web URL (shown under your profile with a “globe” icon) and also set the location to the city where your business is located.
  4. If your business is well represented by a Google Places business page, consider using that as the landing page for your profile instead of your website.  Particularly if there are great reviews of your products and services located there.
  5. If your business is local, set up boards with your city name and collect pictures about your local area.  They don’t all have to be pictures of your products.
  6. Create boards with keyword-rich titles.
  7. Use good keyword text when writing descriptions of your pins.
  8. Make sure to pin attractive images.  Pinterest users are all about the visual.
  9. Cross promote your pins on Facebook and Twitter.

Another great tip:  Set up a Pinterest contest for your business. Offer prizes to those who post pictures about your business.  I also discovered in my research that if you put the price into the item’s description, a banner comes up with the price displayed which could be useful for retail shops.  And, unlike Facebook ®, it does not appear to be against Pinterest terms of use to set up an account in a business name, like Susan, whose account is under her boutique name.

Another way to use Pinterest, is to create new relationships with potential collaborators.  The return on relationship factor is very high on this network.  Folks are pinning and repinning content at lightning speed. You can also make comments on someone’s pins; so as long as you keep in mind the “relationship” aspect of the marketing, go ahead and post comments on pins perhaps inviting a co-promotion with a link back to your site.

There are a couple of things to be aware of with Pinterest, however.  When I first signed up I noticed that I was getting a number of emails letting me know that a great deal of people were following me, which was strange because at the time I didn’t have one pin posted.  After some research, I figured out that Pinterest was committing a major no-no; they are autofollowing people based on your “interests.”  Can you imagine the magnitude of the fallout if Facebook began to “auto friend” people based on your hometown, high school, etc.?

The other thing I noticed is that there are absolutely no privacy settings. So, if you decide to create a board that has family pictures or pictures of your local town, anyone can view them and re-pin them, something privacy advocates have been railing against on Facebook and other sites.  You must take care not to post private pictures on Pinterest.

Next beware of copyright infringement. Take a look at the “Pin Etiquette” section.  It’s best to give credit to the photographer or person’s work that you are pinning.  If you use images in your blog posts, be sure to purchase them from a licensing site like IStockphoto or Getty Images.

Lastly, once spammers realize that Pinterest is a “do follow” network, look out for all of the completely irrelevant spam comments on your pins that include links to various travel, Viagra and SEO services sites (or worse).  This I predict will be a major issue in the coming months.

Overall, I think it’s a fun, innovative network that businesses can definitely benefit from using.  Keep in mind the privacy concerns and be careful when sharing.  Also, like any social network Pinterest can tempt you to fall into the rabbit hole.  Use an egg timer or a downloadable timer on your desktop to prevent you from wasting time.